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44th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 031

CONTENTS

Tuesday, February 15, 2022




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 031
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[English]

Committees of the House

Agriculture and Agri-Food 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in relation to the motion adopted on Monday, February 14, 2022, regarding the illegal blockades at Canada's border crossings.
    The House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food calls for the immediate end of the illegal blockades at Canada's border crossings. At a time of severe strain to our supply chains, the blockades are interrupting millions of dollars of daily trade between Canada and the United States and are negatively impacting Canadian agriculture and agri-food industries, including producers, manufacturers and processors. All governments must play a leadership role in keeping these vital trade networks open for the thousands of agriculture businesses and workers who depend on them.

Petitions

Vaccine Mandates  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition from Canadians from across the country who are opposed to and want to end the COVID-19 mandates. The petitioners state that throughout the pandemic, truckers have served Canadians and they are heroes, but now they are being subjected to a vaccine mandate, impacting the supply chain. They say the Prime Minister has politicized the vaccine and insulted Canadians who disagree with him. Moreover, petitioners comment that it is the sacred duty of the Government of Canada to guard against discrimination and guarantee the freedom of all Canadians.
    The petitioners are calling on the House to immediately end all COVID vaccine mandates implemented by the federal government regulating employees, truckers and travellers. They are calling for an end to all COVID mandates and restrictions.

  (1005)  

Afghanistan   

    Mr. Speaker, today I am honoured to rise to present a petition on behalf of many Canadians, in particular, many Afghan Canadians, who are deeply concerned that the Government of Canada has failed to meet its obligations to the people of Afghanistan. Today marks six months since Kabul fell. This is six months that Afghans have struggled under a brutal Taliban regime.
    The signatories to this petition call upon the Government of Canada to do more to resettle the promised 40,000 Afghan refugees. They urge the government to work with the Afghan-Canadian community to increase resettlement, remove barriers and increase channels for Afghans to come to Canada. Canada must act urgently. Six months is too long.
    Mr. Speaker, on the day the Prime Minister called a federal election, Afghanistan's capital fell to the Taliban. In the chaos of that evacuation, many of our brave Afghan allies were left behind. My constituents call on the Government of Canada to partner with the Veterans Transition Network and others to launch an immediate evacuation effort for our remaining allies left in Afghanistan and to safeguard them from Taliban retribution.

Pensions  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am presenting today is from Canadians who also hold citizenship in the U.K.
    Approximately 127,000 Canadians receive state pensions from the United Kingdom. While British expats living in some countries, notably the United States, receive annual inflationary increases, the pensions of those residing in Canada are frozen. My constituents are calling on the Government of Canada to ensure any future trade agreement between Canada and the U.K. includes a provision to unfreeze the pensions of British expats living in Canada.

Okanagan Rail Trail  

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to present a petition on behalf of my constituents from Kelowna—Lake Country, including many who are employed by our largest private sector employer, KF Aerospace.
    The petitioners state that the Okanagan Rail Trail serves as an important recreation and commuter path for pedestrians and cyclists across the region. Seven kilometres of the trail remaining incomplete poses a safety risk as users have no option other than to divert onto a busy highway. To summarize, the completion of the Okanagan Rail Trail will be an important link to provide a more healthy activity space for residents and visitors in the Okanagan.
    The petitioners are calling upon the federal government to expeditiously complete the federal commitments to the Okanagan Indian Band and Duck Lake Indian Reserve No. 7 to complete the Okanagan Rail Trail.
    I want to remind hon. members that in presenting petitions they are allowed to rise once, and they can present all the petitions at once, but they are not allowed to get up multiple times to present petitions.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time, please.
     Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[S. O. 57]

[English]

Old Age Security Act

Motion That Debate Be Not Further Adjourned 

    Mr. Speaker, in relation to the consideration of Government Business No. 7, I move:
    That debate be not further adjourned.

  (1010)  

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

[English]

    I invite members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places, or use the “raise hand” function, so the Chair has an idea of the number of members who wish to participate. It looks like there will be a few. I would encourage members to be as concise as possible, so we can get to the many members.
    The hon. member for Calgary Shepard.
    Mr. Speaker, it is disconcerting to see the government moving again to shut down debate in the House. I thought we were being very reasonable when we moved the amendment to have just a little more transparency and accountability at a parliamentary committee of the House so we could consider this issue. For 21 months, seniors have been dealing with this problem. There are 204,000 Canadians affected by this. All we were asking for was to be able to look at the details.
     I would ask the government what the rush is to try to ram this through House now. The government is trying to get its way without our side having a chance to at least look at the details and question the minister. The Senate is not going to consider it, as it is not sitting right now. The other place would not be able to consider the bill even if we rush it through, so what is the harm in just a little more consideration, a little more introspection? Can we not all do a little better on this one?
    Mr. Speaker, we all agree that the passage of this bill is so important, and we need to get it passed as soon as possible. We know how difficult this pandemic has been for those most vulnerable.
    This bill is short, concise and clear. Bill C-12 would exempt pandemic relief benefits from the calculation of GIS or allowance benefits in July 2022, so seniors who took pandemic benefits last year would have that security and surety that their GIS would not be impacted. In fact, this bill is the exact product of much collaboration between parliamentarians and parties already. I have spoken to all my critics, who agree on why we need to move forward with this quickly. I hope we do just that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a bit of a paradoxical situation. The changes for pensioners will not be in effect until June.
    We wanted those changes to be implemented as quickly as possible, and we wanted to be sure. The government took its sweet time deciding to change the parameters, and the problem will not be fixed until June.
    When we ask why things have been taking so long, the government says there is no time to talk about it. It says we have to get this done ASAP, which means gagging the opposition. That way, the government can say it is doing things as fast as possible, but the problem still will not be fixed until June.
    We could have taken a week to better understand the reasons for this unalterable delay. That would have made absolutely no difference. Meanwhile, many, many seniors are waiting for these payments so they can buy groceries, pay rent and live with dignity.
    Why muzzle the opposition when it was willing to talk about it here and in committee all week? That is unacceptable.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, all members agree with the need to move quickly. I have personally had conversations with members from all parties on this. I know we all agree, and we understand why this is urgent. They have shared their concerns on the one-time payment as well.
     I can tell the House that, when I got appointed to this role, we moved very quickly to work with officials and the Minister of Finance to make a major investment in the financial and economic update. As the hon. member knows, we announced yesterday that we will be moving forward with that two weeks earlier, in April, for those in dire need. I will have an opportunity to work with parliamentarians to get that support even sooner and earlier in March.
    Let me bring colleagues back to this particular bill. Ensuring that this does not happen again is what Bill C-12 is about. I really hope we can put aside partisanship just for one second and ensure that those most vulnerable seniors have that security moving forward.

  (1015)  

    Madam Speaker, I just have to ask this, and it is very similar to other questions that have been asked in the House today: Why did it take the government so long?
    What do I say to the seniors in my riding who raised this with us in August. I know the NDP brought this to the minister in August. In August, the government knew that it had made a mistake and that there were serious problems. My staff has had to deal with seniors who have lost their homes, who no longer can pay for their medication and who are at risk of losing their lives because of the government's mismanagement of this. To say that it is acting with speed and as fast as possible just seems so incorrect.
     We brought this to the government in August. Why did it take so long? Why are we sitting here in February and dealing with this?
    Madam Speaker, let me just first assure the hon. member that the day I got appointed was the day we started moving, actually very quickly, on this. We worked extremely hard and quickly with our officials and, of course, the Minister of Finance, to move quickly on putting forward a major, significant investment in the fiscal update.
    Of course, as I shared with the hon member, we are making this investment. It will be delivered actually ahead of schedule, as soon as possible, on April 19. Service Canada will have an opportunity to work with members of Parliament to help constituents in dire need to get the support even sooner. Let me again point to the urgency of this particular bill. Bill C-12 focuses on making sure that this issue does not happen again.
     I hope we can all work together. We disagree on many things in this House, but I think we have an opportunity to showcase to Canadians how we can work together and move this quickly to ensure those most vulnerable seniors have the support moving forward as well.
    Minister, back on December 16th—
    Members are to address questions and comments through the Speaker and not directly to the minister.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, on December 16, the minister received her mandate letter. I remember thinking it was a very aggressive letter, and the minister said to me, “I am going to accomplish this”. There is an awful lot to accomplish. I have to say that the minister has accomplished a great deal in a very, very short period of time.
    Some members are suggesting that they want time to study this at committee. Minister, this is a five-line bill that is very, very simple. It speaks to exactly what has been asked by all opposition parties in the House. Maybe, minister, you could just outline how little is actually in this bill and why this is something that does not necessarily need to be studied.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary has been around for some time, and he knows that he is not to address questions directly to the minister.
    The hon. Minister of Seniors.
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for all of his hard work on this file as well, and the work that we have been able to do, indeed, with all parliamentarians to move very quickly.
    When it comes to Bill C-12, it is a very short, concise and clear bill. What this bill would do is to exempt pandemic relief benefits from the calculation of GIS or allowance benefits, so seniors who took pandemic benefits last year will have the security and surety that their GIS will not be impacted.
    It is a short bill. Indeed, it was done in collaboration with all parties. I have spoken personally with all of my critics on this from different parties. They all agree and know the urgency in moving forward. That is exactly what we are doing.
    I was at committee yesterday, and we spent a fair amount of time speaking specifically on this, but I look forward to answering members' questions to make sure we can move forward as quickly as possible.
    Madam Speaker, I am very disheartened to see that the Liberals are continually trying to avoid parliamentary process. The Conservatives brought a reasoned amendment that said we recognized this was an important issue, and we would be willing to amend it at committee. I have been calling for a resolution since March of 2021.
    The government knows the bank accounts of the people who got GIS and the bank accounts of the people who got CERB. It can certainly put the money in the accounts and reconcile it later, as it has done for 800,000 people who received benefits illegally and for people who lived in foreign countries who received benefits. It is ridiculous that when it is not going to be paid out until June of 2022, the government would be forcing Parliament to avoid due process once again.
    Can the minister tell me why?

  (1020)  

    Madam Speaker, I first want to correct the record because the member is talking about two different things.
    Folks got pandemic benefits in 2020. That is why in 2021, as we know, we put in a major investment in the financial and economic update to make sure we could fully compensate those seniors, and that is exactly what we are doing. In fact, we are moving forward on it as we speak, as I announced yesterday. Bill C-12 would ensure that this does not happen again, and that is exactly why we are moving quickly on this. I have spoken with all senior critics in all parties, and they know the urgency of this.
    It is important to remember that this is a very short, simple and clear bill. We have held all-MP briefings on this bill in both English and French, and of course I have had discussions. I was at committee yesterday and spoke at length about this particular issue.
    We can spend time on issues that we disagree with and on the approach, but this is something that we all agree on. Seniors are worried. They deserve us putting aside our differences and focusing on taking away their worries about their GIS reductions moving forward. I hope that we can work on this and move as quickly as possible.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, no one is disputing the urgency of passing Bill C-12. Everyone across party lines has been warning the government about the plight of seniors since 2021, so the need for the bill is well known.
    Two weeks ago, we were told that the bill could not be pushed forward and that its measures could not be implemented before July because of IT problems. Now we are hearing that some people may be reimbursed, or at least get some help, as early as April.
    Nevertheless, the use of this closure motion hurts. We all would have agreed to proceed quickly, without the gag order, and the bill would have passed quickly.
    Why shut down the democratic process and discussions that were going very well?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I think the hon. member answered her own question.
    It is about moving forward quickly to make sure that seniors have security and surety moving forward. We have been very clear and transparent with members in the House on this matter. I appeared before the committee yesterday, along with my officials, and laid out why this bill needs to be passed in the upcoming weeks to make sure we get the best outcome for seniors.
    We, of course, began working extremely hard and very quickly on this issue as soon as I was appointed. Officials have made huge strides to solve these financial challenges for seniors in an evidenced way. We cannot risk not delivering for seniors by playing politics, and I really hope that we can put that aside and move forward very quickly to ensure that the most vulnerable seniors have support.
    Madam Speaker, in this corner of the House, we see NDP MPs as the effective opposition. We pushed for Bill C-12, and certainly support these absolutely important measures that need to be put in place, but that is not sufficient in itself.
    Before the vote, I would like the minister to confirm that the government has accepted two key NDP demands: first, that the clawback is completely repaid to the nearly 200,000 Canadian seniors who need it by mid-April; and second, that the government is putting into place an emergency lane for seniors who are in great difficulty, so that by mid-March they would get a lump sum payment that would allow them to pay their rent until we get to the full reimbursement in mid-April.
    Can the minister confirm that the government has accepted those two key and important NDP demands on behalf of Canadian seniors?

  (1025)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the NPD, but indeed all members who have raised this issue and who have spoken to me directly. This is a real opportunity for all of us to show Canadians how a minority Parliament can actually work.
    There are a lot of things we can disagree on in the House that are fundamental issues. This is something we all agree on, including the urgency to get this out soon as possible. When I was appointed, we worked with officials and the Minister of Finance to put in a major investment and to move very quickly.
    As the hon. member very well knows, we are making this major investment through a one-time payment to seniors whose benefits were affected in 2020. I also shared yesterday with the hon. member that we would be delivering ahead of schedule and as soon as possible, on April 19. Service Canada would be working with members of Parliament to help constituents who are in dire need to get that support even sooner, in March.
    Bill C-12 focuses on making sure this issue does not occur again, and I hope all members will move very quickly to make sure we put this in place so seniors are not impacted this year.
    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for her work on this file and the agreement in the House of Commons. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact that we are only here today debating a motion of closure because the government screwed up. It is because the government did not allow for the due process of committee. We rushed through legislation, and now we have to make up for the mistakes of the government to protect seniors.
    Will the member acknowledge that we are here today because the government screwed up and tried to do too much too quickly, while restraining the rights and duties of parliamentarians to effectively review parliamentary legislation in a parliamentary committee?
    Madam Speaker, unlike the party opposite, let me remind the hon. member we moved very quickly on providing support for seniors, students, workers and businesses during this unprecedented time that called for unprecedented measures to be put in place. We of course moved very quickly to ensure Canadians had the support they needed at that time.
    I also remind the hon. member that, from the very beginning, our party has always meant to support those most vulnerable seniors. We worked extremely hard to strengthen income security for seniors, including with the guaranteed income supplement, which has helped over 900,000 low-income seniors. Let me also remind the hon. member we restored the age of eligibility for seniors to 65, which the Conservatives wanted to move to 67.
    On this side of the House, we are going to continue to make sure we support seniors, and that is exactly what Bill C-12 would be doing. I really hope we can put aside our partisanship and move quickly to move this forward.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am a little stunned to hear the minister admit so freely that she made a deal with the third party in opposition to adopt this closure motion on Bill C-12. In exchange, the government will move up payments to seniors who have been unfairly ripped off and had their GIS payments reduced.
    Is the minister now telling us that if there had been no deal, if the third party of opposition had stayed true to its roots and refused to support the gag order, she would not have moved up the payments?
    Did she use vulnerable seniors' incomes as a bargaining chip?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, from the very beginning, we have been moving very quickly on this issue. As the member very well knows, since I was appointed to this role we have worked extremely hard with officials and the Minister of Finance to put a major investment in the fiscal update. Of course, we are moving very quickly to ensure seniors have all the support they need.
    Let me also remind the hon. member that Bill C-12 is about ensuring that this does not happen again. I worked with the Bloc critic to ensure we moved this quickly. Its members all agreed with this, and I really hope we can move to ensure that seniors have support going forward.

  (1030)  

    Madam Speaker, it really concerns me that the minister is talking about how quickly the Liberals got this done. I just want to give a shout-out to my colleague for North Island—Powell River, and all the work she did in pushing the government to speed up. I know that it actually has not gone quickly and, in fact, we know that the impact of the clawbacks on poor working seniors has been devastating.
    I know seniors in my riding who literally lost their homes and went from income supplements of $600 to $60. They were also supporting their kids. Not only did our party push for justice for seniors, we also continue to push for a guaranteed livable income for seniors.
    Where is the government on that? Why are we not providing seniors with what they need to thrive, not just survive? It is not even enough to survive.
    Madam Speaker, our government's priority has always been to be there to support those most vulnerable seniors. Let me remind the hon. member that one of the very first things that we did as a government was to restore the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS to 65. We then moved forward and actually increased the guaranteed income supplement. That has helped over 900,000 low-income single seniors. That has actually lifted 45,000 seniors out of poverty.
    Of course we have an ambitious agenda for seniors. As the hon. member may know, it is in my mandate letter to make sure that we continue to move forward.
    This summer, we are going to be increasing the OAS for those 75 and older by 10%. In my mandate letter, I have a commitment to increase the guaranteed income supplement by $500 for single seniors and $750 for couples. We have an ambitious agenda, and I really hope we can work together, if that is what we are talking about. I think we have a real opportunity to do just that, and I hope we can move forward to make sure that those seniors have the supports they need.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, it is rather ironic to hear the Conservatives lecture us today about not going fast enough, when they were the ones who raised the age of eligibility from 65 to 67.
    I would like to hear the Minister of Seniors talk about the importance of collaboration among all parties in the House to provide help and support and send a clear message to seniors. Let us support our seniors and act quickly.
    Can the Minister of Seniors help us provide this collaboration of the House of Commons?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, let me thank my hon. colleague for the excellent work he did when he was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of seniors in the previous mandate. He certainly has done quite a lot of work. As the hon. member rightfully said, I think this a real opportunity for all of us to work together to ensure that seniors are supported.
    The hon. member will know that I have had conversations with all different parties to ensure that we can move quickly on this. They all agree with the fact that this is a very simple and quick, but significant, fix to ensure seniors have that security and that surety.
    I really hope we can put aside our partisanship for this, and move forward to help those seniors.
    Madam Speaker, I just want to remind the minister that it is the official opposition, the Conservatives, who have been calling for this for many months. It was even in our election platform. Even the government's coalition partner, the NDP, has been asking for this, too.
    I heard just a few moments ago the minister and the parliamentary secretary both talking about how, when they were first appointed, they started working very hard, which I believe implies that the previous minister was not working hard and was not doing as much as they should have.
    I just wonder if the minister could comment on some of the mistakes that were made by the previous minister. What things is she doing to correct them?

  (1035)  

    Madam Speaker, I always find it rich when I hear the Conservative opposition members talk about this. It was actually their government that wanted to increase the age of retirement to 67. One of the very first things we did as a government was to restore that age back to 65. We moved very quickly on enhancing the guaranteed income supplement, which they, by the way—
    Madam Speaker, on a point of order, we are debating in the House the closure of a bill. We are debating whether we are going to move forward with this legislation or not, yet the minister, in all of her responses, continually refers to a policy decision made over six years—
    That is debate, not a point of order. Also, I remind members that if they are not speaking right now, they should have their masks on while in the House.
    I will ask the hon. minister to wrap up. We have other individuals who want to ask questions.
    Madam Speaker, I will go back to the point that Bill C-12 is a very short, simple and clear bill. It is something we can all agree with. There are many things we disagree with in this place, but I really think we have an opportunity to showcase to all Canadians and seniors that this is a very significant fix for those who are most vulnerable. We can work together to fix this.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the debate is on the closure motion. This measure should be used sparingly on the important debates we have in the Chamber.
    Today, we are being invited to collaborate, to act urgently, when the government has been dragging its feet for months while being pressured and facing demands. It is getting late to fix this situation.
    I would like the minister to give us her definition of urgency. Did they have to wait until the last minute to ask us to collaborate or should they have been proactive?
    You had the time to correct this.
    The member should address her questions and comments to the Chair and not directly to the minister.
    The hon. minister.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, Bill C-12 is exactly that. It is a proactive measure to ensure that seniors who got pandemic benefits last year are not impacted by any reduction or affected by their GIS and income tax.
    I appeared at committee yesterday regarding my mandate letter and spoke to this very issue a number of times. The member opposite had the opportunity to ask me questions. I was available to all committee members to speak about this issue, and it is included in my mandate letter. The motion is to expedite this matter to reflect both the urgent nature of the bill to support needs and the ongoing collaboration and agreement between all parties on this. There is a simplicity in the policy content.
    Nothing about this pandemic has been normal, and I argue that neither should this be. I hope we can move forward to make sure the most vulnerable people have support moving forward.
    Madam Speaker, the sense of urgency is so real. These are the lowest-income seniors in our country who have had clawbacks because of the failure of the Liberal government.
    As the New Democrats, we are here to get help for seniors now. I want to give a shout-out to my colleague, the MP for North Island—Powell River, for being vigilant and pressing the government to fix this problem. We are here to help Canadians and seniors right now. We have been fighting this fight since the get-go. We want some certainty from the government and the minister that they are going to roll out immediate supports for those who need help now, in March, which is just weeks away, so that in April, all of the clawbacks will be repaid to the seniors who are struggling right now.
    Will the minister listen to the New Democrats, who are calling for a guaranteed livable basic income, brought forward by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, so that no seniors are living in poverty? I hope the minister will really listen to the New Democrats' proposal to do that because we should all agree in the House that no senior and no person living with a disability should be living below the poverty line. They need a guaranteed livable annual income.

  (1040)  

    Madam Speaker, our government's priority is to be there to support seniors, particularly those who are the most vulnerable. We have worked extremely hard to strengthen income security for them by increasing the GIS, which has helped over 900,000 single, low-income seniors. It has lifted 45,000 seniors out of poverty. During this pandemic, as members know, we were able to quickly provide direct and immediate support to seniors.
    When it comes to supporting seniors, we have done a number of things, such as restoring the age of eligibility to 65, enhancing the OAS and the GIS, enhancing the CPP and making significant investments in community services and home care. For seniors affected by the 2020 GIS reduction, we have moved very quickly with a one-time payment, which I announced yesterday. We will be able to give it ahead of schedule and even quicker for those in dire need. Bill C-12 is also going to exclude any pandemic benefits for the purposes of calculating the GIS moving forward.
    We have an opportunity to work together to showcase to Canadians how this place can work in collaboration and help those who are most vulnerable. I really hope the member opposite, and indeed all members, will help us move quickly to make sure those seniors are helped.

[Translation]

    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith the question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.
    The question is on the motion.
    If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would request a recorded vote.

  (1125)  

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

(Division No. 27)

YEAS

Members

Aldag
Alghabra
Ali
Anandasangaree
Angus
Arseneault
Arya
Ashton
Atwin
Bachrach
Badawey
Bains
Baker
Barron
Battiste
Beech
Bendayan
Bennett
Bibeau
Bittle
Blaikie
Blair
Blaney
Blois
Boissonnault
Boulerice
Bradford
Brière
Cannings
Carr
Casey
Chagger
Chahal
Champagne
Chatel
Chen
Chiang
Collins (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek)
Collins (Victoria)
Cormier
Coteau
Dabrusin
Damoff
Davies
Desjarlais
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Diab
Dong
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dzerowicz
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Erskine-Smith
Fergus
Fillmore
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fragiskatos
Fraser
Freeland
Fry
Gaheer
Garneau
Garrison
Gazan
Gerretsen
Gould
Green
Guilbeault
Hajdu
Hanley
Hardie
Hepfner
Holland
Housefather
Hughes
Hutchings
Iacono
Idlout
Ien
Jaczek
Johns
Joly
Jones
Jowhari
Julian
Kayabaga
Kelloway
Khalid
Khera
Koutrakis
Kusmierczyk
Kwan
Lalonde
Lambropoulos
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lattanzio
Lauzon
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lightbound
Long
Longfield
Louis (Kitchener—Conestoga)
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacDonald (Malpeque)
MacGregor
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maloney
Martinez Ferrada
Masse
Mathyssen
May (Cambridge)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McDonald (Avalon)
McGuinty
McKay
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod
McPherson
Mendès
Mendicino
Miao
Miller
Morrice
Morrissey
Murray
Naqvi
Ng
Noormohamed
O'Connell
Oliphant
O'Regan
Powlowski
Qualtrough
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rogers
Romanado
Sahota
Sajjan
Saks
Samson
Sarai
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Sidhu (Brampton East)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Sorbara
Spengemann
St-Onge
Sudds
Tassi
Taylor Roy
Thompson
Trudeau
Turnbull
Valdez
Van Bynen
van Koeverden
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Virani
Vuong
Weiler
Wilkinson
Yip
Zahid
Zarrillo
Zuberi

Total: -- 182


NAYS

Members

Aboultaif
Aitchison
Albas
Allison
Arnold
Baldinelli
Barlow
Barrett
Barsalou-Duval
Beaulieu
Benzen
Bergen
Bergeron
Berthold
Bérubé
Bezan
Blanchet
Blanchette-Joncas
Block
Bragdon
Brassard
Brock
Brunelle-Duceppe
Calkins
Caputo
Carrie
Chabot
Chambers
Champoux
Chong
Cooper
Dalton
Dancho
Davidson
DeBellefeuille
Deltell
d'Entremont
Desbiens
Desilets
Doherty
Dowdall
Dreeshen
Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Ellis
Epp
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Ferreri
Findlay
Fortin
Gallant
Garon
Gaudreau
Généreux
Genuis
Gill
Gladu
Godin
Goodridge
Gourde
Gray
Hallan
Hoback
Jeneroux
Kelly
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kram
Kramp-Neuman
Kurek
Kusie
Lake
Lantsman
Larouche
Lawrence
Lehoux
Lemire
Lewis (Essex)
Lewis (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Liepert
Lloyd
Lobb
MacKenzie
Maguire
Martel
Mazier
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McLean
Melillo
Michaud
Moore
Morantz
Morrison
Motz
Muys
Nater
Normandin
O'Toole
Patzer
Paul-Hus
Pauzé
Perkins
Perron
Plamondon
Poilievre
Rayes
Redekopp
Reid
Rempel Garner
Richards
Roberts
Rood
Ruff
Savard-Tremblay
Scheer
Schmale
Seeback
Shields
Shipley
Simard
Sinclair-Desgagné
Small
Soroka
Steinley
Ste-Marie
Stewart
Stubbs
Thériault
Therrien
Thomas
Tochor
Tolmie
Trudel
Uppal
Van Popta
Vecchio
Vidal
Vien
Viersen
Vignola
Villemure
Vis
Wagantall
Waugh
Webber
Williams
Williamson
Zimmer

Total: -- 149


PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.
    Mr. Speaker, I had technical issues and I wanted to register my vote as yea.
    Minister Hussen, I am afraid your hand went up after the vote was compiled, and it is too late. Your vote cannot be counted.

  (1130)  

Government Business No. 7--Proceedings on Bill C-12

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed from February 11 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, I got more applause this time, so we should do this more often.
    Is it something I said? The government moved to shut down debate on this bill, and I had only two minutes to speak to it last Friday. I know I did not have a Yiddish proverb ready to go then, and that must be why we must rush this bill through the House now.
    I do have a Yiddish proverb today, though, just to show that I am not angry and do not hold things personally. I am told there someone named Trevor on the opposite side who loves Yiddish proverbs, and I was going to say that anger is like a thorn in the heart, so I am not angry. I do not want to be angry at the government for the next 18 minutes for shutting down debate on this bill and on our very reasonable amendment to the programming motion that the Liberals have put forward.
    When I briefly spoke to this bill when we were considering it in the last sitting last week, I mentioned that this is a big issue in my riding. There are 204,000 seniors all across Canada who would be affected by these rule changes, obviously to their detriment. It would impact their financial situation, and many of them are in dire straits because they are on a fixed income. We have seen the cost of living explode. It is very difficult for seniors on a fixed income to make ends meet, especially when the government has programs that do not address their concerns. When this issue was identified 21 months ago, the government dragged its feet, so it has taken all this time to get to the point where there is now a fix in place for something that the government had introduced. Now we are being told that we have to rush it through the House without even having the minister before a committee so we can discuss the contents of the bill.
    I want to draw attention to a few things that the minister said during the debate that we just had on whether debate would be not further adjourned, meaning debate will be shut down on the consideration of the matter before the House, which is the GIS change. In French, it is bâillon.
    The minister said that this is a simple bill and a simple fix. That is great, but why will she not come to committee, then, to address it? That would be my response to the minister, because the amendment that forward by the member for Cumberland—Colchester was that we would consider this thing and make sure that the minister would have the rest of the time. Until 11 p.m., she would have to defend it before a committee, and we could actually go into the details.
    I think it is a huge benefit. There are many members of the House of Commons who are here for the first time, while some others have been here for several Parliaments now. I think many would say that the work we do at the committee level is valuable. It teaches us how government services work, about the actual operations of government and the mechanics of how things are done. I have found several times that it has been useful when I go back to my constituency. When I am trying to solve a constituent's problem, I then have those details in mind. I have met the person responsible for the program or I have met the deputy minister who is responsible for administering the program, and there is a touch point that we can lean on in order to get more information. We can then use that knowledge to help our constituents on case files.
    In my constituency office, apart from immigration case files, seniors' issues are probably in the top two or top three in the ranking of how often per week I have to look at case files that are being managed by my constituency. What we are proposing here are very reasonable amendments to have greater accountability and transparency. It is an opportunity for members of the opposition to ask a minister questions.
    I do not know why the government does not like this. During this whole pandemic, we have seen at every juncture and opportunity that the government has tried as much as possible to avoid any type of ministerial accountability for the legislation that it is putting forward. We have seen this with many of the pandemic bills that the government has put forward. The Liberals try to rush them through in a few days. We met in committee of the whole at different times. While we have longer question periods, at the end of those typical days, legislation would be passed. We would ask very technical questions and there would be no response, or sometimes we would just hear talking points or a promise that things would work out later on, but time and again we have seen that they have not worked out.
    If we look at the Public Accounts of Canada reporting on how different funds have been spent and at the different Auditor General performance reports on some of the programs that were used during the pandemic, time and again we see that things have not gone according to plan. The criteria were not followed. People got different types of benefit programs that they were not eligible for.

  (1135)  

    Can we remember situations when it was on the opposite side? Here we have a situation in which the government wanted to help seniors, wanted to provide them with additional support, wanted to ensure they were looked after, but it failed to do that, even though it was warned by opposition parties and stakeholder organizations at the time that there was a problem in the way it was approaching the legislation and the regulations. It is not as if it was not warned at the time.
    What we are talking about here, as shown by the government's own 2021 fall economic statement and fiscal update, is $742.4 million. That is what has been allocated. I would say to my constituents that this is not chump change. It is quite a bit of money. Three-quarters of a billion dollars is an incredible amount of money to be rushed through the House in order to patch a mistake that the government made.
    As I said, I am not personally angry that debate was shut down. It was probably something I said, but hopefully not. However, I marvel at the fact that the minister says she appeared before the committee to talk about her mandate letter, but she will not go to the committee to talk about $750 million that her department will be responsible for spending or at least the actual execution of the mandate letter. She would not be willing to speak to the committee and answer questions from parliamentarians.
    It is perfectly reasonable. We see it in question period, which is a much shorter period of time, but committee is where we really get to drill into the details, get down deep into how the departments function, on which dates people will be paid, what the mechanics are, how the government will ensure that people do not get missed, what will happen with single seniors between 60 and 64 and how they will be treated in the system.
    Time and again, constituents who have fallen through the cracks come to my office. I think all of us in this House have this experience. People do not go to their MPs' offices if there is a simple solution, because there is so much information available online and seniors lean on their kids to help them out if they are not comfortable using the Internet. I find a lot of them are very comfortable doing it, but they go to their MPs because they have fallen through the cracks. There are layer upon layer of government programs, and they just happen to be in unique situations. Life circumstances are involved, and every single time, it is not something that can be resolved in an hour. It is a multi-day affair. The MP's office becomes like an ombudsman's office essentially, trying to touch base with every single department to try to sort out the problem.
    Sometimes the constituent, though well-meaning, has made mistakes on the file. In this situation, we have an opportunity to get it right, to make sure there is no clawback, and we set things right for the future. Conservatives support it, which is what we have said all along. We just want that extra bit of accountability and transparency from the minister so that we can do the right thing from the beginning and get the details. I have often gone back to a parliamentary committee transcript to read the questions that were asked when I knew there were technical civil servants at the table being asked very technical questions so I could pass the information they provided on to a constituent who was interested in a particular issue.
    I remember being at the OGGO committee, which is the government operations parliamentary committee of this House, on issues involving Canada Post. I travelled with that committee all over eastern Canada, the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada as part of a review. I read through the whole transcript, and it really got me ready so that when community mailboxes were being set up in some of the northern communities in my riding, I was able to explain to constituents how the system worked, why they were doing it and what the logic of it was.
     I do not see why the minister cannot appear at committee. That is really what it comes down to. All Conservatives have been asking for is greater ministerial accountability on government spending. As I said, it is $740 million-plus that will be spent.
    The government is trying to rush this motion through. The only reason I can imagine is that it wants to score some points, maybe win some favourable public opinion for seemingly doing something, but the Senate is not even going be considering this bill because it is not sitting. The other place, as we are supposed to call it, will not be considering this bill, so speeding the bill through the House of Commons will not resolve anything.
    These things can be negotiated among the different sides. We Conservatives have shown ourselves to be fairly reasonable and we have shown that at times we support legislation. We say we support the principle and the content, but we would like to see accountability from ministers. I do not think it is a lot to ask of a minister to appear before a committee, for whatever length of time, and answer the questions that parliamentarians have. There are perfectly logical things we could do to address both the individual concerns we are hearing from our ridings and then the more operational, structural concerns with the government programs.

  (1140)  

    Between old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, these programs are some of the most expensive government programs that we operate right now on behalf of our seniors, especially lower-income seniors. They form the basis of the retirement system in Canada. When a person goes to a financial planner at a bank or an independent broker, they will avidly and strongly advise them to set up their finances so that they can access old age security. For some seniors who wind up in the lowest-income tier, they will completely rely on the guaranteed income supplement, which is why this clawback is so punishing for them.
    Old security is the most expensive government program. However, during the debate that we had on whether we should shut down debate, the minister crowed about how good it is that we had this CPP supplementary kind of benefit that was being added on. The way she talked, it implied that all seniors across Canada are getting this benefit today, but that is not how the CPP works, and I am pretty sure the minister knows this. People accrue benefits as they pay into the Canada pension plan, and when they retire at the end of 30 or 40 years of working, they get to draw from that pension, but they have to accrue the benefit before they get it. I do not think it is right to give people the wrong impression that they would instantly have these benefits provided to them because the government made some changes.
    However, this would actually impact geriatric millennials, or people in my age group. People, like those on my staff, who are much younger than I am are the ones who are paying more into the Canada pension plan, which is an awful return on investment for their generation, because there are so many benefits that have to be paid out. They lose control of that asset, of their income, when they could decide on what they want to save into for the future return they are supposed to get. I mean, potentially 30 or 40 years from now, they will be drawing a higher CPP than the same person with the same number of years of work would today.
    Oftentimes when I hear this type of debate, with the Liberals trying to explain everything they have done for seniors, there is a lot of misleading going on. We have to be fair with people. Do not give people false hope. We have to be straight and up front with them, which is why we have parliamentary committees. That is where the opportunity comes to study the questions that our constituents are asking. I also get very technical questions from people who spend an incredible amount of time looking at OAS and GIS eligibility. They are trying to figure out their finances, because maybe they do not have a financial adviser, and are kind of relying on the office of their member of Parliament to fill some of that gap. Again, this is why I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask for this type of work to be done.
    Look at the context that we are debating this in. Our side is saying that we support the bill, but some of our members would like to raise individual case files and individual issues. I know the New Democrats did this too. When I was going through the transcript to see what the New Democrats had mentioned, they actually raised case files of individuals in their ridings who had been affected by this particular change. I give them credit for that, but I do not give them credit for voting with the government on this one and shutting down debate in the House.
    The role of a parliamentarian in this place is to raise issues and represent our ridings in Ottawa, not to represent Ottawa to our ridings. I think there is a huge distinction between the two. When I think about the work we do and the context that we are in right now, we are debating a bill to fix an error the government made months and months ago. I think everybody recognizes that, but some of us admit it more readily than others.
    Yesterday, the government basically said that it was going to invoke the Emergencies Act. This is the context in which we are debating a bill that we essentially agree on. All the opposition has asked for is just a little more accountability from one government minister, not all government ministers, but let us have that one minister appear at one committee of the House of Commons to answer some questions for an extended period of time. It would not grind this place to halt. We could all come to an amicable agreement on how long it would take to be done, and it is in our amendment that we proposed.
    We are infinitely reasonable and trying to be constructive here on how we go about this, but let us look at the situation we find ourselves in. Our country is more divided than it has ever been before. We have some of the worst finances this country has ever seen. We have a situation where people have taken on more personal debt than at any other time, and the lower they go into the income tiers the more debt they have taken on. The people who have done the best are in the highest income tiers. For them, this pandemic almost did not directly impact their bottom line.

  (1145)  

     We can look at some of the commentary from the member for Louis-Hébert on how the government was handling this pandemic. This program is in answer to some of the harm that has been done to the economic situation of many seniors. The member for Louis-Hébert noted, and this is almost a direct quote from him, that not everybody can work from their cottage on a MacBook, and he is right. There are many people at the lower income scale. I have a lot of construction workers in my riding, a lot of general labourers in my riding and a lot of people who used to work in oil and gas and who are out of work because of the government's harsh anti-energy worker policies. These people are just looking for a way out, just to make some income, just to get through. I have a lot of seniors who have gone back into the workforce with a lot of experience and they are competing with people who are entering the workforce for the same jobs. It is making it difficult.
    The city of Calgary has one of highest unemployment rates in the country right now because of the economic policies, because of the pandemic, and now we have a lot of seniors returning to work, some part time. When they are looking at their finances and at accessing old age security and the guaranteed income supplement in some situations, this all has an impact. These are very complex government programs and I think we owe it to them to have the minister before a committee, with her officials, to explain how this is supposed to work. I would like an explanation as to how they could have ever made the mistake in the first place so that we find ourselves here.
    Since this happened, about 21 months ago, we had a federal election. It was not even fixed before then. They knew this was going to happen, and it could have been fixed then.
    To remind us of the Yiddish proverb, I am not angry that the government has now decided to and won the vote to shut down debate. It is a thorn in the heart to be angry. It is allowing someone to live rent-free in one's head. For our seniors in this country, this should not be how government functions. We should be putting accountability and transparency first, at the very front end. Asking one government minister out of 40 to appear before a committee is not asking too much. It is not asking too much to have 11 parliamentarians sit down and ask them pointed, direct questions about how this is going to fix this and if there is anything else we need to know.
    In the minister's own words, this is a simple bill. This is simple legislation. If it is so simple, why can it not go to a parliamentary committee to be reviewed? I hope the government will reconsider its position and will vote with us to have a committee and to have the minister appear with her officials to answer our questions.
    Madam Speaker, listening to the member opposite, I am getting the opinion that he is actually in favour of the legislation and I do appreciate that. What I am a bit concerned about he made reference to indirectly when he talked about the Emergencies Act. Yesterday, we had another very important piece of legislation on rapid tests that was being debated. It is a very short week before the break week.
    I am wondering if the member believes that, if we did not attempt to rush through these things, we would not be able to get it done before the break week. Is that a concern on his or the Conservative Party's part?
    Madam Speaker, the government runs the agenda of the House of Commons. They are responsible for the agenda. They could have tabled this bill before. They also could have not called an election in August. They could have had us return to the House to consider legislation right away.
    It is not as if they did not know this was a problem. This is simple legislation. Why did it take so much time to recall Parliament? Why did it take so much time to consider this bill? Why did they not do evening sittings? Why will they not agree to a parliamentary review? All of these things could have been done.
    It is not on the opposition to simply acquiesce and accept the fact that the government is on a timetable. It is for them to run the business of the House better and they have not been doing that. This is not the first time. Six years of this I have seen so far. For six years, they have been mishandling business of the House.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague.
    I agree with him that it would be more appropriate to study the Liberals' bill in committee.
    He mentioned the importance of talking about the $750 million in additional expenditures. My biggest concern is figuring out how we can speed up the process. The Bloc Québécois has already proposed moving the date from June to March. These are things we could discuss in committee. My colleague referred quite often to all the seniors who are falling through the cracks and who are the most vulnerable. I wonder if there are ways to provide seniors with assistance more quickly.
    I would really like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

  (1150)  

    Madam Speaker, the GIS is definitely important to seniors in my riding.
    I believe that our amendment provides a potential solution that would ensure that the problem has been dealt with once and for all. I would not want us to quickly pass Bill C‑12 only to realize six months later that it is flawed and that some seniors are still falling through the cracks. There are 204,000 seniors who are affected by these changes. I want a parliamentary committee to ensure that this bill resolves the problems of each and every one of them.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I first want to thank my colleague whom I have a great respect for. However, my concern is the lack of urgency from the Conservative bench. These are the lowest-income seniors in our country who have had their GIS clawed back. They cannot afford their rent, food or medicine. Some of them are cutting their pills in half. That is unacceptable. Today, we are talking about an urgent situation so that those people who have been cut off get help now.
    Does my colleague support our call for a guaranteed livable income so that no seniors in this country are living in poverty and have to go through a situation like this ever again?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member. He is one of the few members of the New Democrats, as are you as well, Madam Speaker, whom I quite appreciate as very reasonable members of the House.
    I want to address the first part of the member's question with respect to the urgency of the matter. The government is claiming there is urgency. The Senate is not even going to sit to consider this matter and pass it expeditiously. The government created the need for urgency. This is the government's problem. It created this entire situation by calling an election that was not necessary after promising it would not do so, recalling Parliament late and then putting this legislation before the House so late in the hour. I do not understand why the New Democrats feel that they need to keep correcting the Liberals' mistakes.
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his fantastic speech today. In my riding of Simcoe—Grey, even prior to the pandemic, the number one issue for me was seniors falling behind. We are certainly not in a better situation now with COVID and the rising inflation. I can say that there is a lot of frustration.
    We have seen a lot of rollouts from the current Liberal government during the pandemic, for example, the rent subsidy, where it had to change it in middle of the road. All that does is create confusion. Therefore, I would ask the member what his thoughts are on this. Should we not make sure that we are doing things right?
    Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. Oftentimes during this pandemic, we have seen the government approve a program, rush it through the House and tell us not to worry as it is going to work. Then we constantly hear from our constituents saying they cannot apply for it, their particular situation does not count or they use their personal chequing account for their business so they cannot get the CEBA. There are all these government programs, one after another, where we are fixing the mistakes of the government after the fact, because we return to the House saying that this person, that person or this business could not get it.
    The member is correct. The reason his office is so overwhelmed with seniors complaining that the programs are not working is that the government keeps getting it wrong time and time again.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, we all agree that we need to make things right for seniors and get them their money.
     My colleague spoke about how the government has struggled to plan and manage its calendar. However, the situation we are in right now is urgent and it has been going on for months. All of the opposition parties have been sounding the alarm since June and July 2021, before the election.
    What does that tell us about the government's real motivation for doing the right thing for Quebeckers and Canadians before the election?

  (1155)  

    Madam Speaker, the member for Beauport—Limoilou's comments about the government's motivation was spot on. The Liberals are using the seniors file to score political points, to boast they have rescued seniors from a problem the Liberals themselves admit they created in the first place.
    As my colleague mentioned, the opposition parties had said that they were in agreement. All we want is for the government to be accountable in parliamentary committee and to members of Parliament. We are not asking for a lot. We just want the details of this very simple bill.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to go back to my colleague for the question about a guaranteed annual livable income. He did not answer it. We know that seniors are living in poverty, and I want to know if the Conservatives support ensuring that no seniors are living below the poverty line. A guaranteed livable income would ensure that will not happen. We are all disappointed about the Liberals dropping the ball on this clawback and why we are having this debate today, but I want to hear about long-term solutions and I want to hear if my colleague supports them.
    Madam Speaker, it is a policy question he is asking, and I do not have a definitive answer. However, I worry about this. Why would we trust the Liberal government to create another government program when the Liberals have screwed up so many of them? They have rushed them through the House and tried to make it up through regulations or cabinet orders to patch programs incessantly. We can look at the procurement of aircraft, the procurement in the military in general and the very slow rollout of the rare disease strategy, which is off and on and off and on.
    The government does not have a record of delivering anything except press releases on websites. It makes announcements, it makes a press release and nothing happens afterward. Why would we trust it to develop and execute another program?
    I do not understand why the New Democrats keep supporting the government in its failed execution of whatever the heck is in the mandate letters. I do not understand this. The New Democrats have voted with the Liberals repeatedly over the past few weeks, supporting the continued failures of the Liberals. They do this time and time again. I do not understand how the New Democrats think they are serving the people of their ridings by trying to prop up a government that keeps failing to deliver the most basic government programs.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Respectfully, I wonder if you could help enforce the requirement for all members to be wearing a mask in this place at all times.
    This was raised earlier today, and I do not have the document in front of me because I gave it to the Speaker so he could get back to the House on it. The wording in the directive from the Board of Internal Economy is that members are being encouraged to wear their masks in the House. However, it does indicate that if they are in their seat, they are able to not have their mask on as long as they stay in their seat. I know the Speaker has ruled on a number of occasions that individuals should have their masks on if they do not have the floor. However, the directive seems to indicate otherwise, and I am sure the Speaker will get back to the House shortly on that.
    Resuming debate, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address a few points that the member across the way has raised and, at the same time, share some thoughts that not only I have, but all members of the House have, in regard to seniors in general. This is a very important and hot topic among my Liberal colleagues as we continue to strive and improve the lifestyle of our seniors and be there for them in a very real and tangible way. I am going to highlight a number of things we have been able to do for seniors over the last six years.
    First, I will address the issue of how the Conservative Party wants to twist this issue of process and why the government is where we are today with what is a very important piece of legislation.
    The legislation we have before us today is here because of the pandemic. During the pandemic, the Government of Canada, with support and encouragement from different levels of government, from Canadians in general and from MPs who were advocating, came up with a series of brand new programs that virtually started from nothing. They were a direct response to the pandemic. When we brought in programs virtually from nothing, there were, no doubt, issues that would arise. This is one of those issues, and it is an issue that today the government is addressing through legislation because of the impact it has had on our seniors. Some are trying to give the impression that the government is trying to fix a problem it created and that somehow the government has been negligent. However, this is unfortunate given the consistent supports and actions of the government for seniors since 2015 when we were first elected, let alone during the pandemic.
    Yes, there have been some issues to deal with, but I suspect, after hearing comments from the opposition, that they will be supporting the legislation. I am encouraged to hear that. However, on the other hand, they are critical of the manner in which this is being processed and of not only the government but also the New Democratic Party. It is interesting that when the New Democrats do something the Conservatives do not like, they say there is a coalition between the New Democrats and the government. I think Canadians would rather see a coalition between the New Democrats and the Liberals than a coalition between the Conservatives and the Bloc. At the end of the day, the Conservatives have this default position: For anything the government wants, just say no. They know full well that they need their coalition to continue to frustrate the government's agenda. They know they can often count on the Bloc, but they get all upset if the NDP does not follow their recommendations. They get upset with the NDP because the NDP will not listen to the Conservative agenda, and then they say it is a coalition.
    I can tell colleagues that the government has operated with all three opposition parties, collectively together. At times we have operated with the New Democrats separately, like today, and at times we have operated with the Bloc separately. We appreciate the mandate that we have been given by Canadians, and it is a very clear message: Canadians want us to work together.

  (1200)  

    We saw a very good example of that back in December with conversion therapy. Members will recall that the entire House recognized the importance of conversion therapy and the legislation before the House. The Conservative Party members were the ones who recommended that we do not have second reading, committee stage, report stage and third reading, the whole process. They wanted to go right to royal assent, and the bill was passed unanimously. This shows that when it is convenient for the Conservatives and they feel it is important, it is okay and debate and committees are not necessary.
    It is not the first time they have done that. They even attempted to get unanimous consent when there was no unanimous consent for getting what they believe is priority legislation through the House of Commons. If they disagree, it is anti-democratic, and the government is wrong because they we want to see something. There seems to be a bit of a double standard being applied. On the one hand, the Conservative Party now says this is important legislation and recognizes it is important legislation. After all, its members are going to be voting for the legislation. I understand the Bloc is going to be voting for the legislation too. However, the Conservative-Bloc coalition does not like the manner in which we are trying to get it through. The NDP supports the legislation and has been advocating for significant changes to take place regarding the compensation issue. It also recognizes that it is important to get this legislation through as quickly as possible.
    The Conservatives say that the Senate is not sitting this week. As I pointed out yesterday, let us take a look at the legislative agenda. In the number of weeks we sat, we brought in legislation dealing with the coronavirus. The number one issue of Canadians for the last two years has been taking on the coronavirus. We can talk about Bill C-2, Bill C-3, Bill C-8, Bill C-10 and now Bill C-12, which are all legislative measures that deal directly with supporting Canadians and that deal specifically with the coronavirus, whether it is through programs that have been brought in, programs we are trying to extend to continue supports or the bulk-buying of things like rapid tests, which we debated yesterday. All of this stuff is important legislation.
    We all know there is a finite amount of time to deal with legislation. It is not like we can debate a bill for 10 days and have it go to committee for two weeks. If it were up to the Conservatives, for anything they disagreed with, and even for things they agreed with, they would try to speak things out in order to frustrate the government. They would want to bring bills to committee for indefinite periods of time, with no commitment to get them through.
    We are still in the pandemic. There is still a sense of urgency, even this week alone. Yesterday, we debated $2 billion-plus for rapid tests to ensure the provinces, territories and businesses in our communities have the necessary tests. Today is about seniors and making sure we are there to support them by putting money in their pockets. We still have other important pieces of legislation that have to be dealt with this week, if at all possible. I am thinking of the Emergencies Act. We also still have the opposition day motion from the Bloc party that has to be dealt with, and we have two short days this week.

  (1205)  

     Are the Conservatives saying that debate on our seniors, the rapid tests or the Emergencies Act should all just be postponed by 10 days or a couple of weeks because it is convenient for the Conservative opposition party? Ten days from now they can come back and ask why it has taken the government so long.
    On the issue of the Standing Orders, I approach them not just as a member of government. I spent many years in opposition. I understand the importance of accountability, transparency and the process inside the House. I hope to engage with members in regard to our Standing Orders. We need to modernize them. We have plans and processes in place to accommodate debates, committees and votes. We see that. As I cited yesterday, whether it is on emergency debates in the chamber, opposition day motions, private members' bills or private members' motions, there are all sorts of limits.
    What we have seen in the past 10 years, because we have to factor in the era of former prime minister Stephen Harper, is that we need tools to ensure that government bills can also get through in a timely fashion. That is why we are debating this motion today. If members believe it is important to support our seniors by getting money in their pockets, this is a piece of legislation members urgently need to support. The timing is very important.
    The Minister of Seniors has met with opposition members and has been before committee. At committee, members can ask whatever questions they want of the minister. She is not shy to answer questions. We saw that earlier today, when the motion was brought forward. The department has provided information for members. Yes, we are making modifications today in order to get the money out more quickly to support our seniors. The department is working overtime to make sure we are there for our seniors in a real and tangible way.
    The process we are going into today would have been preventable if, in fact, we could have had support from all opposition parties in saying that we could pass this legislation. In an ideal situation, it would be something that would be negotiated. However, the government is not in a position in which it can hold back on getting this legislation passed. With the support of one opposition party, we were able to ensure that our seniors would get the legislation they needed through the House of Commons. For that, I am grateful.
    After 30 years of being a parliamentarian, there are some issues I hold near and dear to my heart, as I know many of us do. Our seniors, and the needs of our seniors, are of utmost importance. We often talk about the fact that where we are today as a society is all due to the seniors who were there before us, and we recognize there are needs that seniors have. I have made reference to the fact that I used to be a health critic in the province of Manitoba. I understand what those needs often require.

  (1210)  

    That is why it was so important for me personally, when I came to Ottawa, to be a strong advocate for our seniors. I remember one day when I was sitting in opposition. Former prime minister Stephen Harper was in Europe, and there was an announcement that the government was going to increase the age of eligibility for collecting OAS from 65 to 67. We opposed it, and we indicated we would get rid of it.
     I remember advocating for the needs of the poorest seniors in Canada and for the importance of our social programs. I use those two examples because in 2015, when we were elected to government, two of the very first initiatives we took were, first, to reduce the age of eligibility for OAS back to 65 from 67. That was one of the very first initiatives taken. The second was to increase the guaranteed income supplement.
     For those who understand the issue of poverty in Canada and want to help put more money in the pockets of our seniors, just as this bill does, in 2016 we talked about increasing, and then implemented a substantial increase to, the guaranteed income supplement. That one initiative lifted hundreds of seniors in Winnipeg North alone out of poverty, and tens of thousands across the country.
    We will all become seniors, if we are not already. We ensured that the contributions to CPP would be enhanced with an agreement between provinces and the federal government, something that Stephen Harper was unable to do, to ensure that there would be more retirement money for our seniors.
    In terms of the pandemic itself, and how the government stepped up to provide, that is why we have the legislation today. In our urgency to support people of Canada through developing programs such as CERB, there were some mistakes. It was not perfect, but it was important to get those programs out as quickly as possible. Now we are making a modification that is necessary to ensure that our seniors would in fact be getting money that they would have normally been receiving, but other benefit programs during the pandemic ultimately caused a problem. This would fix it. That is why it is good legislation for us to support.
    During the pandemic, we brought in direct support for seniors, with a special focus on the GIS, again, and the OAS. We did it directly and we did it through other programs, such as the CERB, which is more of an indirect way. Another indirect way we did it was through supporting non-profit organizations that provide support for our seniors. We are talking about hundreds of millions, going into billions, of dollars.
     The Government of Canada has been there to support our seniors because it is the right thing to do. From virtually day one, in 2015, until today, we continue to bring in budgetary and legislative measures to facilitate and support our seniors, whether with long-term care, direct money into pockets, mental health or so many other areas.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, one of the things I find really troubling is that, in the length of time that it has taken to address this issue, we know many seniors have been losing their homes. They cannot afford to eat. We know that with all of the many programs that were introduced by the government, with lots of little failures and things, they managed to put money into 800,000 people's accounts who really were not eligible to receive the benefits.
    I really do not understand. Why could the Liberals not have just put the money into the accounts of seniors who were getting the GIS? They got the CERB, so they would be topped up and they would not have to wait until July of next year. They will probably have lost their houses by then.
    Mr. Speaker, I have confidence in our civil servants who are providing the direction and have the desire to get the money as quickly as possible to the seniors who need it. The minister responsible for seniors has even developed a program that will hopefully get seniors in certain situations the money even more quickly. I am very optimistic that we will be resolving this issue. This legislation will prevent it, hopefully, from reoccurring.
    At the end of the day, we have a civil service that is doing an outstanding job of being able to meet the needs of our seniors in the short term and the long term.

  (1220)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I really like my colleague from Winnipeg North. Unfortunately, he has been known to engage in overblown rhetoric. I think he has a reputation for that in the House.
    In his speech, he admonished the opposition at length by saying that our Conservative colleagues often engage in political partisanship, and he presented himself as a great defender of seniors.
    However, since I arrived here in 2019, my political party has repeatedly made three very simple proposals, as follows: increasing the old age security benefit by $110; increasing the guaranteed income supplement by $50 for single people and by $70 for couples; and, most importantly, increasing health transfers, because seniors are the ones who have paid the price for the underfunding of health care during the crisis.
    The government has never paid any attention to us. That is the perfect example of partisanship. Why? The government cannot seem to handle acting on a good idea from an opposition member because it would have to give that member the credit.
    If the Liberals care about seniors, why have they never increased the old age security benefit? Why have they never increased the GIS and why did they wait so long to address the issue before us today?
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have increased the GIS. We have increased OAS. We have record transfers for health care. Historic amounts of real dollars are going toward health care. When we factor in issues such as long-term care, additional hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested. When we talk about the issue of pharmaceuticals, again substantial tax dollars are being invested.
    I would challenge the member to reflect on the 10 years before we came into government, and I would contrast our record and our investments any day. The member says I tend to talk a lot about how good things are. Much as the opposition will be very critical of the government, I am very proud of the manner in which we provided supports for our seniors. We will continue to do so, because they are important to all of us.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg North often defers to provincial NDP politics to deflect his government's failures, including with seniors. I would like to read a story from one senior, who wrote, “Our GIS has been cut off and the $1,300 per month that we receive from the government is not enough to keep the shelter over our heads. I feel weak and depressed. Having no energy, I spend many sleepless nights crying.”
    In the last session, the member's government voted against the NDP's universal pharmacare bill, when seniors are literally choosing between medication and rent. There are people in my riding who, as a result of the government's callous choice, have had their GIS cut from $600 a month to $60 a month. My party fought for a guaranteed livable basic income for seniors, not a guaranteed income supplement, but one that is livable, to lift people out of poverty. His party is nowhere on the map on that. I am proud of my colleague from North Island—Powell River, who fought really hard to get the Liberals to pull back on their brutal clawbacks on seniors.
    I am wondering if my hon. colleague can respond to these concerns and not deflect.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the member pointed out, one of the greatest challenges for seniors is housing. That is why the federal government works with provincial governments. It is the provinces that take the lead on social housing.
    We invest, on an annual basis, in operating costs in the Province of Manitoba. We are talking about tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars in rent subsidies and non-profit housing. We are talking about thousands of non-profit housing units in the province of Manitoba alone, and it is often the federal government that gives the largest percentage. That deals with trying to make housing more affordable.
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: I would invite my friend to stand and ask a question, as opposed to heckling.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, earlier, my colleague from Winnipeg North talked about the money his government has invested in health care in recent years. I would like to remind him that the bulk of the money invested in recent years was for COVID-19 programs.
    If the roof is leaking, the shingles can be changed from time to time, but eventually, the whole roof needs redoing. That takes ongoing funding and long-term commitments, such as boosting health transfers to 35% of total system costs, which is what the premiers of Quebec and the provinces have unanimously called for. COVID‑19 made it clear that what they are asking for is legitimate and absolutely necessary.
    We do not want to hear the member for Winnipeg North talk about how much the government invested during COVID‑19. We know that, but all that money is from COVID-related programs. He actually admitted that there may have been some mistakes along the way, but we do not hold that against him because that is to be expected considering how quickly they had to react.
    In May 2021, the Bloc Québécois raised concerns about financial assistance provided through CERB to seniors receiving the GIS. We pointed out that their eligibility for the GIS would be compromised if they received CERB. It was at that point, last spring, that the Liberals decided to move up the payment; however, the problem would not be solved before June 2022.
    I realize that the Liberals are always slow to implement recommendations made by the Bloc Québécois. That is fine. Still, I would like to know when the Liberals will finally take action on health transfers. Does my colleague have any idea? He can criticize us all he wants, and we will listen—that does not bother us. I want to know when the Liberals plan to respond to the unanimous demand from the provinces and Quebec and increase health transfers to 35%.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in my years serving in the Manitoba legislature, I believe that every year, for almost 20 years, if a province were asked if it wanted more money for this or that, it was always going to say yes. Provinces always want more money for health care. That is a given. Am I surprised that it is unanimous among the provinces that they want more money for health care? It does not surprise me at all.
    What is important is that, since we have been in government, we have negotiated accords with all of the provinces and territories, which are indexed. We are giving record amounts in annual allotments of equalization and health transfers to provinces. It is a historical amount of money. Along with that, we continue to support other aspects of health care, which Canadians want us to do, such as additional money for things like mental health and long-term care.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about one of my favourite topics, seniors, and I have now become one.
    I think it is really important that we have this discussion today. This is an opportunity for us to pull what I would call an ugly scab off of the issue of affordability for seniors, especially those living on a fixed income. This is a wound that has been festering for some time, and I want to start off by taking a look at the actual numbers and the situation that many Canadians are finding themselves in.
    There are single seniors living on a fixed income getting OAS, GIS and CPP. For those who would get OAS, depending on the work that they did in their career, they might get as much as $7,700 a year. They might get, from GIS, if they received the maximum, about $11,500. If they had worked a long time and they had maximized their CPP, they might be getting around $9800.
    What that works out to every month is somewhere between $2000 and $2400, depending on where they are on the scale. That is it.
    These are people, if they are getting GIS, that do not have huge nest eggs. They do not have huge savings to draw upon to get them out of a bad situation. Today, the folks who define the Canadian poverty line define that line as 50% of the median income. For a single person, they are saying anybody who makes less than $3600 a month is actually living at or below the poverty line. All of these seniors we are talking about are already living below the poverty line, after they have worked their whole lives and after they have built the nation.
    All this rhetoric coming from the other side is ironic. Even in the 2020 throne speech, we heard the words, “Elders deserve to be safe, respected and live in dignity.” Well, if they deserve to be respected, and if they deserve to live in dignity, that is certainly not what we are seeing today.
    I want to start by describing the situation before the pandemic. I will then talk about what happened during the pandemic and where the need for Bill C-12 comes from. I want to then talk about the lack of government action when all of these issues were being raised, and make a few comments to follow up based on that.
    Initially during the pandemic, recognizing that people were struggling and many people had lost their jobs, the government did make an effort and the Conservatives did support many programs to replace the income that people had been making.
    Sadly, many of the people we are talking about, who are on fixed incomes, had to go out and take on other jobs just to make ends meet, just to heat their homes and have groceries on the table. In my view, that is totally unacceptable for the seniors who built the country. However, that was the reality.
    What did the Liberals do during the pandemic? They decided to increase the carbon tax twice. Not just once, but twice. This put up the cost of groceries, home heating and basically all goods. At the same time, we have seen inflation increasing to where we are today at nearly 5%. People on a fixed income have zero ability to adapt to that.
    We know that the lack of action we have seen in the affordable housing crisis has also just gotten worse during this pandemic. Even in a riding like mine, which is not a metropolitan riding, a person cannot find something to rent for less than $1000 a month. If someone is on a fixed income, and they are only getting $2000 a month, there will not be a lot left over for food, groceries and heating.
    To get seniors living at what we are calling the poverty line might take as much as $1000 or $1500 a month, depending on the location they are living in. The government is great to talk about the increases they have made to GIS in the past that raised them $60 a month. However, at the same time, Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals raised electricity prices, so people were paying $130 more a month. They were even further behind. That is not the kind of action we need from government.

  (1230)  

    Then we saw the government come with a plan to give seniors, but only those over the age of 75, a one-time payment of $500 in August, just as it was calling an election, to remind those seniors over the age of 75 to not forget about it. Those between the ages of 65 and 75 who were living on a fixed income got nothing. As well, the government is promising a raise for those over the age of 75 for the summer of 2022.
    I am happy to see the mandate letter of the minister now includes all seniors over 65. What she will actually do is another story, because we always see a lot of talk and not much action. I do not know why those aged 65 to 75 were excluded. I heard all the time at the doors in my riding about how they were finding it just as tough to live as those over the age of 75.
    If we keep in mind that these people do not have any other income to draw on, we can see the government was aware of the problem very early on. In March of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, I was already emailing the then minister of seniors to say that we had a problem. The people who took CERB who were also on GIS would have their GIS impacted the next year. This was raised in March of 2020. In March of 2020 the government was aware that it was a problem, and nothing was done at that time.
    One of the issues I have with the government bringing this bill here today, and deciding that it needs to be rushed through, after over a year of inaction, is that there was a fix for these seniors who had their GIS reduced, who cannot pay their rent or buy food to eat. Some in my riding lost their homes and have become homeless, and they needed that money immediately.
    The government had the ability to put the money in their accounts immediately. How do I know this? Let us think about it. The government knows who gets the GIS. It is deposited in the accounts of those seniors every month. It knows who got the CERB, because it deposited that into their accounts as well. It certainly knew how to put in that $500 “do not forget to vote for us” payment for the people over age 75 in August.
    Therefore, it could have just as easily recognized the impact this was going to have, put that money into their accounts and reconciled it later. It did that with the 800,000 Canadians who received a benefit to which they were not entitled, and which it is now trying to reconcile.
    With the hardships that Canadian have faced, these seniors who call my office are crying. They are losing their homes. They cannot afford to eat. Something has gone wrong, perhaps with their car, and they now have no ability and no mobility. It is unfortunate that the Liberals could not, at the very least, address the problem and then come back to fill in any gaps in the legislation. They have not had any issue in the past doing things through orders in council and using various tricks, which do not involve coming to Parliament, to get whatever it is they want to spend. However, when it comes to seniors, they just forgot about them.
    After I flagged the problem in March, the minister said the government would deal with it. Then it paid out benefits to people who lived in other countries. It paid out benefits to people who were ineligible. When the new minister came in in October, I asked her if there was something that could be done about it, because I had people in my riding who were writing me stories that were enough to make one cry. I could certainly read out their testimonies.

  (1235)  

     In May of 2020, the Minister of Seniors was before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and was given a prepared binder by the department officials. In that binder, under section 7.2, under the heading of “Questions and Answers: COVID‑19 Economic Response Plan”, the question in the book reads, “Will income from the Canadian emergency response benefit be used in the calculation of guaranteed income supplement benefits?” The answer was “It is considered to be taxable income and must be considered when determining entitlement to the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, and the allowances”. Therefore, the government actually knew then that the problem existed, but it has done nothing for a year, and here we are.
    The Conservatives brought a very reasonable amendment. We understand, and we want to see seniors get their money. However, not to make this point too many times, the government could do that today if it really had the political will, but it does not. We said that we have to respect the parliamentary process. We see, too many times, the Liberals wanting to avoid parliamentary process and wanting to push things through the House. We see that they have already limited debate on the bill, as they do on many other bills, after saying they would never do that.
    Here we are. We need time to debate the bill and time to amend it, because of some of the things that happened over the course of the pandemic where programs were put in place that had shortcomings, which were pointed out immediately and were never repaired. We can think of the many small businesses that were impacted at the beginning of the pandemic when they were not eligible if they were sole proprietorships. They were not eligible if the business had just started up and did not have a full year of revenue and business statements to show. There were quite a number of people who were impacted because the programs that were rolled out were flawed. Why were they flawed? It was because the Liberals tried to rush them through Parliament.
    I would argue that it is worth taking some time, and I think the Conservatives brought quite a measured little amendment to this motion that would give us the time that we need to look into making sure that everything is as it should be. In our amendment, we are saying to send it to committee, get the Minister of Seniors there so that we can hear everything from her and her departmental officials, ask all the questions, identify those things that need to be repaired and fix them. We could then immediately do the clause-by-clause, make the amendments that need to be made, bring it back to the House and then get in the express lane and not use any amendments at report stage or anything like that but go right to third reading and off to the Senate.
    Keep in mind that the Senate is not even sitting in the next week. We can say “emergency”, but due process is that it goes through the stages of this House and then it goes to the other place, which is not even sitting. We can hurry up here, but they will not be there to receive it and process it.
    We need to correct the problem because seniors are already in a bad place. I talked about the small amount of money that seniors are making. I talked about how dire it is getting, and it is only going to get worse as we see the supply-chain issues that are currently being impacted by the trucker mandates and the lack of action on the part of the Prime Minister to address this.
     As a sidebar, I think it is unbelievable that the Prime Minister has called for the Emergencies Act to be put in place when he was not even using the actions he already had the power to take in order to end the supply-chain issues that are driving up the cost of everything and making this problem even worse.
     Seniors are going to have a very difficult time waiting another six months before they receive their payments, so I encourage the government to do what it can to make sure that seniors receive their payments as soon as possible after we have the discussion on the bill. At the same time, I must say that we have to look ahead to the future. We have one in six seniors in the country right now, and it will be one in four in just a few years. We cannot allow them to be this far away from living, at least, at the poverty line.

  (1240)  

    Some of the measures that can be taken would be to accelerate the OAS and GIS payments. I know the Bloc and the Conservatives supported a motion in the last Parliament that did not go ahead because of the present government. I encourage the government to try to get seniors back to where they need to be, and I am going to do my part.
    There are seniors who thought they were going to be able to retire with a pension and are unfortunately not able to do that or have less pension than they expected because their employer went bankrupt. I am bringing a private member's bill forward, Bill C-228, the pension protection act, which would cause businesses to every year table a report on the solvency of their fund so that we have transparency to see whether those funds are in good shape. If they are not, it would provide a mechanism for funds to be transferred in without tax implications. Then, if the organization cannot transfer and top up the fund immediately, they would have the ability to get insurance while they are able to, over a series of years, restore the fund to solvency. In the case of bankruptcy, pensions would be paid out to seniors and they would be paid out before large bonuses to executives and large creditors.
    This would solve the problems of many seniors, including those who have lost their employment due to the bankruptcies of Eatons, Sears, Algoma, Caterpillar, Nortel and numerous other companies that have left employees in that situation. We can see from the information I read at the beginning of my speech that if seniors have to rely on OAS, GIS and maybe CPP, they are still living below the level that Canadians would consider acceptable. We cannot have that for our seniors. It is very hard for our seniors when they see new people coming into the country who are receiving more money than they are making, when they helped build the country. I think we can agree that we want all Canadians to be living with a reasonable standard of living.
    The last thing I am going to say on this topic of Bill C-12 is that I do need to commend the new Minister of Seniors for at least bringing the legislation forth in reasonable time. She is not the one who knew about it last year and did nothing, so at least we have the bill before us today. As has been said, the Conservatives will support this to go to committee, but we will have our eyes on the legislation to ensure it is solid and we are not going to see more loopholes that would cause further issues for our seniors.
    At the same time, I could not get up and speak about seniors in this place without talking about some of the other advocacy I have done on behalf of seniors. As members know, I brought forward a palliative care bill in the first session of Parliament, and I would say there has never been more of a need to continue the work done on that. Now, with the pandemic, we have been distracted from that. I would encourage the government to come up with a plan to exit the pandemic and restore the economy, so that we can then start talking about some of the other issues that are facing seniors. They certainly need to have good options at end of life to get the dignity the throne speech indicated. They certainly need to be able to get the drugs and essential medicines they require.
    Certainly, I want to see the government do something on that, but today the call is for the government to listen to the Conservatives and take our advice. Let us support the motion my colleague brought forward, which says, let us get this to committee, all sit down, roll up our sleeves, get the amendments that are needed and then get this done. Let us not make seniors wait until July 2022 to receive the payments they desperately need today in order to keep them from becoming, in some cases, homeless.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the member opposite speak about the importance of protecting the dignity of seniors and supporting their quality of life. That is an objective we all share. One of the things I and a number of MP colleagues have advocated for over the past year is national standards for long-term care. We have advocated for that, and the government has committed to it. The reason we advocated for it was that we saw, especially during the pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces expose the reprehensible quality of care some seniors experience in some of our long-term care homes. Our belief is that national standards would ensure that seniors achieve the quality of care that seniors deserve.
    I wonder if the member opposite could comment on whether she supports national standards for long-term care.
    Mr. Speaker, that is an extremely important point. Certainly we studied this when I was at the health committee and talked about what would go into national standards. In fact, there have been numerous reports written about what is required. At the end of the day, I support the best practices being leveraged across the country, but that is not where the limitation is. It is not that we do not know what needs to be done.
    When it comes to the ratios of staff to clients who are in long-term care, more funding is needed. When we see some of the conditions there, more funding is needed. We know that the provinces, although they have that under their jurisdiction, do not have the wherewithal to do everything that is needed. Therefore, it is important that the government work with provinces and territories to leverage those best practices in long-term care but also to identify how we can get the funding there and how we can actually get the workers there. As members know, we have seen a drop-off in the number of personal support workers, nurses and all of these kinds of careers.

  (1250)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question is simple and yet not so simple.
    Most seniors who live the longest are women. Many women who receive OAS and GIS benefits were stay-at-home moms first and later stay-at-home grandmothers, although this is not true of all of them, fortunately. Many set their careers aside, so their incomes were substantially reduced, which affected their pensions. Some have part-time jobs to try to make ends meet.
    Would it be fair to say that most of the seniors affected by these pension cuts are, once again, women?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a great question.
    Absolutely, single senior women are the poorest. It is important to have a policy that recognizes that more money is needed for senior women living in poverty, because they are struggling to put a roof over their heads.
    More funding may be needed and pensions may have to increase to ensure that women can be properly housed.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I am deeply frustrated that we are in a situation that has taken us so long to get to.
    I do not want to go back to seniors in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona and say that we delayed this any longer than we had to. Of course the Liberals took too long to fix this mistake. Of course seniors are in such desperate straits right now that we have to act as fast as we possibly can.
    Fixing this problem and looking forward, I did appreciate how the member talked in her intervention about the things we need to do for seniors. The things that would make seniors' lives better are investments in making our long-term health care centres public, in having a guaranteed livable basic income and in having things like pharmacare. Things like this would help seniors, but they would also help so many Canadians. Would the member be supportive of these calls that the New Democratic Party has put forward for things like a guaranteed livable basic income, like public long-term care centres and like pharmacare?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has always been a strong advocate on these issues. We do need immediate action from the current government. As I pointed out in my speech, the Liberals know the bank account numbers. They made 800,000 other mistakes where they gave people money who did not deserve it and are trying to get it back now. Certainly with seniors who are on GIS, they could immediately take action to put that money in their accounts and that is what they need to do.
     Longer term, there is no doubt that, with an increase in the number of seniors from one in six right now to one in four in the future, we are going to have to do something to address the fact that seniors are not living decently and that they are not receiving essential medications and items that they need. I look forward to working with that member to solve those issues.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my hon. colleague from Sarnia—Lambton's speech. Of course, I do not agree. This is one of the few times that I actually want to see a bill passed through this place without going to committee first, but I want to follow up on something that we do agree on. I would like to hear more about her private member's bill to deal with the long-standing problem of corporate pensions that are not secure for our seniors.
    With your permission, Mr. Speaker, because I do not get to intervene during private members' business and ask questions of the mover of a bill, I would love to hear more about it now.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am definitely always happy to talk about my private member's bill. The problem is that we have seen seniors work their whole lives and expect to have a pension to retire on, and then the company goes bankrupt, pays big bonuses out to their executives and leaves the seniors with either no pension or pennies on the dollar.
    What got me going on this was a neighbour of mine, who worked for Sears for 30 years and ended up getting 70 cents on the dollar after 30 years of working. My bill is going to keep that from happening, first of all by giving transparency to see whether there is solvency in the fund; second, by creating a mechanism to top up that fund if it is not solvent; and third, by making sure that if companies do go bankrupt, the people who have worked all their lives and paid into their pensions receive their pensions before big bonuses are paid out or large corporations are paid out.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to my colleague that we also introduced a bill to ensure that retirees are the first creditors in line. We support my colleague.
    However, I have a question about something else. Earlier, a Liberal colleague asked her a question about national standards for senior care. She responded that the thing that matters most is the health transfers, which need to be made quickly. I would just like her to refine her answer and clarify whether she agrees that health is a provincial jurisdiction.
    I do not see why the federal government would impose such standards. That would be as absurd as having a province impose standards for national defence. I would like my colleague's opinion on that.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question.
    I completely agree. Health is a provincial jurisdiction. However, I think there is not enough funding for the provinces to provide excellent care.
    What is more, while some provinces have very good practices, I would like everyone to be able to benefit from those best practices and for funding to be accessible to put those practices in place. I think that the federal government has a role to play in that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked passionately about the need to support seniors. Clearly this is an urgent situation. These are the most vulnerable seniors in our country that the government has gone after with clawbacks. I really want to thank the member for North Island—Powell River for the important work she did on pressuring the government to respond to this situation.
    Does my colleague agree that the government is paying for the pandemic off the backs of poor Canadians by going after seniors in this circumstance? Does she agree that instead it should be going after the billionaires and the big corporations that have profited from the pandemic?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly I think that everybody needs to pay their fair share, but it is outrageous that 12 months has gone by. The government has known that this problem exists and has done nothing. If someone did not pay their rent for 12 months, would they have a place to live? If someone did not have their heating bill paid for 12 months, would they still have heat? That is the situation Canadians are in. That is why it is urgent, and it needs to be addressed.
    Mr. Speaker, it is nice to be back in the House debating an important bill.

[Translation]

    Bill C-12 is aligned with all the measures that the government has implemented since 2015.
    It is important that we go over everything that we have done because we know that Canadians watching us may not tune in every day. It is important that we be there for them. However—

[English]

    We have a point of order.
    The hon. member for Fredericton.
    Mr. Speaker, I hate to interrupt my colleague, but I was just wondering if he was going to split his time with someone.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with my friend and colleague from Fredericton in the wonderful province of New Brunswick.

[Translation]

    However, I would like to speak about what we have put in place from the start of the COVID‑19 pandemic. I would like to speak about this because it is also part of the support that we are providing to older Canadians.

[English]

    I think it will show that our approach to the seniors issue, since day one in 2015, is one that has been consistent. It is one that comes from a trend of support for low-income seniors for a very long time, a rapid approach to putting in place needed supports, especially when emergencies face our vulnerable populations, including seniors.
     It is vitally important to pass Bill C-12 quickly. This motion today has been well defended. I think that will be clear once we understand how a low-income senior faces so many challenges. After a lifetime of hard work, Canadian seniors have earned a secure and dignified retirement. Pandemic or not, they deserve a retirement without financial worries. Allow me to briefly touch on the many of things we have done for seniors since forming government in 2015.
    The Liberal government has strengthened Canada's public pension system. We are helping Canadians with their higher costs later in life. For short-term support, we issued a one-time $500 payment in August 2021 to OAS pensioners 75 years and older. We are permanently increasing the old age security pension by 10% this July 2022 for those seniors aged 75 and older, providing over $766 for the first year for pensioners receiving the benefit. We must remember this benefit is indexed to inflation, so seniors will continue to receive an increase.
    We restored the age of eligibility for old age security and GIS to 65 from 67 years of age. The age for eligibility had been increased by the Conservatives prior to our winning a majority government. That is something I am very proud of in the six years I have been here in the House. We are putting literally thousands of dollars back into the pockets of seniors.
    As promised, our government increased the GIS by 10% for individual seniors, improving the financial security of about 900,000 vulnerable seniors. To help working seniors keep more of their benefits, we increased the GIS earnings exemption to allow seniors to earn up to $5,000 without any reduction in benefits and we provided a partial exemption for the next $10,000. It now includes self-employment income.
    When our increase to the basic personal amount is fully implemented in 2023, 4.3 million seniors will benefit, including 465,000 whose federal income tax will be reduced to zero. This is something I fully championed, and it was wonderful to see it in our platform in 2019. It means up to $300 for individuals and $600 for couples. I am so glad that this was part of our 2019 platform. This is literally billions and billions of dollars in tax reductions every year for our Canadian seniors, Canadian workers, Canadian students, and it is wonderful policy.
    Our middle-class tax cut in 2016 reduced the second personal income tax rate by 7%, saving middle-class Canadians an average of $330 and couples an average of $540 a year. Again, it is real change, and that goes with our mandate of helping the middle class and those working hard to join the middle class.
    Seniors have also benefited from this. Tax reductions, benefit increases and policy revisions implemented by our government have reduced the number of seniors living in poverty in Canada by 11% since 2015. Our plan to improve support for seniors is working, but yes, there is still more work to do. As seniors ensure their safety by staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, financial and other supports were and are still here. They are critical to help them access the goods and services they need and to reduce the social isolation that can take a toll on their mental health and well-being.
    As the government, it was our responsibility to help, especially with those extra costs. First, we provided a one-time tax repayment of $300 to eligible OAS recipients, plus another $200 to eligible GIS recipients. We also provided a special top-up payment for the GST credit in April 2020. More than four million low- and middle-income seniors benefited from this top-up.
    In addition, we announced a one-time payment for persons with disabilities, including seniors. These individuals received a total of $600 in special payments. Of course, we know we had the backs of all Canadians during the pandemic and we continue to do so. We created various income supports, such as the Canada emergency response benefit, which helped millions of Canadians, including seniors, by delivering direct payments quickly to seniors and families.

  (1305)  

[Translation]

    Our government was concerned not just about financial security, but also about seniors' isolation, which has real consequences. In fact, research shows that the isolation of older people can have health consequences. That is why we made it our mission to promote social participation and inclusion.
    We helped connect seniors with essential services and supplies. We invested $9 million in the United Way to support more than 876 organizations across the country that offer more than 936 programs. We invested an additional $20 million in the New Horizons for Seniors program. We also funded more than 1,000 community projects to reduce the isolation and improve the well-being of seniors during the pandemic.
    With regard to safety in long-term care institutions, we introduced important measures even though long-term care is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction. In addition, the safe restart agreement signed with the provinces and territories includes $740 million for support to Canadians.

[English]

    Yes, we have the backs of all Canadians, and, of course, the seniors.

[Translation]

    We want to support those who are receiving long-term care, home care and palliative care and who are the most likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19.
     On top of all that, we also created a $350‑million emergency community support fund to help charities and non-profit organizations adapt the services they provide to vulnerable groups, including seniors, in response to COVID-19.

[English]

    The pandemic is still ongoing. That will not stop us from putting forward additional measures to benefit seniors' financial ability. I want to give a shout-out to the 25,000 or so seniors in my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge. I get to see them again. I have missed them over the last two years. I know they have suffered from social isolation by staying home. I am going to see them in the community centre on my break week and maybe play a little bocce or play cards.
     These seniors represent the best of what Canada is about. They come from various backgrounds. They have built this country. We have to respect them. We owe them so much gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices they have made. They have not asked for a lot. They ask to be respected and they ask us to make sure, in their golden years, that they have a secure and dignified retirement. That is what our government has done since day one.
    Looking to the future, we know Canada needs to better address older seniors' needs. Seniors in Canada are living longer, which is great, and I think a key indicator of our progress as a country on all scales. As seniors age, they are more likely to outlive their savings, have disabilities, be unable to work and be widowed, all while their health care costs are rising. As mentioned before, we are responding to that need with a major OAS increase for older seniors as their needs increase.
    Least but not last, we have proposed $742 million to support vulnerable seniors who have experienced reductions in the guaranteed income supplement as a result of accessing pandemic benefits.

[Translation]

    In closing, the pandemic has not always been easy, particularly for seniors, and people are still struggling. Pandemic or not, our government is committed to giving all Canadians the opportunity to build a better life, contribute to our nation's prosperity and benefit from it. That is why we have made every effort to support all Canadians, including seniors.

[English]

    We recognize the remarkable contribution Canadian seniors have made to our society and economy over the years. They can count on our Liberal government to continue to take steps to make sure they can live with dignity. Let us all come together and pass Bill C-12 expeditiously.
    Mr. Speaker, seniors 75 and older are supposed to be getting an increase to their old age security, and of course there was the pre-election lump sum that was encouraging them to vote a certain way.
    There are seniors who wanted to top up their incomes with part-time jobs, but when they applied for CERB, they could not apply for a partial CERB, so they got the whole $500, and some of those people took money out of RSPs to pay the taxman, who wanted all the CERB back.
    Would the people who already paid the CERB money back be reimbursed? Are they going to continually be behind the eight ball because, having taken money out of their RSPs, that again props up their income so that they qualify for less of the supplement?

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, of course, I would advise any senior or individual here in Canada to seek financial advice on how they manage their affairs. With Bill C-12, we want to ensure that for the literally hundreds of thousands of seniors who may have been affected by any sort of clawback on their GIS, the income they received from CERB and other benefits is not included in their taxable income for determination of benefits going forward.
    For an individual in Canada, it is correct that if they pull money out of their RRSP, it is taxable income and they would pay taxes on it. When we make an RRSP contribution, we receive a nice deduction for it, and I encourage Canadians to make an RRSP contribution if they have the ability to do so.
    All individual cases should be looked at by the member and should be brought to the attention of the minister and the parliamentary secretary.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for his speech, even if it seemed as though he was giving an abridged version of the speaking points from the last election campaign.
    The government has known since May 2021 that seniors collecting CERB have been receiving reduced guaranteed income supplement payments, and seniors have said that it has been catastrophic for them.
    If the government has done so much good for seniors, why did it not anticipate this problem and take immediate action to remedy it?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.
    I am very proud of our government and of all the measures we have put in place for seniors.

[English]

    We helped seniors with these benefits during the lockdown, and they were included in taxable income. We have gone back and are making a fix, and rightly so. We do not want to penalize seniors going forward. That would not have been a regular amount of income they received.
    I encourage all seniors to look at the number of measures we have put in place since 2015.

[Translation]

    Seniors are most important to me because they are the ones who built our country and our future.

[English]

    Our future is very dependent on what seniors have done in the past.

[Translation]

    I am proud that we have put many measures in place for them.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in all of Hamilton, 2,020 seniors saw a reduction in their GIS benefits because of the CERB clawbacks. Residents in Hamilton Centre bore the brunt, with almost 660 having their GIS clawed back. This has been an attack, and it has been devastating on working poor seniors in my community.
    In a time of such uncertainty and despair, that the Liberals would plunge seniors further into poverty can only be described as cruel and unusual. They have known about this for quite some time. I ask the hon. member, who knew this was an issue for seniors, why he and the Liberals waited so long to fix it.
    Mr. Speaker, it is great to see the member for Hamilton Centre, whom I had the chance to work with at the public accounts committee.
    We have always had the backs of seniors. We are putting in place $742 million, which will represent a one-time payment for thousands of seniors who were impacted in this instance by how taxable income was calculated.
    Going forward, there will be no impact on seniors. Seniors can rest assured that we will continue to have their backs and that they will be able to retire today and tomorrow with a secure and dignified retirement.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge for sharing his time with me today and thank all members for engaging in this important debate.
    We know how difficult this pandemic has been on seniors and how it has impacted them, their livelihoods, their quality of life, their mental health and even their safety. We all agree in the House that we need to do more to help seniors and their communities. As announced in the fiscal update, we will be delivering a one-time payment to fully compensate those affected in 2020, and today we introduced Bill C-12 to exclude any pandemic benefits for the purposes of calculating the guaranteed income supplement going forward.
    I had many conversations at the doorsteps with individuals who were affected. Bill C-12 would go a long way in demonstrating that as parliamentarians we are listening and our government is responding. The fact remains that far too many seniors in Canada have been living in poverty. It was an issue long before this pandemic, but COVID, an unprecedented global health crisis, has made matters worse. Seniors who lost income and were financially struggling accessed emergency support to help them get by. Bill C-12 would protect seniors from losing their income-tested GIS payments going forward and would rectify any loss of GIS as a result of receiving COVID benefits. This would protect struggling seniors from falling deeper into poverty and rectify the unintended consequences of pandemic benefits that were designed to help.
    Many seniors have been trying to survive paycheque to paycheque, and in New Brunswick the situation is worse. One in five seniors in my province lives below the poverty line and many more are just at the cusp. This is well above the Canadian average. These seniors depend on GIS to pay their rent, heat their homes and buy groceries, particularly at a time when the cost of living continues to rise. In Fredericton, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is now close to $1,000. Seniors desperately need the action our government is proposing.
    Passing Bill C-12 also matters for our commitment to advancing gender equality, furthering reconciliation and combatting systemic discrimination. The loss of GIS payments would disproportionately impact women, indigenous people and racialized Canadians, demographics that statistically experience higher rates of poverty. It is urgent that we pass this bill and help the estimated 90,000 seniors across the country who have been impacted. Failing to pass this bill would further threaten the economic security of thousands.
    I am optimistic that through the leadership of the Minister of Seniors, real and tangible change will be felt across the country. This government is committed to building a better future for seniors. As a member from Atlantic Canada, this positive change cannot come soon enough. By 2036, Canada's senior population could be close to 11 million. As the Canadian population continues to age, so does the number of older adults expecting to be living in subsidized housing. We need to look at the future and take measures now to avoid having seniors, who spent their lives building this beautiful country, reach their golden years and live under the poverty line.
    I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to suggest that we can go further to support seniors and many others facing poverty. I am proud that this government is seriously looking to implement pilot projects on a guaranteed livable income and is moving forward on its objective to reach agreements with provincial and territorial partners to implement national universal pharmacare. I truly feel these measures, in particular, could usher in deep and lasting systemic change.
    Simply put, to improve the lives of senior citizens, we must make life more affordable. I am proud to say that this government is doing just that by investing in better public transportation, affordable housing and creative programs, such as the multi-generational home renovation tax credit to help families add a secondary unit to their homes for an immediate or extended family member. This government is also working to establish an aging at home benefit so that seniors can afford to stay in their homes longer, while increasing the quality of long-term care for those who need it. We are also creating opportunities for seniors to be more connected, supported and active members of their communities through the New Horizons for Seniors program. These initiatives will help to enhance the quality of life for all Canadian seniors, and we should not stop there. It is long overdue that we return elders in our communities to their positions of honour and respect.
    I want to acknowledge the organizations in my community that have been working hard to support older adults. They are making a real difference in my riding. The Stepping Stone Senior Centre and the Senior Wellness Action Group are but two great examples of those working to help connect hundreds of seniors in the greater Fredericton area to work collaboratively to develop and deliver affordable and accessible activities to meet physical, mental and social needs. They provide volunteer matching, assist with emergency preparedness, support food security and much more. They are providing opportunities for seniors to meet, to learn, to develop new skills, to socialize, to entertain, to be entertained and to be entrepreneurs, and they are serving as an information source for seniors and those who work with them, like me, while promoting the growth and development of seniors in our community.

  (1320)  

    There are important lessons that we must take forward from this pandemic, and providing adequate supports for seniors must be at the top of our priority list. We must invest in seniors and ensure that people can live in dignity and safety in their older years. We have seen many examples of Canadians being there for each other throughout this pandemic, and this must continue. In many communities around the world, elders are celebrated, they are seen as the head of their family and their knowledge is precious. We need to do more to cherish them here in Canada.
    The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elder. Let us listen to what they have been telling us. Let us pass Bill C-12 without delay.
    Mr. Speaker, for the seniors who live in long-term care or in publicly funded seniors residences, generally speaking, their entire old age security and GIS go right to the facility. In what ways are seniors going to benefit from having more of the income that is given to them forwarded to the facilities? Is there any assurance that it will happen, or will it just go into the general coffers and not really provide a positive impact for residents?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a specific example. There are many other ways that people can continue to live their lives at home as well, so we are also hoping that this will support their lives so they can do what they need to and have resources to do that. Certainly there is a conversation to be had about what that looks like for those in long-term care, and I look forward to continuing that conversation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, today, I have heard a number of Liberals talk about standards for long-term care. If they want to create care standards, they are going to have to put their money where their mouth is at some point.
    I am not sure if my colleague realizes that the federal government covers just 22% of health care costs. The government wants to set standards, but it never increases funding. On top of all that, health care is not a federal jurisdiction.
    Do the Liberals not agree that the best way to help seniors is to increase health transfers to 35%?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is important that we have these conversations in the House. We talk about jurisdiction a lot, and we have seen that there is a role for the federal government to play in ensuring that we have standards across this country that can ensure quality services for seniors no matter where they live. It is incumbent on us to work together with our provincial counterparts to ensure that the lessons learned from this pandemic specifically around long-term care are not soon forgotten.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke about giving seniors the opportunity to age with dignity. I have met with many seniors in Edmonton Strathcona who speak about that very thing. They speak about wanting to age in place and wanting to ensure that the care they get when they do transition into long-term care is adequate. However, what we have seen in Alberta is a real problem with for-profit centres, which basically use a profit mandate rather than a care mandate.
    Would the member support making sure that there are no dollars in long-term care and that it is, in fact, a public service that is provided? What steps would she see the government taking to ensure that seniors have the opportunity to age in place longer before they go into long-term care?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Edmonton Strathcona. I know she cares deeply about seniors across this country and has worked very hard to see this particular bill come to fruition.
    This again speaks to jurisdictional issues. When it comes to long-term care, each province and territory has its own version. In New Brunswick, we have a mix of private and public care.
    I get it. We have to make sure that every dollar being spent is being used in the best capacity to really support seniors with their needs in their older years. I will use this time to give a shout-out to the Pine Grove Nursing Home in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where my grandmother is in palliative care right now. There are good examples we can point to as far as best practices go, and that needs to be part of the conversation with the provinces and territories as we look to ensure that standards of care are upheld across the country in long-term care.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the comments from the hon. member for Fredericton. In particular, I appreciate that she mentioned a guaranteed livable income.
     I appreciate the member's advocacy for a guaranteed livable income, and would love to hear her comments on the impact of a guaranteed livable income for seniors.
    Mr. Speaker, any time I can talk about a guaranteed livable income, I certainly will take the chance to. I see it a safety net that could help so many across this country, including seniors, in a really big way, as well those with disabilities. The list could go on and on.
    This is something we could do. Again, I talked about the kind of collective sigh of relief across the nation for protecting our most vulnerable. We need to do that for seniors as soon as possible, and I am committed to continuing that conversation with my colleagues.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this bill, which is another case of the Liberal government trying to clean up after itself.
    I will be splitting my time with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
    I come from the beautiful city of Abbotsford, which is nestled between majestic Mount Baker and the mighty Fraser River. We are very grateful to live in that community, but it is a community that has many seniors. In fact, my own office is in a tower that houses seniors.
    Another element of Abbotsford that I am very proud of is the fact that Abbotsford is the most generous census metropolitan area in the country. Of all the 27 census metropolitan areas in this country, we are the most generous by a country mile. That is a good thing. It is a great model for other communities to emulate.
    The reason I share this is that much of the generosity actually comes from the seniors in Abbotsford. These are seniors who contributed to building our country. These are seniors who today still contribute to the fabric of our nation, yet here we are. Some of these very seniors are well-to-do and live comfortable lives, but many are living on the edge of poverty. I know my Liberal colleagues are mocking us today. It is a shame that something as serious as this would be treated with such contempt by our Liberal friends across the way.
    I will say this. The seniors in my community, many of whom are on the edge of poverty, took an incredible hit from the incompetence of the current government. This is actually a story of what was intended to be something good, which was a response to the COVID pandemic. The government, stepping up and hoping to invest in the lives of Canadians and make sure that Canadians did not slip through the cracks during the pandemic, invested heavily in support programs.
    When the government invested in these support programs to help Canadians through the COVID pandemic, they forgot a few things. First, they forgot that these support programs that helped Canadians had to be properly designed to make sure that Canadians who truly needed the support received the support, that fraudsters who may have wanted to apply for these benefits did not get away with it, and that people who lived outside of our country and who did not need these benefits did not qualify for them. Unfortunately, many of the programs that our Liberal friends across the way implemented had none of those safeguards. They did not have the oversight, and they did not have the scrutiny. The Liberals rammed the stuff through the House of Commons.
    Again, my Liberal colleagues across the aisle are laughing. They are laughing at seniors across our country for the pain that these Liberals have caused them.
    In delivering these support programs, there were design flaws. There were oversight and scrutiny problems along the way, so that people received benefits who should not have received those benefits. There were hundreds of millions of dollars going outside of our country to people who did not even have a connection to Canada, but applied and somehow qualified for these programs.
    There was a second problem. The Liberals forgot that some of the most critical programs that seniors rely on in this country, such as old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, are means-tested and depend on taxable income from the previous year. Some of these seniors applied for the government support programs. They qualified for them and they received the support. After the fact, they were told that the amounts that the government had just sent them were fully taxable, and they were going to have to include them in their taxable income.

  (1330)  

    Of course, what happened was that vulnerable seniors who trusted the Liberal government realized they would no longer qualify for the GIS. They realized that the funds they received from the government so generously were now going to be clawed back by that very same Liberal government. Therein lies the rub. The Liberals made a mistake. In the vernacular, they screwed up.
    It gets worse. The Liberal government has known for almost a year that this was a problem, and that seniors were distressed in the knowledge that this money was going to be clawed back and their ability to qualify for seniors' benefits, such as the GIS, was going to be compromised. Can colleagues imagine the distress of someone living on the poverty line who is then told they have to repay thousands of dollars to the government? These were thousands of dollars that seniors did not actually have. For a year, the government has known this and failed to act.
    The Liberals failed to act for a number of reasons. First, there was the situation where Parliament could have been recalled in the fall of 2021 to deal with legislation that would fix this problem. Instead, what did they do? They called an unnecessary and expensive election that changed absolutely nothing. They still are in a minority government. Over half a billion dollars was spent on an unnecessary election, and they delayed their response to a problem they had created for seniors. The election was held. Nothing has changed. The Prime Minister could not recall Parliament right away. He took many months before he recalled Parliament.
     In the meantime, seniors have been calling my office saying, “Ed, what am I going to do? How am I going to get through this? I don't have the money to repay these benefits that they are now clawing back from me. How am I going to survive? How am I going to put food on the table? How am I going to pay rent?”
    This is a problem of the Liberal government's making. Here we are now, almost a year later, and what we see are government MPs giving speeches in the House, talking about how great they are and how they love seniors, and saying that this legislation is going to provide certainty for seniors across our country. The minister herself, in her responses in question period, was pretending that this was not a problem. In fact, the Liberals are doing seniors a favour with this legislation. The minister's responses have been nothing short of a word salad. I think she was hoping to create some kind of a fog that seniors in this country would not see through.
     The fact is that this is a problem of the Liberal government's making. Now it is asking us, as Parliament, to fix and clean up its mess. This is symptomatic of the Liberal government: It is constantly asking Parliament to clean up after it. They ask us to get out the shovels and clean up the mess.
    Canadians are getting very tired of this. I hope that Canadians who are watching today understand that the problem in the House is the Liberal government and its leader. It is the most divisive, incompetent and unethical government this country has ever seen. It is incompetent even when it comes to our seniors, of all people.
    I will leave those thoughts with members and the Canadian people. I hope the Liberals learn a lesson from this. They are constantly doing this: screwing up time and again. This has to stop.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, I assure you and the member that nobody was laughing at his comments. What we were trying to do was actually remind the member that he voted in favour of all the measures that he is now criticizing. As a matter of fact, he did it through unanimous consent.
    The member talked about not remembering what happened, and being surprised. Does the member not remember, back in March of 2020, when the government helped 5.4 million Canadians by putting money in their bank accounts within four and a half weeks of the WHO declaring a global pandemic? Hindsight is 20/20. Is it not great to be able to look back and be so critical? The irony in all of it is that the member voted in favour of everything he is now criticizing.
    Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting. They are mocking again. After denying it, they are mocking seniors across our country.
    At no time has our Conservative—
    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, absolutely nobody on this side of the House is mocking seniors, and the member should—
    I appreciate the input, but that is getting back into debate.
    The hon. member for Abbotsford, please finish up the answer.
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House, I would never mock that individual. I have great respect for him, but he is incorrect in suggesting that we did not support these benefits and then voted in favour of them. I never, in my speech, suggested that these benefits were not necessary for Canadians. In fact, I gave a speech in the House supporting these COVID benefits because they were necessary to keep Canadians afloat.
    Seniors never expected that they would be betrayed and told after the fact that these benefits would be taxable, especially when they were on the cusp of poverty.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Abbotsford for his speech.
    I think it is wonderful that the Conservatives are stepping up for seniors. Finally. The Bloc Québécois was starting to feel a bit lonely in calling on the government to do something for seniors.
    The member for Abbotsford was a member of the government in 2012 when Prime Minister Harper decided that only seniors aged 67 and older would be eligible for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. Now, the Conservatives are criticizing the Liberal government for creating two classes of seniors by supporting only seniors aged 75 and older.
    Have my colleague's opinions evolved over the years and does he now think that seniors need their pension and, possibly, the GIS, once they turn 65? Does he also agree that it is unfair for the Liberal government to create two classes of seniors by supporting only seniors aged 75 and over?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am going to have to take issue with the suggestion by the member that somehow Conservatives do not support seniors.
    In fact, I would remind that member that it was a Conservative member of Parliament, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who brought forward a bill to protect seniors' pensions against insolvency, against bankruptcy, against the big corporate raiders coming along, bankrupting a company and then leaving seniors out to dry. It is the Conservative opposition in this House that is stepping up and standing up for seniors to make sure that they have the pensions they deserve and have paid into.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, I also want to echo how great it is to hear Conservatives talk about supporting seniors, particularly those who live on and below the poverty line, which is an absolute shame in a country as wealthy as Canada.
    However, when this member was in government, it was the former Conservative government that engaged in a full war on seniors, pushing back benefits like the OAS and GIS to the age of 67, truly a shocking reproach towards our seniors who have helped build this country. We judge by what they did in power rather than by the words we are hearing right now.
    Is it not time to urgently support seniors? When will the Conservatives get with the program on that?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the member meant when she said “get with the program on that,” whatever “that” is.
    We have been consistent on this side of the House in supporting seniors and speaking up on behalf of seniors. Throughout this whole pandemic, it has been Conservatives that have been pushing the Liberal government to step into the breach and to support the seniors who are vulnerable across our country. We will continue to do that.
    Mr. Speaker, I am so glad to be in the House today to talk about this important motion. We are talking about the guaranteed income supplement and what we need to do to ensure that seniors can make it through life in Canada right now. One of the greatest jobs I had before becoming a member of Parliament was being a constituency assistant for 11 years for Joe Preston, the member for Parliament for Elgin—Middlesex—London. He was a nice guy.
    For 11 years, I was able to work with him and some of the things I worked on were cases for the Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, foreign affairs, Passport Canada and all of those things. One of the most important things I did with the customer service we provided was to sit down with the constituents who would come into our office. They would tell us they needed to apply for something, they were only bringing in $700 for their pension and they got a little top-up from their old age security pension, but they did not have any money and their cost of living was much higher than what they received. I had the opportunity to work with seniors in my community in Elgin—Middlesex—London before entering this place for 11 years and to understand the struggles that our seniors are going through.
    I look at the experience that I had from 2004 to 2015 and recognize that times have changed greatly.
    I want to go back to looking at why people get the guaranteed income supplement in the first place. These are our seniors who are over the age of 65 and are not making enough money to pay their bills. They are looking for a little extra because the cost of living continues to rise. They are, in many case, on fixed incomes. They may have some annuities and they may have things like that. Many times they know that, at the end of the month, on the third day, on the last business day of the month, they are going to receive their old age security, their CPP and the top-up of their GIS, if they are low-income.
    I know at the beginning of this pandemic, like all of the members in the House, we had phone calls from everybody. There were phone calls coming from small businesses. There were parents calling, who needed to go to work and there was no place to put their child. There were a lot of things happening at that time. It was important that we worked along with the government to find resolutions and to find solutions for seniors who were having a very difficult time and for people across the country who were having a very difficult time.
    Just last year, of course, the government continued to talk about how they gave every senior $500. Well, it was great, because on behalf of my campaign, I would like to thank the many people who said they did not need that money. This was a universal input. They said they did not need the money and they gave it to my campaign or gave it to charities.
    However, what is important here is that there are seniors who, from cheque to cheque, from month to month, know what their incomes are going to be but they do not know what to expect from their costs. A lot of this comes from the cost of inflation.
    Anyone who knows me, they know I am a mom of five, and they know I love my mom and dad. My dad is one of the most inspirational people I have in my life. The thing I talk about with my dad is the cost of groceries. My dad will go through the flyer, each and every week, and will say to me, “No Frills has a ham on sale and the eye of round is on sale at A&P.” This is what my dad does. When I know the prices have gone up, I know this because my dad, my mister shopper guy, my 85-year-old senior father who goes out for groceries, tells me that things have changed.
    I want to share with the House, before I get into my dad's grocery bill, a couple of scenarios that were brought into my office. Jena in my office has been there since 2015 and has worked with seniors for years, so when she calls me, panicking, that means that there is a problem. She calls panicking because she knows there are seniors who are not paying their mortgage, seniors who are not able to pay their rent that month and seniors who cannot afford their bills or their medications. That is because of what has happened today with GIS.
    I have heard a lot of this conversation and I will let everyone know, as a constituency assistant, I always believe there is a solution.
    Last year, when we were talking about this, my solution was to call the Minister of Seniors, where I was truly scuffed off. I explained to her my experience. I explained to her what I had seen. Basically, I was told that it would all work out. It has not worked out and I want to read these scenarios to the House.
    Scenario one is a lady in her seventies who never retired and continued to work until the pandemic hit and her place of employment closed permanently. She went on CERB through Service Canada and collected the full amount. She continuously looked for work and switched from CERB to CRB, but due to her age she was unable to find employment. She thought she was being responsible and used the CRB to pay down her line of credit that she has. She was officially retired, as it looked like she was going to have to be. She also had fewer monthly expenses. Because she was unable to option off her CRB, she was no longer entitled to the GIS and her monthly income was approximately $1,100 a month.

  (1345)  

    Let us talk about $1,100 a month. I can tell everyone that if they want to rent an apartment in my town, it is $1,200 a month. If they want to rent one in London, it is $1,200 a month. If they want to rent a bedroom where people are sharing amenities, maybe it is $700. However, most seniors do not have that flexibility. We are asking a senior who is making $1,100 a month to feed themselves, to pay rent and everything else, and it is all okay. The Minister of Seniors knew this last year when I was talking to her and now, seven months later, a person making $1,100 is still making $1,100.
    It is great that we are pushing through this legislation and I know we need to do this, but we have to reflect on how we got here in the first place. The government was not listening when it knew this problem was going on last year. The member for Abbotsford talked about that. He talked about our bringing this up for a year. That means the seniors I am talking about in my scenarios, each and every month, are having to choose between food or electricity. That is what seniors are having to do.
    The second scenario I would like to mention is a gentleman who was not entitled to CRB and received $14,000 in 2020. He is now trying to live on approximately $1,100. The province is now trying to assist him as he can barely pay for his rent with that income. We have looked at some different scenarios. Let us say someone is working at Walmart and they made $500. They were being given a $2,000 CRB payment; we know that. Do people really expect these seniors were thinking that the government was going to turn around and say, “Hey, we are cutting off the GIS and this is taxable.”
    Yes, all the parliamentarians here, the 338 people who would have voted to ensure that seniors and Canadians had these benefits were going to do that. We knew that there was going to be mistakes, but it has been almost two years and the mistake has not been fixed. That is the problem here. When the member for Abbotsford is talking about the mistakes that are being made and what the Liberals did, let us reflect on the fact that they had time to change what they were doing and for months they sat on their hands while seniors were going without. That is the bottom line.
    Let us now talk about that $1,100 and what it can actually afford. I want to talk to members about the fact that seniors really do not have a lot of money to pay for these expenses. The cost of living continues to go up.
    I want to talk about my dad. My dad is probably watching today because that is what he does when he is 85 years old. He sits in his house with my mom, who is 81. They go out, they get groceries, they go for a drive and they do simple things like that, and, especially during COVID, they have not had a lot of opportunities to go and enjoy life. What my parents do enjoy is grocery shopping. What they do enjoy is looking at the prices of food. What I did was I looked at the cost of living and I looked at the costs that were begin given by Stats Canada. I want to talk about my parents' shopping list, comparing it from March 2020 to December 31, 2021.
    Corn Flakes have gone up from $5.88 to $6.67. It is a dollar and that does not seem like a big deal, but a dollar makes a big difference when someone does not have a lot of dollars. Bacon has gone from $6.96 to $8.66. To all of those out there, I will be honest, I love listening to Liberals talk about bacon. If people want to eat bacon, then go for it. They have the right to do so. It is their choice.
    Gas is the one thing that really concerns me. Gas was $0.91 going into this pandemic in March 2020. In December, it was $1.41. Today, in the city of St. Thomas and in the city of London, it is $1.57. If my father wanted to take my mom out for a drive to go get a bacon sandwich, they cannot afford to do it very much anymore.
    I think of my parents as being frugal and safe with their money. They are brilliant when it comes to finances. I think of the seniors who are living alone, who are looking for help and who are living in isolation. I think of those seniors who may not have someone else's income to help them. I think of the seniors who need somebody to come and clean their house or who need extra things like PPE. None of that is available to them.
    I would like to say to the government that of course I am going to support the change to the GIS. Of course, I supported these things coming out, but the government should have fixed it last year. Please get back on track so the future generation is not lost like the Liberals have done to this generation.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I see a consensus forming. The member talks about our seniors in a manner in which I often talk about our seniors. We value their contributions from the past and the many contributions yet to come. One of the issues is ensuring they have disposable income. That is why we created many of the programs we put in place, many of which were supported by the Conservatives. Yes, at times, there are mistakes that do need to be corrected and that is what this legislation does. It is an important piece of legislation.
    To be clear, the member supports the legislation, but she would also like to see it pass this week too, I would think.
    Mr. Speaker, I would have liked to have seen that passed last year.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, from my Conservative colleague's speech, it is clear she is sincere and sensitive to the needs of seniors. She described their financial struggles in great detail.
    There is ample evidence that seniors are getting poorer, which is appalling to the Bloc Québécois. That is why we have repeatedly urged the government to significantly increase old age security and the guaranteed income supplement for seniors 65 and up. This is the federal government's most important social safety net program.
    Does my colleague agree with our proposal to be proactive and increase old age security at 65?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is one of the strongest programs that we have in our social safety net. When we know that the cost of living has gone up to 5% but seniors are only getting an increase of 2.8%, of course it has to be increased. They cannot pay their bills. Until this government gets inflation under control, I think that we need to look at all of this.
     When we are talking about seniors' programs, we need to look at the important bill put forward by the member for Sarnia—Lambton. We need to look at RIFs and RSPs. There are a lot of things that we need to look at, because every senior has individual needs, and that program needs to be solid.
    Mr. Speaker, first, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London talked about her parents watching, and she must be very proud. They have a wonderful daughter, and I always appreciate her interventions.
    However, I have an issue the member's party when it comes to seniors. Conservative members voted against really important NDP proposals, such as pharmacare to help seniors make sure they get access to medicine, dental care for those who cannot afford it and a guaranteed annual livable income so that no senior is living in poverty. They even voted against taxing CEOs and closing tax loopholes or tax havens for the super-wealthy, measures that would pay for those programs.
     Eleanor Joy, from Parksville, is telling me that the clawback has made it impossible for her to be able to buy food plus pay for medicine plus pay her rent. I ask the member if she would agree that the government should be paying for the pandemic recovery off the backs of billionaires and not off the poorest of Canadians, especially our seniors.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are so many parts to that question that I would like to answer.
    However, the member talked about taxing the wealthy more. I believe that through this pandemic, we did see a recovery take shape. We did see the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That is absolutely what we have seen today, but I think that right now what we need to do is give greater opportunities.
    We also need to look at our health care system and recognize that what we thought was a great system failed us, so what can we do to ensure that we have a universal health care system that works for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast?
    Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to taking us into question period and being here today to talk about Bill C-12, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act.
     It is interesting that the hon. member for Abbotsford used most of his speech to criticize what he called mocking, none of which was happening on this side, but is using this opportunity to heckle me. It is just shameful. It is unbelievable.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Chris Bittle: It seems I am very popular today with respect to the warm welcome I am receiving from the opposition. I thank my hon. colleagues. It is wonderful.
    This bill would exempt pandemic relief benefits from the calculation of the guaranteed income supplement or allowance benefits beginning in July 2022.
    Allow me to explain. The Canada emergency response benefit was put into place very quickly in 2020, voted in by unanimous consent from the members here, to help people avoid the catastrophic income loss of COVID‑19. The unprecedented pandemic required an unprecedented response. The CERB and the Canadian recovery benefit did just that. They allowed Canadians who did not know what was next to not have to worry or choose between a roof over their head or putting food on their table. These benefits are now having an impact on some vulnerable seniors.
    I forgot to say that I would like to share my time with the hon. member for Kitchener Centre.
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Chris Bittle: It is heartening to hear the members of the opposition wanting me to go the full 20 minutes, but I will share my time.
     The GIS is an income-tested benefit for low-income seniors who receive the old age security pension. Every July, an individual's entitlement to the GIS or the allowance is reassessed, based on the individual's income, or the combined income if it is a couple, as reported on their income tax return. The Income Tax Act defines pandemic relief benefits as taxable income, which means they are also considered as income when someone's entitlement to the GIS or allowance benefits is being determined. Unfortunately, that means that some GIS or allowance recipients may be facing lower benefit payments because of the income they received from these pandemic benefits. This is the unprecedented aftermath of an unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis. We need to move quickly to resolve this situation.
    It seems my time is up for the moment. I hope to come back to finish my speech after question period.
    Some hon. members: No, no. More, more.
    “For the moment”, being the operative words, the hon. member will have seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining when we resume debate.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Erna Paris

    Mr. Speaker, today I am speaking in memory of Erna Paris. I did not know her, but I can continue to learn from her writing and her inspiration even after she has passed away. Today we celebrate her life.
    She was a mother and she was dearly loved. She was a writer and a thinker. She did not just educate people; she also inspired. In fact, one of her proudest moments was that her book Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History was cited as the inspiration for a motion brought in this place to have an apology to indigenous people for the residential schools history. She was a member of the Order of Canada. She passed away recently, but we can all continue to learn and be inspired by her voice.
    Rest in peace, Erna Paris.

  (1400)  

Terry Muise

    Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday the community of Yarmouth in the riding of West Nova lost a beloved citizen, our friend Terry Muise, at the young age of 62.
    On the day of his passing, EHS paramedics, Yarmouth Regional Hospital ER and hospital staff, police officers, firefighters, friends and family gathered outside his home to pay tribute and honour his memory.
    Terry was a father, a husband, a brother, a friend, a colleague and a well-respected paramedic who went above and beyond his passion to serve his community for well over 44 years.
    Those who had the opportunity to meet Terry would agree with me that he was such a kind-hearted soul that he had a heart at least 10 times larger than Nova Scotia itself.
    Whether he was talking about his visits to Graceland as Elvis Presley's biggest fan or about a Red Sox game, he was truly a generous and enjoyable person one would want to be around.
    One minute is way too short to honour Terry's memory, but I still wanted to honour him one last time.
    To his friends, to his wife Sandra, and to his two sons, Luke and Matt, I would like to once again offer my deepest sympathy and condolences. Terry will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.

Community Organizations in Newmarket—Aurora

    Mr. Speaker, in honour of Black History Month, I am proud to rise today to speak on two principled and influential groups in my community of Newmarket—Aurora.
    Throughout the last two years, we have seen how COVID-19 has exposed systemic barriers for the Black and racialized community across Newmarket—Aurora and indeed throughout Canada. Both the Aurora Black Community, or ABC, and the Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association, or NACCA, are leaders for both educating and sharing while creating an inclusive and connected community.
    This month, as we rejoice in their virtues as allies and leaders, I want to thank ABC and NACCA for their continued and ongoing contributions to our community of Newmarket—Aurora. From each corner of our community, ABC and NACCA have been trailblazers for enacting real and permanent change in Newmarket and Aurora.

[Translation]

Resource Centre for People with Disabilities

    Mr. Speaker, La Ressource is an organization in my riding that does amazing work helping people with disabilities maintain everything they have achieved and take full advantage of the financial resources available to them.
    To keep providing these services, La Ressource needs money and relies on various funding sources, including donations. All year long, it organizes fundraisers and events. Fortunately, the organization can count on people like Pierre Tremblay to help reach its goal.
    A few weeks ago, Mr. Tremblay kicked off an event in collaboration with Domaine du Lac Parent, a virtual fishing tournament to raise money for La Ressource's telethon. People from all over Abitibi—Témiscamingue and elsewhere were invited to send in a photo of their catch for a chance to win a prize.
    In closing, I am appealing to the generosity of people in my region. I invite them to donate to La Ressource in honour of its 25th anniversary so it can help as many people as possible.

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, on February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years of incarceration.
    We all know why he was robbed of much of his life. We all know that he sacrificed so much so that millions of people oppressed by a deeply racist and inhumane regime could enjoy the same rights as the minority that was crushing them.

[English]

    What Nelson Mandela accomplished for his country, on an international level as well, was monumental. However, his work is not finished. Now, more than ever, when misinformed explanations try to muffle reality and when some look away from the truth because it makes them uncomfortable, we should actively continue our work to combat racism and discrimination in its various forms.
    Precious moments of our lives pass us by. The hours turn into days, weeks and months, and opportunities to seek one another out pass us by as well. We lose that possibility to love one another, to get to know each other and maybe create a lifetime of beautiful memories. In the end, when we have lived our lives, these are the only things that will matter.

  (1405)  

New Blueberry River First Nation Chief

    Mr. Speaker, today, I congratulate a very dedicated member of northern B.C., Judy Desjarlais. Last month, Judy was elected chief of the Blueberry River First Nation and just yesterday served her very first day as chief. Judy said she is dedicated to “bringing unity back” and “building a prosperous future for her nation”.
    For almost two decades, Judy and her husband Boomer have owned Top Notch Oilfield Contracting, providing good jobs and opportunities throughout our area. Judy has been a very vocal advocate for her community and for developing our abundant natural resources in northern B.C. She is a busy mom to Trinity, Angel and Dawson, and deeply loves and respects her 81-year-old granny, Elder May Dominic.
    We all congratulate Judy on her election, and I look forward to working with her. May God continue to bless Judy and guide her, as the mantle of leadership at the Blueberry is placed on her very capable shoulders. May Judy lead on.

Emergencies Act

    Mr. Speaker, the past few weeks have made clear that our democracy can be, and is being, threatened. Constituents are rightly asking what the federal government is doing on their behalf.
    The invocation of the Emergencies Act is an extraordinary measure, but one that is justified by the current circumstances. Certain extra powers will be given to the federal government so that it can help bring the crisis to an end. These powers will be time-limited and subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Crucially, the military will not play an enforcement role.
    I know that constituents want to help counter extremism because the government cannot solve this on its own. To them, I say do not despair. They could volunteer for a local non-profit focused on a cause they care about, condemn hate and the mistreatment of journalists, speak up against misinformation, join a political party that best reflects their values, volunteer for a political candidate they believe in and, most of all, show kindness. Kindness builds trust, and trust between citizens is what ultimately holds democracy together.

COVID-19 Protests

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to address something that is affecting all Canadians. My riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler is home to two Toyota plants that directly employ over 5,000 employees. The situation at the Ambassador Bridge had a direct impact on the many constituents in my riding who work in the auto sector, when the plants were forced to close for several days.
    Blockades in cities and at border crossings have disrupted the lives of families across the country. I have heard from constituents in my riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler, thousands of whom were sent home from work as a direct result of the blockades. This is hurting our neighbours, crippling the manufacturing industry, disrupting the supply chain and making life even harder for all Canadians, who have already gone through so much.
    I encourage and ask that all levels of government continue to work together on the current situation at our border crossings and allow Canadians to return to work.

Lytton Disaster Assistance

    Mr. Speaker, almost eight months ago, Canadians watched in horror as a devastating wildfire destroyed Lytton. Sadly, there are still no permits issued to rebuild homes or businesses. We are still waiting on debris removal. Residents are still waiting to hear if the land they once called home is ready to rebuild on. Many are worried that the living expenses covered by their insurance companies and the Red Cross will run out before construction begins.
    The municipality itself faces the onerous task of replacing its records lost in the fire. Today, it is still lacking electricity, water, wastewater, telecommunications and even a reliable post office.
    I would like to recognize the B.C. government's $8.3 million in funding, but more needs to be done. Lytton needs help. The village cannot wait any longer. My constituents cannot wait any longer. We need to return the community to the people who made Lytton what it was.

Armenian Genocide

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 34th anniversary of the Sumgait pogrom, which took place in February, 1988, when a large number of Armenians were subjected to mass killings and persecution by Azerbaijani forces as a result of their aspiration to live freely and with dignity.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

    Many residents of Laval—Les Îles remember these horrific acts and are disheartened that the same politics of hate and perception continue to haunt the Armenian people to this day. Armenia and Artsakh continue to face endless aggression from Azerbaijan, and many of their military members remain illegally detained as prisoners of war.

[English]

    I am confident that through multilateralism, Canada will continue to bring its constructive input to the peaceful and fair resolution of this conflict, while ensuring that Armenians and other minorities live peacefully, free of hate and discrimination.

Canadian Oil and Gas Industry

    Mr. Speaker, hard-working Canadians are frustrated with the Liberal government, and rightfully so. We see full oil tankers coming in on the east coast from dictatorships, from human rights abusers and from those who have no respect for the environment. However, our ethically produced, environmentally responsible, job-creating Alberta oil is blocked from getting to a market.
    Canada is blessed with the third-largest proven oil reserves on the planet. We have among the toughest environmental standards and employment standards. We have the foundation to be an energy-independent country, with enough left over to export. That is why it is so unacceptable that Canada imports energy from 114 other countries.
     It is time for the Liberal government to end energy imports. It is time for the Liberal government to support Canada's energy independence. It is time for the Liberal government to support Canadians. Annabelle, loud and proud.

Saskatchewan Act

    Mr. Speaker, last week, my Conservative caucus colleagues and I had the distinct privilege of carrying through our motion to review and amend our Canadian Constitution.
    By unanimously removing a long-standing tax provision that granted special treatment to a large corporation, all members of the House played a critical role in opening up and fixing that error in our Constitution. Although not necessarily a headline-grabbing initiative, removing red tape and unfair provisions of our Constitution is an important task, and part of the responsibility our constituents have entrusted us with in sending us all here.
    Tensions have been running high in the House for weeks as we debate issues that are important and have a direct impact on the future of all Canadians. Given the fraught environment we currently find ourselves in, the rarity of finding unanimous consent on any issue is not lost on me. I thank members of the House, especially my 13 Saskatchewan Conservative colleagues, for the show of unity in getting this important work done.
    We will always be on Saskatchewan’s side. After all, if we do not respect the Constitution, do we have respect for anything?

National Flag of Canada Day

    Mr. Speaker, today I proudly salute the national flag of Canada. It was 57 years ago that our beloved flag was raised on Parliament Hill for the first time. This enduring symbol represents our core national values of democracy and justice.
    In my life, and in my time in public service, I have seen the high regard Canadians and people around the globe have for our flag. I have had the honour of joining countless citizenship ceremonies over the years, where new and born Canadians took immense pride both in our flag and in being part of our broader Canadian family.
    Today, I encourage all Canadians to proudly display the flag: the iconic and internationally recognizable maple leaf that symbolizes Canada, the land and its people.

[Translation]

    Canada's national flag symbolizes hope and prosperity, as well as peace, tranquillity and neutrality.
    I wish all Canadians a happy Flag Day.

[English]

Willard Gallic Sr.

    Mr. Speaker, the Nuu-chah-nulth people lost a hero last fall. Willard Gallic Sr. was a respected elder of the Tseshaht First Nation. He passed at the age of 81, following a life of joy and accomplishment.
    He dedicated his life to standing up for Nuu-chah-nulth rights, treaty negotiations and language and culture. He worked on the docks and was an active member of Local 503 of the International Longshoremen's Union, becoming the first indigenous person to be elected as president of their local and eventually international vice-president.
    I met Willard when he invited me to a reclaiming lost souls for residential school survivors ceremony in 2019. On that day, he told us the residential school was put on Tseshaht land without the permission of his people, but he called for a new beginning. “We want to set souls free. We want to send them home,” he said. The Indian agent had come for six-year-old Willard in 1946, but his dad stood firm and Willard was not taken. “ 'You are not taking him',” Willard said as he told the story of his dad confronting the agent, “and my mom backed him up.” It was an act of courage that shaped the life of qiiqiiqiy'a, a hero to his people. May he rest in peace.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

The Patriotes

    Mr. Speaker, today we mark a sad anniversary. On February 15, 1839, the last six of the 12 leaders of the Patriotes, a national liberation movement, were hanged at the Pied-du-Courant prison. The Patriotes were fighting for collective rights, democracy and equality of peoples.
    I believe it is our duty to defend the legacy of the Patriotes, a legacy that also belongs to my political family and all Quebeckers, because their history is closely linked to the history of my riding, Terrebonne.
    It was in Terrebonne that the first demonstration for the 92 resolutions was held. It was in Terrebonne that a peace treaty was signed in November 1838 between the Loyalists and the Frères Chasseurs, a peace treaty that was later broken by the British authorities. The Patriote flag that I am proudly wearing is not just a symbol of rebellion. It symbolizes the wish of a people to choose their own destiny. To be a Patriote is not just to be a rebel, but to believe in democracy.

Olympic Games

    Mr. Speaker, last night, an Olympic record was broken at the Beijing Olympics when the Canadian long track speed skating team won the gold medal.
    I would like to congratulate Valérie Maltais, Isabelle Weidemann and Ivanie Blondin for this spectacular performance. This trio has great chemistry, and they are fun to watch.
    In particular, I would like to congratulate Valérie Maltais, the pride of La Baie. Her Olympic career has been extraordinary: She has participated in four Olympics, won two medals in two different disciplines, and was the third athlete in the world to win Olympic medals in two speed skating disciplines.
    That is impressive. This golden prize is the result of all the sacrifices she and her family have made over the past 15 years. Her perseverance and determination have made her the athlete she is today. She is a role model for youth across the country.
    I again congratulate Valérie and her parents, Martine and Gérald. The entire region is proud of her. Long live the Saguenay speed skating tradition.

[English]

Wendell Wigle

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour Wendell Wigle, who sadly passed in January. He proudly hailed from Windsor, graduated from Osgoode Hall in 1959 and began a career in law that he dearly loved. I met him and had the honour of working with him at Hughes Amys.
    The man, or “W”, as he was known, was a giant. He was an icon: intimidating and inspirational at the same time. Most of all, he was a true gentleman of the profession. He was a mentor to several generations of lawyers, myself included. A top litigation lawyer appointed Queen's Counsel in 1972, Wendell was respected by all. He generously shared his knowledge and wisdom both in teaching and serving as president of the Advocates' Society and many other organizations.
    Wendell was kind and giving. He was a loving husband, stepfather, grandpa and friend. Wendell will be deeply missed, but not forgotten. Rest in peace, Mr. Wigle.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister invoked the Emergencies Act. Twenty-four hours in, and there are more questions than answers. There are questions about whether this is justified, questions around if the criteria has been met, and questions around what this means to Canadians' rights and freedoms.
     Parliamentary approval is required in order for the Prime Minister to use this unprecedented sledgehammer. Can the Prime Minister tell us when Parliament will be debating this? Will it be coming to us on Friday? Does he expect that we will look at it Friday, but then rise, take a week off and not actually deal with this until March?
    Mr. Speaker, after discussions with cabinet and caucus, consultations with the premiers of all provinces and territories, and conversations with opposition leaders, we decided to invoke the Emergencies Act to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the blockades and occupations.
    I want to be very clear. The scope of these measures are time-limited and geographically targeted. They are reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address. They are to be fully compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to reassure all Canadians that this is the right thing to move forward with.

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, I had a very simple question for the Prime Minister, and he was not able to answer it.
     It would appear this could be more political drama for the Prime Minister. He name-calls people he disagrees with. He wedges; he divides; he stigmatizes. In spite of all of his failures, Coutts border has cleared. Windsor has opened up. Provinces and police are doing their jobs, and blockades are starting to come down.
    However, the Prime Minister thinks that now is the time to use this extreme measure and invoke the Emergencies Act. Is it not true that the Prime Minister's actions could serve to actually make things worse and not make things better?
    Mr. Speaker, this is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting their communities and neighbourhoods, and ensuring jobs and our economy—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I am afraid I am going to have to interrupt the Right Hon. Prime Minister. I am trying to hear the answer, and I am having a very difficult time. There is some shouting going on.
    I am going to have to ask hon. members to keep it down. If you hear something you do not agree with, talk amongst yourselves, with someone next to you. You do not have to shout it out to the person across the floor.
    The Right Hon. Prime Minister.
    Mr. Speaker, you are absolutely right, this is a time for responsible leadership, not crass partisanship.
    The situation requires additional tools not held by other federal, provincial or territorial law. It is what responsible leadership requires. These measures must be, and will be, compliant with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will always defend the rights of Canadians to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression, but these blockades need to end. Unfortunately Conservative politicians continue to encourage the leaders of these blockades.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, let us get down to the basics of what this is really about.
    This is about the Prime Minister's ideological attachment to keeping COVID restrictions and mandates. Sixty-three percent of Canadians want the restrictions and mandates to end. Conservatives presented a motion yesterday simply asking for a plan, but the Prime Minister is in denial and is ignoring the science. He might as well be back at the cottage, because he is doing nothing productive or constructive to help this situation.
    Can the Prime Minister tell Canadians when he will end the divisive, outdated and unscientific mandates and restrictions?
    Mr. Speaker, like I said, this is a time for responsible leadership to end these blockades. Unfortunately, the Conservatives continue to play partisan games.
    The Conservative member for Provencher, just yesterday—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I am sorry, but I am going to have to interrupt the Prime Minister for a second. Heckling is usually throwing one comment out, and hopefully it is a clever one, although not necessarily. However, what I am hearing is someone bullying and trying to drown someone out. That is not heckling. I would like everyone to take a deep breath.
    I will let the Prime Minister start from the top, please.
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, we see that even in a moment of extremely challenging times, when people are moving forward with responsible leadership and responsible tools, the Conservatives themselves cannot help but play crass political games and divide.
    The Conservative member for Provencher, just yesterday, embraced the leaders of this blockade and amplified their cause. The Conservative member for Yorkton—Melville said this weekend that the blockaders who ripped down the fencing around our National War Memorial are patriots. The Conservative leadership contender from Carleton continues to say he is proud—
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

[Translation]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, for 17 days, the Prime Minister did not lift a finger to help with what was happening here in Ottawa. At one point, he insulted those who were not listening to him and who did not share his point of view. As a result, yesterday, the Prime Minister invoked a law that has not been used in 50 years.
    He said that he consulted the premiers. That is not true. He actually just informed the premiers of what was going to happen, because half of them are against this course of action. Premier François Legault made that very clear when he said that the Prime Minister of Canada was adding fuel to the fire.
    Why does the Prime Minister always try to cover up his inaction?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, from the start, we have been working responsibly with local authorities and the various levels of government to deal with these illegal blockades.
    We will continue to ensure that local police have all the tools they need. That is exactly what we did yesterday, by providing additional tools that the police can use to deal with blockades and barricades.
    Unfortunately, I know that Conservative politicians tend to support those who are blocking our economy and communities. We do not.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, over the past few days, Canadians have all seen situations improve without the need for the Emergencies Act.
    It happened in Ontario and in Alberta, and it could have happened here in Ottawa. Instead, the Prime Minister chose to invoke an act that has not been used in 50 years. He continues to stigmatize, divide and insult people who disagree with him, instead of trying to find a compromise.
    Why does the Prime Minister refuse to listen to the Canadians who agree with his Liberal MP from Louis-Hébert and want a prime minister who can bring people together?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are tired of COVID‑19 and the restrictions. They are also tired of having people blockading their streets and restricting their access to goods and services and their jobs.
    That is why we had to take responsible action to enable the provinces and local authorities to keep our supply chains and streets free from illegal protests.
    We will continue to be there to support law enforcement with tools that are compliant with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to protect the values and—
    The hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly.
    Mr. Speaker, Ottawa has lost control over Ottawa.
    Interestingly, the situation at the Ambassador Bridge was resolved without the Emergencies Act. The situation in Coutts and the weapons seizure happened without the Emergencies Act. The situation in Quebec was managed just fine without the Emergencies Act.
    Yesterday the Prime Minister pledged that the measures would be geographically targeted, but that is not what the order says. Will the Prime Minister make it clear that this order does not apply to Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, the Emergencies Act gives police forces nation-wide more tools to respond to emergency situations like the ones we have seen across the country.
    True, many of the barricades in many parts of the country have been handled effectively. However, the risk remains. Local police services in Quebec and elsewhere will have additional tools if they need them.
    These are responsible, proportionate measures that local police services can use if necessary.
    Mr. Speaker, the parties at the Quebec National Assembly do not want it. The Government of Quebec does not want it. The Bloc Québécois does not want it. I am hearing from the neighbouring benches that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba do not want it.
    Is the Prime Minister shopping around his “just watch me” moment by imposing a law in Quebec against Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, the Emergencies Act applies to illegal blockades and occupations that may arise anywhere across the country.
    It is a response that we have brought forward that is reasonable, proportionate, time-limited and geographically targeted, and still protects the values and freedoms in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    We are reacting in a responsible manner, and we will continue to be there for Canadians who are suffering.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, sadly, we are in this crisis because we have seen a failure to take the crisis seriously at all levels of government. Now we are seeing indigenous and racialized people look at the double standard of how the convoy is being treated compared to those protestors. We also have deeply disturbing reports of military and police personnel who have expressed sympathy and support for the convoy.
    Will the Prime Minister provide assurances in the House that the police will use the powers given to protect people and not support the occupation?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, the measured and reasonable use of the Emergencies Act that we announced yesterday gives specific, time-limited, proportional tools to police of local jurisdictions, and their partners, to ensure these illegal blockades end, and make sure that people, who have now been fully heard by all Canadians, choose to go home. These are the things that Canadians expect from their orders of government.
    I can say that we have worked extremely closely across orders of government with all the different police of jurisdictions to ensure that Canadians get their streets and their lives back.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a national crisis, and we have seen the impact it is having. Weapons were found in Coutts, and the situation in Ottawa is deteriorating. It has become quite clear that it is time to put an end to the occupation. It is also clear that there is no occupation in Quebec.
    Is the Prime Minister prepared to make the commitment that the emergency measures will not be applied where they are not needed?
    Mr. Speaker, the Emergencies Act provides additional tools for governments and local police forces supported by the RCMP if needed.
    We will not impose measures anywhere in the country where they are not needed. These are tools that local police are free to use at their discretion, but it is a matter of ensuring that everyone has the tools they need to end these illegal blockades.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the invocation of the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history is a damning indictment on the failure of the Prime Minister to address the situation. The Prime Minister once said, “when a government asks its citizens to give up even a small portion of their liberty...it is not [simply] enough...to say: ‘trust us.’ That trust must be earned. It must be checked. And it must be renewed.” Those were his words.
     Canadians do not trust the Prime Minister. When will he stop undermining Canadians’ rights and start renewing Canadians' trust?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians can trust that this government will always follow the science and the best evidence to get us out of this pandemic. That includes getting vaccinated.
    Contrary to what my colleague says, this is an illegal blockade. This illegal blockade is not about the vaccines or the mandates. It is about a very small, organized group that is trying to upend our way of life. Now, we have made progress. We have seen the Ambassador Bridge reopen, we have seen Coutts reopen and we have seen Surrey reopen. Yes, yesterday, we invoked the Emergencies Act so we can secure that progress and give law enforcement all the tools they need.
    Mr. Speaker, we shall see if the Prime Minister answers this one. At every opportunity he has had to de-escalate the situation in Ottawa and around Canada, he has chosen to hide, confront and escalate. His divisive conduct has been a lesson in abject failure. Blockades should come down. They are already coming down across this country, but now the Prime Minister has invoked the Emergencies Act to punish Canadians who, in his words, hold “unacceptable views”.
    Why is the Prime Minister punishing Canadians for their political views?
    Mr. Speaker, it was not long ago that the former Conservative leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle with the Conservative Party, said:
    These protesters, these activists, may have the luxury of spending days at a time at a blockade, but they need to check their privilege.... They need to check their privilege, and let people whose jobs depend on the railway system, small businesses and farmers do their jobs.
    What have they said now, in this context, from the beginning, as swastikas and Confederate flags flew? They went out and they gave out coffee. They took pictures. They have been absolutely the opposite of responsible leadership. Instead of de-escalating, they escalated at every turn.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we all want to resolve the impasse in front of Parliament in Ottawa, and we want it to end quickly and peacefully. Because this government failed to act earlier, now it has to play catch-up and is invoking the Emergencies Act. The government should have emulated the provincial premiers, who managed to control the protests without any special legislation.
    Will the Prime Minister commit to not using any powers under the Emergencies Act in the many provinces that oppose it?
    Mr. Speaker, it was the former leader of the Conservative Party, currently the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who once said that it was completely unacceptable for protests to block essential infrastructure. What is the Conservative Party doing today? It is out there taking photos, tweeting and encouraging protesters, which is irresponsible, considering the protests are costing billions of dollars. It is completely irresponsible.
    Mr. Speaker, it is the government that is being irresponsible. I will repeat my question, and I invite the leader to listen.
    Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Alberta and Quebec no longer want health measures. What is the government waiting for? It must commit to not forcing the provinces to impose health measures.
    Mr. Speaker, we are all responsible. Each member is responsible for protecting the law and Canadians. This responsibility belongs to each member, not just to the Government of Canada and not just to this side of the House of Commons. I want to clearly state that it is time to stop tweeting and supporting the people protesting outside. The protests must come to an end. It is time to be reasonable, and it is time for the Conservative Party to act responsibly.

[English]

Health

    Are you done now?
    For two years, the Prime Minister has insisted he is making decisions—
    I want to remind hon. members to place their questions through the Speaker.
    I will let the hon. member restart her question.
    Mr. Speaker, my apologies.
    For two years, the Prime Minister has insisted he is making decisions based on science. Canadians sacrificed, isolated, closed businesses and got vaccinated because experts advised that it was the safest way forward. Now those same experts say it is time to ease restrictions. Premiers are listening, but the Prime Minister believes he knows better and has invoked the emergency measures act.
    Does the Prime Minister intend to force the provinces to implement measures they, and science, disagree with?
    Mr. Speaker, I will tell members what I am done with. I am done with seeing this protest continue and these illegal actions continue, which have cost billions of dollars for businesses and have terrorized downtown residents. I am tired of seeing Conservative tweets. The member for Provencher is saying he supports it, and the member for Yorkton—Melville is saying that ripping down barricades in front of a war memorial is a patriotic act. I am watching somebody who aspires to be the leader of the Conservative Party say that what is happening outside is something he stands by.
    That is enough. Please, it is time to end this. Stop supporting what is going on outside.
    Mr. Speaker, the rest of the world is opening up and returning to normal. Where the science supports it, the provinces are providing Canadians with hope for the first time in two years, contrary to the Prime Minister, whose lack of leadership has brought him to invoke the emergency measures act, traumatizing Canadians. He is well aware that many provinces are opposed to these measures. He is also well aware that the science says they are not needed.
    Will the Prime Minister force the provinces to implement measures that they independently decided to remove?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada has one of the lowest death rates in the world and one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. It has met the challenge of this pandemic. However, what has not been met in this hour of history is that as chaos descended outside and protesters began to shut down critical infrastructure, we had lawmakers, people of the House, going out and encouraging their activity. I have to ask: If they did not have lawmakers, who are elected by constituents, encouraging their illegal actions, when would this have been over? I think it would have been over a lot sooner.

  (1440)  

[Translation]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the Emergencies Act was not something to take lightly.
    The act has in fact never been invoked since it was passed in 1988, which is before I was even born. It is the absolute last resort.
    The Prime Minister said himself, and I quote: “It's not the first thing you turn to, nor the second or the third.”
    However, he did not turn to a first thing, nor a second, nor a third. He did absolutely nothing before choosing the most extreme option.
    Is that truly reasonable?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    Much progress has been made at the Surrey and Coutts border crossings, and even in Windsor, where the Ambassador Bridge is now open again. That is good for trade.
    Yesterday, we invoked the Emergencies Act to be able to offer new, innovative tools to help the police put an end to this illegal blockade. That is what our government is focusing on.
    Mr. Speaker, I will tell the House what the government did not do.
    The Prime Minister has not been in contact with the occupiers on Parliament Hill since they arrived 19 days ago.
    He did not send his share of the 1,800 law enforcement officers requested by the City of Ottawa.
    He did not set up a crisis task force comprising all levels of government and all police forces.
    He did not consult his Quebec and provincial partners before informing them of his decision to invoke the Emergencies Act.
    Does the Prime Minister really believe that invoking this law should be the first real step the government takes to respond to the siege in Ottawa?
    Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for my colleague, perhaps she has not been watching the news.
    There are three installments of police reinforcements helping the police here in Ottawa. In addition, members of the RCMP have done a lot of good work, not just here in Ottawa but also in Windsor, where the Ambassador Bridge has now reopened.
    That is good for the economy and good for everyone, but we also need to look at new tools to help the police put an end to this illegal blockade and convoy.
    Mr. Speaker, the Premier of Quebec has been clear: Quebec does not need the Emergencies Act.
    The Government of Quebec wants nothing to do with it. The Quebec National Assembly unanimously opposed having this act enforced in Quebec.
    Nevertheless, the Prime Minister, who said yesterday that the act would be geographically targeted, issued a decree that applies to all of Canada, including Quebec.
    Why does the Prime Minister claim to consult but then decide to ignore Quebec's demands once again? Why does the Emergencies Act apply to Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, I assure my colleague that we will continue to provide resources in accordance with the powers set out in the act.
    However, yesterday we invoked the Emergencies Act. This act provides for time-limited, geographically targeted measures. These measures will be implemented with the provinces and territories, even in Quebec.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, during a press conference, the Prime Minister said, “Some people will say that we moved too quickly. Other people will say no, we should have acted weeks ago. The reality is this: The Emergencies Act is not something to take lightly. It's not the first thing you turn to, nor the second, nor the third.”
    Can the Prime Minister please tell Canadians what first, second and third actions he took before invoking the Emergencies Act?
    Mr. Speaker, right from the outset of the blockades and the disruptions that were taking place in Ottawa, and then the blockades at our critical infrastructure at our ports of entry, our government has worked with municipal and provincial partners right across the country to ensure that they had the resources and the support they needed to keep Canadians safe—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I am sorry, but I am going to ask the minister to repeat his answer. I am right next to the hon. member and I cannot hear because of the shouting.
    I would ask the hon. minister to start from the top so that at least I can hear and hopefully the hon. member for Peterborough—Kawartha can hear the answer.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to see that the Conservatives have once again changed their position on something important. First they supported these blockades, and now that this has been recognized as a largely foreign-funded, targeted and coordinated attack on Canadian critical infrastructure, they have flip-flopped. Good for them. We are all getting used to it.
    Mr. Speaker, I think the party that has flip-flopped is the Liberals. Last week, they said they had all the tools they needed to do this, and now we have the Emergencies Act. We were told we would never need federal vaccine mandates, but that changed. Now they are saying it is just jurisdiction. How can we trust the government?
    How much authority does the Prime Minister need from the unprecedented emergency measures act? How much authority does he need?
    Mr. Speaker, the evidence is clear. A largely foreign-funded, targeted and coordinated attack on critical Canadian infrastructure at our borders is hurting Canada and harming Canadians. It was equally clear that we needed to do more and would have to do what was required.
    We have introduced measures that will create greater financial scrutiny and financial consequences for the people who are engaged in this criminal behaviour. The evidence of firearms at Coutts elevates the risk to Canadian security and safety, and we will do what is required to keep Canadians safe.
    Mr. Speaker, last Friday, the Prime Minister said that the Ottawa police had enough resources to deal with the protesters, and on Monday he calls for emergency measures. Boy, that escalated quickly. He had 17 days to act, and after hiding in his cottage on his MacBook for the first week, he did nothing but divide and stigmatize.
    My constituents in Saskatoon West want to know this: What changed in the Prime Minister's mind over the weekend to justify such drastic measures?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my colleague that the RCMP has been supporting and aiding the Ottawa Police Service to enforce public safety not only here in Ottawa but in Windsor, where we have reopened the Ambassador Bridge; in Coutts, where the border is reopened; and in Surrey, where the border is reopened. That is good. It is good for the economy and it is good for Canadians, who can get back to work. Yesterday's invocation of the Emergencies Act is meant to secure those gains so that we give the police all the tools they need for declaring certain zones that are adjacent to our borders and our national symbols.
    It is important for the Conservatives to ask those participating in the illegal blockades to now go home.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, for too long the Conservatives have been calling on the government to remove the mandatory PCR test requirements for those entering Canada. In my riding of Niagara Falls, this policy has had a devastating impact on the economy. Visits from the U.S. are nowhere near the record levels reached in 2019, and these expensive costs put on our visitors and Canadians travelling prevent them from visiting their families and loved ones.
    My residents want to know this: When will all federal travel mandates be ended?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for giving me the opportunity to share with him, all members of the House and all Canadians the great announcement that my colleagues and I made today. Today, based on the science and the public health advice we received, we eased our travel measures, including allowing incoming travellers to use an antigen test instead of the PCR test for the predeparture test.

COVID-19 Protests

    Mr. Speaker, unlawful blockades at the borders across the country, including in Windsor and Coutts, have shown that the Liberals have not done the proper, serious work necessary to ensure that our borders are protected and that the citizens who live nearby are safe. These illegal blockades have hurt every Canadian and have stopped thousands of people from getting to work and supporting their families. We have long been calling for a safe border task force. Let us reinstate cuts from CBSA intelligence and make sure that municipalities are reimbursed for their costs.
    Will the Prime Minister finally listen to our calls to ensure that safe borders are going to happen, or is he going to continue to listen to extremists? The bridge might be open now, but the threat has not stopped. Will he act?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, I share my hon. colleague's concern, and I can inform the House that I have been in routine contact with him and the municipal leaders in Windsor, including the mayor of Windsor. I have assured him that the government will continue to provide all the resources that the community of Windsor needs to keep the bridge open. That means, yes, making sure that police have the assets they need, be it tow trucks, barriers or whatever resources, so that we can keep the economy rolling and the bridge open and get Canadians back to work.
    Mr. Speaker, what about Alberta? Yesterday the RCMP arrested 13 extremists blockading the border at Coutts. They seized guns, ammunition and body armour, including assault weapons with thousands of rounds. This comes after convoy leaders raised millions of dollars from foreign donors, with a stated goal of overthrowing the government. While I am happy to see that the blockade appears to be ending in Alberta, the fact remains that we had an armed militia active in Alberta. This is unthinkable.
    Why did it take 18 days and proof of an armed threat to make the government act and protect Albertans and Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that very important question. I think it does reveal, and we agree, that what we have seen in Coutts, Alberta, and in a number of these illegal blockades across the country is that the threat is not yet gone. That is precisely why these measures in the Emergencies Act that we introduced yesterday will increase, for example, the financial scrutiny and consequences for these illegal acts and will also make available equipment and authorities that our law enforcement officials need to maintain and restore public safety and to protect Canada's interests.

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, since the Government of Canada announced its ambitious plan for a $10-a-day early learning and child care system across the country, we have signed agreements with nine provinces and three territories. Already in some provinces, families are seeing a reduction in their child care fees that is making life more affordable, while those in my riding of Davenport in downtown Toronto are left wondering when Ontario is going to sign on and when they too will be able to benefit from our national child care program.
    Can the minister provide any updates on the federal government's efforts to reach a child care agreement with Ontario?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Davenport for that important question. We have now signed agreements with 12 provinces and territories across the country. That means that families from coast to coast to coast, except for in Ontario at this point in time, will have access to a 50% reduction in fees by the end of this calendar year.
    I remain very optimistic that we will sign an agreement with Ontario. There is a fair deal on the table, with $10.2 billion that will go to helping families decrease the costs of child care and make life more affordable—
    The hon. member for Abbotsford.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are stressed. Paycheques do not buy what they used to. In fact, the costs of everything, including gasoline, groceries and housing, are at all-time highs. Families are getting left behind. Last April, I wrote to the minister to warn her of exactly that. I highlighted the dangers of uncontrolled borrowing and how excessive stimulus spending would stoke inflationary pressures. She either does not care or did not read my letter.
    To the minister, what specifically is she doing to get inflation under control?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives continue, in all aspects of Canadian life, to put forward a false narrative, and the latest false narrative we have been hearing today is about the economy.
    The reality is that the Canadian economy is recovering strongly from the COVID recession. In the third quarter, our GDP grew by 5.4%. That is higher than the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and Australia. When it comes to our debt-to-GDP ratio, our AAA credit rating was reaffirmed in the fall by S&P and Moody's.
    Mr. Speaker, we will never get inflation under control as long as the minister keeps borrowing and spending like there is no tomorrow. Not only did the minister ignore our concerns, but she also ignored the warnings of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who questioned the wisdom of her stimulus spending, pumping more money into the economy when the cost of living is skyrocketing.
    The minister is making the crisis worse. The problem is not transitory. Month by month, the inflation numbers are going up. When will the minister finally do something to protect Canadians against the skyrocketing cost of living?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, the real question is, when will the Conservatives stick with a policy or stick with a leader?
    I was on the campaign trail in the summer, and so were the members opposite. They actually campaigned on proposed government spending that was higher than our own proposal. We proposed a deficit for 2021-22 of $156.9 billion; the Conservatives campaigned on a proposed deficit of $168 billion. I wonder if the party of flip-flops can tell Canadians where they stand today?

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, the excise escalator tax increase will crush the bottom line of wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries. The excise escalator tax is automatic, and here is the kicker: It is based on the CPI index, meaning that because inflation is so high, the tax will be even higher than ever before, starting April 1.
    This tax is based on inflation. It is taxing inflation, which will make inflation go up even more on these important value-added agricultural products. Will the Liberals commit to cancelling this inflationary excise tax increase?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a bit rich for the Conservatives to be talking about supporting small businesses of any kind in this country. After all, before Christmas, when we proposed absolutely essential support for small businesses to help them get through omicron, what did the Conservatives do at that crucial moment? They voted against our measures. We will take no lessons about supporting business from them.
    Mr. Speaker, that was not an answer to my question at all.
    When Canadian winery, brewery, cidery and distillery workers and owners wake up on April 1, they will be hit with this automatic tax increase on excise, thanks to the Liberals. Of these producers, 95% are small businesses that have already been hit with payroll tax increases, labour shortages, increases in debt and slower sales due to perpetual lockdowns. Now is not the time to be increasing any taxes on small businesses, so will the Liberals cancel this bad April Fool's Day tax increase?
    Mr. Speaker, let me tell members what hurts Canadian small businesses. What hurts Canadian small businesses is when, solely for the sake of partisan posturing, people who were elected to this House to support the small businesses in their communities oppose the small business support that small businesses themselves are calling for.
    Do members know what else has hurt Canadian businesses, whether small or large? It is the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge. Members on that side of the House were giving supper and encouragement to those causing the blockade. That is unacceptable.

[Translation]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, today, February 15, is the day Canada celebrates its maple leaf flag.
    What a way to celebrate. The flag is flying everywhere, more flags than ever before, in the streets of downtown Ottawa. It is being flown in demonstrations in the United States, in France, in New Zealand. The Canadian flag has literally become an international symbol of movements so unhinged as to seek the overthrow of democratically elected governments.
    Does the Prime Minister realize that his reaction to the occupation of—
    The hon. minister.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for commenting on the anniversary of the maple leaf, the flag that unites every one of us, especially the proud government members from Quebec, who are also proud Canadians, but also the proud Canadians across the way. It think it is important to take this time.
    I really want to express my deep gratitude to my colleague for bringing this to our attention so we can all celebrate the anniversary of the maple leaf together.

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, the government's lacklustre response so far has made it not only an international laughingstock, but also a global incitement to disorder.
    When questioned yesterday about how the crisis is affecting Canada's international reputation, the Prime Minister said he thought the turning point was the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge. The actual turning point, however, was when occupiers besieged his country's capital city, eliciting no response whatsoever from him.
    After 19 days of inaction, he announced plans to deploy the statutory equivalent of a nuclear weapon: the Emergencies Act.
    How can he possibly be that—
    The hon. minister.
    Mr. Speaker, since we are still talking about the maple leaf, I think it is important to emphasize what it represents and symbolizes around the world.
    It symbolizes pride, not only in being Canadian, but also in the role that Canada has played throughout history in conflict resolution and official development assistance. It represents the helping hand that all Canadians, including Quebeckers, are known for.
    I thank my hon. colleague once again for reminding us that it is important to highlight and celebrate the maple leaf.

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, for weeks, Canadians looking for hope have been looking for the Prime Minister to listen to their concerns and listen to their needs as the rest of the world opens up. Instead, they heard from a Prime Minister with an escalating tone that left them feeling traumatized, stigmatized and divided. Even today he is calling out and blaming other parties, which have been listening and showing real leadership instead of pitting Canadian versus Canadian.
    Why do Canadians have to pay with their freedoms to cover up for the government's failed leadership?
    Mr. Speaker, I think we have different definitions of “division”. To me, when critical infrastructure is being blocked, when illegal protesters are outside and when we see swastikas and Confederate flags, going out and taking photographs and giving coffee is not healthy for the country.
    Instead, what would be healthy is to say to those who would seek to divide us and those who would seek to exploit our differences that those kinds of radical views do not have a place in this country. It is time to go home, it is time to end this illegal activity and it is time to come together as a country.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, I sent out a survey last month asking my constituents what their biggest concerns were. The cost of living was the number one issue. Rick, one of my constituents, wrote to me and stated, “food prices are out of my pay range”. Inflation is at record highs due to the Liberal government’s spending.
    What does the Prime Minister have to say to Rick, who cannot afford to put food on his table?
    Mr. Speaker, our government absolutely understands that affordability matters for Canadian families, and that is why we are there for them. We lowered taxes for the middle class and raised them on the wealthiest 1%. We created the Canada child benefit, which is indexed to inflation, and now a single mother with two children can receive up to $13,600 from the CCB. The climate action incentive gives the average family in Alberta $981 and in Saskatchewan $961.
    Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of COVID, all the parties came together to support relief programs for Canadians and businesses. Now the economy is opening up, but the government's money printing press is still humming. Experts are now warning the government what members of this side of the House have been warning for some time: that the government’s future spending plans will lead to more inflation.
    Let us give the minister one last chance. When will the government rein in its out-of-control spending?
    Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out a moment ago, it is actually the members opposite, the members of the party of flip-flops, who campaigned on a platform that proposed higher spending in this fiscal year than we proposed. Let us remind Canadians of that. In fact, when it comes to supporting small business, it was his party, contrary to what the member just asserted, that opposed the essential supports small businesses needed that we proposed before Christmas.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, parents in my riding understand that enrolling their children in French immersion programs enriches them culturally and gives them an advantage later in life. However, because of teacher shortages and long wait lists, it is often difficult for parents to enrol their kids in French immersion.
    Could the Minister of Official Languages tell the House how our government is providing more children with the opportunity to learn French?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend and colleague from Vancouver Granville for his excellent question.
    Our government recognizes that providing students with the opportunity to learn French today means having more bilingual adults in the future. Budget 2021 includes investments to eliminate wait lists and to find ways to work with our provincial and territorial partners to continue to improve access to the French language.
    We will continue working with communities.

[English]

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, today more fishermen have been lost at sea, and our hearts go out to them.
    Captains know the risk of sinking while fishing. What Adam Newell was not counting on was losing his vessel while tied up at the DFO wharf. Adam saw his vessel smash into the rocks tied to that wharf. DFO wharfs are falling into the ocean. Adam would not have lost his vessel if the government had not ignored four fishery committee reports to this House.
    When will the government act so more vessels are not lost tied up at the wharf? Without wharves, we cannot fish.
    Mr. Speaker, 90% of Canadian seafood goes through small craft harbours, and Canada's fish harvesters depend on these facilities to support their livelihoods.
    That is why, in budget 2021, we allocated $300 million to repair and replace these wharves over the next two years. We are working to make sure that communities have the harbours they need and that they are in good repair.

[Translation]

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, members of the Furbacco family, three future citizens of my riding, have been waiting for months to get their permanent resident cards.
    While other applicants have skipped ahead of them in line, the Furbaccos have experienced unending delays now exceeding 180 days. As a result, they have been unable to renew their health insurance cards in Quebec, despite the fact that they are working and paying taxes here.
    Does the government think that is right? What will it do to resolve the problem?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. I would like to point out some of the progress that has already been made.
    We are back down to a 12‑month wait for spousal sponsorship applications. We have processed more than 500,000 new applications for study permits, which represents a 32% increase in our production.
    It is no secret that pandemic-related closures in the world have had repercussions on our immigration system, but we will continue to invest in modernizing our system so that we have a more resilient system that continues to support our objectives to welcome more new residents—
    The hon. member for Chatham‑Kent—Leamington.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, I asked the government if it was their intent to place public health policy in direct conflict with immigration legislation. Once their working permits expire after February 28, some guest workers are trapped in Canada without status, separated from their families and separated from work.
    The Minister of Immigration's response made it clear that the government had no apparent idea of this policy conflict. When will the Liberal government treat innocent people fairly and humanely, respect them and fix this Liberal fiasco?
    Mr. Speaker, as always, our commitment to modernizing our immigration system is relevant.
    I was very happy to see that our government invested $85 million in improving our immigration system. We are more than happy to say, as we talk about some of the success of 2021, that we welcomed more than 405,000 new permanent residents last year. We are welcoming more skilled workers and international students.
    We need to do better, and we are continuing to do—

  (1510)  

    The hon. member for Northwest Territories.
    Mr. Speaker, the Gladue principles, in part, recognize that there is overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system and that there are complex issues based on systemic discrimination that should be considered in sentencing.
    They now have been used in the courts in sentencing for quite some time. However, in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls—

[Translation]

    Order. The hon. member for Manicouagan on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, the interpreter is saying that the sound quality is not good enough for her to interpret.

[English]

    I am sorry, but we are not getting the interpretation. It is a technical issue. What I will do is go to the next question, and we will see if we can get that resolved.
    The hon. member for Vancouver East.
    Mr. Speaker, Major-General Fraser said Canada pulled out of Afghanistan way too early, and 10,000 Afghan interpreters and their families have been left behind. He also said the Liberals failed to provide a whole-of-government plan to help resettle them. While our allies are on the ground helping Afghans get to safety, the current government is sending emails telling Afghans to somehow get to a third country on their own. As the situation gets worse, the government still has not provided exemptions so that NGOs can get aid to starving children.
    When will the Liberals act with the urgency that the situation demands to help bring Afghans to safety?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada remains firm in its commitment to welcome 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. We are sparing no effort to resettle Afghan refugees as quickly as we can, and I am happy to report that more than 7,500 Afghan refugees have begun their new lives here in Canada, while overcoming extreme challenges. We are welcoming new arrivals every week. We will continue to do everything we can to show leadership in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Climate Change

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to assessing the Prime Minister's credibility on the climate crisis, the truth is found in the lobbying registry. Over the last two years, his government rolled out the red carpet for big oil with over 370 meetings. No wonder big oil is not sweating his promise of a tough emissions cap. In fact, representatives told our committee they plan to vastly increase production, and that position is backed by the energy regulator.
    This is for the environment minister. What kind of credible cap is there that includes massive increases in oil exports?
    Mr. Speaker, I have asked my hon. colleague this before, and he still has not answered. I would like him to show me a country in the world that has done more in the last four or five years than we have to fight climate change. There have been more than 100 measures, $100 billion of investment, regulations on methane, clean-fuel standards and electricity. These are all things we are doing, and we have so much more to do.

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Gladue principles, in part, recognize that there is an overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system and that there are complex issues based on systemic discrimination that should be considered in sentencing. They now have had to be used in courts in sentencing for quite some time.
    However, in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, many participants expressed concerns about overly lenient sentences in cases of violence against indigenous women and girls.
    Does the Minister of Justice have an answer to those who are worried about the Gladue principles negatively impacting the safety of and justice for indigenous women and girls?

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for asking that question in the stead of the hon. member for Northwest Territories. I thank him for his leadership and his wisdom.
    The Gladue principles, just like the revitalization of indigenous justice systems, calls to action from the TRC and the implementation plan for the MMIWG, are concrete steps toward making our justice system fairer. However, we understand there are still systemic issues in our criminal justice system that we need to address. It is impossible to undo centuries of colonialism in only a few short years. Far too many women and girls endure serious injustice, including discrimination and disproportionately high rates of violence. We are going to work on this with indigenous leadership to get—
    I am afraid that is all the time we have for today.
    Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order arising out of question period.
    I would like to seek unanimous consent to table the four House of Commons fisheries committee reports that the Liberal government has not responded to on small-craft harbours.
    All those opposed to the hon. member's moving the motion will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Act Respecting Certain Measures Related to COVID-19

    The House resumed from February 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    It being 3:16 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Monday, February 14, 2022, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-10.
    Call in the members.

  (1530)  

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

(Division No. 28)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Aitchison
Albas
Aldag
Alghabra
Ali
Allison
Anandasangaree
Angus
Arnold
Arseneault
Arya
Ashton
Atwin
Bachrach
Badawey
Bains
Baker
Baldinelli
Barlow
Barrett
Barron
Barsalou-Duval
Battiste
Beaulieu
Beech
Bendayan
Bennett
Benzen
Bergen
Bergeron
Berthold
Bérubé
Bezan
Bibeau
Bittle
Blaikie
Blair
Blanchet
Blanchette-Joncas
Blaney
Block
Blois
Boissonnault
Boulerice
Bradford
Bragdon
Brassard
Brière
Brock
Brunelle-Duceppe
Calkins
Cannings
Caputo
Carr
Carrie
Casey
Chabot
Chagger
Chahal
Chambers
Champagne
Champoux
Chatel
Chiang
Chong
Collins (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek)
Collins (Victoria)
Cooper
Cormier
Coteau
Dabrusin
Dalton
Damoff
Dancho
Davidson
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Deltell
d'Entremont
Desbiens
Desilets
Desjarlais
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Diab
Doherty
Dong
Dowdall
Dreeshen
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dzerowicz
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Epp
Erskine-Smith
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Fergus
Ferreri
Fillmore
Findlay
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fortin
Fragiskatos
Fraser
Freeland
Fry
Gaheer
Gallant
Garneau
Garon
Garrison
Gaudreau
Gazan
Généreux
Genuis
Gerretsen
Gill
Gladu
Godin
Goodridge
Gould
Gourde
Gray
Green
Guilbeault
Hajdu
Hallan
Hanley
Hardie
Hepfner
Hoback
Holland
Housefather
Hughes
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Idlout
Ien
Jaczek
Jeneroux
Johns
Joly
Jones
Jowhari
Julian
Kayabaga
Kelloway
Kelly
Khalid
Khera
Kitchen
Kmiec
Koutrakis
Kram
Kramp-Neuman
Kurek
Kusie
Kusmierczyk
Kwan
Lake
Lalonde
Lambropoulos
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lantsman
Lapointe
Larouche
Lattanzio
Lauzon
Lawrence
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lehoux
Lemire
Lewis (Essex)
Lewis (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Liepert
Lightbound
Lloyd
Lobb
Long
Longfield
Louis (Kitchener—Conestoga)
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacGregor
MacKenzie
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maguire
Maloney
Martel
Martinez Ferrada
Masse
Mathyssen
May (Cambridge)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
Mazier
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McDonald (Avalon)
McGuinty
McKay
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLean
McLeod
McPherson
Melillo
Mendès
Mendicino
Miao
Michaud
Miller
Moore
Morantz
Morrice
Morrison
Morrissey
Motz
Murray
Muys
Naqvi
Nater
Ng
Noormohamed
Normandin
O'Connell
Oliphant
O'Regan
O'Toole
Patzer
Paul-Hus
Pauzé
Perkins
Perron
Petitpas Taylor
Plamondon
Poilievre
Powlowski
Qualtrough
Rayes
Redekopp
Reid
Rempel Garner
Richards
Roberts
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rogers
Romanado
Rood
Ruff
Sahota
Sajjan
Saks
Samson
Sarai
Savard-Tremblay
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schiefke
Schmale
Seeback
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Shields
Shipley
Sidhu (Brampton East)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Simard
Sinclair-Desgagné
Small
Sorbara
Soroka
Spengemann
Steinley
Ste-Marie
Stewart
St-Onge
Strahl
Stubbs
Sudds
Tassi
Taylor Roy
Thériault
Therrien
Thomas
Thompson
Tochor
Tolmie
Trudeau
Trudel
Turnbull
Uppal
Valdez
Van Bynen
van Koeverden
Van Popta
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vecchio
Vidal
Vien
Viersen
Vignola
Villemure
Virani
Vis
Vuong
Wagantall
Warkentin
Waugh
Webber
Weiler
Wilkinson
Williams
Williamson
Yip
Zahid
Zarrillo
Zimmer
Zuberi

Total: -- 333


NAYS

Nil

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to a committee of the whole.
    Pursuant to the order made on Monday, February 14, 2022, Bill C-10, an act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19, is deemed considered in the committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, deemed read a third time and passed.

    (Bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Wearing of Masks in the Chamber

[Speaker's Ruling]
    Earlier today, questions were raised in the House about the wearing of masks in the chamber. I note that all members are certainly wearing their masks, and I applaud them for that.
    As members will know, since the beginning of the pandemic, my fellow Chair occupants and I have consistently reminded members to wear their masks in the House when they are not speaking in debate. This is in keeping with public health advice that states masks should be worn, especially when social distancing is not possible, as is often the case in the chamber. In fact, as soon as one leaves the chamber, the wearing of masks is mandatory, further to measures adopted by the Board of Internal Economy. This is for the safety and security of members and staff.

[Translation]

    That said, further to the Speaker's ruling of December 2, 2021, only the House can determine the rules that it will apply to itself and its committees. While the Board of Internal Economy has strongly recommended that members wear a mask when they are at their place during parliamentary proceedings, it cannot impose such a requirement. Ultimately, the House has sole authority to determine how it conducts its proceedings.
    As Speaker, I am the servant of the House. To date, all parties have supported the Chair's efforts to encourage the wearing of face masks when not speaking and have raised points of order when this practice has not been followed.

[English]

    This being Tuesday, I understand the House leaders will be meeting later today, and I would encourage them to discuss this issue so that there can be clarity for all members.
    I thank all members for their attention.
    Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. When you were reading things out, you said that we had to have our masks on once we leave the chamber. Does that mean we can have them off when we are in the chamber?
    The Speaker: Yes.
    Mrs. Cheryl Gallant: Yes, we do not have to wear them in the chamber, but we have to put them on as we leave the chamber?
    Exactly.
    Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. Just to be clear, it is highly recommended that we wear the masks inside the chamber. On that note, I would ask if there is unanimous consent of the House to have members wear their masks unless they are actually speaking.
    Do we have unanimous consent?
    Some hon. members: No.

  (1535)  

Government Business No. 7—Proceedings on Bill C‑12

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage has seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining in his elocution.
    Mr. Speaker, in regard to your ruling with respect to masks, we have been hearing, from the opposition, a lot of shouting about science. They say, “Listen to the science.”
    However, the number of MPs who removed their masks as soon as your order was issued is rather shocking. The science is clear on masks, and I truly hope that the hon. members on the other side who are heckling me, maskless—
    Order. I want to make sure individuals and MPs recognize that whoever has the floor should have the respect of the House. I also want to remind the hon. member that the decision from the Speaker clarified what the policy was, and I would hope that everybody would respect that.
    Madam Speaker, I also hope that the opposition respects what the Speaker said, which was that he highly encouraged the use of masks. We were being lectured on science and that we should listen to the science, and the science is clear on mask usage. I am seeing a lot of unmasked faces on the other side, and that is disappointing because, as we are talking about vaccinations—
    Order. Again, I think that matter has been dealt with, and I would ask the parliamentary secretary to speak to the issue that is before the House, which is Bill C-12.
    Madam Speaker, I was just moving on to seniors, who are looking forward to us listening to science and listening to public health. I will move on to the debate at hand.
    I had already given some of my remarks before the break, but as a first step, our government is providing $742.4 million for one-time payments. These payments would help alleviate the financial hardship faced by GIS and allowance recipients who received pandemic relief benefits in 2020, but who also faced a reduction or loss of their GIS or allowance benefits in July, 2021.
    As the payments would be automatic, seniors would not need to take any action to receive the one-time payments. These payments would also fully compensate affected seniors. They would be non-taxable, too. We estimate that the 183,000 GIS clients who qualified to receive CERB or similar benefits in 2020 would benefit.
    We did not want to just provide a quick fix. We also wanted to ensure that seniors would not be facing such a loss—
    Order. The hon. member has the floor. There are a lot of discussions being had here, and I know that they are side discussions.
    I would just ask members to please step outside the chamber if they wish to have side discussions. I am sure that they want to attentively hear what the hon. parliamentary secretary has to say, because I am sure they are going to have questions and comments for him.
    Madam Speaker, I am sure they are just excited to hear the rest of my speech. The buzz on the other side is encouraging for me to keep going and defend our seniors.
    As I said, we did not want to provide a quick fix. That is why we introduced this bill. Bill C-12 would permanently exempt federal pandemic benefits from the calculation of GIS or allowance benefits, beginning in July, 2020, and would prevent this from ever happening again.
    To be clear, the following benefits would be exempt: the Canadian emergency response benefit, including any CERB amounts paid under the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit and the Canada worker lockdown benefit. Once again, we are proposing this change to the OAS act to ensure that this problem never happens again.
    Bill C-12 would make an important legislative change that would provide seniors with certainty and peace of mind in the future if they receive GIS and allowance benefits to which they are entitled, without the need for a one-time payment.
    To strengthen Canadians' financial security later in life, we provided one-time payments of $500 in August, 2021, to OAS pensioners who would be age 75 or older on June 30, 2022. We are also permanently increasing OAS pensions for seniors 75 and over, beginning in July, 2022. We have taken these steps because seniors face increased financial pressures and vulnerability as they age, but the well-being of seniors has been a priority for our government since 2015.
     Before COVID, we had already improved the Canada pension plan, reduced income tax for seniors and moved to enhance the GIS. We increased the GIS for nearly 900,000 low-income seniors. As a result of this and other measures, an estimated 45,000 seniors were lifted out of poverty. We put thousands of dollars back in the pockets of future Canadian seniors by restoring the age of eligibility for OAS and the GIS to 65 from 67. Many of the members on the other side voted in favour of actually increasing the retirement age, not for their own pensions but for other seniors in Canada.
    We enhanced the GIS earning exemption for working low-income seniors to help them keep more of their benefits and more of their hard-earned money. This means that seniors could earn up to $5,000 without a reduction of their GIS benefit. Our government is moving forward with its plan to increase the OAS pension by 10% for seniors 75 and over, and will start in July of this year to provide people receiving the full OAS pension with an extra $766 in the first year. This will be the first permanent increase to the OAS pension, above and beyond inflation adjustments, since 1973.
    We reduced income taxes for seniors by increasing the basic personal amount. Once we have fully implemented this measure in 2023, 4.3 million seniors will benefit, and 465,000 of them will see their income tax reduced to zero.
    Our government has helped seniors in myriad ways beyond direct emergency payments and tax relief. We recognize the sad reality that the COVID pandemic has brought isolation to many seniors, and to our most vulnerable seniors. The sense of isolation and vulnerability cannot be overstated, so our government continues to find ways to address those issues.
    The pandemic has tragically highlighted the challenges to long-term care homes. It has exposed gaps in infection prevention and control and staffing. That is why, in the fall economic statement, our government committed up to $1 billion to the safe long-term care fund to help provinces and territories support infection prevention and control, make improvements to ventilation, hire additional staff and top up wages. We are also committed to affordable housing, and we are working to improve palliative care, end-of-life care, and to supporting Canadians' mental health through the Public Health Agency of Canada.
    In conclusion, I am proud of the measures we have developed and are still developing on all aspects of senior care, but this must not simply be a stopgap measure. We are constantly working hard to find permanent solutions that will bring ongoing comfort and relief to the men and women who have worked hard, who have contributed to Canada and who are proud and privileged to call it home. Seniors deserve nothing less than the best care and consideration that we can provide. We acted quickly to resolve this issue. I hope my hon. colleagues will agree that this bill deserves swift passage.

  (1540)  

    Madam Speaker, the member opposite is from my former hometown of St. Catharines. I heard him talk about the increased OAS, and the $500 bonus that those over age 75 were going to get. I had been critical before that the government disenfranchised seniors between the ages of 65 and 75, but I noticed that the mandate letter of the minister says that she is supposed to increase the OAS and the GIS for seniors over 65.
    Would the member opposite not admit that this recognizes the huge failure of the government, when it disenfranchised seniors between the ages of 65 and 75?
    Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton speaks to many residents and seniors in her community, as I do and as all members do. We have to recognize that seniors 75 and older have challenges that are greater, in many cases, than those who are ages 65 to 75, as retirement savings dwindle or as there may not be the resources that were once available. It is the government recognizing that there are additional challenges. This was a campaign commitment that was made in 2019, and it is one that the government delivered upon.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague listed all the wonderful things that his government has done for seniors. I will repeat for him the headline of an article published this morning in the Journal de Montréal: “Seniors starved by Ottawa”. It is not the most complimentary headline I have seen.
    This article mentions two of my constituents: Bob Petit, of Saint‑Jean‑de‑Matha, whose GIS was cut by $350 a month, and Jacques Rhéault, of Louiseville, whose GIS was cut by $400 a month.
    Can my colleague explain why the government did this deliberately? The Bloc Québécois sounded the alarm last summer in July 2021. Today, we are seeing a bill that will come into force only in July, yet people are going hungry right now. That is disgusting.

  (1545)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that these supports, and this legislation, passed with the unanimous consent of the House. The minister has acted swiftly since her appointment last fall to correct the situation. This bill is part of that. I am happy that most of my colleagues in the opposition are seeking swift approval of this legislation to get it through as quickly as we can. Hopefully we can see that done rapidly.
    Madam Speaker, I have a gender question for the member. We know that women were limited in the work that they could do. There were only a few roles that were considered to be women's roles back in the thirties, the forties and the fifties. We know that wage gaps continue to be discriminatory. Getting a mortgage without a man as cosigner was not possible for many women in the 20th century.
    My question to the member is about the GIS clawback. How did it affect women?
    Madam Speaker, I am not going to disagree with the member. I know that her party is supportive of the speedy passage of this legislation. I thank her and her party for that support. I look forward to seeing this bill pass.
    Madam Speaker, today is a special day because it is flag day. Just out the window, we can see the national maple leaf flying on top of the Peace Tower.
    Can the member provide his thoughts on how wonderful and important our flag is to our country?
    Madam Speaker, our seniors love our flag. I will bring it back to the bill. It is important to recognize that it was an MP for Kingston and the Islands who brought this flag, and this design, forward. It is a renowned symbol. It is something that not only seniors, but all Canadians can appreciate.
    We have a point of order.
    The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.
    Madam Speaker, it was actually a member for Leeds, which is just east of Kingston.
    I appreciate the additional information; however, that was not a point of order.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kitchener Centre.
    Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise this afternoon to speak about Bill C-12 and the needs low-income seniors are facing across the country.
    Over the last three years I have had many opportunities to speak with hundreds of seniors in Kitchener. I often knocked on doors in the daytime and who is home in the daytime? It is seniors. I would joke that it was seniors I spoke with most. In those conversations, I would ask them what was most important to them and hear their stories about rent going up, as well as the cost of groceries, transit, in fact the cost of everything. The reality is that the cost of living for seniors is going up much faster than the guaranteed income supplement or old age security. I would hear their anxiety, sometimes their anger, and I promised that as their MP, I would advocate for their interests in this place.
    We have to recognize that the maximum amount for a single senior who is eligible for both GIS and OAS is just over $1,600 a month. I would encourage other parliamentarians to reflect on financial planners who might advise that people spend 30% of their income on housing and start doing the math on what it looks like for seniors on low incomes, living on GIS and OAS.
    That brings me to what I appreciate in this bill. To me, what the governing party is doing in this bill is admitting that a mistake was made. There never should have been any clawbacks whatsoever on the lowest-income seniors across the country. It is just not right and this legislation addresses that.
    I also really appreciate both the Bloc and the NDP, in particular the member for North Island—Powell River and the member for Elmwood—Transcona, for their advocacy in ensuring that these funds are provided as soon as possible, recognizing the situation in which low-income seniors find themselves in Kitchener and across the country as a result of the clawbacks that were made and recognizing that this legislation would only really address this mistake not happening again going forward. The fact that we are addressing it not happening again and that there is a retroactive reimbursement being applied in the last fiscal update is really important.
    It is also important for us to step back and notice when there is wild agreement in this place. That certainly was not the case in question period. In fact it is usually not the case in question period, but all day I have heard different parliamentarians tripping over themselves to share how much they are advocating for low-income seniors in their communities, which is quite rare in this place. It does not matter which party. I heard a parliamentarian advocating from every region and part of the country. This, to me, is encouraging and gives me the sense that it is possible, when there is obvious good policy in front of members here, for us to move ahead and get it done.
    I will also share where I think we could be going further and faster. The first is with respect to the funds flowing. There was a really wonderful line of questioning, in particular, from the MP for Salaberry—Suroît in committee yesterday, who said the reason that funds are not flowing for all low-income seniors until April 19 is that we have not been investing in the computer systems that our public service relies on to deliver these funds.
    I can appreciate that it might not always be politically attractive to be investing in IT, but I feel this is an opportunity for us to recognize that this is how seniors' lives are being affected. There is not a fancy ribbon-cutting, but when those investments are not being made, it directly affects the lives of seniors across the country. To my understanding, it is not for a lack of interest by the governing party in flowing money sooner, or the advocacy of others across the floor, but rather because we have not invested in the IT that we should have invested in years ago. I would encourage all parliamentarians to consider supporting our public service, so it is able to follow through on these important investments.

  (1550)  

    Second, I want to call out how important it is that we actually have a private member's bill in support of a guaranteed livable income for all. While I wish it were a government bill, the fact that we have Bill C-223, put forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre, gives us an opportunity to have a larger conversation recognizing that even seniors who will not have GIS and OAS clawed back are still living in poverty in most regions across the country.
    We should be doing so much more to ensure that every senior in the country is at a dignified level of income. These are the folks who have been building the economy and these are our elders. With the guaranteed livable income we would not even be having the conversation we are in the midst of now. I encourage other parliamentarians to consider their support for that private member's bill and their support for moving toward a guaranteed livable income across the country.
    I also want to point out the need for us to make more progress on housing. We cannot talk about seniors on low incomes and the importance of addressing the clawbacks if we are not going to be honest that it is housing that is climbing the fastest, which at least is something else that I have heard parliamentarians from every party talk about. Maybe there might be different solutions that are being offered, but at least it is a place for us to start having good, respectful conversations. In Kitchener, there is a 35% increase in the cost of housing and rent.
    I think about seniors in Kitchener who are not just seeing the cost of housing go up, but they are seeing a lack of access to dignified housing and also the proximity of that housing to the amenities that they need the most, such as transit stations they need to access. We need to move forward far more quickly when it comes to addressing the rising cost of housing, which means addressing the supply as well as the policies to ensure that homes are for people, for seniors, to live in and not commodities for investors to trade.
    The last thing I will mention is the importance for us also to address long-term care. While not the main focus of this piece of legislation, if we are going to be talking about the need to be taking better care of our seniors, we have all recognized the gaps in long-term care. There is the opportunity for the federal government to step in to improve the standards in long-term care, to address the wait times and to address the pay for personal support workers.
    In closing, I would encourage all parliamentarians to continue to support this important bill and to get this done, but not to stop here. We must ensure that we move forward quicker, whether it is on the cost of housing, a guaranteed income or ensuring that these reimbursements are provided at the earliest opportunity.

  (1555)  

    Madam Speaker, as the member for the Green Party mentioned in his comments today, there has been support for this legislation going through. There have been some issues of process, which have been the challenge and making sure that Parliament has the appropriate time to discuss and debate exactly what he spoke about today. This is to fix a problem we should have fixed a very long time ago. I think of my constituency office where we saw some of these programs announced at the beginning of the pandemic and how red flags were raised then. Here we are now two years later correcting a problem and the government is saying we need to do this right away.
    I agree with the member completely that housing for seniors and rent is a big issue as well as the cost of living. Having the proper time for these bills and to discuss the issues that seniors face in general is something we need to do. I wonder if the member could comment on the process and why we need to rush these things all the time as opposed to having debates on the substantive issues that people in Kitchener and the country are facing.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question on process and I have heard the concerns raised by members across the way with respect to the speed of the passage. I would have liked to have more time. However, recognizing that there are other priorities to continue to move toward, recognizing the bill in this case is literally one page, in my view this is an example where it may not be ideal but my interest is in ensuring that seniors get as much support as quickly as possible. My interest is in continuing to move ahead.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague spoke about both housing and seniors. It is impossible to talk about poverty among seniors without also talking about housing.
    Housing is a huge issue in my riding. Some 2,000 people are on a wait list for low-income housing.
    My colleague is familiar with the rapid housing initiative because I believe we already talked about it at a Zoom meeting. The federal government launched this program two years ago during the pandemic. It is not a bad program for creating social housing, but it is unfortunately very underfunded. The program had a budget of just $1 billion, but it received applications for projects totalling $4 billion.
    Given that the federal government's existing affordability programs are creating so-called affordable units costing $2,000 a month in Montreal, does my colleague agree that this makes absolutely no sense? Should the federal government not be investing more in social housing?
    Madam Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague.

[English]

    I want to thank the member for the conversations we have had and for his shared advocacy.
    We need far more significant investment into a mix of community, public and co-op housing across the country. We know this has been done in the past. Back in the early eighties, I believe around 8% of newly constructed rental units were co-op housing, whereas now we are down to less than 1%. Therefore, we have that example of when the federal government stepped up to the pace and scale required. I look forward to working with the member and others in the House to move back toward the scale and pace we had in the past.

  (1600)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his speech and for sharing our desire to quickly address the mistake the government made. It knew about this back in May of 2021, and seniors have suffered because of the delay. I also thank him for his comments on how seniors need supports more broadly and his support for the member for Winnipeg Centre's bill on a guaranteed basic income.
    Seniors are living in poverty. Could the member speak to what a guaranteed basic income would mean for the residents in his riding?
    Madam Speaker, it means they would not be waiting the amount of time they have been to get to this legislation. It means it would not be piecemeal. It means they would know that the government truly does have their backs, as it would for every other Canadian across the country. That is why I think we need to rally around not only this private member's bill but any effort in this place to ensure that every Canadian, seniors included, have access to a dignified life.

An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19

    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to change my vote in the vote that took place after question period. I had technical difficulties that prevented me from changing my vote to yea and from joining Zoom, so I would ask for the indulgence of the House to have my vote recorded as having voted in favour of Bill C-10 in that vote.
    In order to allow the hon. member to change his vote, we need the unanimous consent of the House.
    All those opposed to the hon. member's request will please say nay.
    Hearing no dissent, it is agreed.

[Translation]

Government Business No. 7—Proceedings on Bill C-12

    The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the brilliant, fantastic and magnificent member from Thérèse-De Blainville.
    I am happy to be able to discuss and debate the motion concerning Bill C-12 with my colleagues, because I have devoted my life to seniors since I was 23. I spent my career serving seniors, both providing home care in local community service centres and working in long-term care homes as a social worker and health care network manager. It is therefore an honour for me to contribute to the debate we are having today.
    First of all, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois agrees with Bill C‑12. There is no doubt about that. We know that this bill is very important and that it is urgent.
    However, we disagree with today's motion, which is disrupting the legislative process. It is important to point out that the bill has only one clause. It amends the Old Age Security Act to prevent a deplorable situation, where 183,000 vulnerable seniors had their guaranteed income supplement cut, from happening again after July 1, 2022. That is the purpose of Bill C-12.
    All of the opposition parties proposed legislative work to the government for this week, because we could have manag