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44th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 025

CONTENTS

Monday, February 7, 2022




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 025
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, February 7, 2022

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayer



Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1105)  

[English]

Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021

    The House resumed from February 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, An Act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, this bill does not offer any new bold solutions to the challenges we are facing: the pandemic and the omicron variant, the affordability crisis and rising inflation, the climate emergency and the devastating heat waves, fires and floods that have come with it. It is certainly not up to the task of addressing the housing crisis that is being felt so severely by people in my riding of Victoria. In Victoria, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is now over $2,000 a month.
    The cost of housing is skyrocketing. Families that want to own a home have given up hope of ever getting into the market. Under the Prime Minister, the average cost of a home is now 38% higher than it was just one year ago. Renters have very few options and are too often being forced into precarious housing. Too many people in my community are struggling to find housing. After the immense challenges of the past few years, too many families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
    I want to share the story of Valma and her family. For the past month, Valma and her partner Darcy have been living with their six-year-old daughter in Hotel Zed by Accent Inns. They are searching for housing. They were paying for their nightly motel costs and they went through almost all of their savings. Faced with no other options, they made a plan to purchase a tent, thinking they would be sleeping outdoors when they ran out of money.
    As Valma shared her story with me, she started to talk about that moment and she was in tears. She shared what it was like being on the brink of homelessness, how horrible it was not to have a home for her little girl and how she was fighting to stay housed. Luckily, after hearing their story, Hotel Zed offered Valma and her family a room for free for another few weeks, buying them some time. She also talked about how she was worried that if she could not find housing, she might lose her daughter, and about how parents experiencing financial hardship also have to worry about having their children taken. It is what she called a broken cycle.
    I told Valma I would bring her story to Ottawa. I asked her what she would want me to say to the government. She said, and these are her words, “There has got to be something done. It is not just us. There are other families just like ours. It is so tough out there. There has got to be something done.”
    Valma had the courage to share her story, and because she did, Accent Inns reached out to the United Way of southern Vancouver Island to see what more could be done. They teamed up and, just this past Friday, launched a hotels for families in need fund. This fund supports local families that are on the brink of homelessness. Community members have already started donating. The funds will be distributed to families for accommodations, food and other essentials as they navigate finding more stable housing.
    It is incredible to see our community come together like this. However, these families should never have been put in the situation where they are competing in an impossible rental market. It is what the provincial minister responsible for housing has called “a Hunger Games-style struggle, competing to access the limited supply of rental housing”.
    Housing is a human right, and while the provincial government has been taking bold steps, the federal government's lack of action is shameful. We need affordable rentals, we need housing that has rent geared to income, we need more co-op housing and we need home ownership to be within reach of our community members.
    The Liberals have made a lot of big promises for what they would accomplish in the first 100 days of their re-elected government. One of those promises was the appointment of a federal housing advocate. However, that 100-day mark passed last week, with no sign of a federal housing advocate. While I am disappointed, I am sadly not surprised. Like so many Liberal promises, this one is unfulfilled. This was not even a new promise. The position was first announced in 2017. The job posting closed 13 months ago. There is still no housing advocate.
    Over the past six years that the Liberals have been in power, they have made lots of promises. They have talked a big game. They claim they care about access to affordable housing, but they have not backed up those words with actions, and because of the government's inaction, the housing crisis has only gotten worse.
    The government had an opportunity with this bill to take action, but there is no additional funding to increase an affordable supply of housing. There is nothing in this bill to address flipping or to discourage speculators from continuing to buy properties to renovate and resell quickly for a profit. They are outbidding families and driving up housing prices in communities across Canada.
    There is nothing in the bill to tackle blind bidding. There is no change in the definition of what the government considers affordable. What the government calls affordable is still far above what many Canadians can afford. Once again, there is no funding allocated for a “for indigenous, by indigenous” national housing strategy, which the Liberals have been promising but have repeatedly failed to deliver.
    I want to take a moment to give a shout-out to the incredible team at the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness Society in Victoria. It continues to do innovative work to provide culturally supportive housing, affordable housing and services to the indigenous street community. It needs core funding to continue to do this important work.
    The Aboriginal Housing Management Association in British Columbia recently launched a plan to show how “for indigenous, by indigenous” housing can be done successfully. This approach to housing is badly needed. The federal government needs to step up and provide funding so that indigenous people have access to the housing they deserve.
    The Liberals, I am sure, will get up in the House and say that this bill does do something on housing, pointing to the underused housing tax. However, after decades of inaction from Liberal and Conservative governments, and amid a growing housing crisis, this is not anywhere near enough. It is not going to help Valma.
    Not only is this one small piece a half measure, but it is full of loopholes. The bill established a 1% annual tax on the value of vacant and underutilized residential property only when the direct and indirect owners are non-residents and non-Canadians. Permanent residents and Canadian citizens are completely exempt, even if the house is vacant. Foreign ownership is exempt if someone declares the home as a principal residence. What is particularly concerning is that the Liberals have indicated that they will introduce regulations to add another exemption for non-Canadians who own vacation homes if they are used at least four weeks per year, potentially reducing the amount generated by this tax to $130 million per year. This approach is too little and it is too late.
    The New Democrats would make different choices. Instead of protecting the profits of wealthy speculators who drive up the cost of housing, we would introduce a tax on flipping, while making significant investments to build 500,000 truly affordable homes. We would invest in co-ops, social housing and non-profit housing.
    Everyone should have the right to a safe and affordable place to call home. People should be able to afford to live in the communities where they work. Young people should be able to afford to stay in the neighbourhoods they grew up in. Seniors should never be forced out of the communities they have spent their lives in. As I was writing this speech, I got a message from a senior who had just been rent evicted and was looking at the rental market scared. All of the prices were above the income they got per month. The reality is that too many people in my community are facing this crisis. They cannot afford rent, they cannot afford to buy a home and they are having to move away, forced out of the communities they spent their lives in.
    If we want to solve the housing crisis, it is time to leave half measures behind and take the bold action needed.

  (1110)  

    Madam Speaker, I have many issues with the member's statements. For one, we have to go back generations to find another national government that has committed more financial resources and other resources to Canada's housing than we have. We would have to go back decades. The Liberals have provided historical amounts of funding for housing.
    The member makes reference to programs such as housing co-ops and so forth. Provincial governments do play a role. To try to give an impression that the provinces are playing a more significant role given the nature of the investments that the federal government is putting into national housing is less than being honest. I used to be a provincial housing critic and I understand the role that the provinces play in housing. The provinces need to work in co-operation with Ottawa to take the vast resources we have allocated for housing. We need different levels of government and non-profits working together, including municipalities, to deal with this very serious issue of a housing shortage.
    Can the member provide her thoughts on the importance of coming together with other organizations?
    Madam Speaker, I agree. The federal government has the biggest role to play in addressing the housing crisis. Unfortunately, more and more Canadians find themselves unable to afford a home and pay rent, and the pandemic has made things worse.
    The PBO, the government's own watchdog, reported that the Liberals are failing on housing while patting themselves on the back for a job well done, and that the people with core housing need are worse off under the Liberals' national housing strategy. Last year, my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, obtained data showing that the bulk of the national housing co-investment fund, 74%, was going to Ontario and only a small fraction was going to my home province of British Columbia.
    The Liberals need to do better. Housing is a human right and they need to start acting like it is.

  (1115)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for a very insightful speech. I agree with most of the points she brought up.
    I am disappointed that the Liberals are blaming the provinces, because as she pointed out, it is a partnership and we have to make this money available to get it on the ground. It seems that they are failing over and over again. She also pointed out the challenge with offshore money flipping. I am getting emails with concerns that we need to tighten that up, and I am hearing a lot from seniors.
    I wonder if she could expand on the issue of housing for seniors and the problems they are having with inflation, because it is not just housing, but food and everything else that is going up. Making ends meet seems to be impossible. Could she expand on the issue of inflation?
    Madam Speaker, so many seniors are struggling right now with the rising cost of living. I hear from them every day. It is the cost of food and medication, which is one of the many reasons we need a truly universal pharmacare program.
    I also hear from a ton of seniors who have just recently experienced clawbacks in the GIS. Those seniors will now have to wait until May for the government to fix its policy mistakes, its policy incoherence. They are struggling. I spoke to a senior who was in a motel. He was about to lose the roof over his head because the government is delaying paying back the money from his GIS clawback. It is heartbreaking talking to these seniors. The government needs to do more.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I really enjoyed my colleague's speech. I think she understands that the housing crisis is one of the most serious crises in Canada right now, because she sees it in her riding, just as I see it in Longueuil and throughout Quebec. We are facing a health crisis and a climate crisis, but we also have a housing crisis.
    A Scotiabank study released two weeks ago reported that there is a shortage of 1.8 million housing units in Canada right now, relative to the G7 average, and Scotiabank is not exactly an extreme left-wing group that campaigns for the right to housing or funds the NDP.
    We in the Bloc Québécois believe that it is time for the government to recognize the magnitude of this crisis and allocate 1% of its total budget to the current housing crisis.
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member.

[Translation]

    I apologize for not being able to answer him in French.

[English]

    I think it is a bold idea. We need more bold ideas from the government. Unfortunately, it has a track record of big promises but no follow-through.
    Madam Speaker, I rise this morning to speak to Bill C-8, which would enact tax and spending measures outlined in the government's fiscal and economic update introduced in December.
    The Liberal government has now been in office for more than six years. Six years in, we have an inflation crisis, an affordability crisis and a supply chain crisis. The government has presided over massive deficits and massive debt. They are historical levels of debt. In two short years, the government has managed to double the national debt to a staggering $1.4 trillion. Forty per cent of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque, $200 away from insolvency. These same hard-working everyday Canadians are being hit hard by the Liberal government. They are being hit hard in terms of their spending power being diminished as a result of 30-year-high inflation, and they are being hit hard with Liberal tax hikes, including carbon tax and CPP tax hikes. After six years, that is the sad state of affairs in this country under the failed policies and failed leadership of this failed Prime Minister.
    What has Bill C-8 done to address these significant challenges? In short, it has done very little. Instead, it does what the government only knows how to do, and that is to spend and spend some more. Bill C-8 would provide a fire hose of $71 billion in new spending. That is on top of the nearly $600 billion of spending over the last two years, a third of which was completely unrelated to COVID as determined by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
    How much is $71 billion? To put it in some context, it is about 40% more than the government provides to provinces in health care spending by way of the Canada health transfer. It is double what the government collects annually in GST. In short, $71 billion is a staggering amount of new spending and new debt, and for what purpose?
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer does not think this fire hose of new spending is a good idea. Indeed, he recently stated:
    It appears to me that the rationale for the additional spending initially set aside as ‘stimulus’ no longer exists.
    The rationale no longer exists. All this will do is pour gasoline on the fire that is inflation, making life even less affordable for everyday Canadians.
    Among the measures of new spending provided for in Bill C-8 is $300 million over the next three years to fund the Liberal government's vaccine mandates. Less than a year ago, the Prime Minister ruled out the imposition of such mandates. He then flip-flopped on that commitment, and when he imposed the mandates, they were understood to be temporary. We have now learned that they are not temporary, and that the government intends to make them permanent.

  (1120)  

    This is alarming. These vaccine mandates have done nothing to keep Canadians safe. What they have done is destroy lives and livelihoods. Hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying Canadians have lost their jobs and lost benefits they paid into their entire working lives. These same Canadians have had their mobility rights infringed upon. They are unable to get on airplanes or trains, which inhibits their ability to travel freely within Canada, never mind leave the country.
    This is in a free and democratic country. If one would have described what the government is doing to fellow Canadians in Canada two short years ago, no one would have believed them, but here we are today. These mandates infringe upon the medical privacy rights of Canadians, and they infringe upon the ability of Canadians to make individual health decisions free of state coercion. These mandates without more are punitive, discriminatory and un-Canadian, and they could not be more ill-timed because in much of the rest of the world, governments are moving in the opposite direction. The U.K. has lifted all restrictions. Most EU countries have lifted all or most restrictions. The majority of U.S. states have lifted all restrictions, many of which did so some time ago. Saskatchewan has announced it is lifting restrictions. Alberta is about to follow suit, but not this government under this Prime Minister.
    Instead, he is doubling down with new permanent mandates, and he is expanding mandates to the transportation sector that will do nothing more, and are doing nothing more, than to exacerbate the serious supply chain issues that we face. For the Prime Minister, it is not about science. It is not about data. It is not about keeping Canadians safe. What it is about is dividing Canadians for short-term political gain and using COVID as a pretext to vastly expand the size, scope and control of government.
    It does not have to be this way. In much of the rest of the world, it is not this way, and on this side of the House, we are going to do everything to ensure that it does not remain this way so that Canadians can once again take control of their lives against this massive state overreach.

  (1125)  

    Madam Speaker, I find it fascinating that the member would talk about adding fuel to the fire, when his entire speech about mandates, and the Prime Minister supposedly putting in these mandates that lock down the freedoms of people, is absolutely ludicrous.
    The only mandate that the member is concerned about that actually relates to the federal government is the fact that we have to provide a vaccination certificate when we cross the border into Canada, which, by the way, we have to provide if we cross the border into the United States to start with. In order to be travelling back into Canada, we have to have already gone into the United States and shown our vaccination status.
    All other mandates related to wearing masks, closing businesses and so forth have been set by the provinces. The member knows that, yet he accuses this side of throwing fuel on the fire.
    Madam Speaker, I would respectfully say that the hon. member is misinformed. In fact, the mandate that he spoke of is one mandate, but it is not the only mandate. In my speech, I noted that if a person is not fully vaccinated they cannot get on a plane or train. Federally regulated employees have lost their jobs and they have lost benefits if they are not vaccinated. Those are punitive mandates that have had a real impact on hurting people, including constituents of mine, and I am going to fight for them in this place.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the economic update does not include any solutions to address the labour shortage or any ideas on how to increase productivity.
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

  (1130)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the hon. member is quite right. We have a significant backlog now of immigrants who are skilled workers and who are unable to get here to join the workforce. He is absolutely right that this is a serious issue that the government, despite spending a lot of money, has failed to address.
    Madam Speaker, I know we have been talking for over a week now about what is going on outside. I am disappointed to hear what the member had to say. The mandates are in place to protect people: to protect health care workers and protect a system that is so overrun that it cannot keep up. It is to protect those who need the supports in other areas of our health care system, so they are able to access them.
    I am absolutely in agreement that the government has not provided the health care transfers to the provinces that it needs to provide. This is something that started, however, with cuts by the Harper Conservative government.
    Could the member speak about those needs in our health care system, and the need to better strengthen that system that so many Canadians rely upon and that so many health care workers are now in doubt about?
    I am sorry. I am very frustrated, as many are, but we need to protect people and that is what mandates are supposed to do.
    Madam Speaker, these mandates have not worked, but I do appreciate the hon. member's question about health care. I will note for her that, under the Harper government, health care transfers increased 6% annually through to 2014, every single year.
    With respect to the $71 billion of new spending, there is no money for health care. This is at a time when we have a serious issue in terms of capacity that resulted in some of the restrictions and lockdown measures that provincial governments put into place. The ICU capacity is one-third that of the United States. When it comes to the OECD, we rank at the bottom, other than Mexico, in terms of ICU capacity. All of the provinces have been calling on the government to step up to the plate. All of the opposition parties are united on this, and the government, despite spending $71 billion, could not allocate more money to address this crisis.
    Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak to the bill, but I cannot say I am happy with the bill. However, I will start off with a few positive comments about the bill.
    I am a teacher by profession. I know that one of the items here is a school supplies tax credit, which would increase the credit from 15% to 25% for teachers who spend on supplies out of their own pockets, including for electronic devices. I think it might be about $100 for the year that they would get back, so that is positive. School ventilation improvements in B.C. would come to about $11 million, so certainly the comfort and health of students is important. There is also the eligible air quality expenditures for businesses.
    There are some carrots inside the bill, but that is to be expected because the Liberals, when the opposition might potentially vote against this, will ask us how we could vote against teachers and how we could do this and that when it is such a nice bill. These are just the carrots. It is the essence of the content of the bill that is very problematic.
    One of the problems in the bill is that it would be adding $70 billion of inflationary fuel to the fire. Since the pandemic began there has been about $176 billion in increased expenditures beyond those that were COVID-related. That is very significant when our debt right now is about $1.2 trillion. The Liberals might yawn and say that for $1.2 trillion they can just print some more money and ask what the big difference is. There is a real impact being felt at the kitchen table, in homes, with seniors, with younger people and with people everywhere.
    The policies from the current government, which has lost control of its expenditures, have an impact on the cost of living. Right now we are facing inflation of about 5%. The wage increase is about half of that, 2.4%, in the last year. As such, people are falling behind in paying their bills, and it is getting harder for them and for anybody who does shopping. I went shopping yesterday or the day before with my wife, and I was noticing that, at Costco and every store, everything is going up. The Liberals will say it is supply chain issues and a worldwide issue and deflect any criticism from themselves.
    The fact of the matter is that their out-of-control spending has an impact. The Parliamentary Budget Officer was very clear about that and said, “It appears to me that the rationale for the additional spending initially set aside as ‘stimulus’ no longer exists”. Government deficits can and do contribute to inflation. The Liberals have more than doubled our debt load since they have been in. Think of all the prime ministers before this. Under the current Prime Minister it has more than doubled.
    What is the problem with that? I think back to the eighties and nineties, when almost one-third of all the tax revenues from all sources, such as income tax and capital gains tax, went to pay for the interest charges on debt that had been accumulated. There are consequences to out-of-control spending, and it will only get worse because we are at historic lows as far as interest payments. However, as that increases, and the Bank of Canada governor has said that it will be going up, that will add to the debt and to the need for more revenues from people, because the government has to pay its interest charges.

  (1135)  

    More money spent on interest means less money spent on everything else, such as health care and infrastructure. All of these things have a real impact. The cost of living is going up $1,000 in just inflation alone, not including the hundreds of dollars more in CPP payments for individuals this year. It is difficult, but put the onus on this government.
    When I was driving in the Vancouver area, Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, gas was $1.78 a litre. Someone driving a pickup truck for work is looking at $200 in the Lower Mainland to fill up the tank, and if one has to fill up every day, it is very expensive. However, it is interesting that when demand goes down, prices go down, and when demand goes up, prices go up. There is an increased demand worldwide for oil and gas, but the approach of our Liberal government is that this is an industry of the past and we need to move on.
    Canada has the third-highest proven reserves of oil and gas in the entire world, yet the Liberals want to phase it out. Ten per cent of our economy is based upon this, providing hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs, yet this is to be phased out because it is not appropriate. We provide some of the cleanest energy in the world, yet the Liberals would rather close down the sector with all the jobs and import from Saudi Arabia or other countries via oil tanker than to produce it right here in this country. I think that is a real shame.
    Right now, outside on the streets we have protests happening all across Canada. People are very upset about the direction of this government and what it is doing. The Liberals call people who are not vaccinated “anti-vaxxers” and inside the report, the finance minister said that it is about 20% of the population who are not vaccinated. Well, 20% of the population is over seven million Canadians and the Prime Minister, when he was being interviewed in Quebec, was questioning if we should tolerate these people. That is irresponsible, inflammatory and wrong. It is inappropriate. I could not believe it. That is terrible, and that is why there is frustration.
    I know the Liberals will point to some radicals and, yes, there will be some that are extremists, but it is being felt. People are upset. They are losing their jobs. If members across the aisle or other people lost their jobs, how would they feel? However, it is happening in the tens of thousands. Many of these truckers are losing their jobs because they cannot drive across the border. Not only does that impact our supply-chain issues, raising inflation and costs, but it impacts jobs and the economy. People are upset.
    People may say that it is for health, but people need to be able to make their own health care decisions. We support that.
    I am double vaccinated, but guess what. I was not here the past couple of weeks, because both my wife and I had COVID. A person who is vaccinated can carry it just as much as a person who is not. I would like to read this letter before I close. It is from a 35-year-old female lawyer. She writes that she is an ultra-marathon runner and spends eight, nine or possibly 10 hours a day running. Before that, she was a varsity athlete at a university in Ontario. Saying she has always been fit would be an understatement. She has no pre-existing conditions, but when she got the vaccine, she started having chest pains and operating at a max threshold, even on walks, doubling and tripling her heart rate. As it stands, she is a 30-year-old with chronic heart pain.
    She feels this constantly, and even on a slow walk she is out of breath. She goes on to to say that she is not a conspiracy theorist. She actually make a lot of money defending the largest pharmaceutical companies, but with that comes the knowledge that sometimes mistakes are made and sometimes we don't—

  (1140)  

    The hon. member's time is up, but he will be able to add during questions and comments.
    Questions and comments, the hon. government whip.
    Madam Speaker, the hon. member seems very concerned about inflation. I just want to ask him this very simply. He ran on a platform that purported to spend far in excess of what the Liberal Party, in fact, committed to spend in the last campaign. Why?
    Madam Speaker, we cannot believe what the Liberals say. During the 2015 election they said there would be a $10-billion deficit. Then what happened? It was $30 billion, and that was pre-COVID. They were out of control prior and now they blame it all on COVID. They were not accurate with what they said then, and they will not be accurate about what they say in the future. That is my position on that.
    Madam Speaker, I heard my colleague use the words “inflammatory” and “irresponsible” to describe comments he heard from the government side.
    Will the member today, in Parliament, condemn the actions of his own colleagues who have emboldened and encouraged the violent and hateful actions we have seen take place in our nation's capital and in communities across our country? They included racist, anti-Semitic and other actions by so-called protestors whose protests have been supported by Conservative members in Parliament, including one of his colleagues who stood in front of a flag with swastikas on it. What does my colleague have to say about condemning those actions, which are deeply disturbing for so many Canadians across our country?

  (1145)  

    Madam Speaker, the Conservatives and I do not support extremism of any kind, no matter what the source. I certainly do not support that.
     People have a right to protest and be listened to. They want to speak up. They are being ignored and are being labelled. It was reported in the media that there was an arrest made during a rally in Toronto because a smoke bomb was thrown in. It was done by someone who was a counterprotester. In Vancouver, where I am from, there were a number of arrests of more people who were against the convoy.
    I believe that people need to be heard and listened to. I encourage the member to go talk to some of those people, to walk around and chat with them. That would be a good start.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the economic update held the Canadian health transfer escalator to 3%. That is well below the annual health care cost increase.
    We know the federal government paid for 50% of health care spending in the 1970s. Since then, it has steadily reduced its share down to the 22% we are at now.
    Right now, Quebec and the Canadian provinces are unanimously calling on the government to increase the transfer by $28 billion, which would cover 35% of health costs and be a 6% escalator. What does my colleague think of that?
    Madam Speaker, it is really a problem. The impact of inflation on health care also affects seniors on fixed incomes because what they get is not keeping pace with rising prices. Government support is dwindling because it has lost control of the economy and its spending.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak at length for the first in this 44th Parliament and, in so doing, speak to Bill C-8. I will review what this bill would do.
    In alignment with the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Finance last December, Bill C-8 would implement certain provisions of the economic fiscal update. There are a number of provisions in the bill, including several changes to the Income Tax Act; the enacting of a new underused housing tax act; funding for various COVID measures, including the purchasing of tests; and finally, amendments to the Employment Insurance Act. The economic fiscal update presented last year proposed increases in government spending by roughly $70 billion, which adds to the national debt.
    Since the pandemic started, the government has piled on spending and debt totalling in the hundreds of billion of dollars. Budget 2021 predicted a $354-billion deficit for the 2020-21 fiscal year and an additional $154-billion deficit for the 2021-22 fiscal year. It should be noted, however, that not all of the debt incurred over the last two years by the government was as a result of the pandemic. In fact, approximately $176 billion in new deficit spending is unrelated to the pandemic.
    I remember when the Prime Minister made a bold, but modest, promise to run a few small $10-billion deficits to support infrastructure projects. Way back then, Canadians believed him. We all know where that promise ended up: at the bottom of the PMO shredder, ripped up into billions of tiny pieces.
    The fact is that the Liberal government cannot be trusted to manage the country's finances in a responsible way. It is one thing for a government to borrow money during an emergency; it is quite a different story for that government to be running up the credit card for things that are unrelated to the pandemic. The government is using the pandemic to hide massive spending increases, and this latest additional spending increase is, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, unnecessary. He stated, “It appears to me that the rationale for the additional spending initially set aside as ‘stimulus’ no longer exists.”
    The reality is that we would not be here debating yet another $70 billion in deficit spending if the Liberal government had not mismanaged and exploited the pandemic over the last two years.
    Where has this runaway deficit spending gotten us? Our national debt has now reached $1.2 trillion and has produced record-breaking inflation. At the finance committee, when asked if government deficits can contribute to inflation, the Parliamentary Budget Officer clearly responded that, yes, they can, and here we are with inflation reaching a 30-year high. Gasoline is up 34%. Housing prices are up almost 27%. Sugar is up 20%. Beef and bacon are up 17%, and carrots are up 13%. Even coffee is up 10%.
    It has been reported that nearly 60% of Canadians are struggling to afford food for their families and that only 34% of Canadians believe their families will be better off in five years. It should then come as no surprise that this has led to Canada having one of the lowest levels of economic optimism in the world, well below the global average. I believe that is why we are seeing the mass demonstrations across our country and right outside the doors of this place, together with the thousands of people who have lined the streets and highways in support of them.
    Canadians are looking for hope and a future. In March of 2020, they were asked for two weeks to flatten the curve. They have now given two years. They have been waiting for, and continue to wait for, a plan to reopen our economy, get Canadians back to work and life back to normal. Still, there is no plan.

  (1150)  

    To be clear, Conservatives always understood that, if Canadians were being told to stay home and shutter their businesses, financial support would be needed. That is why we were supportive of measures that supported Canadians and Canadian businesses. It is why we have supported spending that made a real change for struggling Canadians heavily affected by the pandemic. It is why our Conservative members were there every step of the way, providing solutions to address the shortcomings to make those support programs better and more responsive to the needs of both workers and businesses.
    However, we also understood that we needed to position both businesses and workers to be able to open up and get back to work when it was safe to do so. Last spring, the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted that a significant amount of the Liberal spending in the budget would not stimulate jobs or create economic growth. Unfortunately, unbridled spending on Liberal partisan priorities has been par for the course with the government. It has always run deficits, not once trying to control the national debt or rein in spending, and now that is catching up with us.
    During debate on the Budget Implementation Act, I made the observation that budget 2021 did not set Canadians up for future prosperity. Rather, I said that it set up Canada for long-term postpandemic failure. It would appear that this is now the case. The Liberals have made numerous missteps in their spending during the pandemic, and Canadians are paying for it with the cost of living ballooning under the government.
    As I stated earlier, Canadians are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. Families will be paying nearly $1,000 more on groceries this year. They are struggling to provide for their children today, let alone save for their future tomorrow. Young people are being forced to live in their parents' basements because they cannot afford to buy a home of their own. There has been an 85% home inflation over the last six years, and 25% of that was in the last year alone. The Real Estate Association's chief economist has called it the biggest gain of all time.
    Seniors on a fixed income cannot afford groceries with the price of food skyrocketing, and workers are finding it more and more costly to get to work with the price of gas soaring.
    Under the Prime Minister, Canada has consistently had one of the highest unemployment rates in the G7 and record economic decline. In fact, the Liberal government has spent more and delivered less than any other G7 country. Now more than ever, Canadians need a government willing to prioritize thoughtful, focused and effective fiscal policies ahead of its own partisan purposes.
    We need policies that support Canadians getting back to work. We need policies that support every sector in every province across our country. For example, the oil and gas industry, which employs thousands of hard-working Canadians, fosters economic growth and provides revenues that support social programs and infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals. We need policies that will put Canadians first.
    Conservatives are opposed to Bill C-8, which would unnecessarily add an additional $70 billion of new inflationary spending to an already jaw-dropping deficit.

  (1155)  

    Madam Speaker, I notice my colleague's speech was bent pretty badly to one side and never talked about all the positives. She is saying there is nothing good in Bill C-8 and that we are wasting billions of dollars. If she looks closely, Bill C-8 includes major financial supports for schools, which are crucial, and the business community, which is crucial.
    She also never spoke about the good news, like how all the jobs that were lost during the pandemic, which is over three million jobs, are back at 108%, In comparison, the U.S. is only back at 84%.
    I would like her to comment about the good things in Bill C-8 that would help Canadians, schools, kids and community groups, etc. Please, find it in your heart to talk about the good things once in a while.
    I would like to remind the hon. parliamentary secretary that, as I am sure he was not directing that to me at the end, he is to direct all questions and comments through me.
    The hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek.
    Madam Speaker, I am sure the member would absolutely like me to speak positively about a measure that I can find very little to be positive about.
     The bottom line here is that this bill would do nothing to secure long-term prosperity for Canadians, as I stated. It would do nothing to address the rapidly rising inflation that is impacting millions of Canadians, driving them closer and closer to the edge of financial insolvency. Instead, this bill is proposing more spending for a reimagined Canadian economy that dabbles in risky economic ideas and leaves our economy and Canadians behind.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the more we hear from our Conservative friends, the more we see that they are still obsessed with inflation.
    Of course inflation is important, but let us talk about the housing crisis specifically. As I said earlier, Canada is 1.8 million housing units short of the G7 average, according to Scotiabank. Moreover, 500,000 households in Quebec have urgent housing needs, and the federal government stepped away from social housing 30 years ago.
    What we are seeing now is that the government is investing in the private sector to create affordable housing units in Montreal priced at $2,200. That makes absolutely no sense. To tackle this crisis, the government will have to invest money one way or another, even if that could make inflation go up.
    Does my colleague think the housing crisis is serious and important enough for the government to invest money, even if that means a little bump in inflation? Would the Conservatives be okay with that?

  (1200)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, we know that the housing market for new entrants continues to worsen under the current Liberal government. A recent report by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation indicates a continuing trend of housing starts slowing down across the country, with December showing a 22% decrease from the previous month. This will exacerbate the problem.
    As the member mentioned, Canada is facing a housing supply issue, which the Liberal government has consistently failed to address. The Liberals have no plan to address this housing crisis. Instead of figuring out how to implement a housing tax, the government should actually turn its attention to ensuring Canadian homes get built. We will continue to be the voice of Canadians who are left behind by the current Liberal government.
    Madam Speaker, 11 people die every day in this country from death by suicide. A third of those deaths are of people between the ages of 45 and 59. Suicide is the second-leading killer of people between the ages of 15 and 34. Men are three times more likely than women to die from suicide.
    Our good colleague from Timmins—James Bay put forward a national suicide prevention action plan motion that was adopted in this House unanimously back in May 2019. The national collaborative on suicide prevention wants to see that enacted. Today I am hoping that we can actually talk about something and work on it together.
    Does my colleague agree that the government needs to implement this right away? We see the grief and the trauma of people who have been impacted by losing a loved one to death by suicide.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with the member that creating a national strategy to address mental health and the increase in suicides all across this country is very important. Having had a family member who committed suicide, I absolutely agree that more needs to be done.
    Madam Speaker, on behalf of the people Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, I thank the Hon. Erin O'Toole for his service to our party and the sacrifices he and his wife Rebecca made as they led the official opposition. This is a huge challenge at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.
    This is my first time speaking in the House since our interim leader, the Hon. Candice Bergen stepped into her new role—
    I want to remind the member that he is not to use individuals' names. They can be mentioned by their riding or position, but not by their name.
    The hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame.
    Madam Speaker, thank you for straightening me out.
    I wish our interim leader well as she guides the party in a strong direction for this country.
    I stand here providing an intervention on Bill C-8. Most Canadians are in awe of the government's spending over the last two years. When I talk with my constituents in Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, the chorus that gets echoed is that our children and our grandchildren will have to pay for this. This is absolutely the case, and the additional, immediate concern is that we are actually paying for this now with skyrocketing inflation. The economic and fiscal update of 2021 adds an additional $70 million to fuel this fire. Seniors and people on a fixed incomes just cannot keep up and have to make difficult choices between buying their medicine, heating their homes and putting food on the table.
    I am quite familiar with this. Many of my constituents are living this nightmare. Food and fuel inflation is through the roof, especially in my province. Gasoline is $1.71 per litre today in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor. The average family in Canada will pay $1,000 extra for groceries in 2022. That is an average for Canada. I suspect it will be much higher than that in remote areas like Fogo Island, the Connaigre peninsula and the Baie Verte Peninsula. Extra government spending is relentlessly driving prices higher for my constituents.
    Let us not forget the inflationary effect of the carbon tax, especially in remote regions like Newfoundland and Labrador. Here we are with the most vulnerable in our population bearing the burden because those who profited from the government's overstimulation of the economy have more money to chase less goods.
    Small businesses throughout Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame are reeling from labour inflation and the rising cost of the products that they sell. According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, among our small business community, one in six will likely close their doors this year, putting a million Canadians out of work. The average small business has taken on $500,000 in extra debt, putting everything that they worked for in their entire life in jeopardy. The anxiety of small business owners is on bust, with no clear path forward on the reopening of our economy.
    Great Britain and other European nations have latched on to the notion that we are now in an endemic, but they are reopening their economies so that small businesses can have a chance at survival and begin paying back the dept they have accumulated. In Great Britain, rapid tests have been available for purchase in convenience stores for months so that individuals could manage their COVID needs without having to place unneeded strain on their health care system.
    Bill C-8 authorizes $1.72 million to provide for extra coronavirus testing. I think the government is a little late to the party when it comes to providing testing such as that available in Europe. As a result, we lag far behind our G7 partners in reopening our economy. Bill C-8 certainly highlights the government's failure to take advantage of rapid testing to keep our economy fluid and keep our workers employed.
    As I gaze a little further along in this bill, I spot a clause that introduces a refundable tax credit to return fuel charge proceeds to farmers. It is not a bad idea. However, I cannot understand how commercial fishers were left our here. This clause could have been extended to include fishing enterprises. Does the government not realize that the fishing industry in ridings like Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame is crucial to providing food for our tables? A National Post article in 2018 stated that the effects of increasing carbon tax on the fishing industry could degrade its competitiveness.

  (1205)  

    We are seeing it now. Oil is currently almost $93 a barrel and is forecast to move well north of $100 this year, possibly to $200 a barrel in a couple of years. The effects of rapidly increasing oil prices and the carbon tax will put a heavy strain on fishing enterprises in Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame and in fact in all of coastal Canada. This bill should acknowledge the harm to our fishers and provide to the fishing industry a tax credit similar to that offered to the farming industry. Omitting the fishing industry from fuel tax credits shows how disconnected the government is from the pressures put on fishers by increased taxation on fuels. Fuel is not a luxury item for the fishing industry. Fishers simply cannot pass on the carbon tax to consumers, because they are bound by a market commodity-driven pricing arrangement for their catch.
    The government could take this opportunity to use a bill like Bill C-8 to provide a complete carbon tax exemption for commercial fishing enterprises.
    I just wanted to highlight how this inflationary danger could have been addressed in Bill C-8.
    Bills like this help a few in our country but neglect to help most, and in the end, we pay more for everything. As well, bills like this that incorporate so many unrelated items to be voted on as a group are unfair to those of us who have to vote on them. This bill covers so many unrelated issues that it makes no sense.
    To that point, this buffet of tax-and-spend measures even deals with the Employment Insurance Act as it pertains to seasonal workers. My mind was boggled as I tried to understand part 7, which talks about changes to seasonal workers' EI benefits. Many ridings in rural Canada are like Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame and rely on jobs in seasonal industries, and changes to the EI act are a big concern.
    As this debate continues, I look forward to some clarity on part 7 of this bill. The government is responsible for letting Canadians know what its legislation means in layman's terms so that they can understand it. These are just a few things relating to my constituents that render Bill C-8 unacceptable.
    From a broader Canadian perspective, the government has brought in $176 billion in new spending that is unrelated to COVID-19. The national debt has now reached a jaw-dropping $1.2 trillion. It is not looking good for the “budget balancing itself” act.
    I am happy to be part of a team that is fighting to keep the cost of living down for our seniors, families and those on fixed incomes. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on their behalf.

  (1210)  

    Madam Speaker, regarding the area that I heard our hon. colleague speaking about in Bill C-8, specifically on the subject of small businesses, would he not acknowledge the many different programs we offered, specifically the issue of the $60,000, and part of it being forgivable? Does he not agree that this was a huge help in getting our small businesses to the point where they are today?
    Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that the $60,000 loan, with the $20,000 forgivable portion, was a help to small businesses in Canada.
    However, the other part of it is that the massive spending and the flooding of printed money into our economy caused labour inflation and caused inflation in the products and goods that businesses need to conduct themselves. The other aspect was the needlessly long period of CERB payments that demoralized small business workers, as they figured it was just as easy to stay home as to go in and work.
    You created massive wage inflation that is crushing small businesses.
    I want to remind the member that he is to address questions and comments through the Chair and not directly to the member. He may want to refrain from using the word “you”.
    Madam Speaker, my colleague spoke a lot about how businesses have been affected during the pandemic. However, his party, the Conservative Party, has consistently voted against any support for businesses and against support programs during the pandemic.
    The Liberal government has currently cut support to businesses. The NDP is fighting to get those supports put back in place. Does my hon. colleague believe that we need to keep these pandemic support programs in place to save small businesses?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her question, but I do not wish to thank her for her support of the federal government's policies.
    What we need right is the reopening of our economy. That is what my constituents are telling me. They want the pandemic to be behind us. They are tired, broken and demoralized, and their mental health is suffering.
    My hon. colleague should think about the people she is representing. What they are telling her is exactly the same as what I am hearing. They are who she should be standing up for.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the Canada emergency business account provides interest-free loans of up to $60,000. Initially, repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, would have resulted in loan forgiveness of up to 33 per cent.
    However, in Quebec we are seeing that almost a quarter of SMEs might not survive, and we think more needs to be done. For example, we have proposed increasing the loan forgiveness amount for the smallest businesses or those whose sales fell short of a certain threshold. What does my colleague think of that?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, those are excellent points raised by my hon. colleague.
    I have spoken to many small business owners who are feeling the strain. They are worried about having to pay back those loans on time. They can barely keep their doors open, because our economy is shut down.
    If the government does not act soon and follow what our European colleagues are doing, those businesses will fail. They can barely keep their cash flow moving at all right now, let alone pay back those loans in two years' time.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the economic update proposed in Bill C‑8. However, I am not at all pleased to say that it is about as weak as the throne speech. There are many things missing from it.
    The bill proposes some interesting things, such as credits for ventilation, transportation for people who live in remote regions, medical care and school supplies, and a tax credit to return fuel charge proceeds to farming businesses. These are things that seem to make sense. However, I would like to call on the federal government to be very vigilant and aware that it needs to pay close attention to areas of jurisdiction and to work with Quebec and the other provinces on several of these aspects.
    In the economic update, the government also talks about charging a 1% tax on vacant housing. We all know that vacant housing is a major problem, and we cannot really be against such a measure. However, we need to raise a red flag, or at least an orange one, about the fact that this will once again interfere with certain jurisdictions. I therefore urge the federal government to be careful, to work with Quebec and large cities like Montreal and to provide the necessary support, instead of sticking its nose where it might not belong.
    No one can be against that idea. However, the proposed percentage of 1% may pose a problem. I would like to think that it will bring in some $600 million or so, but a similar tax exists elsewhere. Vancouver had a 15% tax, which was later increased to 25%, compared to the federal government's 1%. France's tax is 12.5% for the first year and 25% for subsequent years. In Canada, we are talking about a 1% tax. What will be the real impact of that measure?
    The Bloc Québécois believes that access to social housing should be a priority, and that is where we should be targeting our efforts. It is extremely important to increase the housing supply, because the need is there.
    From 1960 to 1995, the federal government funded the construction of 25,000 new housing units. Now, with its 20-year strategy, the government is proposing to add 6,000 new units a year, and the Bloc Québécois is very concerned that it is just not enough.
    The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain estimates that since 1994 the federal government's disengagement from these programs has deprived Quebec of more than 80,000 social housing units. It is now estimated that Quebec needs 50,000 units.
    I want to make an aside about health. If the government had not made gradual, insidious and even—dare I say it—vicious cuts to health transfers year after year, we might not be in such a predicament today. Our health care system has been significantly undermined over the past two years, and it was already struggling before that. Why was struggling before? Because it has been underfunded for a long time. Why has it been underfunded for a long time? Because half the taxes go to the federal government, but the federal government has less than half of the responsibilities. I do not know how many times I have to repeat that in the House, but I will continue to do so for as long as necessary. This economic update could have provided for an increase in health care transfers, but it did not. That was just a quick but important aside.
    I now want to come back to social housing, a sector where we are seeing the same phenomenon. The federal government withdrew from this file in 1994, and the sector is now lagging behind. That is where the government needs to invest. It needs to build social and community housing. Scotiabank estimates that Canada needs to build an additional 1.8 million dwellings just to reach the G7 average. I take that to mean that we are currently doing very poorly in comparison with the rest of the G7. That is what Canada is being told, and that tells us something is wrong.
    I would like to point out to government members that social housing is not the same as affordable housing. There is a very important distinction. The cost of social housing is based on the average cost of housing, which means that, because rents in the Montreal area have increased by 18.7% in the past five years, a social housing unit now costs $2,225 a month.

  (1220)  

    Do I really need to explain that a lot of middle-class families need social housing? This government is always banging on about the middle class. If supporting the middle class is so important, then the government should prove it. What people need is social housing.
    I am calling on the government to respect jurisdictions and consider the work being done in Quebec through the AccèsLogis Québec program, for example. This is crucial.
    The government needs to stop trying to grab headlines by making flashy announcements, since the large amounts of money it announces often include the provinces' and municipalities' shares. The government needs to stop misleading the public and start being honest about how much it is actually spending.
    How is it possible that just 25% of the money has been spent, two years into a four-year program? This means that the government is insidiously and maliciously planning to ensure there will be money left when the program is over. No one realizes it because what makes the news is the big bucks announced early on. We are tired of this. We want to work for our constituents.
    There are some other worthwhile points to consider in the economic update. There are not many, but there are some, such as the Canada emergency business account. My colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île mentioned this program in a question. Our SMEs are drowning in debt. The estimated average debt is nearly $100,000, which is a huge amount.
    SMEs are very important in Quebec. They are crucial. That is another thing that sets Quebec apart: SMEs contribute 30% of our GDP. We have to support those people. We cannot just let half our businesses fail in 2022. Analysts have concerns about that. More flexibility is called for, so we are very pleased that the loan repayment deadline has been extended. That is something we asked for, and the people of my riding are very happy about it.
    How about increasing the amount for small storefront businesses because brick-and-mortar shops cost money to run? There are also online businesses competing with big, powerful multinationals. How about helping those little SMEs compete by coming up with solutions to support online merchants, such as reducing postage rates and credit card fees? Visa and Mastercard are not the ones covering the cost of all the points people get when they pay with a credit card; merchants are. That is an important thing to remember. There is some work to do on that. It would definitely involve negotiations, but I think it can be done, and the Bloc Québécois is offering to help.
    I just talked about health transfers, a subject that is not mentioned in the economic update. However, the economic update does talk about ventilation and other things that come under provincial and Quebec jurisdiction, so we need to pay attention to that.
    The economic update talks about the duration of EI benefits and the possibility of increasing the number of weeks. We appreciate that, because we have been talking about the seasonal gap for 10 years now. Why is that measure only temporary, though? This needs to be settled once and for all. EI benefits must be provided to people with serious illnesses; we can work together.
    There is absolutely nothing in the economic update about supply chain issues. Labour issues were debated throughout the election campaign. Why have no proposals been made on this matter? The government needs to come up with something. The Bloc has proposals to make. Will the government listen to them?
    We are proposing a tax credit for people aged 65 and over, after a certain number of hours worked. We are proposing measures for temporary foreign workers. Businesses are in urgent need of workers. These workers are not being allowed to enter; they are being turned away.
    Last week I hit the roof over the 12-week waiting period for EI. Things finally got moving on the weekend with the addition of more teams. Why did it take months for this to happen? We are not here to cause trouble. We are here to work for the people, to collaborate, but things need to get moving.
    The Bloc Québécois proposed a series of concrete measures for foreign workers, including expedited visas that are valid for five years and the possibility of eliminating the requirement for labour market impact assessments, or LMIAs.
    To boost productivity, we are proposing a business investment program. The agri-food sector is chronically underfunded. I worry that it may become more profitable for a business to close up shop and reopen somewhere else. Why not create an investment program that could help with labour issues? That is important.
    In closing, there is also the problem of transportation bottlenecks. It defies logic that we transport animals to be slaughtered in Pennsylvania when we are trying to buy electric cars and travel less in an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint. It makes no sense. What about the businesses' bottom line and the animals' welfare? There is a whole host of reasons to stop doing this.

  (1225)  

    I want to collaborate with the government, but there has to be something to work with, and there is not a lot of substance in this economic update.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to pick up on the member's comments on the importance of small businesses. It is important for us to recognize that the number of small businesses today in Canada is greater than the number prepandemic, from what I understand. I think in good part that is because the Government of Canada is working with the Government of Quebec and with municipalities like Montreal and Quebec City. We have been very successful at providing the supports that were necessary to ensure these businesses would survive the pandemic.
    I am interested in the member's thoughts and commentary on how important it is that different levels of government work together for the betterment of our economy and people in general.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. We agree once again. I find that has been happening quite a bit recently. That is a change.
    I completely agree with him on the fundamental importance of SMEs. We supported the small business assistance programs because it is important to have them. However, I would like to remind my colleague opposite that small business debt levels are very high. Yes, all levels of government must work together, but we, too, must work together. The Bloc has some suggestions. We believe that the government should be a little more generous with the smallest businesses and consider their prepandemic debt ratio and profitability.
    I am also thinking of the businesses that opened their doors during the pandemic. They thought the pandemic was over after the first or second wave, but more waves keep coming and they cannot access any assistance. I think an effort must be made to help these businesses.
    We therefore agree on one thing: SMEs are important to the economy.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to ask my colleague from the Bloc a question with regard to small businesses. He and a member from the NDP, both of whom are in the House today, supported and helped me with Bill C-208 on qualifying small businesses and interfamily transfers last summer. I wonder if he could just remind my colleague from Winnipeg North that major accounting firms in Canada said that passing this bill did more for small businesses in Canada than probably any other finance decision for those qualifying small businesses in the last 25 years. I wonder if he could also remind my colleagues on the Liberal side of the House that it is this kind of support for small businesses that is really needed, as opposed to some of the things the Liberals have talked about. We know polices were needed to get things going. The problem with the government spending now is that only part of it can be traced to the need to keep small businesses and families going through the pandemic.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague from Brandon—Souris. We are on the exact same page.
     I find it quite amusing that he has asked me to pass on a message for him, and I thank him for giving me the opportunity to make a clarification. Small businesses do not exist because of the government. The government did take measures to help them through the crisis, but my colleague from Brandon—Souris essentially wants me to emphasize how important it is to give them a bit more of a hand, because the restrictions are dragging on and on.
    If anyone needs proof that these long-drawn-out restrictions are doing economic harm, just have a look at the people out in front of Parliament. It is clear from the protest that these restrictions have been in place for a long time. People travelled all the way here and stayed all week because the situation is having an impact on them. We need to think about businesses, about people in the service industry. Yesterday I saw one of my friends who works in the theatre industry. He was certainly fed up.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising these important points, especially with respect to housing and the housing crisis that so many Canadians are facing.
    Does the member think that the federal government should focus on housing, specifically the existing first nations housing crisis in Quebec and across the country? Does the member think that the government needs to immediately invest in first nations housing?
    Madam Speaker, the short answer is yes, of course.
    As I mentioned earlier, my only concern is that the government needs to be mindful of jurisdictions and look at what is being done in the different provinces and territories. Housing for indigenous peoples is a parallel issue. There are indeed urgent needs in that sector, which, by the way, falls under federal jurisdiction. The federal government needs to take care of the areas under its own jurisdiction that it has been neglecting over the past few years.
    With regard to the other sectors, the federal government needs to transfer the money and the work will get done. I am thinking, for example, of AccèsLogis and other programs in Quebec. Our ultimate goal is the same.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am happy stand today to speak to Bill C-8 and join my many colleagues. I believe that together we are working to move our country forward and solve some of the problems we certainly have as a result of the pandemic.
     I do want to acknowledge the protesters who continue to be outside blocking the streets and disrupting the lives of many people here in the city of Ottawa. It is nothing more than being obstructionist and it is putting a black mark on Canada. I was told yesterday that a plane flew across a beach in Florida applauding the truckers. Well, I think there are very few truckers out here. There are a lot of other people who are simply trying to cause problems and embarrass our country, and the sooner they leave, the sooner we all can get on to a life that we all want to live.
    As I said, I am happy to speak to Bill C-8, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021, along with other measures that are going to help Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The bill would provide vital funding, tax credits that will aid in the fight against COVID-19, and aid in a variety of areas as we move forward.
    I bring to the attention of everyone that after the American Civil War unfolded, the founders of our great country realized that we had to start giving out some additional responsibilities to the provinces; hence, education was allocated as a responsibility of the provinces, and we respect that continuously.
    For the Province of Ontario in particular, approximately 80% of the funding that has been used in the pandemic to help the citizens, in particular of Ontario and across Canada, came from the federal government. It was money from the federal government that has improved the air quality throughout our schools, which should have been done a long time ago. Whether it was improving air quality or making sure that school boards had the funds for students to get an iPad and study and do online learning, even those are provincial responsibilities, I was very proud that the federal government stepped up to make sure that the provinces had the money to make a difference in those schools for the students, who are now grateful all across Canada to be back to school again.
    One thing it created was responsibilities. We had to do all of that together with our provincial governments. The provincial funding has been continually cut, and one of the results of those cuts is that teachers have to pay for supplies out of their own pockets. From pencils and paper to educational programs, more and more costs have fallen on our education providers. I hear that a lot from teachers. I hear their frustration at the things that they have to do because the provinces are continually cutting the education budgets.
    We all understand that budgets have to be dealt with, and none of us want to have to make cuts, whether it is the provinces, the municipalities or the federal government, but the reality is that we have to make sure Canadians have the resources they need to continue to grow and advance their businesses and their communities.
    When COVID-19 began, schools across the country found themselves closed to in-person learning and classes were moved online. Many of the students in Humber River—Black Creek did not have access to the Internet and did not have iPads and computers. I am pleased to say that the money that was transferred from the federal government to the provinces was dealt with very quickly. Students throughout Humber River—Black Creek were given an iPad if they did not have one or a computer to help them so that they would not fall behind. They were already dealing with enough challenges and they needed all of the assistance that was possible.
     Bill C-8 makes changes to what is called the school supplies tax credit. It amends the Income Tax Act regulations through a rate increase from 15% to 25%. It also expands the list of eligibility to include electronic devices such as webcams, microphones, headphones, speakers, laptops, desktops and tablet computers.

  (1235)  

    For the past two years, all of these things enabled thousands of children across Canada to continue their education. It was not ideal, but it was the best thing we could do to keep our children from falling behind. These changes would apply to 2021 and all years afterward, providing aid to teachers now and also in a post-COVID future.
    Another way that the government is aiding our schools is the safe return to class fund. It was originally $2 billion and provided the provinces and the territories with funding to schools as they made investments to protect the students and staff. Bill C-8 would top up $100 million to support investments by schools in increasing outdoor air intake or air cleaning. It would help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by supporting ventilation improvement projects in schools.
    I will go back to when the founders of this great country allocated education as a provincial responsibility, which is respected continuously. This pandemic called for extraordinary circumstances. As a result of that funding, many of our schools are open and our children are back to school.
    As a government, we have purchased and shipped over 80 million rapid tests at a cost of over $900 million. We can recall that about a year ago, many of those rapid tests were sitting on shelves and were not being used by the provinces. Provinces thought they did not need them. That certainly changed, so they ended up utilizing the thousands and thousands of rapid tests and ordering another $1.72 billion to procure and provide rapid antigen tests to the provinces and territories so they could be distributed to Canadians, which is the process, especially since there has been a growing demand from the provinces and territories for rapid tests to be provided around the holidays to prevent further outbreaks. These rapid tests are also key to the health and well-being of many vulnerable Canadians.
    Over the Christmas period and in January, while we were waiting for a delivery of additional rapid tests, I cannot tell members the number of people who called my office asking if I could help them to make sure they were being tested as frequently as possible. One particular young woman who has MS was very concerned about her ability to get out to get her second vaccination and wanted access to the rapid tests. I have to say that our local hospital was very helpful to her and her family to make sure she had some rapid tests and that she and her family were going to be safe.
     While rapid tests might aid us in controlling the spread of current variants of COVID and any that may come in the future, the best path forward, in spite of the people outside objecting to it, is a vaccination requirement. Those who are not vaccinated put themselves and all of us at risk of contracting COVID-19 when they enter group settings, particularly indoor ones. This is why the proof of vaccination program is important. It is so that vaccinated Canadians can move to get back to their lives under this new reality.
    I walked over here to Parliament and I saw all of the signs up there outside the cars, and all the ranting and raving going on by some folks. They are putting all of us at risk. I did my best job to protect them by getting vaccinated. All we are asking is that they get vaccinated, and if they do not want to get vaccinated, then to accept the consequences of that decision.
     It is important not just here in Canada but internationally, as those who need and want to travel need appropriate documentation to enter these countries. I have been talking to many people in the medical field. Many of them want to travel, but unfortunately they are not able to do that, for a variety of reasons. However, people who have both their vaccines and a booster and have done everything possible should not have to worry that when they go out onto Wellington Street they are being exposed to the variants and the possibility of getting ill in one form or another. Proof of vaccination programs and their credentials have played a major part in allowing our businesses to reopen.
    I am very thankful for the opportunity to make my comments this morning. Stay well and stay safe.

  (1240)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for mentioning the protest outside. I think it is important for all members to condemn the fascist and anti-Semitic symbols displayed by some. I hope the member will support the NDP's push to ban hate symbols.
    I would like to talk about some pieces of the bill and the many essential measures that are not included in the bill.
    There are so many seniors who are struggling after months of uncertainty around the GIS clawback. The government proposed a one-time payment solution, but this promised compensation would not be made available until May. Last week, my colleague for North Island—Powell River shared the tragic fact that this delay resulted in the unnecessary death of a senior in her riding who could not afford their medication, and it is having other devastating impacts. I spoke on the phone to a senior in my riding who was in a motel room. He had recently lost his housing because he could not afford rent without the GIS. He was using the last of his money to keep a roof over his head, living temporarily in a motel, and he was distraught about the idea that he would soon be on the street.
    Will the member commit to calling on her own government to provide an emergency payment now—not in May, not in another four months—to keep seniors off the streets and to save lives?
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for asking that question and continuing to work with us to make a difference in the lives of many people.
    When we were able to give seniors throughout the country approximately $1,500 in these last two years as extra money to help them get through the difficulties, it was a huge help to many of the seniors I know in my riding of Humber River—Black Creek and across the country.
    We are working on the issue that the member has mentioned. We understand that there have been some challenges and we are looking to try to remedy that situation as soon as possible.

  (1245)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the government side for her comments today and for contributing to the debate.
    When it comes Bill C-8, one of the topics that I do not think was addressed well enough is housing. We know that it is an important issue that is impacting people from many regions of the country at different income levels and from different walks of life. It seems that the government has put forward a lot of plans that would help to subsidize demand and actually further drive a wedge between the supply and demand sides of housing and widen the gap.
    I wonder if the member can elaborate on what this government plans to do to increase the housing supply in Canada.
    Madam Speaker, I am happy to comment.
    The housing issue, of course, is important to all of us, and I am very proud of the work that our government has done. With our Minister of Housing, we have committed billions of dollars, and we have seen it on the streets of Toronto. Over 700 more housing units have been created through the accelerated housing program, and we are working on the issue of rent-to-own and a variety of other programs to ensure that affordable housing is created.
    We understand that it is a problem throughout the country. The Minister of Housing is working full time to make sure that all of this is accelerated and is working with our municipalities, mayors and councillors to attempt to reduce red tape so that we all understand the need that is out there for affordable housing.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, who chairs the committee I sit on. We will see each other there a little later. I am happy to work with her and to be able to talk to her in the House now as well.
    My colleague was saying earlier that government transfers made it possible to buy iPads for students. I would like to ask the member what the point of buying iPads is if high-speed Internet is not yet available in all of the regions. It took a pandemic for the government to realize that this is an essential service.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. He is a great member of our committee, and I very much enjoy working with him.
    Yes, getting the Internet broadband situation solved in this country is a huge challenge. We recognize that there are still areas that have very poor Internet quality or next to no Internet whatsoever. It has been and continues to be a major commitment of our government to ensure that we have high-speed Internet available to all Canadians, no matter where they live.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity in my first speech of the 44th Parliament to congratulate my Conservative colleague, the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar, on her recent election to be our party's interim leader. I look forward to working with her and with all of my Conservative colleagues in the days, weeks and months ahead as we hold the government to account while growing our party stronger.
    I would also like to take a moment to provide my sincere thanks to the former Conservative leader, the hon. member for Durham. I want to thank him and his family for their dedication and efforts in helping guide our party over the past 18 months.
     While the leadership of the Conservative Party has undergone change over the past week, I am disappointed to report that the Liberal government leadership in Ottawa remains the same: missing in action, as thousands of protesters from the “freedom convoy” have camped in the nation's capital and blockaded downtown Ottawa for over a week now. What is the government's solution to this impasse outside the walls of this place? We still wait to hear of one. In fact, he is so committed to resolving the issue, the Prime Minister was required to take a personal day off yesterday. Instead of ignoring the situation at hand, where is the leadership required to bring about an expeditious resolution so the citizens of Ottawa can go about their normal lives? More than two years into the pandemic, this is what Canadians simply want: a return to their normal lives.
    Let me be extremely clear. There is no question that vaccines are critically important in our fight against COVID and to help us get there. Canada's Conservatives have consistently taken this position throughout the pandemic. We have also encouraged all Canadians who are willing to get their shots. I am fully vaccinated, and I encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated as well. It is the best tool we have, but it is not the only tool. Leadership is about bringing Canadians together. It is about providing the assistance required so we can get to the recovery everyone wants so badly.
    Since the early days of this pandemic, Canada's Conservatives have been strong proponents of both vaccines and rapid testing. While vaccines are now widely available, the unfortunate reality is that rapid testing devices are still rare to find and expensive to buy. The government will say Bill C-8 addresses this question specifically by allocating funds directly to this, but why has it taken two years? The increased use of rapid testing will offer early detection of COVID to help limit its spread, and it would also be an important health care tool to let vaccine-hesitant and unvaccinated Canadians carry on with their lives responsibly.
    Speaking of those who are hesitant, I receive calls and emails every day asking why there is a delay in the approval of a traditional vaccine from Novavax. Many Canadians have said they are prepared to get vaccinated, but would prefer the protein-based vaccine as opposed to an mRNA vaccine, and that is their rightful choice. Over a year ago, the federal government purchased 52 million doses of Novavax. However, it has still not been approved by Health Canada. Meanwhile, the status of the $126-million Novavax plant production in Montreal remains in question. It disappoints me greatly that the Prime Minister and his Liberal government are delaying access to critical health care tools that can give all Canadians a greater freedom of choice, especially as it pertains to managing their personal health care and family well-being.
    In fact, where are the additional resources the provinces have been asking for in terms of federal health transfers to address the issue of a lack of health care surge capacity? The provinces have been asking for over two years and now, and instead, today we are debating Bill C-8, an additional $70 billion in spending that does not tackle this question head-on. We are now two years into this pandemic and it is all too clear that the Liberal government has failed to ensure we have the tools necessary to not only respond to, but, more importantly, live with COVID so Canadians and the people of Niagara can get on with their lives.
    Another federal failure in the pandemic response has been excessive government spending. Since the start of this pandemic, the federal government has brought in $176 billion in new spending that is unrelated to COVID-19. Overall, the national debt has now reached an astounding $1.2 trillion. The cost of government is ballooning the cost of living. More dollars are chasing fewer goods and that means higher prices. Spending more costs more. That is the inflation tax.

  (1250)  

    We are seeing that inflation tax in everything essential to Canadians, from food to fuel to housing. For example, the price of food is skyrocketing. The average family will pay nearly $1,000 extra on groceries in 2022. Rent is up 5%, chicken is up 6.2%, beef is up 11.9% and bacon is up 19.1%. The same price increases are being felt by Canadians on fuel. Gas prices have soared by 33%. This weekend alone, I saw one gas station in Niagara selling gas at $1.56 a litre. Natural gas prices have also shot up, by 19%.
    Perhaps the worst has been seen in Canada's housing market. When the Prime Minister took power, the typical house cost $435,000. Now it costs $810,000. That is over 85% inflation in just six years. Last year, home inflation hit 25%, which The Canadian Real Estate Association's chief economist called the biggest gain of all time.
    It has been two long and difficult years, and some say it still feels like March 2020, when the countrywide lockdowns first started. All Canadians deserve a federal government that is here to serve and protect its citizens and our nation's best interests. That means it does not matter what their political party is, where they live in the country, what faith they follow or what their vaccine status is. All Canadians deserve so much much better from their federal government than what we are getting now.
    From the very beginning of COVID, the Liberal government was grossly unprepared for the pandemic, just as it is grossly unprepared to deal with the consequences and ramifications of its own vaccine policies that it is mandating on Canadians when alternative solutions and options exist. I mentioned this earlier: The duty of government and of everyone here is to work so that we can bring people together to find solutions in the best interests of all. Instead, we have a government in place that revels in wedge-issue politics, and the division that it brings has now manifested in the anger and frustrations we are witnessing today in Ottawa and across the country.
    What we see happening outside the walls of this place today is a problem that can be directly linked back to the Liberal government's unpreparedness for the pandemic in the first place. Whether it was expired PPE stored in warehouses when the pandemic first hit, or the federal government deciding to ship good, usable PPE to China when our frontline health care workers desperately needed it here, or when we found out that the Liberal government decided to abandon the Global Public Health Intelligence Network just months before the pandemic hit, or the fact that many of our hospitals were already facing severe capacity limits before the first cases of coronavirus arrived or when the Liberal government decided to prorogue Parliament in the middle of a pandemic, all of the colossal failures add up to the frustrations Canadians are feeling today.
    The weight of responsibility for this pandemic and Canada's response to it is on the federal government's shoulders. Vaccines and rapid tests should have been fully accessible by now to all Canadians. Our economy should be open and recovered from this pandemic by now. The provinces should have had additional resources to tackle the surge in capacity COVID brought. Workers should be back to work to help alleviate the severe labour shortages we are experiencing and to help strengthen our supply chains.
    For two years, Canadians have done their part. Why has the government not done its part?

  (1255)  

    Madam Speaker, I disagree with much of what the member said. As a country, we have done exceptionally well in working with Canadians and other stakeholders to ensure that we had the vaccines that were necessary and had PPE. We have ensured that ultimately Canada is in a great position to recover and do better, and it is as a result of the actions from the government in working with other people. The member is so wrong on many accounts.
    Within Bill C-8, there is an allotment of $1.7 billion to provide continuing support for rapid testing. Let us keep in mind that there was no backlog of demand for rapid testing at the end of the year. This government has met its expectations and in fact has exceeded the number that was required by the end of last year, yet the member is still convinced that the Conservatives need to go against this bill. Why would he vote against a bill that would help hundreds of his constituents?
    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his faux righteous indignation, which shows up on the Liberal side.
    It has been two years now. Why is the government continuing the process of playing catch-up? Last February it took four months. Why is the government four months behind in the acquisition of vaccines? I had to call and write in to ask why the CBSA agents and border workers were unable to get vaccinated when other people were. The government has been far from quick on this.
    We already won the election over that one.
    Oh, yes. Again, it is more righteous indignation—
    Order. There is no cross-debate.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.
    Madam Speaker, what we are seeing is exactly what has been happening for months. We hear about divisions and bickering when they cannot seem to agree on vaccines and science within their own party.
    Sometimes they say that it is good to demonstrate, and other times they say it is illegal to stay in one place. Sometimes they say that vaccines are good, and other times they say that science proves otherwise.
    My colleague talks about the government being divisive and lacking direction, but I would like him to explain his own party's position.

  (1300)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the member is correct in mentioning the issue of divisiveness. The Liberal government revels in the whole notion of wedge issues to create division, to turn Canadians against one another.
    I do not know about the members opposite, but I think we are all here because we want to help people, not because we want to turn the majority against the minority. Our job as representatives is to work together to find solutions that bridge those differences and find accommodations for those who do not want to be vaccinated. We should not be seeing what we are seeing on the streets of Ottawa. The government has brought it about. It is the manifestation of its own wedge-issue politics, and it should be ashamed of that.
    Madam Speaker, I am going to read a quote from February 13, 2020, from the member for Carleton. On the protesting of indigenous land defenders, he said, “These blockaders are taking away the freedom of other people to move their goods and themselves. That is wrong and the government has laws and tools in place to combat it.”
    Right now we are seeing an occupation in a Canadian city, and the member for Carleton, and the Conservative caucus primarily, are standing with the occupiers. We are seeing horrible acts.
    If this is the way protests are going to take place and the Conservatives want to govern in this country, how do they expect to govern if they are supporting occupations and protests done in a new way like this? Maybe the member could explain.
    Madam Speaker, I will comment on the member's question by repeating that what we see on the streets of Ottawa today is a manifestation of the divisive nature of the government's politics. It is reaping what it has created by running on wedge issues. It is turning Canadians against each other.
    We all believe in the right to peaceful protest. Where was the government this weekend? The Prime Minister decided to take a personal day off instead of working to resolve this issue. Canadians deserve better. We need to get back to work. We need to be working for Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill C-8 with some sadness. Yes, there are some minor provisions in it that we support. However, what this represents is a real disconnect between the Liberal government and what is actually happening across the country. The fallout from COVID has been enormous, but it is not just from COVID. A series of policies put in place by the former Harper government and by the current government have all led to the same thing: massive levels of inequality, more poverty and misery, and more difficulties for Canadians.
    Bill C-8 does not mention this, but it should: the appalling withdrawal of CRB benefits with just a few hours' notice when it took place a few months ago. There were 800,000 Canadian families who were depending on those benefits to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. The government crudely and irresponsibly ripped that safety net away from nearly a million Canadian families with a scant few hours' notice. It is unbelievable that any government would act this way, but the government does not seem to understand the impacts of its many policies that promote inequality and what that has done to Canadians over the last few years.
     As I have mentioned in the House before, my wife, Limei, and I grow vegetables for local food banks in Burnaby and New Westminster out on Barnston Island. It has very fertile land and we basically use space that is rented by Chuck Puchmayr, a local municipal councillor. It is about 40 hectares of land. We are able to grow squash, tomatoes and a wide variety of vegetables. We then contribute to the food banks. We have been doing this for many years, and for many years we have seen, tragically, a maintaining of the long food bank lineups. Canadians of all backgrounds, seniors, people with disabilities and students, all have to go to a food bank to make ends meet.
    In the last two years, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of Canadians, the number of British Columbians and the number of people in New Westminster—Burnaby who have had to go to food banks to make ends meet. We have seen in sharp relief how the massive level of inequality in this country and the devastation left by COVID has created more difficulties for Canadians. What we need to recommit to in the House of Commons is responding to what Canadians are feeling across the length and breadth of this country. Food bank lineups are growing. When the number of homeless are growing, there should be a compelling argument for the government to act to respond to those needs.
    The government has an ability to act. We saw that at the beginning of COVID, on March 13, 2020, when the House leaders, and I was one of them, marched out into that corridor and announced that we would be suspending Parliament because of the incredible increase of cases across the country in this pandemic. We called at that time for the government to take immediate action to help Canadians. It acted promptly. Within 96 hours, four days, it took the initiative, without the support of the NDP, to immediately prop up Canada's big banks and their profits. They were given $750 billion in liquidity supports.
    I want to say that figure again because it is so incredibly large it is unbelievable. There was $750 billion made available to the banking sector to make sure their profits were maintained, with no conditions. They did not have to do anything for that massive amount of liquidity support, including from CMHC, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is supposed to be providing supports for Canadians to get housing. There were no conditions at all. They just threw the money at the banking sector so that they could maintain their profits. They got that in four days.

  (1305)  

    Therefore, the NDP got to work because the government really did not seem to have any direction at all. The leader of the NDP from Burnaby South and the entire NDP caucus leveraged our position in this minority Parliament to force the CERB at $2,000 a week, to put in place a student CERB and to put in place supports for seniors and people with disabilities. We made sure we pushed for paid sick leave for Canadians. This was absolutely fundamentally important.
    The government's priority was to prop up banking profits. Fortunately, because it was a minority Parliament, we were able to force the Liberals to actually start thinking about people. There was $750 billion in liquidity support for Canada's big banks and a reluctance to do things for real people, except when they were forced to do so in a minority Parliament.
    This is something that is clear to Canadians when they look at what the government has done since the increase in inequality and the massive propping up of the banking sector we saw under the former Harper government. The Harper government was criticized for $116 billion in bank supports and we are now at $750 billion.
    The Harper government was criticized quite justifiably for the massive tax loopholes we have seen to overseas tax havens. In fact, Conservatives and Liberals agree on that. There is no limit when it comes to making sure the ultrarich can take their money offshore. Both parties have participated in this feeding frenzy to give as much as they can to the ultrarich. We are now looking at $25 billion a year. That is $50 billion since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. There was a quarter of a trillion dollars over the course of the last decade under the Conservatives and Liberals that the ultrarich were able to take offshore.
    Imagine if we were looking at a Bill C-8 that actually responded to Canadians' needs, if we actually stopped those massive tax loopholes for the ultrarich and reinvested that money in housing, supports for seniors, post-secondary education and expanding our health care sector. When Tommy Douglas forced the government of the day to put in place universal medicare, it was always with the idea to move from there to public universal pharmacare, to put in place dental care and to make sure, as the member for Burnaby South says so eloquently, that we have health care from the tops of our heads to the soles of our feet.
    If we just stopped for a moment that hemorrhaging of $25 billion a year to offshore tax havens, imagine the kinds of investments we could make in public universal pharmacare and dental care. We could actually make a difference in people's lives, Canadians who are struggling with record levels of inequality.
    The inequality is getting worse. The top 1% of Canadians now have a quarter of the pie. Nearly 50% of Canadians, and that includes indigenous peoples and marginalized Canadians across this country, are within $200 of insolvency in the course of any month and have no share of the pie at all.
    Look at the picture these policies have created. We see this in Bill C-8, where there are minor things done, which we support but that do not tackle the fundamental issues we are seeing in inequality in this country. Imagine a Bill C-8 that actually started to reinvest in Canadians, in the right to housing and in public universal pharmacare. Imagine a Bill C-8 that made the investments that are so important so that Canadians could see their standard of living improve. We would no longer have a country where half of Canadians are excluded from any share of prosperity or any share of the economic pie and where 1% of Canadians, the ultrarich, not only have access to a tax system that allows them to not pay taxes but also to hog a quarter of the wealth in this country.
    We believe in this change and that is why we fight in this Parliament.

  (1310)  

    Madam Speaker, within the legislation there is a significant allotment of $1.5 billion for rapid testing. I want to pick up on this point because it really highlights the importance of the national government working with provincial governments with respect to the federal government acquiring rapid tests. We had a stockpile of them, even up to the end of last year, with an additional 130 million purchases in the month of January alone, that were distributed to the provinces and territories, but it is the provinces and territories that actually do the distribution.
    I wonder if my colleague can provide his thoughts on the important role both jurisdictions play in ensuring that Canadians and small businesses have access to rapid testing.
    Madam Speaker, I think my colleague missed the point of my speech. There are measures in Bill C-8 that we support. Of course we support the provision for rapid testing. That was not the point of the speech I just made and I wish he would have listened a little more attentively.
    When we have a situation where half of Canada is excluded from any share of the wealth of the country, where $25 billion a year in taxpayer money is sent to overseas tax havens, where the banking sector and pharmaceutical lobbyists are a higher priority than regular Canadians, where food bank lineups are growing day by day and where more and more Canadians are homeless, that is not a tenable situation. We cannot go back to business as usual. We need a government that actually puts in place the measures that will help Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for New Westminster—Burnaby for his comments today. I always appreciate the thoughtfulness he brings to the discussion in this chamber.
    He rightfully pointed out how expensive life is getting for Canadians and how inflation is continuing to rise at record rates. It is concerning for us on this side of the House and I think for everyone in this chamber. One of the solutions that the Conservatives have put forward is to have the government spend smarter, spend more efficiently, control its spending and get to a position where we stop printing money, which we know is driving up inflation. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed that.
    However, it seems, from what I hear from that member and from many in the NDP, that if they had their say they would spend even more. I wonder if the member would agree it is time for the government to control its spending so that we can get the cost of living crisis under control.

  (1315)  

    Madam Speaker, I would point out that I have been in the House now for a number of years and saw how the Harper government treated financial management. Conservative financial management is an oxymoron. What the Conservatives did over time was not only give $116 billion to the banking sector and run record deficits, but they created the condition, which shamefully the Liberals have continued, of massive handouts to overseas tax havens of $25 billion each and every year. That is money that seniors, students, families and a whole range of Canadians would benefit from. That $25 billion a year carves a massive fiscal hole, so we take no lessons from the Conservatives. Their financial management was appallingly bad.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like my colleague to talk a bit about my Liberal friends' optimism. I have been here for the past few days as we have debated Bill C-8 and the government's record, and the Liberals continue to rise to say how good things are, how great the government is and that things are fantastic.
    Let us look at a few facts. The nation's capital is completely paralyzed right now, and we do not know when the government will take action. In Quebec, because Service Canada is so bogged down, 90,000 households have been waiting for months for the EI cheques they are owed and that they need to pay their rent and buy food. We are the worst G7 country in the fight against climate change. Canada needs an additional 1.8 million homes to achieve the G7 average. Quebec's health care system is on the brink of imploding because of 30 years of underfunding by federal governments of all stripes.
    Even so, my Liberal friends are having fun and saying that all is well. Could my colleague comment on that?
    Madam Speaker, it is true, they are jovial. The Liberals must be completely out of touch with what is happening to Canadians given their response.
    The reality is that they have cut benefits that 800,000 Canadians needed to survive. They made the cuts with only 72 hours' notice. In my opinion, that shows that they are completely out of touch with reality, which is extremely sad and irresponsible.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to address Bill C-8. I want to make sure it is clear that I will be voting for it, but I find it inadequate. In that, my views are shared by the hon. member for Kitchener Centre. I want to reflect on the excellent points in his speech, especially related to the housing tax.
    We had a speech given by our Deputy Prime Minister and finance minister on December 14. We are now debating it on February 7. Things change very rapidly right now.
    As I think back to December 14, when the Deputy Prime Minister gave the speech, we would not have believed that we would be dealing with such a strain on our health care system, that the omicron virus would be so very transmissible, that so many people would be getting sick and that we would have the country, or at least the national capital, in a state of occupation with nerves frayed.
    As an opening comment to my friends on all sides of the House, we need to do whatever we can as parliamentarians to display a non-partisan spirit of care and love for each other as neighbours and as Canadians. I have always felt that a hallmark of a Canadian debate is that we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.
    We are at real risk here. I never would have imagined in a million years that I would read, as I did on Twitter today, that there were such people as protesters in the nation's capital who thought it was a good idea to start a fire in the lobby of an apartment building. We really need to find ways to reach out, even to those people who are part of the convoy and who think they are in a glorious moment of grassroots democracy, to say please respect each other. Please be careful. Please go home.
    As for Bill C-8, for those who have not studied it and for those who might be watching on CPAC or at home, the elements of it are all understandable, particularly with a lens on December 14, when there was a sense that perhaps we were coming out of the pandemic.
    There is not nearly enough economic relief here for Canadians who are now not coming out of the pandemic as we felt we might be. The cutting of the benefit from $500 a month to $300 is completely unacceptable, and we know we need to see that improved. I certainly hope the government ministers recognize that this needs to change.
    Yes, it is a good thing to see $1.72 billion for rapid testing. I agree with many of my opposition colleagues who have asked why it took so long. Why did we not have more focus on testing earlier?
    I experienced what it was like to have daily rapid testing when I was on the Canadian government delegation to the climate negotiations in Glasgow at COP26. It was really interesting to know that the National Health Service in the U.K. could manage to test 35,000 people every single day. We tested ourselves and sent in the results, and then those results had to be double-checked. It did keep COP26 from being a super spreader event. They worked hard.
    I think we need to look at testing, and I am glad to see this money is in the budget. I spent many months trying to prepare for people going back to school in the fall of 2020. I worked extensively with people in the office of the minister of finance and deputy prime minister, and attempted to reach all the ministers of education across the country, with a simple idea that the spaces that had been shut down because people were not allowed to congregate, such as community centres and empty buildings of all kinds, including hotels and convention centres, could be put to use as schools with greater distancing for children and better ventilation.
    Of course, as ever, the barriers here were the provincial jurisdiction over education and the federal government having the role of providing money once the provinces asked for it. In that spirit, I think we are really late in getting around to ventilation in schools.
    I do not uniquely blame the federal government for how long it has taken, because I know the barriers lie in provincial governments not asking. If a provincial government says, “Please, we need money to ventilate our schools better”, I am glad to see that the federal government, and we as parliamentarians, will approve that and write a cheque. This should have happened before our children and teachers, and in my case, my daughter is a teacher, all went into spaces that could have been made safer more than a year ago. It will take some time to use this money to better ventilate schools, but I am glad it is finally happening.

  (1320)  

    The measures here are good measures. At 1%, the so-called underused housing tax, or what could have been better described as a speculative investor housing tax, is a very small step in the right direction. We have seen the housing market skewed on the lower mainland of the province of British Columbia, as well as on Vancouver Island and throughout the province. Now, because COVID has led people to realize they can work from home and that they can buy a home anywhere, we have seen a real distortion, but a lot of that distortion has been from people buying houses for investments.
    For Airbnbs and foreigners who keep houses empty, a 1% tax is good, but as the hon. member for Kitchener Centre said in his speech, it is like someone waiting for the fire department to show up when their house is on fire, and the firefighters coming with one bucket. This is not going to do the job. It will be a good first step. Perhaps we will learn from it and extend it to be a more meaningful tax to keep people from speculating in the housing market. Houses should be homes first, and not investments for those who do not plan to live in those houses.
    There is much more I could say about what is in the bill. I want to talk about some of the things that are not there. We need, of course, more support on the EI front. There are EI changes in the bill, but we need more. We need more support for individuals who are falling between the cracks, but we also need to talk about what the real threat is globally of different, mutating forms of COVID-19. We know, and we have heard many members on all sides of the House say, that until everyone on the planet is vaccinated and until vaccine equity takes place between the industrialized world and the developing world, we will not be through it. It is now basically a giant petri dish of humanity, with the virus being more in charge than humans. We need to make sure that developing countries' citizens get access to vaccines.
    Here we are. I am double vaxxed and I have had a booster, and millions of people around the world have not had a first shot. We need to get big pharma out of the way. To do that, Canada needs to side with India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization and support a waiver under the trade-related intellectual property regime, such that developing countries can manufacture their own vaccines without patent protection for the larger pharmaceutical companies.
    I will note these larger pharmaceutical companies received millions of dollars from governments around the world to speed up the development of vaccines for COVID-19. I do not think they deserve any patent protection or profits out of this. I think some of the anti-vax protests that we see would be much reduced if the additional argument, which is really a logical fallacy, that just because big pharma is a terrible group and collectively represents a global version of organized crime, people are angry at vaccinations. We can be saying both that big pharma does not deserve a profit out of this, and that vaccinations are essential for public health.
    In any case, I would have liked to see in this bill a commitment to move forward to get vaccinations to the developing world. I also look at this bill in the context of the Deputy Prime Minister and finance minister's speech back on December 14. She noted that the province of British Columbia had been walloped over and over again. We had a heat dome that killed 600 British Columbians in four days. We had an extremely stressful summer of emergency evacuations and stretched wildfire response to thousands of fires across the province. Just before the fiscal update was delivered, we had the loss of billions of dollars of infrastructure, as well as lost lives and devastating impacts, in Abbotsford and all up the Fraser Valley. We heard, and still hear, the Prime Minister's voice saying “We are with Lytton,” and that we would help them rebuild.
    In point of fact, nothing has happened to help rebuild Lytton. There is not a new housing permit out there. We have a lot of backlog to make up for from climate impacts that have already occurred, yet as I speak today on February 7, Canada's commitment to hold to a target of 1.5° Celsius, which we committed to in the climate negotiations in Paris, remains unfulfilled. Even our promises will not get us there, much less our weak delivery.

  (1325)  

    
    Madam Speaker, the member referred to the importance of one aspect of the bill that I think many Canadians are interested in, and that is the 1% tax on non-residents and non-Canadians where there are vacancies. We recognize that across the country we need to deal more with the housing issue. We have the rapid housing initiative and the housing strategy, and are working with the provinces.
    Would the member not agree that dealing with the housing crisis Canada is facing is going to take more than just the federal government? I am looking at municipalities and provinces and their investments. I ask the member to provide her thoughts on that perspective.
    Madam Speaker, I totally agree with the hon. parliamentary secretary. Multiple levels of government, and multiple orders of government, are involved in this moment. There was a period of time when the federal government took a hands-off approach to housing. I welcome the fact that CMHC has made a commitment on housing being a right, and that Canadians should have affordable housing.
    There is more that the federal government could do. We used to have special tax treatment to encourage developers to build purpose-built rental housing. We have some of those programs now, but they are highly specialized. They increasingly say that they can build a property, but a small fraction has to stay below market. We need below-market pricing for rents. We have a huge problem with vacancy levels for people to rent decent homes. We also have, as we know, unaffordable-to-buy homes, but we need to look at smart development in our urban areas and in our communities, look at info, and find ways to promote smart housing, particularly co-operatives.

  (1330)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague because I obviously agree with most of what she said.
    However, I would like her to rely on all her wisdom and experience to explain why Quebec, the provinces, organizations representing health care workers, and the public have been unanimously calling for immediate health transfers for months.
    The government will say that it gave billions of dollars to fight the pandemic. That does not change anything. I would like my colleague to explain what the Prime Minister is waiting for. When will he increase transfers? The situation is urgent.
    Madam Speaker, I completely agree, but I do not know what the Prime Minister is waiting for.
    I think that, as always, the provinces and the federal government need to work collaboratively. There has always been conflict between the federal government in Ottawa and the governments in Quebec City and Toronto. We need to work together to protect our universal health care system.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I always enjoy hearing the thoughtful remarks of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
    I want to let her pick up on where she left off on the cost of inaction on climate change. We lived with the effects of climate change in this past year. We are seeing immense costs.
    Could she comment further on the ambition that the government has to show not only to fight climate change, but to adapt to it? We are stuck with it for the rest of our lives.
    Madam Speaker, the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay is one of the more thoughtful and scientifically literate people in this place. I am grateful he is here.
    We have a very brief amount of time to ensure that the climate impacts we experience are survivable. I do not think we talk enough in this place about worst-case scenarios. We assume a rosy future in which we adjust and adapt to bad weather. That is not what we are facing. We are facing an existential threat to human civilization and it requires courage, which is what the government lacks.
    Madam Speaker, today I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, the federal government's fiscal update from this past fall. This gives me an important opportunity to share some of the feedback I have received from constituents over the holiday break. These constituents are really struggling right now because of the policies of the Liberal government and our current economic situation.
    Over the holiday break, I had an opportunity to speak with some seniors in my riding about the challenges they are facing. One senior couple I spoke with had a heartbreaking story that I want to share with the House today.
    These constituents of mine suffer from disabilities and are in their sixties. During the early days of the pandemic, as their disabilities prevent them from working, they utilized the Canada emergency response benefit. They were told by representatives of the government that applying for these benefits would have no impact on their pensions. While this is technically correct, many Canadians mistakenly understand their guarantee income supplement or old age security benefits to be pension benefits when, in fact, they are not part of the pension plan. Due to this misunderstanding, these constituents applied for the CERB, which they needed early in the pandemic.
    Now, these elderly folks have no savings. They do not own their own home, and they do not have workplace pension plans. They rely solely on their Canada pension plan, OAS and GIS payments. However, in July 2021, their world was turned upside down when they learned that the roughly $8,000 they had received from the CERB made them ineligible to receive GIS payments.
    This massive hit to their bottom line means that they need to access payday lenders and food banks just to survive. These folks told me over the phone, almost crying, that the only food they had eaten in weeks was bread because the food bank is so short on food that the only food they have in supply is the leftover bread sent from the grocery store. These folks cannot survive on bread alone.
    I understand that, on December 17, the government announced there would be a one-time payment for those who had their GIS clawed back in July 2021. According to the government's own figures, over 183,000 people had their GIS benefits cut. These are vulnerable seniors living with the lowest possible incomes, and this Liberal government cut their benefits out from under them. It is shameful.
    It is especially shameful because so many of these seniors were misled that their pensions would not be affected by taking CERB. As I said, many Canadians think of their GIS and OAS as their pensions. Sadly, for these constituents, since they do not own a home and do not have any income apart from government transfers, they have not been able to access support from the traditional banks with competitive lending rates.
    Now, these payday loan firms have rates that are up to 700% or higher than what one would get at a traditional bank. One figure had an annualized percentage interest rate of over 500%. These folks are being dug into a hole so deep that they will never be able to recover. They are being pushed into a position of extreme poverty because this government has given them no option. It is absolutely shameful.
    I recognize that the government has said that it is going to do something about this, but with every passing day, folks like these constituents are being buried in a deeper hole of debt. They need the restoration of their GIS benefits immediately. They require financial support now to recover what they lost so that they can begin repaying their debts and getting their lives back on track. What is the Liberal government waiting for?
    Today, we are amending acts to provide ventilation in schools, business tax credits for teachers to spend more on school supplies and a bigger tax credit for northern residents. Now, all of this is important, but what could be more important than ensuring that vulnerable seniors are not left in crippling poverty, with only bread from the food bank and their electricity and heat providers preparing to cut them?

  (1335)  

    I am told these seniors will not receive the Liberal government's announced support until May, yet these folks on fixed income are paying over 500% interest rates on an annualized basis on payday loans, just to heat their homes. The fact that the government is not taking swifter action on this is shameful.
    There are other challenges facing disabled people. I have a constituent whose door I have knocked on many times. His name is Fred Glaubitz. Fred lost both his legs in an accident. He lives in rural Alberta. I have knocked on his door many times, and he always has such specific questions and very good insights on issues that are not really talked about.
     Fred's particular situation is that he drives a diesel van with modifications because of his disability. In Canada, people who drive a gasoline-powered vehicle with somebody who has a permanent mobility disability can get a rebate on the excise taxes they pay on gasoline. However, people who drive a diesel-fuelled vehicle do not get any rebate on their excise taxes. Fred is not being treated fairly by the government, and this needs to change.
    Disabled people with permanent mobility impairments who live in rural areas often drive diesel vehicles. There is inequity, not only for disabled people, but also for rural Canadians who need to be able to access this critical rebate. They cannot walk to the store. They need to drive. They are burning more fuel just to survive every day, yet people who drive a diesel vehicle are being left behind. It is time to allow this exemption for folks who drive diesel vehicles. I thank Fred for bringing this to my attention.
    Talking further about the cost of fuel, Canadians are being driven into energy poverty by the Liberal government. Folks in my riding, for the past two months, have been sending me their home heating and electricity bills. Compared to last year with similar weather, they are paying over double what they paid last year.
    Over the break, I spoke with Troy, a constituent of mine who runs a small automotive business. It has been a real struggle these past two years with COVID-19, and I think everyone in this House will agree. However, when Troy told me about his heating and electricity bill, I was shocked to say the least.
    Since the phase-out of the coal-fired power plants in much of Alberta, our electricity grid has come to overwhelmingly rely on natural gas for electricity and home heating. Before the pandemic, the world had a glut of natural gas. The stuff is so abundant in Alberta, it was dirt cheap. When the Liberals applied the carbon tax, the cost of natural gas was so cheap that often times the carbon tax would cost more than the natural gas itself.
    One of my colleagues actually shared with me a copy of the bill from a small seniors home in his community. Its heating bill last month was $5,000, and the carbon tax was $1,200 of that $5,000. These seniors cannot afford this carbon tax. Now, the price of electricity and home heating in Alberta and across Canada has skyrocketed because of out-of-control inflation, a constrained natural gas supply due to more stringent environmental and investing requirements, and a rising carbon tax. Folks are paying more than double what they were paying at the beginning of this pandemic. They are paying more for the gas and more in taxes to the federal government.
    Small business owners are going through a rough time, even with signs of an economic recovery. The cost of labour is skyrocketing. Business owners cannot get key parts because of a broken supply chain, and the cost of any parts they can get is rising pretty fast. These people built businesses and are watching them go bankrupt before their eyes. Where is the federal government? Why are the Liberals not talking about tax relief for families and business owners who are beginning to experience what a world of energy poverty looks like that? Why are we not looking for ways to cool off inflation or address the supply chain crisis that is impacting all sectors of our economy?
    When the Liberals talk, they claim that all is well, but they need to come to visit the people outside the halls of Parliament who are struggling every day: families and small business owners. All is not well in our country, and it is time for the government to stop being missing in action and to deliver what Canadians desperately need.

  (1340)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened to the entire speech, but I will focus on the last couple of words. It is a far stretch to make the claim that the Liberal government has been missing in action.
    Over the last two years, the Liberal government has rolled out supports to Canadians during this pandemic, making sure they had the resources they have needed in order to get through it. Will there be more work to do? Did the member identify some areas where people perhaps may have been missed? Absolutely, and I applaud him for bringing forward those stories from his constituents.
    However, to suggest that by and large the Liberal government has been missing in action is quite simply false. The government has done a lot more than the Conservatives ever wanted us to do, in terms of helping Canadians through this pandemic.
    Madam Speaker, that was a typical Liberal answer, that the government has done so much for Canadians.
    That is cold comfort to the over 183,000 seniors who had their GIS benefits cut out from under them by the Liberal government. This is not just some crack that a few people fell into. There are 183,000 seniors living on bread and whose home heating is being cut off—
    I was talking about—
    They cannot survive, and the Liberal government is ignoring them.

  (1345)  

    I do want to remind the hon. parliamentary secretary that he had an opportunity to ask a question. If he has another one, or another comment, he should wait for the appropriate time.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Saint‑Hyacinthe—Bagot.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.
    I would also like to ask him a very simple question. If he and his colleagues care so much about the needs of SMEs and other businesses, why did they oppose the assistance program just before the holidays?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, we do not want to see the country undergo any more lockdowns. That is key. We want businesses to be open. We want them to be safely serving their customers.
    We know that a thriving SME sector is key to a thriving Canada. Conservatives will always have the back of small businesses and entrepreneurs across this country.
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Sturgeon River—Parkland for actually talking about a really important issue. We have seniors who are on GIS and whose money is getting clawed back right now and a promise from the government that the government does not want to talk about.
    This clawback affects seniors, the most impoverished seniors, those who are in a housing crisis and who have not gotten a pharmacare plan, which the government promised. For single women over 65, 30% are living in poverty. The government's promise is for a one-time payment in May. We are in the middle of winter.
    How does my colleague think many of his constituents who are being affected by the clawback are going to get by until May? Why does he think the government is not addressing this really critical question or acting in a timely fashion?
    Madam Speaker, the NDP has been raising this issue in the House, and I have been raising this issue for over a year.
    There were unscrupulous firms out there claiming they would help people apply for their CERB benefits, even in many cases when people did not truly qualify. When I brought this to the attention of a member of the Liberal government, their response was that it was not illegal. These Canadians are having their money clawed back, and the Liberal government is turning a deaf ear to them.
    We need the Liberal government to take action now. As my colleague has said, families cannot wait until May. These payday loans are so large that even with this one-time payment, even with increased payments going forward for the next however many years, they will not be able to dig themselves out of this hole of debt the Liberal government has helped to create.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to take part in a debate in the House. I have been asked to give my opinion on the economic and fiscal update. I do not claim to be able to do it as well as my colleague from Joliette did last week, but there are still several elements I would like to address.
    First, no one will be surprised to hear that the Bloc Québécois more or less supports this bill. My colleagues who spoke before me said that it contains good measures. We agree on that.
    However, the text of the economic update itself was nothing to write home about. It is a little like the throne speech. It did not contain much, at least not enough to convince us that it was so important that the government had to dissolve Parliament and call an election so that it could have both hands on the wheel. The economic update contains no major reforms and ignores several sectors. In short, there is nothing in it to really reassure us about the future and the economic recovery.
    First, the economic update offers no response to the labour shortage and no solutions for boosting productivity. The labour shortage is probably one of the main issues raised in my riding during the last campaign. Business owners are at the end of their rope because they cannot find anyone to work for them. It is unbelievable that their number one problem is finding workers. When they finally decided to invest in a last-resort solution, the federal government made it harder for them, despite the fact that the logic is simple enough to follow. Difficulty recruiting workers will inevitably affect the growth of our economy. Every business in my region that decided to take the huge step of recruiting internationally and using the immigration process to make up for the labour shortage ran up against one obstacle after another.
    One of those obstacles is related to the percentage of immigrants a business can hire. However, I must admit that progress has been made in this area thanks to a partnership between the governments of Canada and Quebec. A pilot project launched last month raises the current limit of 10% temporary foreign workers per business to 20%. This is definitely good news, especially for farmers, who often need a large number of workers to help with the harvest. However, the measure does not apply to all sectors, even though I am pretty sure that every sector could benefit considerably.
    The Quebec government also announced that the temporary foreign worker program would be relaxed to exempt businesses from having to advertise externally and provide proof of their recruitment efforts in Quebec in order to fill positions in certain occupations for which there is a labour shortage. This relaxation of the rules will allow many business to get reinforcements in by hiring temporary foreign workers. The process of getting them to Canada will also be streamlined, according to a recent announcement by Quebec's minister of labour, employment and social solidarity.
    It appears that Quebec is being far more proactive in this area than the federal government. It has often been said that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is the federal government’s most dysfunctional department. Our proposal to repatriate all immigration powers to Quebec appears to be more topical than ever, when you see the efforts made by Quebec. I am not saying that everything is perfect, far from it, but at least something is being done, and, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ottawa.
    Recruiting students is also problematic. Foreign students have to pay a lot of money to access education in Quebec, and then they have to grapple with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and its red tape. Let me explain. When foreign students study in Quebec, some of them move to Ontario after graduating, because then they can get Canadian citizenship faster. This situation is very common and puts Quebec at a serious disadvantage, because we cannot retain the new graduates we need.
    There are solutions, however. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada could, for example, improve coordination efforts with Quebec’s department of education and department of advanced education to facilitate the recognition of diplomas, degrees and equivalences. This might reduce the time it takes to process applications from international students and make sure that they are able to start their programs on time. The federal government could also give priority to the immigration files of applicants who already have a job offer and foster their integration in Quebec by ensuring that the time frame for obtaining Canadian citizenship is the same as in the other provinces. No, that is too complicated for them, and the result is that our entrepreneurs have to lower production, reduce their offerings and, as a result, cut their profits because of labour shortages.
    At the same time, people who want to settle specifically in our province, in Quebec, are being rejected by the federal government. I am not even commenting on the issue of immigrants from French-speaking African countries, who are rejected en masse by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
    That is what happened to Aurélien, a 29-year-old French-speaking Cameroonian with a degree in mechanical and production engineering from his native country. He enrolled in a diploma of vocational studies program in welding and fitting at the vocational training centre in Matane in my riding. There is a desperate need for welders in Quebec.

  (1350)  

    The Quebec government was very interested in his application and, through Éducation internationale, offered him a scholarship of excellence to cover his tuition fees. Despite this, an IRCC officer once again refused his application for a study permit. Why? The officer who handled his file said he was not convinced that the student would remain in Canada at the end of his stay. That is unbelievable and it is very unfair.
    Aurélien is not the only student in this situation. According to Radio-Canada, applications from Cameroon are overwhelmingly rejected by the IRCC. In 2020, 88% of applications from that country were rejected, and the figures are apparently similar for applicants from Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Togo.
    Aurélien had to give up his dream of living in Quebec. At the same time, the economies of Matane, the Gaspé, Quebec and Canada are all suffering. We urgently need workers. Why is the federal government being so stubborn? It makes absolutely no sense.
    When our economy is suffering, I think we should find solutions or some way of getting the money that the federal government is letting slip away. I think that measures to fight tax havens would be more than welcome in this context. The Deputy Prime Minister announced last spring that such measures would be in this economic update. However, they have either been put on the back burner or disappeared completely. I guess this is not important enough to the government.
    We are right in the middle of a recovery, and it is difficult to see any federal leadership when it comes to the economy.
    Another element is conspicuous for its absence in the economic and fiscal update, namely health transfers. I cannot believe that the government is not yet tired of hearing the Bloc Québécois talk about health transfers, because we have been talking about them for two years. Even last week, the Conservatives and the New Democrats woke up and said that that would be something good to discuss.
    Now all three opposition parties in the House of Commons are calling for action with respect to health transfers, as are the premiers of every province. The annual meeting of the Council of the Federation was held last week, and its members unanimously called on the federal government to do more to help the provinces and territories ensure the survival of the free and public health system. The health care system has been undermined by the impacts of chronic underfunding, which have been exacerbated in the past two years by the COVID‑19 pandemic.
    Despite that fact, the federal government has categorically refused any increases to health care funding. Although there is growing pressure on the government to immediately pay out $28 billion to cover 35% of costs, indexed at 6% thereafter, the economic update is keeping the Canada transfer indexed at 3% until 2027.
    The government's message is clear but totally oblivious, in my opinion, because the government can see the needs of Quebec's healthcare system as well as we can. It thinks it spent enough last year on the pandemic, so it is refusing to contribute. That is flawed logic. COVID-19 spending was a temporary, one-time expense, whereas the federal underfunding of health care is a permanent problem that has been squeezing Quebec and the provinces financially for years.
    Not only is the federal government perpetuating the fiscal imbalance, it is ignoring the lessons it should have learned from the pandemic. If the three opposition parties and the Council of the Federation are not enough to convince the government, it might want to listen to the people who voted it in. After all, MPs are here to represent their constituents.
    A Leger poll released last week revealed that a vast majority of Canadians want the federal government to increase its contribution to health care. Fully 85% of Canadians think it is urgent. Most respondents believe that health is one of the most important issues in Quebec and Canada. Almost four out of five Canadians think that the pandemic has had a large negative impact on the health care system. It could not be more clear.
    I see that I am running out of time. There were, of course, many other topics I could have addressed, but this is really what concerns me right now. I spoke about the labour shortage and immigration issues. Last week, I spoke about employment insurance and our increasingly divided society. That is what concerns us right now, and there is a lot of work to do. Let us get to work.

  (1355)  

    Madam Speaker, perhaps my colleague's speech was written before she became aware of what the minister announced last week. The fiscal update allocated $85 million, and processing times have improved and are now 87% faster. A new permanent residence application tracker was introduced in February 2022 for spouses. Citizenship and Immigration, the IRCC, has increased its processing capacity for permanent residence applications and made a record half-million decisions in 2021. For people who want to live in Canada, the IRCC plans to make 147,000 permanent residence final decisions in the first quarter of 2022. I have four or five points to add along those lines, but I think it is clear the minister is very engaged and dynamic and determined to improve the situation.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comment.
    We are indeed pleased that the minister is acting in good faith and wants to move things forward. Unfortunately, all the investments of the past months have not meant much on the ground.
    In our riding offices right now, we are handling a lot of EI cases for constituents who, unfortunately, are not getting their money. We usually handle mostly immigration cases because Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada cannot process its own cases. For some reason we do not really understand, people like Aurélien, who wants to move to Matane and become a welder, are being stymied.
    Investments are all well and good, but we would like to see them make a difference on the ground so we can get people into Quebec to alleviate the labour shortage.
    The hon. member will have three minutes after question period to continue his speech.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[English]

Demonstrations in Ottawa

    Madam Speaker, our city and our democracy are under siege. I spent the weekend speaking with residents and hearing first-hand about the harm that the current occupation is having on them and their families. Our mayor has declared a state of emergency, citing the serious danger and threats to the safety and security of residents here in Ottawa.
    Women, especially women of colour, are afraid to venture outside alone and face harassment by the protesters. Survivors of domestic violence are being retraumatized. Ottawa residents are being held hostage in their homes. This occupation is threatening the rights and wellness of the city’s most vulnerable residents. Many of our community’s support services have had to close their doors out of fear. This cannot continue.
    Our government has asked the RCMP to provide support. I implore the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Police Service to determine the path forward to resolve this crisis and know that our government is here to support them. They just need to ask. Tell us what is needed.

Retroactive Pay for the RCMP

    Madam Speaker, a lot of municipal leaders have contacted me recently about the issue of retroactive pay for the RCMP. It was settled after a number of years. The RCMP deserves this raise. They provide policing in many rural communities and constituencies like mine. However, the negotiations were with the federal government, not the municipalities and not the province. Mayors have told me this property tax could be anywhere from 5% to 10%. Coming out of COVID, we do not need a tax increase on property, which is a very regressive tax to small businesses in my constituency.
    The feds negotiated this contract. I believe they should take responsibility for the retroactive pay and not put it on the property owners in my riding.

Lunar New Year

    Madam Speaker, I would like to wish the Chinese communities in Canada and across the world a very happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Tiger. I would like to recognize the contributions that Chinese-Canadians have made and continue to make to the socio-economic development of our country in adding to the richness of the multicultural fabric of Canada.
    I would like to recognize and thank some of the community leaders in Ottawa for their hard work and inspiring leadership: Jin Xue, founder of the Chinese Community Association of Ottawa, and its key members, Yang Yang, Timao Li, Mingxuan Herb and Yilong Ma; Jason Zhang of the Canada-China Culture and Art Association; Bin Chen and Xio Jian Zhou of the Federation of Chinese Canadian Organizations; and Peter So and Yukang Li of Ottawa's Chinatown BIA.

[Translation]

Pizza Salvatoré

    Mr. Speaker, today I want to acknowledge a remarkable initiative by a family business in Quebec, the Pizza Salvatoré restaurants. Tomorrow, February 8, 50% of Pizza Salvatoré's profits will go to its 1,500 employees in the form of a bonus. That is not all. The other 50% will be delivered as free pizzas to community organizations in the Saint Eustache region.
    This is not Pizza Salvatoré's first rodeo. In October, to mark its recent opening, the restaurant in Saint Eustache sent 150 free pizzas to organizations in my riding. In these difficult times, as we deal with inflation and the pandemic, it is nice to see a business back home lead by example by paying it forward.
    I congratulate Pizza Salvatoré on its wonderful generosity and its caring business model. Once again, Quebec businesses are leading by example.

  (1405)  

Nova Scotia Heritage Day

     Mr. Speaker, the third Monday in February is a statutory holiday established to celebrate the remarkable people, places and events that have contributed to making Nova Scotia what is today.
    To mark the 10th anniversary of the Landscape of Grand-Pré becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site, we will honour the rich, exceptional heritage of this traditional agricultural settlement, which is still in use today and was founded by the Acadians.
    I hope that all families in Halifax West and my province will enjoy this time with their family and friends, and I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to learn more about our rich history and our cultures.
    I wish everyone a happy Nova Scotia Heritage Day.

[English]

Passionate Heart Awards

    Mr. Speaker, our communities are made better by the selfless contributions of so many who live within our region. The Passionate Heart Awards are an opportunity to recognize and celebrate individuals and organizations that contribute to our community, enhance social services and improve the quality of life for all of us.
    The Family & Community Support Services of the city and the county of Grande Prairie and the towns of Beaverlodge, Sexsmith and Wembley have made the Passionate Heart Awards an important annual tradition. Coming together as a community to recognize the commitment and the hard work of our frontline social services professionals and see their excellence honoured by their peers and colleagues is always a meaningful occasion, made even more significant by the challenges we have faced over the last couple of years.
    On behalf of local residents, I would like to extend a special congratulations to this year's nominees and award winners. I thank them for their commitment to helping build a stronger and better future for all of us.

Black Community Support in Surrey

    Mr. Speaker, in honour of Black History Month, I want to acknowledge the great work of organizations that highlight Black voices and support the Black community in Surrey.
    Solid State works with local youths to build co-ops with support from professionals, providing training and employment opportunities.
    Co-ops like Daily Dose of Blackness use various platforms to share stories that centre around and celebrate Black youth experiences.
    BLAC is a Black youth-owned and youth-operated gallery and performance space opening this year that will support young Black artists and events as well as BIMPOC artists of all ages.
    The Kingdom Acts Foundation is involved in a number of initiatives, including community development, youth mentoring, food security and much, much more.
    I also want to thank the Great Light Healing Community Services Society, a very lively and energetic group that delivers various programs to help seniors, particularly Black Canadian seniors, learn online literacy and cybercrime prevention techniques, all while having a blast.
    Lastly, the Nuru Training Association and the Umoja Operation Compassion Society of British Columbia work with newcomer immigrants and refugees and provide various educational, technical and vocational training opportunities.
    I thank them for the work they do to support our community, and happy Black History Month.

Celtic Radio Station in Cape Breton

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to share with my colleagues, constituents and all Canadians a piece of Gaelic culture that can be enjoyed from anywhere in the world.
    Here in Cape Breton—Canso, we take pride in our Gaelic roots. Recently a constituent of mine, Ryan MacDonald, launched a Celtic radio station based out of The Gaelic College’s new location in Mabou, Cape Breton. Within the first week of the Celtic radio station being on air, it reached over 15,000 listeners.
    An integral part of Gaelic culture is music, and with music comes dancing and the iconic ceilidhs, or kitchen parties, where strong connections are made to the Gaelic culture. CBFM is an excellent way to share Gaelic culture, a way to make those folks who have ventured far from the east coast to feel a little more connected. Most importantly, it is a way to keep Gaelic culture alive.
    I am watching, but more importantly, I am listening to the success of CBFM, the thriving Celtic radio station.

  (1410)  

William Attewell

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to former member of Parliament William Attewell, elected in 1984 to serve Don Valley East and in 1988 for the riding of Markham. He passed away on Christmas Eve.
    Bill was a gentleman of the highest order. He rose from humble beginnings to be an executive in the financial services industry. His 1984 election win was my first campaign. I campaigned with him every day. I then joined him in Ottawa, which changed my life forever.
    He advocated for the right of Jews in the Soviet Union to emigrate, helping Natan Sharansky escape. He fought for human rights and believed in fiscal responsibility. He was key in the restructuring of Canada’s financial service industry laws. He served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister. He made a difference in everything he did.
    He left this world a better place for his family, for his community and for his country. I shall miss him, his political mentorship and his friendship.
    On behalf of this House, I thank Sandy, Howard, Pamela and Leslie for sharing him with our country.

Ontario Long Service Medal

    Mr. Speaker, last year Chief Ian Laing of the Central York Fire Services received his 45-year provincial service bar, awarded in recognition of, and as public appreciation for, his dedication and hard work.
    His career in fire services began in Mississauga, where for 34 years he served as a firefighter, a captain, a district chief and an assistant deputy chief. In 2010, he joined the Central York Fire Services, where he has served as the fire chief ever since.
    Chief Laing's continued vision and guidance are an inspiration for the fire service and to our community. On behalf of Newmarket—Aurora, I would like to thank Chief Laing for his many years dedicated to making our community a safe and better place. I congratulate Ian on this well-deserved recognition.

Mutual Insurance Companies

    Mr. Speaker, the recent flooding in British Columbia brought out the best in Canadians: neighbours helping neighbours, charity springing into action and farmers working together for the common good.
    I want to highlight the work of an exemplary corporate citizen in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove, a whole industry actually. Mutual Fire Insurance of British Columbia was started about 100 years ago by farmers and for farmers, and they insured many of the properties that were damaged. Besides its legal obligation to pay benefits, MFIBC also made a charitable donation to help those hardest hit. In keeping with the sense of mutuality, Mutual insurance companies across the country followed suit, and I ask the hon. member for Bay of Quinte in Ontario to thank the team at the Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance Company for its very generous donation to help British Columbians hardest hit by this natural disaster.
    This is what Canadians do. They help each other in times of need.

Mutual Insurance Companies

    Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member stated, in Canada when one of us is in need or distress, it is often Canadians who step up the most to help our own. When Canadians help Canadians, it exemplifies just how incredible this country and its people are. Such was the case when British Columbians needed help after the floods this fall. Canadians stepped up where needed to help B.C. in its time of need.
    I am happy to acknowledge that all the way from Bay of Quinte, Ontario, the Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance Company came through for B.C. with a donation of $100,000 toward the efforts. Neighbours helping neighbours is the entire reason Bay of Quinte Mutual was founded in 1874. In this case, the neighbour just happened to be a few provinces away.
    Please join me, on behalf of Canada, in congratulating Jeff Howell and his company for their incredible support for Canadians in their time of need.

[Translation]

24th Winter Olympic Games

    Mr. Speaker, the 24th Winter Olympic Games began last Friday in Beijing.
    While I encourage all Canadian athletes, I am particularly proud of the athletes from Sherbrooke who are participating. I would like to introduce our eight athletes from Sherbrooke. In speed skating, we have four-time Olympic medallist Kim Boutin, world champion Jordan Pierre-Gilles and world medallist Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu. In cross-country skiing, we have two-time world medallist Olivier Léveillé. Jules Burnotte will compete in biathlon and Samuel Giguère will compete in bobsleigh. In freestyle skiing, we have world medallist Marion Thénault, while Lyne-Marie Bilodeau will compete in para nordic skiing.
    Sherbrooke is the perfect place for Olympic and Paralympic athletes to develop their skills. Who can forget Sylvie Daigle, Annie Perreault, Sarah Vaillancourt and Mathieu Turcotte?
    They are a source of immense pride for all of us, especially for our young people. I really look forward to following them in the coming weeks and years.
    Go, Sherbrooke. Go, Team Canada, go.

  (1415)  

[English]

Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Qujannamiik, uqaqtitiji.
    This “freedom convoy” exposes the injustice that first nations, Métis, Inuit and people of colour experience in Canada. The convoy has the freedom to demonstrate unrestricted violence, mainly without punishment. On the other hand, indigenous peoples live in fear of reprisal for protecting indigenous lands, as they are met with violence by law enforcement.
    The CGL pipeline did not achieve the consent of the appropriate first nations to have their proposal approved. Since then, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have the authority to consent, have been forced to defend their territory for the last seven years. I stand with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
    I call on the Liberal government to protect indigenous peoples' rights, as accorded in section 35 of the Constitution Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to uphold the rule of law.
    Qujannamiik.

[Translation]

Francine Murzeau

    Mr. Speaker, some people are able to to make a significant impact by channelling their remarkable commitment and determination.
    There are great women who have strong convictions and who strive to set an example. These are the kinds of people whose passion for a healthy planet can galvanize and inspire others.
    There are some people without whom our communities would not be as green, as beautiful, or as educated and aware.
    I have the privilege of knowing Francine Murzeau, an environmental activist who has stepped down from the board of directors of CRIVERT, an environmental group, after 31 years of loyal service.
    I hope that Francine realizes what a big impact she has had on our community. She has fought hard on every front. She has built a legacy of thousands of healthy trees and a generation of schoolchildren passionate about the environment. I thank her and I hope we cross paths again. I cannot imagine that she will be putting away her shovel and gloves for long.

[English]

Louis Roy

    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today and honour the life of World War II Navy veteran Louis Roy.
    Mr. Roy passed away early in January at 101 years of age. He enlisted in the army in 1942 and served Canada in Ireland, Portugal, Italy and England until his discharge in 1945. A well-respected family man and community member, Mr. Roy spent his years after the war as a trapper and hunter before beginning a career as a carpenter. At the young-hearted age of 85, Mr. Roy built himself a home on the banks of the Beaver River in his home community of Beauval, Saskatchewan, where he enjoyed time with his children and his grandchildren.
    His granddaughter, Glenda Burnouf, said it best about her grandfather: “He was just a very well respected man. He lived a fulfilled life rich with adventure.” He was loved by all.
    I ask all members in the House today to join me by recognizing the life and the legacy of Louis Roy.

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee

    Mr. Speaker, I am deeply honoured and quite moved to rise today to honour our Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on a milestone that none of us will see again.
     It has been 70 years devoted in service of her 15 realms and the Commonwealth, 70 years of fulfilling a uniquely subliminal contract with the millions of citizens who rely on Her Majesty to provide a continuity that is so difficult to define.

[Translation]

    I have been interested in and intrigued by the concept of constitutional monarchies and, of course, our Queen, for as long as I can remember, even before I became a Canadian citizen.
    My admiration for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has grown over the course of her 70 years as Queen. She has remained steadfast in her reign over a society that is constantly evolving.

  (1420)  

[English]

    Her Majesty honoured her engagement to a life of service like few others. My admiration for her steadfastness as well as her capacity to meet the times is boundless. It has been 70 years, almost 25,600 days, of unflinching service and commitment.
    Your Majesty, you are an inspiration who has never let me down. Long live the Queen.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[English]

COVID-19 Protests

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are telling the Prime Minister they want to get back to work and they want to get back to normal life. That is why we are seeing demonstrations not only in Ottawa, but right across the country. The Prime Minister has caused division by overtly politicizing vaccines and the pandemic, and calling these Canadians names. He is now saying these protests really are not his problem: they are the provinces', or maybe even the cities'.
    When will the Prime Minister stop hiding, show up for Canadians, show some leadership and fix the mess that he has created?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. I think what we have to ask at this moment in time is what needs to get done to get Canadians safe and out of this pandemic. What we know is that the best way we can get out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated. We are all tired. We are all frustrated, but we have to ask how we can continue to sacrifice to keep those safe around us, to make sure that we follow public health measures and do our best to get out of this pandemic keeping as many people safe and alive as possible.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, Dr. Tam and other health officials across the country have started to change their language on lifting restrictions. According to Dr. Tam, things like vaccine mandates should be re-evaluated. Countries around the world have started to lift restrictions, or end them altogether.
    Can the Prime Minister tell Canadians today when the government will quickly respond to our public health officials and begin to lift all the restrictions it has imposed on Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, let us be clear that most of the mandates she is speaking of are provincial in nature. The mandates—
    Order. The hon. Leader of the Opposition just asked a question. She would like to hear what has to be said in response to her question. Please let the hon. government House leader answer.
    The hon. government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, I heard some yelling that some members want to end the mandate for truckers to be able to get vaccinated, but I would point out to the hon. members across that the rule exists in the United States. Even if it did not exist in Canada, truckers would have to have it in order to enter the United States.
    Here are the plain and simple facts. Canadians need straight talk about how to get out of this pandemic. That means following public health guidelines, that means getting vaccinated and, yes, it means talking calmly and rationally about real solutions instead of trying to be incendiary and elevating a situation that is not about the pandemic, but is about politics.
    Mr. Speaker, I see the Prime Minister is still in hiding. That member is mansplaining to me how to stay calm and rational, which I do not appreciate.
    Canadians have suffered. They have followed the rules and they have done what they were asked to do. We cannot have a slow and drawn-out process of reopening just because the Prime Minister is hiding and in denial. Dr. Moore in Ontario said recently, “I think we have to start to understand we have to learn to live with this virus.” In Canada, living means living freely.
    Will the Prime Minister follow the science, follow the advice of experts and assure Canadians he will be removing all federal vaccine mandates quickly?
    Mr. Speaker, for two years Canadians have dealt with a global pandemic that has stressed all of us. There is not a Canadian who has not gone through an incredibly difficult time. The question that we ask on this side is what is the science.

  (1425)  

    The rules say that we stop at three o'clock. We have been very flexible going beyond that. I am sure we do not want to cut off any questions because we cannot hear anything.
    The hon. government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, we need to follow science. We need to very closely look at what is the best way to get out of this pandemic using evidence and not politics. We are not in a place where we can afford to play games with public health. Instead, we have to take each step one at a time. The reality is that our beleaguered health care workers, who are on the front lines in hospitals and in health care settings across the country, are tired. Our hospitals are full. All of us need to step back and ask how we can sacrifice and do everything we can to get out of this by following the best public health advice.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Dr. Tam said that it is now time to reassess vaccine mandates. Dr. Tam is a scientist. We are asking the government to listen to what scientists are saying.
    When the Minister of Health was asked if there is scientific evidence backing up these vaccine mandates, he said nothing because there is no scientific evidence behind the vaccine mandate for truckers.
    The question is simple. When will the Liberals listen to the science and lift the current restrictions that have been imposed on Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague asked when the government would start following the advice of doctors and scientists. The answer is that we have done exactly that from the start.
    I know that it is frustrating for the Conservatives opposite, who believe that the hundreds of people hurling insults on the Hill are a clinical trial, but it is not true.
    We will follow the advice of doctors, and the member should take care not to put words in Dr. Tam's mouth.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's stubbornness is incomprehensible. He is hiding rather than dealing with the real problems facing our health care system.
    Canada is one of the worst OECD countries when it comes to the number of hospital beds and doctors per capita. Last week, at the Council of the Federation, Premier Legault spoke on behalf of all the premiers when he said, “We made a unanimous request to the federal government. We quickly, urgently need better funding for our health care systems”. We need an unconditional increase in transfers to the provinces to put an end to the crisis.
    Will the Prime Minister come out of hiding and talk to the provinces about health transfers, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, for several years now, we have been engaged in an ongoing, constructive dialogue with our partners, the provinces and territories, about the best way to support the health care system that is so important to Canadians.
    Last week, I spoke with the chair of the Council of the Federation, Premier Horgan, to discuss how exactly the federal government can continue to support the public health care system in Canada, as we have always done.

COVID-19 Protests

    Mr. Speaker, Ottawa has been under siege for 10 days. For five days, the Bloc Québécois has been proposing a crisis task force made up of the different levels of government and police forces. Now, five days later, the minister is finally announcing that he will create this task force. That is good news, but we have been waiting for it for a long time. Five days is a long time for the residents who are being bullied. I applaud the creation of this task force.
    Now, when will it meet? What is the deadline for the game plan?
    The clock is ticking.
    Mr. Speaker, the community expects the law to be obeyed and public safety to be upheld. The federal government has been there from day one to support the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Police Service, and the RCMP has provided officers and other additional resources.
    It is important to note that operational decisions are made by the police, independent from the government. The federal government will continue to work in close collaboration with the city and the police until Ottawans feel safe.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, the problem with this government is that it is incapable of being proactive.
    This has been dragging on for 10 days. The City of Ottawa asks the government to intervene and it does nothing. The Ottawa police chief asks the government to intervene and it does nothing. The public asks the government to intervene and it does nothing. The Bloc Québécois makes proposals to the government and it does nothing.
    It took Mark Carney, the future leader of the Liberal Party, to write an op-ed in The Globe and Mail for the government to wake up and decide it was time to do something. That was enough for the government.
     Will the Prime Minister commit to ensuring that this whole thing is resolved by the end of the week?
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps my hon. colleague missed the news that the RCMP has sent more than 275 additional officers. These officers will support and assist the Ottawa Police Service. This is just one example of the concrete solutions and support the federal government and the RCMP have offered the Ottawa Police Service.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians across the country are struggling to pay for groceries and rent. Demand for food banks is skyrocketing. Where is the Prime Minister? What is he doing?
    The city of Ottawa is under occupation. Residents are being harassed, and their city is being taken over. Where is the Prime Minister? What is he doing?
    We expect the Prime Minister to step up during times of crisis, but he has been missing in action for days. Now is the time to show leadership.
    When will the Prime Minister do something to stop residents from being terrorized in their own city?
    Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of this convoy, the government has been there to support police services in Ottawa and provide additional resources.
    The RCMP announced that it would send 275 officers, which is why we have seen a lot of progress in the past 12 hours. We will continue to be there for the people of Ottawa and for the City of Ottawa to help put a quick end to this convoy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the people of Ottawa are being terrorized by the ongoing convoy. Health care workers are being harassed, retail workers have been assaulted and small businesses have had to shut down.
    People do not feel safe in their own city. It is completely unacceptable. At times of crisis, Canadians expect their prime minister to show leadership, but there has been no help to de-escalate this situation.
    Will the Prime Minister finally meet with municipal leaders and come up with a plan so Canadians can feel safe?
    Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of this convoy, the federal government has done everything in its power to assist the City of Ottawa, as well as the police services, by providing additional RCMP resources. I want to pause to thank them for their service on the ground.
    We will continue to offer whatever support we can to ensure that Canadians feel safe when they leave their homes. Of course, we have to respect the operational independence of police services, which are responsible for upholding the law.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, January job numbers came out and they were really bad. They show 200,000 Canadian jobs gone, higher unemployment and an inflation rate that is out of control. This has turned into a disaster, and Canadians are paying the price.
    Will the minister finally admit that her plan is not working and come up with a plan that includes dealing with the costs of gas, home heating, groceries and life becoming unaffordable for Canadian families and seniors?
    Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the inevitable challenges that Canadian workers and businesses have been facing because of the necessary omicron lockdowns, I want to remind all members of the House that Canada has still recovered 101% of all jobs lost to COVID, compared with just 87% of jobs recovered in the U.S.
    I want to say to all the members on the Conservative benches that we knew omicron was going to hurt Canadian workers, so we put support measures in place.
    Why did the Conservatives vote against that?
    Mr. Speaker, it is cold comfort for Canadians who are losing their jobs and seeing the prices of everything go up. Prices are skyrocketing, yet the Liberals keep pretending that everything is fine. Let us be clear: Things are not fine. Canadians are struggling and it is getting almost impossible for many families to put gas in their cars, to put food on their tables or to heat their homes.
    Will the minister own up to her mistakes and apologize to the 200,000 Canadians who saw their jobs disappear last month?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is the Conservatives who should be apologizing for blocking, at every possible opportunity, the measures we have put in place to support Canadians during this difficult time, for example Bill C-2, of course, and the lockdown support measures.
    The Canada child benefit is providing a single mother of two children with nearly $14,000. An average family in Saskatchewan will receive nearly $1,000 from the climate action incentive. Seniors received an extra $500 through the GIS this summer.
    Conservatives—
    The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Fraser Institute has revealed where 35 developed countries rank on its Misery Index.
    Thanks to its high rates of inflation and unemployment, Canada is ranked the sixth most miserable country. That does not come from me, it is what the report says.
    This ranking does not even include January's data, which confirms that 200,000 jobs were lost.
    Jason Clements, the institute's executive vice-president, stated that “Canadians are rightly concerned about the country's high inflation and unemployment rates”.
    Will the Prime Minister finally admit that his economic strategy for Canada is a pathetic failure?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for the position he has taken on these protests, which have really created a serious problem for the people of Ottawa. I hope that all Conservative members will follow his lead.
    Concerning the Canadian economy, I have to say that the Conservatives keep repeating a false narrative on the economy. The reality is that Canada is strong and resilient, our economy has already—
    The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her comments, but I invite the Prime Minister to leave his house and find a solution to the problem.
    In January, Canada lost 200,000 jobs and the unemployment rate reached 6.5%. In December, it was 5.9%. The Liberal government has no plan for creating jobs and no plan to reduce inflation, which means that Canadians, again, Canadians, are having a hard time paying for the luxury of healthy food.
    Is the Prime Minister going to suggest that they start eating baloney?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that we are again hearing the Conservatives repeat a false narrative on the economy.
    I want to lay out the facts and the data. Our GDP increased by 5.4% in the third quarter, surpassing the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia, and we have recovered 101% of the jobs that were lost because of the pandemic, compared to only 87% in the United States.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as of January 2022, we have lost 200,000 jobs. More Canadians are underemployed and unemployed than ever before. Canada is blessed with amazing natural resources, incredible agriculture, advanced technology and cutting-edge industry and manufacturing sectors.
    When will the government get off the backs of ordinary Canadian workers and small businesses and allow our economy to thrive?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a bit rich to hear any Conservative today presume to support Canada's small businesses. Why? It is because when omicron first hit, our government was ready. We knew that the provinces would be imposing lockdowns. That is what our health care system needed, so we were there. We provided support for small businesses and for workers, but the Conservatives voted against that support. Thank goodness they failed.
    Before going to the next question, I want to interrupt for a second. I want to remind all members that in the House, if they are not speaking, they should make sure to have their mask on. It is for their own safety and the safety of others. It is considerate.
    The hon. member for Haldimand—Norfolk.

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, that was a typical non-answer. We are all employed in the House. We need to have some compassion for those 200,000 people who are unemployed. We are not just talking about 200,000 jobs. We are talking about 200,000 families that are now wondering how to put food on the table and how to pay their bills, all while facing record inflation.
    Therefore, I will ask my question again. When will the Prime Minister and the government allow Canadians to get back to work and get on with their lives?
    Mr. Speaker, I actually agree with the member opposite that jobs are the single most important thing when it comes to the well-being of most Canadians and most Canadian families. That is why when Canada lost three million jobs at the depth of the pandemic lockdowns, our government knew we had to act and we did, with unprecedented support for workers and businesses. The good news is that action worked. Canada has had one of the strongest job recoveries in the G7, with 101% of jobs recovered compared to just 87% in the U.S., for example.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, all the provincial premiers once again asked the federal government to pay its fair share for health care. They unanimously reiterated that the federal government must increase transfers to cover 35% of health care costs.
    They are once again reaching out to the Prime Minister in the hopes of coming to an agreement in the next few weeks. My question is a very simple one. Will Ottawa finally pay its fair share and increase transfers to cover 35% of health care costs?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is well aware that our government has been there for Canadians and the whole country's public health care system ever since the pandemic hit.
    In the last two years alone, we have invested over $64 billion to support the health care system. The Prime Minister has made it very clear that we will always be there to work with our provincial and territorial partners to support the public health care system Canadians want.
    Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate, but the investments the minister just mentioned are not sustainable investments. They are pandemic-related investments.
    I issued a challenge to the minister. If he believes that funding 22% of health care costs is enough, he should follow our leader's suggestion and call a summit on health care funding. If everyone agrees that 22% is enough, I swear I will never talk about health again.
    I have a simple question for him. Is he willing to call a summit on health care funding, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague is well aware, the Prime Minister has called more than 35 meetings with the premiers and territorial leaders over the past two years or so.
    Time and time again, we have worked together to discuss what can be done to support the public health care system that Canadians want, and rightly so.
    As I have said to my colleague, we are in ongoing discussions with our provincial counterparts to find the best way to support a high-quality health care system.
    Mr. Speaker, the federal government's decision to underfund health care comes at a cost. There is a price to be paid for pushing health care networks to the limit and hoping that nothing unexpected brings it all crashing down.
    Quebeckers feel as though they are the ones paying the price, what with the offloading of responsibilities and the lockdown measures. We need to rebuild the health care system, and the federal government needs to prove it has learned from past mistakes.
    When will the government understand that it needs to urgently invest in the health care system?
    Mr. Speaker, as I explained, we did urgently invest in the public health care system across Canada. We have been there throughout the pandemic to support Canadians, Canadian businesses, and our health care system, which is essential to all Canadians.
    We also said that once the pandemic is behind us, we are prepared to sit down with provincial premiers, as we have been doing for months now, to discuss essential funding for the coming years.

  (1445)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, a recent study stated that lockdowns contributed to saving 0.2% of deaths worldwide. Do members know what contributed to lockdowns in Canada? It was the abysmal lack of health care capacity in that system. The $700 billion spent on COVID created no new beds, and none of the 7,500 doctors and nurses promised by the Prime Minister have materialized.
    When will the government properly fund health care?
    Mr. Speaker, opposition members keep referring to lockdowns, and I want to be really precise and understand exactly what they are talking about. What federal mandates do they oppose? Do they oppose that people have to be double-vaccinated to get on a train or an airplane, or to drive a truck? If they oppose that, as they have, given that some of the members of their caucus are still not vaccinated, can they say that? Can we have an honest discussion about the fact that perhaps they do not believe in some of the public health measures that have allowed Canada to have one of the lowest death rates in the world and one of the best pandemic responses in the world?
    Mr. Speaker, in spite of the spin doctors, I am a doctor and want members to know that Canada has one-third of the ICU capacity of Germany and roughly half that of the United States. The moral distress from working in an unsupported system with an overwhelming tsunami of backlogged cases looms. As Premier Horgan said on Friday, “a quality service“ like this is “not sustainable in its current model”.
    When will the Liberal government end this moral distress and admit that the pandemic crisis has multiplied because of health care underfunding?
    Mr. Speaker, our ICUs are filled. Canada is continuing to be in the circumstances we are seeing globally, where we have enormous stress.
    To the member opposite, who is a doctor, does he not want to see those number come down? Would he not agree that the best way to make sure those numbers come down is for people to be vaccinated, that the vast preponderance of people filling our hospitals are unvaccinated and that him attacking mandates, which, by the way, on our side are about ensuring people are vaccinated, is injurious to this, is filling our hospitals and is exactly the problem we are facing right now?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member can shift the attention to Canadians and blame them all he likes, but at the end of the day, it is ultimately on the back on the government.
    We are two years into this pandemic and our health care system has been on life support the entire time. Canadians have missed elective surgeries, they have missed early diagnoses of life-threatening diseases and they have missed numerous other treatments. Mental health concerns are through the roof. People are literally dying.
    There is no increased funding to the anemic health care system under the government. It just continues to shoulder the burden off to the provinces.
    My question is very simple. When will the Prime Minister stop worrying about—
    The hon. government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, I am deeply proud of our country. About 90% of Canadians have had at least one dose of the vaccine. We are seeing one of the lowest death rates from COVID-19 out of anywhere in the world.
    However, what we know is that our ICUs continue to be filled with the unvaccinated. When the members opposite attack mandates and attack things that encourage folks to get vaccinated, I do not understand how they can, in the same breath, complain about the stress on the health care system. They know that about 75% of people who are in ICUs are unvaccinated, even though they only represent 10% of the population.
    Let us get through this pandemic. Let us follow and back science.
    Mr. Speaker, on southern Vancouver Island, primary care clinics have been forced to close because of understaffing, leaving residents without anywhere to turn when they are sick. Challenges finding a family doctor are not new, but after two years of the pandemic, critical staffing shortages and burnout have only gotten worse.
    The federal government has failed patients who need primary care. It has also failed exhausted health care workers because it has failed to reverse the chronic underfunding of our health care system.
    Will the government commit to immediately increasing health care transfers so that all Canadians can access the health care they need?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, our commitment is to ensure that we work in lockstep with the provinces. We have seen an escalation in the amount of money we are transferring to the provinces throughout this pandemic. It is essential that we work in collaboration with every jurisdiction. This is the greatest challenge that our generation has faced. We continue to meet it with science and support, and leadership in working with other jurisdictions, to make sure Canada continues to have one of the best COVID responses anywhere in the world.
    Mr. Speaker, this past weekend saw protesters blocking patients, health care workers and ambulances at hospitals in major cities across Canada. This is putting lives at risk. Paramedics have been delayed, rocks were hurled at emergency vehicles and first responders were subjected to racist slurs. This is completely unacceptable.
    Just weeks ago, this Parliament passed a law making it a criminal offence to intimidate, obstruct or interfere with a health care worker or a patient seeking care. What is the government doing to ensure that this law is being enforced to protect Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, we passed Bill C-3, which made sure that health care sites, like hospitals, are protected from the types of harassment and the barrage of attacks we are seeing.
    We are going to work to make sure that the new law is implemented so that health care workers, who are already carrying such a disproportionate load, are not going to be influenced from not being able to do their jobs by the kinds of horrific actions we are seeing. When we see rocks thrown at ambulances and we see the kind of aggression we have seen from some of these protesters, it is truly shameful, and particularly for our frontline workers.
    Mr. Speaker, in December, the House unanimously passed Bill C-3, which establishes paid sick leave for federally regulated workers and protection for health workers, and those accessing their care, from harassment and intimidation. As a nurse and as someone who recently volunteered at a COVID testing clinic, I can say this matters a great deal, not just to me but to health workers across Canada.
    Could the Minister of Labour tell the House what is being done to bring this legislation into force?
    Mr. Speaker, while we see that an impossible amount is being asked of health care workers, they are going in every day to sacrifice to make sure we get through this pandemic. As we see people talking about freedoms, it is important to ask what we all do with our freedom to make life easier for those around us and what sacrifices we are making in a global pandemic to lift people up and to find ways to help our neighbours, to de-escalate tension and to make lives easier for people in one of the most trying times.
    Bill C-3, I think, would do so much to protect those health care workers, but it begs a broader question about what each of us is doing in this pandemic.

[Translation]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, the government is ruining Canada's future.
    This government has carelessly wasted astronomical sums of money on its universal programs. Think of the 65-year-old seniors who have been abandoned. Now it is access to property. Canadians need to be able to pay their rent. Housing costs are skyrocketing. We have to take action now.
    What is this government going to do right now to put an end to this situation and give Canadians hope?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me remind the member that it was the Conservatives' plan for seniors to prolong the age of retirement from 65 to 67. The first things we did as a government were to reverse that and give seniors the benefits they are entitled to. We also raised the GIS for single seniors, increased the old age security, enhanced the CPP and invested billions into housing and home care. We have always had their backs and will continue to deliver for seniors now and into the future.
    Mr. Speaker, sadly eastern Ontario provides a perfect example of how the Liberals have mismanaged the housing file under their watch. In five years the average price of a home in the Cornwall area has doubled to over $400,000. The Liberals boasted their plan is working, but the problem is only getting worse, not better. A realtor told me that one house in Cornwall recently had 13 offers in just four days and got way over the asking price.
    As housing prices keep skyrocketing in this country, when will the Liberals realize that their plan to flood the market with cheap cash just is not working?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives face a leadership problem on this issue. They have never spoken about affordable housing. They did not invest adequately in all their time in office. In their election campaign platform, the words “affordable housing” did not show up, neither did they show up in their opposition house motion. We have invested more than any other government. We brought the national housing strategy into existence. We are investing to make sure that there is more supply in the market, and we will continue to work with all provinces and territories, and the municipalities and non-profit sector, to ensure every Canadian has a safe and affordable place to call home.
    Mr. Speaker, I am deeply concerned that young families across Canada are giving up the dream of ever owning a home. Nowhere is this more true than metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, the epicentre of Canada's housing affordability crisis. People like Alison in my riding, who just in the last year saw house prices increase by more than the amount of money she and her partner were able to save up for a down payment, are falling further behind through no fault of their own.
    When will the government get to work tackling the real problem: inflation?
    Mr. Speaker, every time we have brought a measure into the House to help Canadians through programs like the Canada housing benefit to help people with rent, the first-time homebuyer incentive, the rapid housing initiative and many other housing programs as part of the national housing strategy, every single time the Conservatives have voted against those measures, yet they stand here today pretending to care about affordable housing solutions for Canadians. We can see through their rhetoric. We will continue to work to make sure that we build on our record investments in housing and continue to make sure the national housing strategy succeeds for Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, that minister's ability to revise history is absolutely remarkable. Housing prices are rising out of reach, especially for young people and new Canadians. Today, the average price across Canada is over $720,000, with big city averages over $1 million. The government's policies are causing record inflation and reducing the ability of working Canadians to save for a down payment.
    Will the government put the brakes on its out-of-control spending, get serious about inflation and implement measures to make the dream of owning a home a reality?
    Mr. Speaker, what is remarkable is the astronomical gap between the Conservatives' rhetoric and their voting record. They voted against every single measure to build more affordable housing, to put more money in the pockets of Canadian renters to help them pay their rent, to build more housing for the most vulnerable and, yes, to allow more young Canadians to access their dream of home ownership through the first-time homebuyer incentive. Instead of offering leadership, they vote against affordable housing policies every single time, yet get up in the House of Commons and pretend to care about housing. We see through their rhetoric and so do Canadians.

[Translation]

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, right now, the government is cutting the guaranteed income supplement for seniors who legitimately collected CERB. Some seniors are not filling their prescriptions or having a hard time paying the rent. This despite the fact that, in December, the government admitted its mistakes and announced it would compensate the victims of this injustice, though not until May 2022.
    Now that the government has admitted it was wrong to cut these people's GIS benefits, why is it still cutting people off in January, February, March and April?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we can all agree on just how difficult and challenging this pandemic has been for seniors, particularly those most vulnerable. That is why we worked extremely hard to strengthen income security for seniors, including with increases to their GIS, which has helped over 900,000 low-income seniors. Last summer, we provided direct and immediate support for seniors and, as announced in the fiscal update, we will be delivering, as soon as possible, a one-time payment to those who received pandemic benefits in 2020 and saw a reduction. We have been there for seniors, and we will continue to have their backs.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, at this very moment, some seniors are having to cut back on groceries because the federal government has taken away their guaranteed income supplement. The people who get the GIS are not rich. They do not have a bunch of credit cards they can max out while they wait for the federal apparatus to give their money back. They make sacrifices every day and have been doing so for eight months. The government told them it was wrong to cut them off for eight months, but they will have to put up with it for another four months. We knew the government had no backbone, but today it is clear it does not have a heart either.
    How can the minister live with this?

  (1500)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have had the backs of seniors with the greatest needs since the day we formed government, and we will continue to help those low-income seniors make ends meet.
    We recognize that some seniors who took pandemic benefits because they needed them are now facing difficulties. That is exactly why we will be delivering, as soon as possible, a one-time payment to those who received benefits in 2020 and saw a reduction. This automatic, one-time payment will help support affected seniors by compensating them for the full loss of their guaranteed income supplement. We will always be there to support seniors.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, applicants for the federal skilled worker program are not being invited to apply under express entry, even though foreign work permits, study permits and temporary resident visas continue to be processed. This is adding to the pain of the families who remain separated, a labour shortage that is hurting Canadian businesses and refugees who remain stranded and feel hopeless.
    Will the minister stop patting himself on the back for a job well failed and apologize for the hardships his government has caused to the nearly two million applicants stuck in the mismanagement of this Liberal-made backlog?
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the hon. member and what I would say is a ginned-up question and theatrical performance, our focus throughout this pandemic has been to use the immigration system to continue to meet the needs of the Canadian economy. At a time when our borders were closed to protect the public's health, we pivoted to a strategy that started welcoming more people who were already inside Canada so that our businesses could rely on access to the talent they need to succeed. What is the result? It is that 107% of the jobs that were lost during the pandemic have now been recovered compared with only 82% in the United States.
    We will continue to leverage immigration to fulfill the needs of our economy, and I hope that member will work with me to achieve that outcome.
    Mr. Speaker, my office has been flooded with meetings, calls and emails about Immigration Canada and the buildup of almost two million applications that have not been processed. This has led to processing times of more than two years, and the applicants are running out of time. These delays are costly and highly stressful not only for the people applying but for many workplaces too.
    We had a great reputation as a country for international students and those seeking citizenship and permanent residency. What is this government doing right now to stop victimizing some of the world's most vulnerable?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question is rather timely given that, Monday of last week, I announced details of the $85 million that was set aside in the recent economic and fiscal update to address processing capacity within the department. The money that we are going to be investing is going to improve processing times for work permits, for study permits and for permanent residency cards, improve the timelines for temporary visitors coming, and allow quicker processing of proof of citizenship. New measures are going to be coming online in the months ahead that will allow individual applicants to access information about their files through digital means.
    The future looks bright when it come to immigration to Canada and—
    The hon. member for Brantford—Brant.
    Mr. Speaker, Immigration Canada faces an unprecedented backlog under the Liberal government. Nearly two million applications are in the queue. My office receives dozens of calls every week. During a time of catastrophic labour shortages, thousands of foreign workers and Canadian employers are waiting years to get their applications processed.
    When will the Liberal government fix this Liberal-made immigration system and clear its historic backlog?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's outrage is manufactured at best. The reality of the situation is that the pandemic caused unprecedented pressures on our immigration system because we were trying to welcome a record number of newcomers at a time when our border was closed to protect the public's health and well-being against the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
    By pivoting to an internal strategy to process more people, we were able to resettle more than 400,000 new permanent residents, an all-time record in Canada. Going forward, we are going to continue to make the investments necessary so that newcomers can arrive in Canada and make the kinds of contributions they have been making to our economy and our communities for generations.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

Tourism Industry

    Mr. Speaker, we want to welcome tourists from around the world back to Canada once it is safe to do so.
    Tourists seeking incredible destinations and experiences and world-class events will find what they are looking for in Canada and my fantastic riding, Acadie—Bathurst. Furthermore, Canada has the highest vaccination rate of all countries.
    Can the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance tell members about the measures we are taking to welcome tourists back to Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Acadie—Bathurst is quite right. Canada has what tourists want right now: safe places to visit that offer unrivalled experiences and landscapes.
    Destination Canada is promoting Canada to the world. To that end, our government gave Destination Canada $100,000 over three years to expand its marketing campaigns and encourage more people to explore our magnificent country and everything it has to offer.
    We are supporting the tourism sector, and we will continue to do so.

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, white-collar criminals from around the globe love to launder their money in Canada. Experts say it is a billion-dollar-a-year industry and growing, and much of it ends up in our real estate, which drives up the cost of housing. In 2021, government agencies, including FINTRAC, reduced their real estate money laundering audits by 64%.
    Does the government take money laundering seriously or are we telling global criminals that Canada is open for business?
    Mr. Speaker, our government absolutely takes money laundering in Canada and foreign money in our real estate market very seriously. That is why in the budget that I tabled last April, we took action to put in place a beneficial ownership registry. That is a strong and firm commitment of our government.
    I also want to point out that in legislation currently being debated in the House, we are imposing a tax on vacant property owned by non-residents. We are acting. I would like the Conservatives to support us.
    Mr. Speaker, John, a constituent in my riding, has been a firearm owner for over 50 years. He served in the military and never had an issue related to the firearms he has owned. Many criminals in Canada purchase illegal handguns and commit crimes anywhere from armed robbery to murder and the government does nothing to stop them.
    When will the Liberal government start punishing criminals instead of law-abiding citizens and remove the order in council so that John can sell his firearms?
    Mr. Speaker, we have consistently introduced responsible legislation on firearms to make sure that the laws in place protect Canadians and that lawful firearms ownership is also protected, but that, like all forms of rights and freedoms in our society, comes with reasonable restrictions. Just as in any other element of life, that is what we do with firearms because our priority is the safety of Canadians and making sure that we do not let ideology get in the way of making decisions for public safety.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, it is time for the divisive Liberals to heal the wounds they have inflicted upon Canadians. The Prime Minister has led a campaign of hatred against those who do not agree with his edicts. He has called them unacceptable, misogynists and racist. It is his government that just last week, during Black History Month, refused to condemn the use of blackface.
    Will the Prime Minister end his cruelty to Canadians who simply do not trust him? I ask him to end the mandates.
    Mr. Speaker, again, we should reflect on “end the mandates” because, federally, the mandates that exist mean that, when people get onto an airplane, they have to be vaccinated to protect those around them. That is rooted in irrefutable science. When we look at our ICUs and how full they are with the unvaccinated, I am confused why the member opposite would be against mandates and against making sure that people are protected in public safety.
     If we are talking about division, it seems playing games with science and not giving people clear information about public health is where the games are at. I would encourage the member to instead advise everybody to get vaccinated and help get us out of this pandemic.

  (1510)  

COVID-19 Protests

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians with disabilities living in Ottawa are being disproportionately impacted by those occupying the downtown. Para Transpo is unable to reach residents. Individuals with mobility issues have been unable to leave their homes, and some are now are fearing they will not be able to receive home care. People's lives and well-being are at stake, but instead of trying to help resolve the situation, the Conservatives are emboldening demonstrators. Leaked emails show their new leader does not want them to leave, as they want to continue making it a problem for political gain.
    Could the Minister of Disability Inclusion please inform the House about what needs to be done to ensure persons with disabilities living in Ottawa are no longer held hostage in their own homes?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek has a really important question. These demonstrations have had a serious impact on the health and safety of Ottawa citizens with disabilities. Whether it is access to home care, other supports, food delivery or Para Transpo, this is serious. People are homebound and do not have food or access to their much needed supports.
    I urge all members in the House from all parties to support our most vulnerable citizens and tell the demonstrators that it is time to go home.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, my NDP colleagues and I wrote a letter to the Minister of Environment about the Roberts Bank terminal 2 project on the Fraser River delta. We pointed out that critical information gathered by the minister's own scientists has been hidden from the public in the assessment process. The information showed that this project would result in irremediable damage to the local environment and endanger the species living there.
    Would the minister stop muzzling scientists, make this information public and extend the consultation process?
    Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague knows, this process has been an ongoing environmental assessment for the past number of years. It has proceeded through a whole range of different phases. It is now in the process of coming toward a decision.
    Certainly we will be considering all of the science, including science with respect to migratory birds, the impacts of noise and other issues that have arisen throughout the course of the process and on which the panel has provided information.

COVID-19 Economic Measures

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Performing artists have contacted me about the seriousness of their situation during COVID. There is no fallback plan. This is their livelihoods. The arts community is an integral part of the economy and the additional funding is a positive step for sector resilience, but we are far from the end of this crisis.
    Is the minister considering holding a national conference on the performing arts to ascertain the best course of action moving forward?
    Mr. Speaker, we have said it, and I will say it once again. We will not leave anyone behind, especially our artists, creators or our arts and culture sector. Supporting them is my biggest priority. Last week we launched the Canada performing arts workers resilience fund. It is a $60-million program tailor-made for the arts and culture sector. We have different programs for them, and we will always—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I am having a hard time hearing the minister. I will have to ask him to start over so we can get the full answer.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we will not leave anyone behind, especially not our artists, creators or arts and culture workers. Supporting them, as I have said many times, is my biggest priority. We have launched the Canada performing arts workers resilience fund, a special fund that, coupled with others, is there to support artists. We will never leave anyone behind.

[Translation]

Board of Internal Economy

    I have the honour to inform the House that the following members, representatives of the Conservative caucus, have been appointed as members of the Board of Internal Economy for the purposes and under the provisions of section 50 of the Parliament of Canada Act: Mr. John Brassard, replacing Mr. Gérard Deltell; and Mr. Blaine Calkins, replacing Mr. Blake Richards.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1515)  

[English]

Arab Heritage Month Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour and a privilege to rise in the House of Commons to introduce my private member's bill, which would establish the month of April in Canada as Arab heritage month.
    The first persons of Arab origin arrived in Canada in 1882 in the early years after Confederation some 140 years ago. Since then, the population of Arab Canadians has grown to well over one million and continues to flourish.
    Arab Canadians from all walks of life have made important contributions to Canada's social, economic and political life and to the cultural fabric of Canada, including through literature, music, food and fashion.
    This bill would recognize and celebrate the historic mark Arab Canadians have made and continue to make in building our wonderful Canadian society.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Criminal Code

    She said: Mr. Speaker, it is with immense gratitude that I introduce my very important bill to amend the Criminal Code and the Judges Act. I want to thank my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington for supporting it.

[English]

    This bill would protect women against intimate partner violence. In Canada, a woman is murdered every two and a half days, and of the women murdered, 50% are killed by intimate partners.

[Translation]

    Of those women, 22% are killed within 18 months of the separation.

[English]

    This bill would amend the Criminal Code to require a justice to consider whether it is desirable to include as a condition, before making a release order, that the accused wear an electronic monitoring device when the offence they are charged with is against their intimate partner.

[Translation]

    This bill would also amend the Judges Act to provide for continuing education seminars for judges on matters related to intimate partner violence and coercive control.

[English]

    It is our duty to protect these vulnerable Canadians and allow them to feel safe.
    I call on all parliamentarians to support this vital initiative and send the message that violence against women will not be tolerated.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today. I need to first thank the member for Foothills and the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for their assistance with this bill.
    I call this bill the fairness for farmers act. It would cut the carbon tax on the natural gas and propane used to dry grain, condition grain and heat livestock barns. For far too long, farmers have paid tens of thousands of dollars of carbon tax to provide food for Canadian families, and it is time to right that wrong.
    We all know farmers are price takers. They are not price makers. They cannot pass these charges along to the consumer. They only take it out of their profit margin at the end of the year. It is time to change this.
    The Liberals' plan is going to be a failure. It is not fair. It is not equitable. Farmers are always asked to be the line of credit, whether it is on HST, GST, AgriStability or any other farm program. They are going to be asked to be the line of credit on this as well, and it is not right.
    Let us just do the right thing. Let us recognize the tremendous environmental actions and benefits farmers provide to Canadians. Let us support them. Let us do the right thing to get this passed through the Senate.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1520)  

Building a Green Prairie Economy Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, it is with enthusiasm and hope that I introduce a private member's bill called “building a green prairie economy act”.
    Among the many lessons and reflections about battling COVID-19, one is that Canadians want their governments at all levels to work together toward a common goal. This bill captures that sentiment and mandates the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, along with colleagues, to build a framework that includes provincial and municipal governments, first nations and Métis governing bodies, the private sector and its employees, and leaders in civil society to work together building a green economy on the Prairies. This bill offers the scope and the challenge of uniting and inspiring us. I look forward to the debate.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

VIA Rail Canada Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, as the title of the bill is uninspiring, let me take a few moments to share why this bill is so important.
    The United States has its national railway system, Amtrak, which operates under a statute that makes it a priority and in fact gives a mandate to passenger rail to operate across the country, providing good service from coast to coast in the United States. In Canada, VIA Rail has operated as a Crown corporation with no legislation at all. Previous MPs, including Olivia Chow and Irene Mathyssen, have tried to bring forward bills that would give VIA Rail the proper mandate.
    Right now, VIA Rail operates at a very high level of success in the Windsor-to-Quebec corridor. In the rest of Canada, we essentially have an antique railway that would make a third world country somewhat ashamed of the service. It is terribly sad, because we have a wonderful railway with beautiful scenery, and it can be affordable for Canadians coast to coast. We have terrific workers, working hard as VIA Rail employees and members of Unifor.
    We need to give VIA Rail a legislated mandate so that parts of it cannot be carved up and given away to private tourism enterprises. As a modern, industrialized, low-carbon country, we need to meet the expectations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We urgently need better bus service as well. We urgently need VIA Rail to provide passenger rail service, reliably and affordably, coast to coast.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1525)  

[Translation]

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, the bill I am introducing protects the provinces, especially Quebec, from the biggest threat to their autonomy. This threat is the so‑called federal spending power.
    First, under this bill, Quebec is exempt from any standards that the federal government imposes under the Canada Health Act, including the upcoming standards on long-term care homes.
    Second, this bill amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. Quebec and any provinces that so desire will be able to withdraw, with full compensation, from federal programs in their exclusive areas of jurisdiction to regain their autonomy in the areas where they are meant to be autonomous.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Act Respecting the French Language

    She said: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I introduce this bill, entitled an act respecting the French language. This bill will subject federally regulated businesses to the Charter of the French Language.
    Members will recall that Quebec workers, except those who are federally regulated, are entitled to all the protections of Bill 101. In our opinion, that shortcoming must be corrected.
    I am also proposing that adequate knowledge of the French language be a citizenship requirement for permanent residents who choose Quebec. Nations around the world, including Canada, choose the host language. The Quebec nation warmly welcomes new citizens in French.
    I look forward to debating these measured and reasonable provisions with my colleagues from the other parties.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is well known that Quebeckers are the only ones who have to file two income tax returns come tax time. The desire for a single tax return administered by one specific government, in this case the Government of Quebec, is gaining traction. With this change, Quebeckers would only have to file one tax return, and one government would be responsible for collecting the other government's taxes.
     The idea of moving to a single tax collection system reached a pivotal point on May 15, 2018, when the Parti Québécois MNA for Sanguinet introduced a motion calling for a single tax return in the Quebec National Assembly. This motion was unanimously adopted.
    Subsequent polls showed that more than 70% of Quebeckers were in favour of a single tax return administered by the Government of Quebec.
    Lastly, the Research Institute on Self-Determination of Peoples and National Independence conducted a study in 2020 that showed that a single tax return in Quebec would save more than $425 million a year.
    This bill would finally allow Quebeckers to file a single return, which would be administered by the Government of Quebec.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1530)  

[English]

Income Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to introduce my private member's bill, the supporting Canadian charities act. This bill would help charities across Canada access up to $200 million a year in additional donations.
    During COVID-19, many charities have had to suspend or limit important services that they provide. Many Canadian charities are struggling to raise much-needed funds during this pandemic, leaving charities across Canada struggling. This bill would help charities by waiving the capital gains tax on an arm's-length sale of private shares or real estate when the proceeds of that sale are donated to a charity, in much the same way as donations of publicly traded shares are currently treated.
    Many stakeholders have endorsed this bill, including Diabetes Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Imagine Canada, just to name a few.
    To look at my private member's bill further, members are invited to visit the website for the bill, the supporting Canadian charities act.
    The bottom line is that when charities are hurting, people are hurting. Let us all work together in the spirit of giving and help people by supporting the charitable sector.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics 

    Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, be concurred in.
    Last week, the committee tabled its report, which included a motion that was unanimously adopted by all committee members, including four Liberals, four Conservatives, one New Democrat and one Bloc Québécois member, me. I will read the motion for everyone to hear:
    
    That the committee call upon the government to suspend the Public Health Agency of Canada's cellular data tender upon adoption of this motion, and that the tender shall not be re-offered until it the committee reports to the House that it is satisfied that the privacy of Canadians will not be affected, and that the committee report the adoption of this motion to the House at the earliest opportunity.
    Let me repeat that this motion passed unanimously. This is important, because protecting Canadians' personal information and data is an issue that crosses partisan divides.
    Last Tuesday, February 1, I walked across the floor of this House and handed the Minister of Health a letter asking him to comply with the motion adopted unanimously, I repeat, by the committee.
     On Thursday, during question period here in the House, I twice asked the Minister of Health if he was prepared to suspend the RFP or at least comply with the motion put forward by the committee. Twice, the Minister of Health avoided responding.
    A little later that day, I put the same question to him during his appearance before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which met an hour later, and he once again avoided answering. As we all know, no answer is an answer.
    On that occasion, the Minister of Health told us that the data he was using had been de-identified and was acceptable from a privacy protection point of view. When we asked him questions about where the data were from, things were less clear. The Minister of Health just repeated that the data were properly de-identified.
    This morning, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, appeared before the committee. Members asked him if the Public Health Agency of Canada had consulted him. He said the agency informed him of its plans. The agency did not seek his advice; it informed him. The commissioner offered to provide advisory services to the Public Health Agency, but his services were not retained. As is the agency's prerogative, it chose to use external legal advice. It was the agency's choice not to get involved, but the commissioner did seem a little rankled this morning. Given that the Privacy Commissioner represents an institution created by the government, one might think his advice would be welcomed by government entities. Not in this case.
    For the purposes of the discussion, let us look at the facts. In March 2020, a private contract was concluded between the Public Health Agency of Canada and Telus, more specifically with its Data for Good program, a part of the organization that manages Telus data and offers that data to such entities as the Government of Canada. A private contract was signed—without a tendering process to be clear—to obtain tracked data.
    In 2020, 33 million cell phones were monitored. That represents 87% of Canadians' cell phones in this case. No one knew about it. This was done with a total lack of transparency. On December 17, 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada issued a request for proposals to select a data tracking provider. That RFP was brought to our attention by the National Post and Radio-Canada between December 18 and 22, with both news outlets questioning the ethics of this endeavour.

  (1535)  

    We took the time to do our homework, do some reading and take a look at what was happening. On December 23, the Bloc Québécois issued a press release to express its concerns about the RFP to renew an existing three-year contract allowing the data to be used beyond the pandemic.
    It is funny, because last week I asked Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, when the pandemic would end. She obviously did not have an answer. I also asked her who would decide when the pandemic was over. She also did not have an answer to that and was surprised by the question.
    Given this lack of answers, we realized that the tender could allow the data to be used indefinitely, since no one knew when the pandemic would end. Obviously I am still concerned. I want to note that I have no preconceived notions on the matter, but I really wanted to continue with this work.
    During the Christmas break, the Bloc Québécois members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics requested that a meeting be held, and our request was agreed to. In the new year, the committee met to evaluate the use of data and unanimously agreed to undertake a study. This study began last week with a view to determining whether there was a privacy breach. The Minister of Health and Dr. Tam appeared before the committee, and the study continued this morning with the appearance of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, and a renowned researcher in this field. The work will continue until April.
    The committee also adopted a motion, which I read out earlier, calling for the suspension of the RFP until the committee can examine the situation. I should note that the RFP deadline was January 22. As soon as the committee began its study, this deadline was extended to February 2. After another meeting to determine the committee's future business, it was extended to February 4. Last week, the minister announced that the RFP deadline would be extended to February 18.
    The health crisis was often invoked as as a reason the the RFP cannot be suspended, but Dr. Tam nevertheless told the committee that the delay had little effect on the information obtained from the data in question, since the data would be retrospectively looked at. She did not seem concerned about the possibility of suspending the RFP, and she was not against it. We therefore moved a motion to suspend the RFP and this motion was passed unanimously so that the committee could get to the bottom of this matter.
    That brings us to the meetings with the minister. I remind members that the only response to the committee members' many questions was that the data had been de-identified. When members asked questions about where the data had been obtained and who had had access to it, the only answers we got were vague and evasive, which I find demonstrates the minister's lack of accountability.
    There is an old saying in philosophy that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. If the data used by the Public Health Agency of Canada was de-identified, we had to wonder who had access to the data and what kinds of protocols were used, if any. The committee did not get an answer.
    Dr. Tam said that the data being used would not be very useful and that it would not be the end of the world if the RFP were suspended while the study is carried out.
    Privacy is basically a question of ethics. Ethics is essentially about trying to figure out what to do in difficult circumstances, what the right thing to do is, what to do when you do not have all the information and you are not quite sure where you stand. The precautionary principle applies, obviously.
    In its hearings so far, the committee has noted that the government is avoiding the issue, as it would prefer not to deal with it.

  (1540)  

    Facts are facts. The motion, which was adopted unanimously, called for the RFP to be suspended while the committee conducts its study. Here I am in the House a week later, seeking the House's consent to implement the motion.
    I might be a little naive on this subject, but it seems to me that governments should set an example. I know the interpreters hate it when I do this, but when we look at the Latin roots of the word “example”, it translates as “being able to do as I do”. In other words, the government should be able to do what all of us would do, namely make a reasonable decision.
    Opaqueness, non-transparency, and layers of secrecy hiding behind every detail are the antithesis of transparency. The Privacy Commissioner told us this morning that there were best practices in this area. There is no reason to believe that they were violated. Beyond best practices, however, there was also transparency and the desire to do the right thing. These two aspects should have been demonstrated but are still missing here.
    I have asked various experts, including the Privacy Commissioner, about this, and what really bothers me is that we all know it is impossible to obtain consent from 33 million people in this kind of situation. The government says this condition is fulfilled when people click on the “I agree” button, yet everyone knows as well as I do that it pretty much takes a master of laws degree to understand what we are actually agreeing to. It is also reasonable to believe that cellphone users did not consent to their data being used for purposes other than those required by the cellphone company to provide a service. It is impossible to conclude that presumed consent is the same as consent. Presumed consent is not consent.
    This morning, the commissioner told us about the concept of “meaningful consent”. Meaningful consent is impossible to obtain. It may be impossible to obtain, but there is a spectrum between doing nothing and doing something impossible. All kinds of elements can be put into play so that at least things are out in the open. The government did not implement or put forward any of those elements.
    What is the crux of this matter? When we talk about privacy, we expect that people will be able to provide information in good faith, believing in good faith that it will be used for the stated purposes. We are talking about trust. We are talking about a person's ability to trust their cellular service provider, let alone their government.
    Properly defined, trust is the action of delegating one's future to someone else. When we delegate our future to the government, we expect it to act responsibly. We do not expect the government to potentially hide behind some obscure legal provision stating that, once the data is disaggregated, anonymized or any other such term that is incomprehensible to lay people, it can wash its hands of it. That is not right.
    In such cases, opaqueness leads not to trust, but to distrust. Members know as well as I do that, in the end, distrust leads to defiance, the kind of defiance we can see outside Parliament.
    I believe that the government is not being transparent, and that is the reason for our request. I believe that opacity reigns and that if we want to make sense of the government's actions, we have to be able to go further. Making sense of it means clearing the air, throwing light on the matter, but right now, we are lost in the fog.
    Failing to suspend the RFP is to maintain all this opaqueness. Failing to suspend the RFP would be to perpetuate the mistake, or at the very least, the appearance of a mistake. Failing to suspend the RFP is, above all, to show contempt for the committee's work. Failing to suspend the RFP is to disregard the unanimity of the committee. The government cannot simply wash its hands of such a situation by ignoring questions or trying to do indirectly what it cannot do directly.
    It was disturbing to hear the Privacy Commissioner say this morning that he was informed but not consulted. He did not provide his opinion. In fact, he is investigating the matter now.

  (1545)  

    It is troubling that one of the most powerful officers of Parliament is not being asked to contribute. On the contrary, he has been sidelined. I therefore ask hon. members to support the committee's motion.
    Let me reveal another small detail. A member of the committee asked me the other day, when I moved the motion, whether it was meant to undermine this. The answer is obviously no. It is not to undermine anything. Are we asking to suspend the RFP forever? The answer is no, it is not forever either.
    The RFP needs to be suspended until the committee can shed light on the situation and bring the matter out of obscurity. What we are asking for is not malicious. On the contrary, it is to allow the government to demonstrate its good faith, if necessary, or to correct the situation, if necessary.
    Ultimately, I will ask my colleagues to please support the motion at the end of the debate.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois. I share his wish, as one of the members of that committee who participated in the unanimous vote, to press pause on this procurement, where I would suggest there is a lack of clarity in exactly what the government has requested and how this data has been handled.
    My question to my colleague is this. When it comes to the specifics of that data, what are some of the concerns he has regarding the privacy of Canadians being put at risk because of the lack of clarity the government has given on this particular RFP and the greater revelations of mobility data being used over the course of the pandemic?

  (1550)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. Those are very valid points, and my concerns are twofold. I am referring to the source and the end of the process.
    First, at the source, there is not a modicum of user consent. Then, the point my colleague raises is very important. A number of experts have told us that once data has been de-identified, which is a new word I learned recently that means anonymized, the de-identified data can easily be re-identified, emphasis on the word easily. I am not making this up, it comes from a witness who will be testifying at committee shortly. If de-identified data can be re-identified, then honestly, we are in trouble when it comes to privacy, because there is no longer any protection.
    Of course we want to ensure that the process has been done properly and that if it has, the data cannot be used for other purposes. For example, we want to ensure that it cannot be used after the pandemic.
    I am not feeling at all reassured at this time. In fact, I am concerned. The origin of the data, the processing of the data and the manner in which the data will be used have me concerned.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House virtually today.

[Translation]

    I am grateful to have the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to how the Government of Canada has started using mobility data and why a request for proposal—

[English]

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. Apparently, there is no translation.
    Is the hon. parliamentary secretary starting his speech?
    Yes.
    We are in questions and comments.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
    Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to what the member was saying. He made reference to some concerns he had with respect to the Privacy Commissioner.
    My question to the member is this. Are there specific things that were expressed by the Privacy Commissioner, regarding the data or the agreement, that concern the member or the Bloc party? Would he be able to highlight something specific the Privacy Commissioner said, outside of being consulted?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, outside of being consulted, the commissioner was uncomfortable.
     He obviously could not comment on a large part of how the data was handled because of an ongoing investigation. However, I will say that he showed concern throughout his testimony. I asked him whether other countries had more effective protections than Canada does, and his answer was a sharp “yes”. I knew this already, having worked on these types of protections with the European community in the past.
    The commissioner was concerned about how the data was disaggregated and reaggregated. A lot of technical terms were used, but in essence, he was saying that he was concerned and could not comment on some things because of the ongoing investigation.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is rare to have a subject matter expert to work with at committee. I know this was the member's past area of study and expertise, and he is in fact an author on it. I take special note of the member's perspective. He feels compelled to bring this critical issue to the House, and rightfully so, given the timelines we have on procurement.
    What may be considered legal is not always ethical. Can the member expand on his concerns about the use of data in this way, and why he feels it necessary to allow the committee to fully explore this before the government moves forward with the procurement contract?

  (1555)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    As he said, just because something is legal does not necessarily make it right. What may be considered legal is not always ethical. I tend to say that legality is the bare minimum. In this case, is the bare minimum enough?
    Since there are many other places with harsher and more comprehensive privacy regulations, I felt concerned in light of the commissioner's response and the use of this data. I think this is a real problem. Data use is something that happens; it is not a major crime. However, we do need to reflect on this because this issue will come up again.
     In previous reports, like his latest annual report, the commissioner said that the federal legislation was inadequate and called for it to be updated to reflect the new reality of big data, for example.
    For these reasons, I remain concerned, since it seems as though the bare minimum is being done here.
     Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières.
    This is a very relevant issue. The government is using data to protect public health because of the pandemic. At the same time, protecting people's privacy is a major challenge. I think that the member is right in saying that it would be a good idea to examine this issue in committee.
    I just want to say that I am not sure the government made a mistake. However, the issues are relevant and I think they are new.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments.
    Like her, I am not presuming that a mistake has been made. I am simply saying that it is important to shed some light on this issue.
    What happened is that the government had to make a very tough decision and find a balance between two difficult situations: protecting public health, which is very important, and protecting people's privacy. Those are both very important things. What we want to know is how the government reconciled these two needs.
    Like my hon. colleague, I am definitely not presuming that a mistake was made, but we need to ask these questions. We are here to shed some light on the situation.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague.
    It is interesting and really quite something to listen to an expert in this field, an ethicist who is well known in Quebec, Canada and around the world.
    My question is quite simple. I am new to this field, but I think the process would have been more transparent if the government, whether it be the Minister of Health or his staff, had been clearer and more forthcoming in its explanations.
    Why would the government want to continue keeping us in the dark?
    In my colleague's view, what does the government stand to gain from the lack of transparency on this RFP?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    Opaqueness and transparency are two things that we talk a lot about in ethics. It is said that if something has to be opaque to succeed, it is probably less ethical than something that can stand up to transparency and light.
    I do not know why the government is dragging things out because, honestly, in its place, I would follow the unanimous recommendation of the committee and shed some light on the situation and, if necessary, prove that everything was done properly. I want to reiterate that I am not presuming that a mistake was made. I would just like confirmation that everything was done properly.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, back home people say, “Be quiet around your phone. China might be listening”, but it turns out that our own government happens to be listening.
    I am just wondering this. What does the member have to say about the fact that, right here at home, we have to be worried about how our data is being used by our own government?

  (1600)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    Once again, I am not presuming that the government would misuse the data, but it is showing a lack of transparency and a desire to maintain that lack of transparency. As an ethicist, that concerns me.
    Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise in the House to talk about how the Government of Canada started using mobility data and the reasons why a request for proposal was issued.

[English]

    Our government has seen that using health data to support an effective pandemic response has been a constant challenge. Stakeholders and experts have repeatedly stated that there is a data deficit needing to be filled to make evidence-based decisions in the public health system. They also state that public health data is “fragmented, outdated, not disaggregated, and not timely”. The lack of a common, coherent approach for our health data across the country is contributing to lagging health outcomes for people in Canada, escalating sector costs, expanding health inequities and slowing innovation in Canada's health sector.
    The ethical use of mobility data is one element needed to address this problem. During this pandemic, our researchers and infectious disease modellers have used the aggregated data to track the existing spread of the virus and estimate where it is most likely to surge. This has helped to inform our policy and public health responses in a positive way. We as a government are not unique in using de-identified population-level mobility data for this purpose. Countries around the world, and even local governments in Canada, are using mobility data to help guide their response to the pandemic.
    The mobility data that our government uses does not include any personal information. It cannot identify individuals and the data cannot be re-engineered to identify any person. I want to be clear: We do not ask for, nor do we receive, any personal information as part of the mobility data we use. We contract for commercially available data that is de-identified and aggregated only. With only de-identified data, we have absolutely no way of knowing or following the actions of individual Canadians.
    When people turn on or use their mobile or cellular phone, their phone connects with the closest cellphone tower. When a cellphone is moved, the tower is connecting with it and that can change. Their phone will always look for the closest tower to connect with. Telecommunications companies, as part of their day-to-day business operations, manage and collect this information in order to monitor and maintain their services for their customers. Telecommunications companies also have the ability to take this private business information and remove the information that would connect a phone to a person or to a personal address. The cellular companies' data is stripped down to only the signal or a signal location when moving. There is no personal data included. The data has been de-identified.
    These de-identification and aggregation steps protect the privacy of individual Canadians. Companies sell this de-identified data to governments, scientists and researchers to support research and knowledge of how policies, trends and environmental changes impact people. Similarly, some companies make data collected from smart phone applications commercially available. Once again, every effort is made to make sure that the data is de-identified and aggregated so that users cannot be identified.
    Once again, I would like to stress that when we purchase this data, it is de-identified and aggregated. We do not ask for and do not accept personal mobility information. The data we receive is in the form of a report. It is a table with percentages and proportions for geographic areas over a time period of 24 hours or more. There is no way to trace this back to individuals.
    The Public Health Agency of Canada purchases this data to better understand how people are reacting to public health measures and how population-level movements affect the spread of COVID-19. Mobility data is a complementary data source that works alongside health, case and epidemiological data to support situational awareness. For example, when we analyze mobility data and outbreak data together, the agency can see trends of higher or lower mobility that can help us to predict future COVID cases. This helps us to evaluate the effectiveness of public health measures.
    The Public Health Agency of Canada generates reports and summaries from this data, and we share them with Canadians and with provincial and territorial governments to empower everyone to make the best possible decisions during this very trying time. The Government of Canada has been transparently publishing mobility information as part of the COVIDTrends web page since December 2020. The site has seen more than 1.7 million visits and is easily accessed through the popular WeatherCAN app.
    COVIDTrends data gives Canadians information they need to best manage their personal lives during the pandemic. It also gives them the ability to know what is happening where they live with respect to COVID-19. The Public Health Agency of Canada has also made announcements about this work on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, throughout the pandemic. Mobility data on the site shows changes in population movement from one week to the next in the selected area. This change in movement may help us understand the risks associated with COVID-19 transmission.

  (1605)  

    There are limitations to using this data, as it cannot determine if public health measures such as wearing a mask were followed while someone was moving. As I mentioned, the data, because it is completely de-identified, cannot consider population differences such as age, gender or income level.
    Before I conclude, I want to take a minute to talk about the importance of privacy. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the privacy of individuals with respect to the personal information that is under their control. We recognize that this is an essential element in maintaining public trust. The Public Health Agency of Canada requested data with no personal or identifying information. To further protect privacy, the agency also used a multibarrier approach with regard to the source of the data, along with the data pipeline, and prior to it being received. The Public Health Agency of Canada requires mobility data vendors to apply robust data and aggregation controls to ensure anonymity prior to them sending data so that the agency does not receive any identifying information. Any company selling data within Canada is subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which is consent-based legislation.

[Translation]

    In this day and age, we are creating data every time we use our smart phones. It is only natural for people to be concerned about who is accessing that data and what they are using it for.

[English]

    I want to assure Canadians that the mobility data the Public Health Agency of Canada is using does not contain their personal information or any personal information. The agency cannot link the data to any individuals.
    Mobility data is one of the many tools we are using to fill the data deficit that exists in Canada. It has helped us improve our response to COVID-19, saved the lives of Canadians and protected our health care system.
    Madam Speaker, there are a couple of issues we are dealing with here today, not the least of which is the request to put off the RFP. However, the real challenge is in this de-identified data being collected by telecom companies and the transfer of that information. It may be that when the Public Health Agency of Canada gets that information, it is aggregated and de-identified, but the challenge exists when those companies collect that data.
    There is another challenge with this, and that is the consent of the users. There was no consent given by users to allow the telecom companies to collect this data. It is a challenge that we heard from the Privacy Commissioner this morning. There is a real risk to de-identifying this data. Given that consent was not given, we have to get to the bottom of what security measures and what protocols were put in place to ensure this data was protected.
    Does the parliamentary secretary not see that as a concern, and not see it as a reason to hold off on the RFP until the ethics committee does its work and can be assured that the privacy of Canadians was protected?
    Madam Speaker, like the member from Barrie—Innisfil, I have a smart phone. I have it here, as most people do. I use it for all sorts of things. Sometimes when I google a restaurant to see if it is open, it says the restaurant is a little busier than usual. Sometimes if I am driving in traffic and I check applications like Waze or Google Maps, those applications will tell me there is a better route because there are a lot of people on the highway. That information comes from cellphone data that is aggregated and de-identified. It is the same with every app, and it is commercially available to various agencies and organizations.
    The member said that there is a privacy issue with respect to consent, but we all know that when we are using our cellphone and we put down a check mark, it is a contract in a sense, and that information is available for daily conveniences like Waze or going to a restaurant. Hopefully, we can—

  (1610)  

    We have to go to other questions.
    The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has listed all the benefits of using data, and I have to admit that they are compelling. However, even if the end goal is commendable, part of the problem is that the parliamentary secretary is trivializing the issue. The committee members were unanimous in expressing concerns, and they are now confused. Why did the government not want to work with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

[English]

    I want to acknowledge that the member is an expert in this area. He is an author and probably has a lot to say that is above my level on this subject. However, I do want to say that the issue he has raised is a lot bigger than the usage of this data by the Public Health Agency. He is raising existential issues about using cellphone data, which is worthy of a study at committee. However, I do not think that it should preclude the useful gathering and use of this information to protect Canadians during this very difficult time.
    Madam Speaker, I agree that the hon. member does have a lot say. At committee, five Liberals voted unanimously to support his motion, so I will put a question to the hon. member, the parliamentary secretary, whose French has come a long way. Does he support the motion that was duly passed at committee? Will the department and ministry delay the procurement process until our study is complete, yes or no?
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend from Hamilton Centre for the compliment. I do not have a vote on the committee, as my committee is currently under way, the health committee, so it is not up to me to determine whether this proceeds as such. Personally, I have no problem using my de-identified and aggregated data for this use right now. I have no problem having the procurement of this data go on while the committee studies it. However, this is an issue for the committee to determine, and I welcome the findings of this study. That is what studies and committees are for.
    Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary gives a much different account than the member for Peace River—Westlock did. The member for Peace River—Westlock said the government was listening to our conversations and recording everything we are doing.
    Some hon. member: Are they?
    Mr. Mark Gerretsen: As I say this, members from across the way, who wear tinfoil hats, are yelling, “Are they?” The parliamentary secretary made things very clear when he said that this was de-identified information that had been mined for commercial purposes and is used by other apps.
    Can the member enlighten me as to why he might think the member for Peace River—Westlock wants to believe these trumped-up conspiracy theories that the government is monitoring everybody's individual conversations?
    Madam Speaker, it is because they are conspiracy theorists. Members on the opposite side are always trying to portray the government as having some kind of a conspiracy going on. It is something that I flatly refute and disagree with. I think it is irresponsible of members on the other side to continue to promote these types of ideals when they are actually impossible. It is not feasible. It is not something this government is interested in doing, and it is actually not even possible. I thank my colleague—
    I am going to interrupt the hon. member, as there is a point of order from the hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil.
    Madam Speaker, I seek guidance from you on whether accusing a member of Parliament of being a conspiracy theorist is unparliamentary language.

  (1615)  

    I do not have a list of parliamentary language that would cover the accusation in question. However, I did react a bit when I heard it. I recommend that members be prudent in their usage of language in the House and try not to accuse each other of things that are difficult to deal with right now.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Madam Speaker, let us talk about irresponsible. We hear members of the government say either we believe everything they say or we are with the conspiracy theorists. Might I suggest there is a healthy level of skepticism in between being a believer in conspiracy theories and trusting the government with everything.
    There are a lot of Canadians who legitimately do not trust the government. A report came out last year saying that personal information belonging to 144,000 Canadians was mishandled. This was in an official report and included thousands of Canadians whose data was improperly used by the Canada Revenue Agency. We have over 100,000 verifiable Canadian cases of the government's misuse of data. Then we have the member saying anyone who questions the government on this is wearing a tinfoil hat.
    What about the over 100,000 Canadians who are victims of this abuse of their data? Can the government show a little humility, apologize to the Canadians who have been affected and start being more respectful of those who are concerned?
    Madam Speaker, perhaps there is some confusion about what a conspiracy actually is. A conspiracy is a plot and some kind of a secret to do something unlawful and illegal. That is exactly what the member opposite suggested was going on, that there was some kind of a secret plot to listen to Canadians. That is completely impossible, as I said. It is beyond the pale to continue to promote these types of ideas.
    A study on whether or not to use de-identified, aggregated data is completely within the rights of the committee. It is why committees exist. However, suggesting that the government is listening to Canadians—
    The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I spent 25 years advising governments around the world, and this is the first time I have been called a conspiracy theorist. That is unacceptable.
    The parliamentary secretary keeps telling us there is no problem, but denying the existence of a problem does not make it go away. Earlier, he said that all the information gathered was obtained on the basis of consent.
    This morning, the commissioner told us it was impossible to obtain consent from 33 million people. Being impossible, it is actually not even desirable.
    Was this information obtained on the basis of consent or not?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to apologize to the member from the Bloc Québécois if I insinuated that I was referring to him as a conspiracy theorist. That was, indeed, not my objective. I was referring to the allegation that Canadians are being listened to. That is not something that the member from the Bloc Québécois said during his speech. I listened very attentively to his speech, and I did not hear any sort of conspiracies during it. My apologies if that was construed as an accusation.
    As I said, a study on this matter is warranted. I welcome the findings of the study. I think we could all agree that the experience of the member opposite is a valuable contribution to democracy and this House of Commons.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to thank my colleague from Trois‑Rivières for moving this motion in the House today.
    Before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics did its study, I texted my colleague to say I was looking forward to hearing what he had to say about this because he had a lot of experience and knew the subject matter well. I would like to thank him.

[English]

    We are really seized with this issue, as Canadians have been, since it was first identified in the month of December that the RFP had been issued. The RFP was to continue a practice that many Canadians, in the distraction of a pandemic, had no idea was going on. It was that their mobility data was being collected, in this case by Telus, without their consent or implied consent, and was being utilized to determine a public health response to the COVID-19 crisis.
    We have, for the last several days, been studying the impacts of this at the ethics committee. I will say that there have been some very serious concerns that have been brought up by the experts we have been hearing from, including the Privacy Commissioner. That is why this is such an issue as it relates to the motion that we are dealing with today. We have not gotten to the bottom of the fact of whether this data has been protected in the manner that would be the gold standard for protecting the privacy and security of the data of Canadians. This is why we are focused on this study. During a pandemic, with all of the distractions that are going on, it would be very easy for this information to be utilized in a way that does not protect the privacy of Canadians. The RFP was originally to be finalized by January 21. It got pushed back to February 4, and now it has been pushed back even further.
    At committee, when we dealt with the motion that was presented by my Bloc colleague, there were very solid arguments made as to why this RFP should be pushed back. In fact, the entire committee voted 10 to nothing to push this RFP off until we completed this study, so that not only parliamentarians but Canadians can be assured that the information that was gathered was, in fact, protecting the privacy of Canadians.
    We heard at committee from members of the Liberal Party that the Prime Minister came out in 2020 or 2021 and talked about this information being gathered. It is not an issue of whether the information was gathered. There are governments around the world using data and information to inform their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this one speaks to the fundamental tenet of democracy to make sure that we protect the privacy rights of Canadians. Parliamentarians wanted to get to the bottom of this to make sure that we were protecting those privacy rights.
    The story came out in December that this RFP was being proposed to be extended, and not just in the way it was designed in the first place, which was really for a couple of months, where it was a sole-source contract that was given to, as we found out, Telus. It was going to be extended for up to another five years and collect even more mobility data to determine, as they said in the RFP, the public health response and to determine trends to deal with public health issues going forward.
    It was disturbing not only that this was happening without really the knowledge of Canadians who were distracted during this pandemic, without the consent of Canadians to have their mobility data tracked, but that this was going to go on for another five years. That is why it is important that we get to the bottom of this issue to really be sure and determine whether that mobility data was being protected on behalf of Canadians.

  (1620)  

    My colleague from the Bloc was talking about his initial concern when he saw the RFP. I saw the RFP just a couple of days before Christmas because it was reported in Blacklock's, which, by the way, does great work digging into government contracts. I know that maybe the government does not like the work that it does, but it does great work digging into these contracts. I would hope that if Conservatives were in government, we would be held to the same account on these types of contracts.
    I saw the story and we had discussions among ourselves. As we were heading to the Christmas break, it was awfully difficult, because Canadians were distracted by Christmas, to really push this issue. I determined, as the newly appointed critic for ethics and accountable government, that we were going to wait until after Christmas before we called an emergency meeting of the ethics committee.
    We did, the meeting was granted and, subsequent to that, the study was supported by all members of the committee to make sure that it looked at not just the RFP but another part of this too, which was an update to privacy laws. We heard from the Privacy Commissioner this morning that there does need to be an enhancement of privacy laws. We heard from an expert from the University of Ottawa as well that, as this data is collected, an enhancement of those privacy laws is needed to protect the privacy of Canadians for this data, which can be very useful but comes with some significant pitfalls and risks as well.
    The issue that we are really dealing with is how this information was de-identified and aggregated. The minister was at committee last week and if we were playing the de-identified and aggregated drinking game, we would have been drunk very quickly because that was all we heard from the minister. We did not get any evidence of how this information was de-identified and aggregated. All we got were assurances. Assurances are not enough for the committee. This is why we are asking today that this RFP be cancelled until we find out exactly what is going on.
    We have requested that the telecom companies come in, particularly Telus, to discuss how this information is de-identified and what security measures and protocols are put in place to assure us, as MPs, and Canadians that their information and privacy is being protected. I am looking forward to hearing from the telecom companies, including Telus through its data for good program, how that is done. I am learning a lot about this, as members can imagine, but the information that they collect, as I understand it now, is definitely identifiable. The question that we have is what happens to that information when it is identified and what is the process to de-identify it.
    I have heard from security experts and read reports from around the world. A New York Times report, whose reporters we have asked to come and speak to the ethics committee, talked about being one to two to four points of data away from having that information reidentified. It really is a fascinating subject, but, more importantly, it is important to find out and determine whether that information is being properly protected from the point that it is collected to the hands that it is being passed through.
    We also found out in the course of our study, and it was the parliamentary secretary who wrote us a letter to tell us, no pun intended, just so I am clear, that there was a company that was consolidating all of this data and presenting that information to the government. The company is called BlueDot. My understanding is that it is coming to committee on Thursday and we are going to have a lot of interesting questions to ask.
    As we can see, the information is being collected, de-identified, aggregated and passed on to other hands. If those security measures and protocols are not put in place, and again I am not an expert on this but I have been listening to experts, there is a real risk that information can be commercialized, monetized, reidentified and that personal identifiers and information from that data can be known. It is fairly simple to do.

  (1625)  

    Proposing, as the motion did, to suspend the RFP in my opinion is the right move to make until we find out more. I did not get any comfort from the presentation of the Privacy Commissioner when he appeared at committee today. If anything came out of that meeting today, it is that it really informs the need for us to do a deeper dive on this and suspend the RFP.
     I pulled off some of the questions that were asked of the Privacy Commissioner, and if what the Privacy Commissioner said this morning does not concern the tin-foil hats on this side of the House, as the members of the government like to call us, or the conspiracy theorists, it should be worrisome to members of the government. I will read it into the record, because I think it is important for us to inform our decision in this debate as we vote on this motion when it does come to a vote. Daniel Therrien, who is the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the de facto standard by which privacy protection is utilized in this country, said today that:
    In the case of PHAC's use of mobility data, we were informed of their intent to use data in a de-identified and aggregated way.
    Okay, he was informed. He went on to say that:
     We offered to review the technical means used to de-identify data and to provide advice, which PHAC declined.
    PHAC declined the offer by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to look at the methodology and to provide advice on how this data was being utilized or protected. He went on to say that:
     The government relied on other experts to that end, which is their prerogative.
    It is their prerogative, there is no question about it. My view, and I know the view of the members of our committee, because we spoke afterwards, is that regarding the de facto standard by which privacy legislation is defended and protected, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada should have at least been included in the process so that PHAC, which was accepting this data, and perhaps Telus and BlueDot would have known what proper privacy measures, protocols and security should have been put in place. It may cause a level of concern that his office was merely notified, “Oh, by the way, we're going to be doing this.” “Do you want any help?” “No, we don't want any help.” That is effectively what PHAC was telling the Privacy Commissioner.
    I am not surprised that he also went on to say the following, given the reaction among Canadians and just how troubling this information is as it has become publicly known and people's attention has been given to it:
     Now that we have received complaints alleging violations of privacy, we will turn our attention to the means chosen for de-identification and whether they were appropriate to safeguard against reidentification.
    Since this is under investigation, he obviously was not able to provide us with intimate details of where that investigation lies at this point, but the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was not even notified. The government relied on other security experts and privacy experts. Who were they? I think that is a fair question. What qualifications do they have that are greater than the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's? It was really concerning.
    The Privacy Commissioner went on to say, in this line of questioning from our committee, that, “This practice raises legitimate concerns by consumers, particularly when their personal information is used without their knowledge for purposes other than they expect.”
    We have heard from members on the other side about the ways of all the different apps, but the difference between that and what we are talking about is that the users provide consent to those applications to use the tracking of their mobility. In the case that we are talking about today, which involves anywhere from 14 million to 33 million users, it would be a hard argument to suggest that every one of those users provided consent. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner said today that it would be impossible for 33 million users to provide consent so that collection of their data could be used for the purposes that PHAC was dealing with. The issue of meaningful consent becomes a critical component of this.

  (1630)  

    I received a letter from OpenMedia.org talking about the ethics committee looking into this issue. The company suggested three fundamental questions, which we are trying to get to the bottom of, that are extremely important in this case.
    Number one: How did Telus obtain meaningful consent for the collection, use and disclosure of this mobility data? I spoke about the importance of that earlier. OpenMedia suggested that when Telus comes to the committee, it needs to answer questions such as whether an individual who agreed to the sharing of their mobility data understood this use by the Public Health Agency of Canada. I suggest it would be impossible for 33 million people or fewer to really understand that this was being used by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
    The second most important question that needs to be asked is this. Does the consent that Telus relied upon extend to the context in which the Public Health Agency of Canada used this data? Privacy and consent, it says, are highly contextual. If we, as users, give limited permission to Telus to collect, use in a limited way, and disclose some of our mobility data, that cannot and should not be an open-ended carte blanche for Telus to be able to provide this data to other people, including the Public Health Agency of Canada.
    The next is the most important question of all. I heard universally from security and privacy experts, not just here in Canada but around the world. They asked how exactly this data had been securely de-identified. There are really two issues here: first, de-identification and the risk associated with reidentifying this data; and second, user consent.
    My office has received correspondence. We have heard from experts, and as I said earlier we heard from a University of Ottawa expert this morning, about the risks of de-identifying data. I want to read out what some of the security experts are saying in the context of this RFP, and why it is so important that the government hold off on it until we get the answers to the questions.
    Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the former Ontario privacy commissioner, said that without a strong de-identification framework and without de-identification protocols one can reidentify this data. There is a whole collected literature on de-identification of data and the way to easily reidentify it. One has to go to great lengths to de-identify, and I am sure the government has not done this.
    I go back to what we heard from the Privacy Commissioner today, who said that he was merely informed and not consulted, despite the fact that the Minister of Health last week said that the government were having biweekly meetings with the Privacy Commissioner on this issue. We found out this morning these were not related to the gathering of mobility data, but related to other things happening in the context of the pandemic response.
     Dr. Cavoukian went on to say that the government should be the greatest concern. Its ability to usurp our information, to tell us what to do and expect us to accept that, in my view, is due to the fact that it is seeking greater control.
    If we want to connect the dots, and look at some of the patterns created as a result of this pandemic, Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned, and I would say they are concerned at this point, about the expansive overreach by the government. It is using the pandemic to curtail the rights and freedoms of Canadians. We saw the government, at the beginning of the pandemic and through the initial build, try to seize control and get spending and taxing power without parliamentary approval. We have seen this and other sole-sourced contracts that have gone out throughout the course of the pandemic to who I would call well-connected Liberal insiders and friends.
    I am not suggesting that in this case, but when one starts connecting the dots with this expansive overreach, we can see a pattern with the government. It is causing me great concern, as it is many Canadians.

  (1635)  

    Madam Speaker, I am fairly new to this discussion, but when we think of the de-identification of data, Telus has a vested interest. If it were to lose the confidence of its consumers, that would have a fairly profound, negative impact on it. The Government of Canada, through the Department of Health, is trying to get that de-identifiable data in order to provide good, sound policy decisions in a timely fashion. It seems that both Public Health and Telus have strongly vested interests.
    Does the member feel that the Government of Canada, the Department of Health or Telus have violated any current laws?

  (1640)  

    Madam Speaker, I cannot speak to that because we are simply not at the point of understanding how this data was collected, whether it was properly de-identified, what the risks of reidentification are, and why the Privacy Commissioner was not involved in the process and providing guidance to PHAC. The Privacy Commissioner would have provided guidance to Telus as well.
    I have trouble understanding the actual risk, in the collection of this data, to the privacy rights of Canadians. The reason I am troubled by that is because there are other programs in place that the Public Health Agency of Canada could have utilized if it wanted to determine public health response, or even the future of public health response. It has access to data within its public health networks, provincially, territorially and municipally. It has hospitalization data. It could have used other government resources without risk to the privacy protections of Canadians by using this as a means, especially without enhanced privacy laws.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his enlightening remarks. Two problems have been identified. The first is related to consent, the second to data anonymization. I will focus on the first.
    We have been told over and over that anyone could consult the data on COVIDTrends. Telus users could opt out anytime because there was an opt-out function. Did users know they were supposed to check COVIDTrends, and did they know they could opt out?
    Is it reasonable to believe that COVIDTrends was known to the public given that the Prime Minister mentioned its existence just one single time, back in March 2020?
    Madam Speaker, my colleague posed a very important question.

[English]

    We heard members at committee say that the Prime Minister made people aware this was going on and that the government was transparent about it, but it really boils down to the issue of consent. It can be as transparent as it wants, but the bottom line is that if users and Telus customers did not provide their consent for this information to be utilized in the manner in which PHAC did, that calls into question not an issue of transparency, but an issue of whether I am confident in my privacy rights being protected at a time when I should be consenting to that information. We heard from the Privacy Commissioner that there may be other circumstances that allow for privacy to be determined, but we have to increase those privacy laws. We have to enhance privacy laws in order to protect for the purposes that PHAC determined.
    Madam Speaker, I want to begin by congratulating my hon. colleague across the way in the Conservative Party for his recent ascension. I will be speaking with him a lot more in the future.
    With respect to the debate we are having now, I wonder if he believes this. Can we expand the mandate the hon. member for Trois-Rivières suggested, which is to look at other ways in which privacy may be compromised during the pandemic?
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her kind words. Everybody was saying that this new position as opposition House leader is like drinking water from a fire hose, and as a former firefighter, I never drank water out of a firehose in the way I am today. It has been quite a day.
    It is an important question, because what we want to be focusing on is not just how the data was collected and what security protocols and privacy protections were put in place; we also, as a committee, determined that we need to move forward, and the Privacy Commissioner was a very important part of this process this morning about enhancing privacy laws. In fact, at the beginning of this pandemic, the Privacy Commissioner wrote to the government and said that in the context of a pandemic, we not only have to make sure that our privacy laws are upgraded, for lack of a better term, but also that there has to be that enhancement in protecting privacy.
    I am looking forward to the report of the committee, because I think we can present some forward-looking things to the government so that it can enhance those privacy laws in what is becoming an increasingly important part of data collection to determine health responses, but we have to be assured that privacy rights are upheld in the context of that information being gathered.

  (1645)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the work that he is doing on privacy. One of the things I want to ask him about is the limited use of this data.
    When we had the Privacy Commissioner at committee before these vaccine passports were rolled out, he said it was very important that they had scientific proof that they worked. As the member knows, the vaccine passports were rolled out to stop the spread of COVID-19; in other words, the assumption was that vaccinated people would not spread COVID-19 and unvaccinated people would. Right now we are seeing that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread the virus. The Privacy Commissioner said that once the information is no longer needed, it needs to be destroyed.
    In the context of this cellphone tracking that may be linked to cellphones themselves, how much longer does the member think the government should be retaining this information, and should it be permanently destroyed afterward?
    Madam Speaker, I believe the information and the data that are collected do have to be destroyed, but I need assurance and members of the committee need assurance—and this is why we are here today—that the data is being collected in an appropriate manner, a secure manner, with proper security protocols in place, but more importantly, that the information is protected.
    I would not go so far as to say that it needs to be destroyed. Without looking at that, we have to step back and ask if this was done in a proper manner with proper securities and protocols in place to protect the privacy of Canadians.
     In the context of the vaccine passports, I have seen the same studies and reports as the hon. member has, and the Privacy Commissioner was quite clear in his statements that this information must be destroyed. We have to make sure that it is not commercialized, not monetized, and, more importantly, that it is not de-identified in a manner that offends the privacy rights of Canadians, which are a fundamental tenet of democracy.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the situation is unbelievable. We are debating a serious matter, people's privacy. We have a parliamentary secretary who stated that he did not vote in committee and that all kinds of information is being collected from our phones anyway. That is worrisome.
    I would like to congratulate my colleague for his speech because he raised several very pertinent points. What I wanted to ask him about was the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, a tool at the government's disposal to ensure it does not go wrong.
    Many governments around the world collect data about their citizens, and they all have good reasons for doing so. That is why we must be vigilant with respect to this issue. I would like my colleague to tell me why the Liberal government did not approach the Privacy Commissioner of Canada in this process. That is unbelievable.
    Madam Speaker, it certainly is unbelievable.

[English]

They informed him, but they did not utilize his expertise in guiding them on how to properly do this.
    On the issue of the parliamentary secretary, he is full of bluster. He stands up and he criticizes us, and we accept that. We know where it is coming from.
     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 Langley—Aldergrove, Infrastructure; the hon. member forNorth Island—Powell River, Seniors; and the hon. member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, Government Priorities.

  (1650)  

    Madam Speaker, I join the debate this afternoon in support of the concurrence motion moved by my hon. Bloc colleague from Trois-Rivières.
    Our Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics unanimously adopted this motion:
     That the committee call upon the government to suspend the Public Health Agency of Canada's cellular data tender upon adoption of this motion, and that the tender shall not be re-offered until the committee reports to the House that it is satisfied that the privacy of Canadians will not be affected, and that the committee report the adoption of this motion to the House at the earliest opportunity.
    When we are dealing with issues of privacy, I believe it is critical that parliamentarians have the opportunity to be clear on what is being collected, how it is being utilized and what safeguards are in place. Not doing this would be an abdication of our responsibilities as legislators.
    I believe the government members of our committee were acting in good faith with our committee's request to suspend the procurement under this contract. With the news that the government had tendered a contract for the collection of mobility data as a part of its COVID-19 response, many Canadians were rightly concerned about the protections in place to protect their privacy. The fact that many people learned about this program from news articles sets off alarm bells, and even if the process was unintentional, it demonstrates a lack of government transparency.
    To make matters worse, a PHAC spokesperson stated that the agency had consulted with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner before starting to collect mobility data, but the Office of the Privacy Commissioner stated that it was not consulted and had only been informed of the program in 2020. This discrepancy between “consulted” and “informed” is stark, and I believe it is prudent of the ethics committee to ask the government to press “pause” on any future requests for proposals for mobility data projects until parliamentarians have an opportunity to provide oversight.
    Our committee has had an opportunity to hear from PHAC, departmental officials and the Privacy Commissioner, but it is very important that we have telecom industry representatives, and Telus in particular, appear before our committee to discuss how they are going to use our personal information and what steps they have taken to protect our privacy.
    I look forward to these representatives appearing before our committee in the near future to explain how they obtain meaningful consent for the collection, use and disclosure of this mobility data; how the data is de-identified; and what the risk is of reidentification.
    I think the study is also an opportunity to educate the public about the pervasiveness of the mobility data economy and, by updating our Canadian privacy laws, make meaningful progress towards reforming the actors that operate in this sector. I can only hope that this opportunity to bring Canada's law into the digital era and restore trust to Canadian citizens and consumers alike is not lost.
     There has also been little discussion of PHAC's collection and use of data from these kinds of third parties, which tend to be advertising and data surveillance companies that consumers have no idea are collecting, repackaging and monetizing their personal information. The repurposing of Canadian cellular networks for things like pandemic mobility tracking without the knowledge of subscribers, though ostensibly with their consent vis-à-vis the largely unread terms of service, is a big deal.
    The data that was provided to PHAC lacks demographic information and, as we have heard, provides crude assessments of population mobility. While the data might be of some value, there is still a question about whether or not Canadians are comfortable with their cellphone data being used in this way. I know many of my residents in Hamilton Centre have shared their deep concerns about the overall commodification of the tracking and sale of their personal information. This is not the only example of cellphone data being used for purposes that are wholly unrelated to the provision or management of cellular services. Cellphone companies themselves have developed surveillance tools, selling them on the basis that cellphones are trackable devices and warning customers who use their service that they should not expect cellphone privacy. In fact, I believe we heard that clearly from the government members of this debate this evening.
    Given the massive amounts of cellphone data that are available through our cell towers, our cellphones and our cell service providers, the ability to track cellphones across time and space is completely unchecked.

  (1655)  

    Cellphone companies' refusal to encrypt important information about subscribers' locations has made it easier for cell sites and their owners to provide law enforcement authorities with cellphone data. Cellphone companies have made it possible for cellphones to be tracked even when they are turned off by means of cell-tower logs that track the cell numbers and locations of subscribers without their knowledge. By triangulating a cellphone user's geographical location, cell towers can enable the construction of a kind of cellphone user profile.
    I think of the use by police of technologies such as stingrays and I cannot help but recall the revelations this past summer about major government overreach utilizing the private Israeli Pegasus spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists and worldwide agencies through the NSO Group's spyware, which has been licensed by governments.
    However, cellphone tracking capabilities are not the domain of only law enforcement or intelligence agencies; they can also be tracked by the cell tower owners, as we have discussed. This access could be used to determine where these phones go in the evening and leave cellphone providers with an ongoing level of pervasive tracking. This is problematic, because users are charged by cellphone providers based on their location data and where these phones spend their time. This is how they generate large amounts of their ad revenue.
    Within the Canadian context, as is the case in the study for our Standing Committee on Ethics for which this concurrence debate has been called, cellphones are used to track cellphone users' and potentially citizens' mobilities for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with their cellphone service provision.
    The Privacy Commissioner was at the ethics committee earlier today. His brief stated that “this data sharing initiative is an example of the movement of data between the private and public sectors and demonstrates the need for both to be governed by common principles and rules. With these two sectors interacting ever more frequently it is imperative that they be held to similar standards. Ideally, our two federal privacy laws should also be updated concurrently.”
    I agree, and I believe that Canadians all expect a certain level of privacy, especially when it comes to their cellphones. We need to take a closer look to see if our current laws and regulations are sufficient in our current age of big data. I plan to continue this work at the ethics committee to ensure that Canada has the gold standard for protecting people's data and their privacy.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for demonstrating that our work at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics is about much more than just this matter in connection with the Public Health Agency of Canada.
    We need to establish exemplary standards, as other countries have done, so that Canadians are well protected. Does my colleague believe that we could draw on the General Data Protection Regulation currently in effect in the European Union to quickly implement certain provisions on consent?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would share with the hon. member that the Privacy Commissioner stated an urgent need for law reform. It is incumbent on us to take a look at the ways in which big data is bought and sold and commodified and the need for our legislation to be updated, including having an arm's-length agency that is provided with the resources and staffing to ensure that there are proactive audits, which the Privacy Commissioner called for, of both private and public organizational interests.
    Madam Speaker, it certainly was fascinating to see the wide disparity of views between what the minister shared last week and what the Privacy Commissioner told the committee here this morning.
    The parliamentary secretary implied earlier, in an answer to a question from the official opposition, that he did not feel it was important for the government to respect the will of the committee in terms of delaying the RFP. I would certainly value the thoughts of the member for Hamilton Centre on the comments that the parliamentary secretary made in that regard.

  (1700)  

    Madam Speaker, I think the heart of all of our committee work is being able to operate within good faith with the people who join us on our committees. I take it that the five Liberal members who voted to support this were acting in good faith when they supported this measure. I do not take it lightly that the parliamentary secretary just basically brushed off the committee's motion, which was duly passed unanimously.
    It also speaks to a growing concern that not only members of the governing side, but also senior bureaucrats and those with corporate interests, may choose to try to brush off the ethics committee when we do our investigations and put forward recommendations in the House. It is not lost on me that we have to be before this House with a concurrence motion to simply get the government to do what its Liberal members already voted for us to do.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his balanced speech. He covered the issue in detail, and I would like to ask him the same question that I asked my Conservative colleague earlier.
    We have a government that claims that there is no problem, that there is no need to worry because data is always being collected. This government does not want to acknowledge its members' vote in committee. That is quite troubling. What does my colleague think was the government's motivation for not involving the Privacy Commissioner of Canada when it was setting this policy?

[English]

     Madam Speaker, I was troubled by that. In fact, I was a little agitated by the government's use of this idea that it was working with and being informed by the commissioner. I think there was a clear distinction made by the Privacy Commissioner on what it actually looks like to be in consultation with the privacy commissioner's office, at which, it is not also lost on me, there are now complaints.
     I would put to the hon. members in the House debating that, had the government taken the opportunity to actually take up the Privacy Commissioner's offer, it might have avoided the privacy complaints that are now being launched against it.
    Madam Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague, and I do not know if he really has the answer. What does he think the rationale was for the government to ignore the will of the ethics commission with respect to protecting Canadians' privacy?
    Madam Speaker, given that I have to state that I do not know what the government's motivations were, I will say I think that it is a dangerous precedent. The Privacy Commissioner provided the opportunity to look at the frameworks in place to ensure they met the standards set by the Privacy Commissioner. The fact that this was denied is very troubling for me.
    We also understand that the Privacy Commissioner's office does not have the resources to check procurement on every single project that goes out there. However, on this particular one, if I understood the testimony today correctly, I think there was an ongoing effort by the Privacy Commissioner and there were multiple opportunities for the government to engage in the office's expertise, which is precisely what has put us before the House this evening.
    Madam Speaker, as we have been talking this afternoon, we have heard a lot of discussion about trust in the manner in which the information is being obtained. I wonder if the member can comment as to whether he believes there might be risks of government listening in on conversations, as we heard earlier from the Conservatives.
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