Skip to main content
Start of content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication
Skip to Document Navigation Skip to Document Content

44th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 045

CONTENTS

Thursday, March 24, 2022




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 045
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 14 petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.

Constitution Act

Aeronautics Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce an important bill to Parliament. This legislation would increase aviation safety for all Canadians by mandating operational collision avoidance systems for gliding clubs across Canada. I would like to thank the member for Calgary Confederation for seconding this bill and for his support on this issue.
    This bill is tabled in the memory of Adam Leinweber, who was killed in a 2019 crash because the tow plane's anti-collision system was not functional. It is important to note that some of the 30 incidents and near misses related to gliders in the last 12 years have involved commercial aircraft.
     This is an issue of safety for all of us, and I hope all parliamentarians will support this important initiative.

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

Canada Post-Secondary Education Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege to table this bill on behalf of residents of Edmonton Strathcona and on behalf of all Canadians who recognize the value and importance of quality, accessible post-secondary education in this country. I want to thank my colleague, the member for Edmonton Griesbach, for seconding my bill today.
    Post-secondary education is key to growing our economy and to positioning Canada as a knowledge leader in the 21st century. However, successive governments over the past two decades have failed to make post-secondary education a priority.

  (1005)  

     Over that time, federal support for post-secondary education has declined over 40% and, not surprisingly, student debt has risen 40%. Declining federal and provincial funding for post-secondary education means higher tuition costs, the corporatization of universities and colleges, the outsourcing of academic and support labour and lower-quality education, and it is putting academic institutions in our country at risk of failure.
    It is time for the federal government to be a real partner in post-secondary education again. This bill, the Canada post-secondary education act, would create a financial transfer for post-secondary education and would impose qualifying criteria that provinces must meet in order to receive federal funding, including limiting the use of short-term contracts and casual labour and ensuring affordability for students.
    Students, faculty and staff deserve better from our government. I urge my fellow parliamentarians to support the Canada post-secondary education act for all Canadians.

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

Petitions

Vaccine Mandates 

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions.
    The first petition calls on the government to lift all federal mandates against public servants, the military and contractors for federal organizations, as well as lift all restrictions and requirements relating to mandates at the borders.

Platinum Jubilee Medal  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition relates to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It calls for the striking of a platinum jubilee medal to honour Canadians who deserve such recognition. I hope the government recognizes there is still time, even though it has now become a socialist government and may dispense with the monarchy altogether.

Seniors  

    Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a petition from constituents of Winnipeg North who passionately believe that parliamentarians need to be strong advocates for seniors. The petition highlights issues related to long-term care and mental health and the importance of support programs like the GIS and OAS. They are calling on the Prime Minister, cabinet and all members of the House to be constant and steady advocates for seniors in Canada.

Ukraine  

    Mr. Speaker, today I have a petition from Canadians who are rightly appalled by the unlawful and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine by Putin. They call upon the government to lift the visa requirement for Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in Canada from this terrible invasion in furtherance of free travel to Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, it really is an honour to present a petition on behalf of Canadians who are, as we all are in this place, deeply affected, horrified and outraged by the Russian aggression and attack on the people of Ukraine. We know there are now verified war crimes being committed against the people of Ukraine, and that the Russian invasion is illegal, immoral and devastating to the people of Ukraine.
    Canada wants to continue, with the very large and important diaspora of Ukrainians within Canada, to open our arms, our hearts and our homes to Ukrainians seeking refuge. The petitioners ask that the government immediately waive all visa requirements and grant visa-free travel to Ukrainians seeking refuge here in Canada.

  (1010)  

B.C. Wildfires  

    Mr. Speaker, each year, British Columbia faces numerous wildfires that devastate communities and wildlife. With every wildfire, lumber prices, job availability, the risk of mill closures, mudslides, home insurance increases and damage to critical habitat are all affected.
    During the Lytton fire, residents were told to stay away and not try to put out fires as water bombers were coming. In many cases, those water bombers never arrived. In Ontario, there is an all-hazards agency that manages fires, floods and slides. This type of agency is desperately needed in B.C.
    I rise today to present a petition on behalf of constituents in Lillooet, spearheaded by Councillor Laurie Hopfl, calling on the federal and provincial governments to work together on better forest management and fire prevention policies. We need to empower local residents, indigenous communities, ranchers, industry, firefighters and forestry workers who have the knowledge of the land to manage their forests and prevent future disasters. My riding has probably faced more natural disasters than any riding in the entire country, and my constituents, in good faith, are looking for more assistance and innovative policies to address these critical challenges we face.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour of presenting petition 11619443. This petition was initiated by For Our Kids, a group of parents on the Sunshine Coast in my riding who are concerned about the future we are leaving future generations as a result of human-induced climate change.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to significantly reduce emissions with transparent accounting each year, make contributions to emission reductions in the global south, wind down the use of fossil fuel subsidies and transition to a decarbonized economy, uphold and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, create good, green jobs and drive inclusive workforce development, expand the social safety net, decarbonize public housing and provide accessible public transit.

Age Verification Software  

    Mr. Speaker, today I rise to present a petition signed by Canadians from across our country who share their concerns about the widespread availability of sexually explicit material online that includes demeaning material and material that depicts sexual violence. Although it is a very lengthy petition that has a number of asks, these petitioners simply ask that the House adopt Bill S-203, a bill coming from the Senate that I believe was known in the last Parliament as the protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act. It is a simple act that would have meaningful age verification to protect Canada's young people.

Vaccine Mandates  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition on behalf of Canadians from across the country who want an end to all COVID-19 mandates. The petitioners state that throughout the pandemic, truckers have served Canada and are heroes but are now impacted by a vaccine mandate that is impacting the supply chain. They say that the Prime Minister has politicized vaccines and insulted Canadians who have disagreed with him. Moreover, the petitioners comment that it is the sacred duty of the government to guard against discrimination and guarantee the freedoms of all Canadians.
    The petitioners call on the House of Commons to immediately end all COVID-19 mandates implemented by the federal government that regulate areas that include federal employees, truckers and travellers. They also call for the end of all vaccine mandates and restrictions.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise virtually today to present a petition on behalf of Prince Edward Islanders who are concerned about the climate emergency and who were inspired by Seth Klein's book A Good War. These petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to enact just transition legislation that would reduce emissions by at least 60% below 2005 levels by 2030, to make significant contributions to emission reductions in countries in the global south, to create good, green jobs and drive an inclusive workforce and to expand the social safety net through new income supports, decarbonized public housing and operational funding, among other things.
    I am thankful for the opportunity to present this petition.

  (1015)  

Questions on the Order Paper

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

[Translation]

Point of Order

Status of Opposition Party  

[Point of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I want to rise briefly in the House today to comment on the point of order raised by the member for Barrie—Innisfil earlier this week. The point of order was raised again—unfortunately, in my opinion—by the member for La Prairie. I am sure all members are aware of the subject of these points of order, which I consider frivolous. Nevertheless, I will address some of the points that were raised.
    My Conservative and Bloc Québécois colleagues have clearly—perhaps even deliberately—misunderstood the nature of the historic agreement that will enable us to deliver exceptional results for all Canadians. The Conservatives' and Bloc's entire argument rests on an erroneous depiction of this confidence and supply agreement, which they are incorrectly calling a “coalition agreement”.

[English]

    I would like to remind those members that confidence and supply agreements are not coalition governments, and the U.K.'s Institute for Government distinguishes very clearly between coalitions and mere confidence and supply agreements, as follows:
    Confidence and supply agreements, made publicly available, can provide for stable government that can operate without fear of defeat on key votes in exchange for specific policy and procedural concessions, and on the basis that support parties are consulted and kept informed of government plans. They do not, of course, guarantee majority support for the entirety of a government’s legislative programme, so ongoing negotiations are needed to enable the government to get its business through. But they do allow the main party to hold all the ministerial posts...and to control the policy agenda more extensively than when power is shared in coalition.
    For smaller parties, such agreements offer the opportunity to achieve certain cherished policy objectives and earn political credit for that. They must commit to backing the government on [certain] votes, including on often politically difficult budget plans, but they do not have to make the more extensive across-the-board compromises of coalition, allowing them to preserve their distinct identity.

[Translation]

    One need only look at the details of the agreement, which was made public, to see that it is a confidence and supply agreement, not a coalition. Under the terms of the agreement, the NDP agrees to support the government on confidence and budgetary matters in exchange for concrete progress in various policy areas.

[English]

    The NPD remains as an independent party and an independent caucus, and continues to approach individual legislative items on a case-by-case basis and hold the government to account.
    There are no cabinet posts for the NDP.

[Translation]

    Several examples of such agreements can be found at the provincial level, and each of these legislatures has recognized the parties' right to maintain their own structure and the processes to which they are entitled in opposition.

[English]

    In British Columbia, the Green Party was actually given more committee seats and status as a consequence of the confidence and supply agreement, which stated:
    Both caucuses recognize that, in order to promote greater stability, the government must be able to negotiate with the three BC Green Party MLAs as a single, recognized caucus. Similarly, to be a credible partner and fulfill the responsibilities that will be required of them, the BC Green MLAs require access to legislative tools that are only available to recognized political parties and sufficient support staff.
    In Yukon, the Yukon NDP sits as its own caucus and is afforded all the rights and privileges accorded to opposition caucuses.

  (1020)  

[Translation]

    Several examples also exist in other countries, and I would specifically point to the confidence and supply agreements that have been negotiated in countries that use the Westminster parliamentary system.
    In the United Kingdom, in 1977, the Labour Party was able to stay in power thanks to a confidence and supply agreement with the Liberal Party. In return, the Labour Party agreed to make political concessions to the Liberal Party. In 2017, the Conservative Party won a minority government and entered into a confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party.
    In Australia, in 2010, the Australian Labor Party formed a minority government and entered into a confidence and supply agreement with three independent MPs and one Green MP.
    In all of these examples, the opposition parties retained their full rights and powers to hold the government to account.

[English]

    In New Zealand, as noted previously by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the confidence and supply agreement saw Green Party members enter cabinet and still treated as an opposition party within Parliament. Confidence and supply arrangements are common in New Zealand due to the mixed member proportional representation system that is used there.
    Conservative and Bloc House leaders are wondering what is in the agreement. It is freely available online and I, of course, would be more than pleased to offer them a copy of the agreement.
    What is in the agreement? There is a historic expansion of our health care system to include dental care right across the country, which is important for more than 10 million Canadians. It includes the passing of the Canada pharmacare act, finally, for 10 million Canadians who cannot afford their medication. It includes historic investments in affordable housing for the first time since the ending of the national housing program decades ago. It includes significant investments for indigenous-led affordable housing. It includes just transition legislation to combat climate change, anti-scab legislation to protect workers and much more.
    In conclusion, I hope the Speaker will rapidly rule on this and remind the Conservative and Bloc House leaders that a confidence and supply agreement is not a coalition government. This agreement is clearly in the interest of Canadians.
    I thank the member for his intervention.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Federal Vaccine Mandates  

    That, given that Canada has one of the world's highest vaccination rates and every province across Canada has lifted or has a plan to lift vaccine mandates, the House call on the government to immediately lift all federal vaccine mandates in order to:
(a) protect the jobs of federally regulated employees;
(b) enable Canadians to travel unimpeded;
(c) ensure Canada's tourism industry recovery; and
(d) allow for the free flow of goods across the Canadian border.
    Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending March 26, 2022, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills. In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bills be distributed now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House on this important issue.
     I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable, who will also speak to the importance of today's motion.
    The Conservatives have brought forward this motion calling on the government to end all federal vaccine mandates now. After two years of Canadians doing all that was asked of them, including following the rules and being in lockdown, unable to visit their family or travel, the effects of these restrictions exacerbated the mental health challenges of many Canadians and was incredibly difficult for those who are on the margins of our society. These restrictions also caused delays and the postponement or cancellation of diagnostic screening appointments and treatments, leaving patients lacking for care. Canadians did everything that was asked of them, even boasting some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, but we cannot live under these restrictions indefinitely.
    When we look to countries around the world, our allies, and provinces across this federation, they are ending the mandates. Every province in this country, following the advice of their chief medical officer of health, has either lifted the mandates or has publicly released their plan to lift the mandates. However, Ottawa, which is governed by this NDP-Liberal coalition, is not following medical science; rather, it is looking to the political science it has used to divide Canadians and communities at a time when we have needed real leadership.
    I want to take members back to the beginning of this pandemic, when members on this side of the House, without wavering and without hesitation, were prepared to support reasonable efforts to make sure we could get Canada in a position to manage the great unknown at the time, which we now know to have been COVID‑19. Co-operation and collaboration were the name of the game.
    However, as we moved through the pandemic, we saw many examples of the Prime Minister taking every opportunity as a political opportunity. Even in those early days, when we looked to offer unwavering support to Canadians, the Prime Minister looked to undertake a historic power grab that would have given the government the ability to tax and spend without parliamentary oversight for two years.
    We then heard unbelievable language from the Prime Minister in the intervening period, calling people misogynists or racists if they did not agree with his policies on COVID‑19. Recently, we heard condemnation, not just from across Canada, but from around the world, for this type of divisive language. In all of these examples, he was not making decisions based on science. Therefore, when we are having this discussion today, I encourage all hon. members to ask the government which federal agencies and which doctors called for these mandates, these lockdowns, and the vaccine and mask mandates that the federal government is responsible for.

  (1025)  

    Now, we know that 10 out of 10 doctors in the provinces agree, and all provincial chief medical officers of health agree, on the medical science that says it is safe to lift these requirements.
    Canadians are rightly confused. People can go into a sporting venue in this country and sit shoulder to shoulder with neighbours and members of their community, people who they have been hoping to see for two years, wearing the same jerseys and cheering on a sports team without proof of vaccination or a mask required, because the top doctors in all of the provinces have said it is safe to do that.
    The Prime Minister is saying that while people can sit together in a theatre with their families, neighbours and members of the community to enjoy an experience they have not had in a long time, and watch a movie together without proof of vaccination and without wearing a mask because it is safe to do, they cannot get on a VIA train or a plane for 30 minutes or 10 minutes unless they show both of those things.
    Today, I hope members in this place ask members of the government what the federal government knows. What science is the federal government withholding from the chief medical officers of health for all of the provinces? What science does the federal government have access to that it is not sharing with our international allies that shows that it is unsafe? We know that the government will not give an answer. It may reply and it may try to scare Canadians, but that is more of that fear and division that it is trying to sow on this issue.
    Again, we are one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. Canadians did their part. They did what was asked of them, but that was not enough. Instead, the government looks to turn the screws on members of the federal public service, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and federally regulated employees.
     Even today, in every provincial jurisdiction where they all work, the chief medical officers of health, following the science, have said that it is safe to gather and work without those vax mandates and mask mandates. The government has not said it is going to offer those folks their jobs back. It has not given them a path to re-entry, and to what end? What is the benefit to Canadian society when these people are unable to provide for their families? After offering themselves in service to this country in the federal public service, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces and members of our Royal Canadian Mounted Police putting on a uniform, they were unceremoniously booted from their jobs and told they did not have a right to provide for their families anymore because the Prime Minister saw a great political opportunity.
    Let us take a new opportunity today to follow the medical science, to listen to those chief medical officers of health across the country, including in the province where this place is located. People can gather at an arena with friends and family unmasked and without that vax passport. Why is the government saying that it knows better than the experts and the physicians: the top physicians in our province?
    Canada's Conservatives are going to stand up for Canadians. We are going to stand up for the science. We are going to stand up for what is right. It is time to end the mandates.

  (1030)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a difficult time with the motion that has been proposed by the Conservative Party. What I have found is that this is a party that has been absolutely inconsistent on this issue. It depends on which member of the Conservative caucus one actually talks to. That will determine whether they are progressive or conservative in their approach. The only party that has been consistent from day one is the Liberals: the Prime Minister and the government of Canada have said that we are going to listen to science, listen to health experts and follow the advice that we are being given by professionals. The Conservatives would not even listen to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who suggested that the Conservative caucus should all be vaccinated. They are still not all vaccinated.
    I wonder this. Could the member inform the House what percentage of the Conservative caucus today is actually vaccinated?

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, 100% of Conservatives are following the science that the chief medical officers of health in their provinces prescribed. I hear the member opposite saying it is a joke. The member for Kingston and the Islands is saying that Dr. Kieran Moore is a joke, but we follow the science that he has offered.
    Mr. Speaker, rising on a point of order, Dr. Kieran Moore is an incredible doctor who came from the city of Kingston. I revere him and hold him to be in the highest position. For this member to suggest that I think he is a joke is ridiculous.
    Mr. Speaker, the member does not want to stand behind his heckles and wants to rise, but that is exactly what he said. The member for Kingston and the Islands saying that Dr. Kieran Moore is a joke is something that we do not agree with.
    Mr. Speaker, I never said that Dr. Kieran Moore was a joke. Why does this member keep repeating that? I did not, Mr. Speaker, and I think you know that and everybody else in the House knows that.
     This is why heckling sometimes does not work for all of us. Let us just try to keep the heckles down. This goes for all sides of the House this morning. Let us try to keep it down to the occasional smart heckle and keep the roar down so that we can get this debate through.
    The hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
    Mr. Speaker, on that same point of order, the member for Kingston and the Islands has just said he could do that all day. While you were ruling and advising members of the House to return to order, the member for Kingston and the Islands said he would do it all day. The chair had pronounced on the matter and called members to order and this member effectively challenged the chair in doing that.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not understand how what the member just said is a point of order. What I said is that I could argue this issue with him all day long, and I will. I will be here all day long—
    We have not been in a point of order since this started. This is debate among members. I thought it would be best to just remind everyone to keep the decorum in the House so that we can continue on with debate.
    The hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
    Mr. Speaker, 100% of members of the Conservative caucus support the advice of Dr. Kieran Moore and their provincial medical officers of health. That is 100% of them. We are not hearing any disagreement. Where is the evidence that the Liberals are offering? They were gesturing to doctors in their caucus. I would like those doctors to stand up and say that they disagree with the science that says it is safe to end the mandates.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we agree with some of the things that were just said, including the politicization of the crisis by the Liberal government. We also agree that we are all fed up with the restrictions and this crisis in general.
    As our official opposition colleagues know, when they moved a motion on February 10 to force the government to present a timeline for lifting restrictions and a plan for reopening, we voted in favour.
    However, presenting a plan and a timeline means setting out specific dates for the different stages, including which restrictions will be lifted when.
    What happened in a few short weeks for the official opposition to go from a progressive reopening timeline, with dates determined in a rational manner like the provinces are doing, to an immediate lifting of all restrictions?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when we proposed that motion at the beginning of February calling for a timeline, we gave the government ample opportunity. Of course, seeing the reasonableness of the proposal, we are happy to see that the member's party supported it. Now, we are nearing two months since that time. It has been a month and a half since then, and the provinces continue to accelerate the lifting of their mandates.
     We have parliamentary secretaries and the Minister of Seniors who could not even handle that I was calling for the federal government to follow the science and reduce the harm that their divisiveness is causing Canadians. Now we are asking the federal government to simply apply the provincial standards that have been adopted, which saw the end to masking and vax mandates.

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are things that the NDP members believe are true. We need to reconnect people. We need to get people connected. I am really disappointed to see the way that the Liberals and Conservatives are speaking today. There are many women at home right now who are caring for seniors who are ill, caring for their families and caring for children who have not been able to go to school. It is time to really get serious about how this is impacting people outside of the House and not have these political games being played.
     I support the idea of not having games played. I would ask that the Conservatives consider the NDP motion, which is to look at the most recent data. Many vulnerable communities and many children are being harmed. This is growing in Alberta.
    Will the Conservatives consider the NDP amendment that we look at the current science and data based on what is happening in the real world, not in the House right now?
    Mr. Speaker, at the health committee this week and last, Conservatives have asked the government what its plan is. The Liberals failed to provide that plan to Canadians. We continue to ask for their plan. We asked for them to show us what benchmarks they are using that will see the restrictions lifted and reduce the harm on the very vulnerable people that the member opposite mentioned. Of course, we want the government to show us the data, show us its plan and end the mandates.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what a great presentation by our colleague, the official opposition health critic. This excellent presentation illustrates how well the official opposition has been doing its job here in the House for weeks and months now, by calling for one simple thing: a plan for lifting federal health measures.
    We started off by asking questions, asking whether the Liberals could provide Canadians with any dates, a path forward, or any hope that these measures would be lifted. From across the way, we got answers filled with statistics, case numbers and vaccination rates. We were told that the situation was worse here than anywhere else or, alternatively, that it was less bad. We got all sorts of answers except for the answer to our question. We wanted a plan with dates, and we wanted to know what criteria the government would set and evaluate for determining the end of the federal health measures.
    It is always the same thing with the Liberals. We are always wondering when they are going to take action. At the start of the pandemic, they were behind the curve. They were late realizing that there was a pandemic. They were late purchasing vaccines in the beginning. They were lagging behind on just about everything. Now that the provinces are starting to lift health restrictions, the Liberal government is once again lagging behind. It is lagging behind the science and the decisions of the provinces and also of other countries.
    The NDP-Liberal government is incapable of making decisions at the right time. Who is paying for the price? All Canadians. The fact that we are talking about this again today demonstrates that this government is incapable of taking action, and that it does not care about its own employees, its officials, the country's economy, cross-border trade, the tourism industry or all the federally regulated workers across Canada. All that is no big deal for the government.
    It has become clear since Monday that this NDP-Liberal Prime Minister had other things in mind than lifting health restrictions in this country. In the current context, how can this NDP-Liberal Prime Minister justify keeping the restrictions in place while the provinces are systematically lifting them?
    We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, because Canadians have stepped up and gotten vaccinated. I would remind members that at the beginning of the pandemic, no one knew anything about this disease. Science stepped up, and people stepped up by getting vaccinated in huge numbers. I commend all Canadians who did so, all the health care workers who worked so hard in such uncertain times when we did not know what we were dealing with, and everyone who worked on the front lines to be there for Canadians and ensure their health and safety.
    The situation has changed in two years. I know that the NDP-Liberal Prime Minister likes to live in the past, but a lot of things have changed. For the first time in two years, Canadians have hope that life can get back to normal. Why does the Prime Minister insist on contradicting the experts? That is the real question. We do not have an answer to that. Why does this NDP-Liberal Prime Minister not want to listen to the experts? Why is he not doing what his provincial counterparts are doing? Does the Prime Minister now think that he is more important than the scientists whose recommendations he claimed to be following throughout the pandemic? Now, it is no big deal if he does not listen to scientists.
    As my health critic colleague was saying, the Prime Minister is following political science, not medical science. That is what we are now realizing. He was unable to win the majority of Canadians' votes by calling an election in the midst of a pandemic. No one wanted an election, but he chose to do what he pleased and call an election anyway. It was no big deal, even if it broke some of the rules. He absolutely had to do it. He wanted his government to win a majority to lead the country. He did not succeed. Canadians were clear. They told him no.

  (1045)  

    What did the Prime Minister do? He bought a majority in Parliament through a coalition with the NDP. That was his response. That is what he has been spending the past weeks and months doing instead of thinking about public servants, Canadians and all those who are unable to do their jobs because the federal government decided to maintain vaccine mandates, which are no longer needed, according to the public health experts of all the provinces and many other experts around the world.
    Speaking of experts, Quebec's health minister recently said that they were working towards lifting restrictions and that we need to learn to live with the virus. That is what the Liberals should be focusing on. I am not the only one saying this.
     Two medical experts told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health that there was limited scientific basis for vaccine mandates. Dr. David Jacobs, the president of the Ontario Association of Radiologists, spoke about the immature actions of the Prime Minister of Canada, which is not nothing, and about how he added fuel to the fire when he called unvaccinated people a fringe minority and racists. Those words are not becoming of the Prime Minister of Canada, or, I should say, the NDP‑Liberal Prime Minister of Canada.
    According to Dr. Jacobs, unvaccinated Canadians are people who are just simply afraid or who have looked at the research and disagree with the findings. He was essentially saying that one would expect the Prime Minister to be more open-minded.
    Dr. Shirin Kalyan, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, also expressed similar doubts about the current blanket vaccine mandates.
    In January, Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer of Canada and one of the experts advising the NDP-Liberal government, went even further and stated that vaccination should be voluntary. I do not know what science the government says it is following, but we cannot find it. We would like to see it, as well as the advice that led it to make vaccination mandatory for federal or federally regulated employees. Unfortunately, it does not seem to exist. The advice always stated the opposite.
    Yes, vaccination was highly recommended. However, did vaccination have to be mandatory? I remember a certain Prime Minister saying that he would never force Canadians to get vaccinated. Who was that? It was the NDP-Liberal Prime Minister.
    All of a sudden, two days before a certain date in August, vaccine mandates became the thing to do. Two days later, an election was called, and the pandemic became an election issue. The pandemic was exploited for political purposes. The Prime Minister paid the price, because Canadians said no. However, as I said earlier, he has since bought himself a majority, but that is another story, and we can talk about that later.
    So far, the Prime Minister's inaction has hurt our economy, international trade and the Canadian tourism industry. It continues to cause irreparable harm, since thousands of federal employees and federally regulated workers are still out of work because the government is sitting idle and is not listening to its own experts.
    In conclusion, I would like to know when the Prime Minister plans to get public servants back to work, lift the vaccine mandate and allow Canadians to get back to normal. It is time to stop playing partisan politics with COVID-19 and the pandemic. It is time to do what experts are urging us to do and end vaccine mandates across the country.

  (1050)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we all agree that things are getting better with COVID, and everyone is justifiably relaxing the mandates, but the question is at what rate. Some provinces have been more cautious from the beginning; some have been less cautious. If we look at the numbers, we see that the provinces that have been more cautious have done better. Globally as well, if we compare countries, we see that some have been more cautious and some have been less cautious. As a result of that, the United States has three times the death rate per population that Canada has.
    Does the member opposite not agree that perhaps in matters of public health, one ought to be cautious?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is a doctor and he must follow the science, but he must not choose the science he wants to follow. I advise him to follow the medical science and not the political science of this Prime Minister. He is the one who said in committee that we will do everything to please the NDP. I have him quoted as saying that, and so now I know that he was supportive of this new neo-democrat government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we basically agree. Everyone is tired of the pandemic, tired of the measures and just plain tired. The vaccine passport was eliminated, and everyone was happy. We are still wearing masks. We are fed up.
    On Friday evening, I went to the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, and there were 800 people crammed in, wearing masks. We cannot take it anymore. It was even a little ridiculous, because at one point in the show, the actors come into the audience, so they had to put on a mask. It totally broke the spell. We are eager to be done with all this, but we are not there yet. We cannot put the cart before the horse.
    My colleague spoke extensively about scientists, but what does he have to say to Dr. Boileau, Quebec's interim public health director, who said yesterday that Quebec would inevitably see another spike in COVID-19 cases? In Quebec, the science on health says we must be careful.
    What does my colleague say to that?
    Mr. Speaker, yes, let us be careful.
    A doctor is telling us to be careful. A doctor is telling us that the number of cases is on the rise. They may be on the rise, but I did not see the Quebec government change its reopening and lockdown plans. I did not hear it say that it would lock the province down again and bring back the vaccine passport. It presented a plan based on science, and it is following expert opinion. That is what the federal government should do. The problem is that it is not doing it. The experts say we should start lifting the health measures. That is what the government should do.
    In response, the Minister of Health keeps coming out with all sorts of numbers that mean absolutely nothing. More importantly, he is not giving Canadians any hope.

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, so far, the BA.2 subvariant has led to a significant increase in cases in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and other countries around the world. Hong Kong has the highest mortality rate in the world. South Korea is seeing a record number of cases.
    My question is as follows: Does the hon. member believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is over?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to congratulate my colleague on her French. I am grateful. Her French is excellent. I understood the question, and that says it all.
    We will learn to live with COVID-19. I have never heard anyone here say that COVID-19 and the pandemic are over. The science is telling us that things have changed over the past two years. Everyone is vaccinated, or almost everyone. Canada has the highest vaccination rate in the world. We have treatments and tools. Hospitals and doctors now know how to treat COVID-19 patients.
    We need to adapt to the new reality. We are simply asking the government to adapt, to lift the vaccine mandates, and to follow the science. That is all.
    Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise today in the House to address this very important topic.
    The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously impacted everyday life across Canada and around the world for two years now. It has also put our health care systems to the test, disrupted our economy, and altered our social and economic interactions.
    In response to the crisis, the Government of Canada took serious measures to protect Canadians' health and safety. As the pandemic evolves, it is important to keep reviewing the effectiveness of the measures we have taken.
    I understand what the Conservative Party and the House itself want, and I understand the importance today of reviewing various mandates, such as the vaccine mandate, because it is something the Government of Canada does every day. This is part of the ongoing review of the measures in place to fight COVID-19.
    As I said earlier, the Government of Canada is constantly reviewing the measures and will continue to do so with a view to protecting Canadians' health and safety using the least restrictive measures possible, in order to minimize the impact of these measures on our individual, personal, family, economic and social lives.
    There are real consequences to adding or eliminating any public health measure. That is why, before imposing these measures, we have always done a thorough analysis based on scientific evidence and consistently reviewed our decisions. It is important to point out that the situation today is totally different from the situation we faced in March 2020.
    In the past two years, Canadians have rigorously followed public health measures to protect one another. Most of them got vaccinated, wore masks, physically distanced, and stayed home when they were sick.
    Thanks to these often difficult efforts, we entered a phase where it is easier to participate in activities in person, to attend gatherings and to travel. We all did our part. We learned lessons. As a result, we are now better prepared to move forward.
    As Dr. Tam reminded us again recently, COVID-19 is here to stay. We are monitoring the omicron subvariants and in particular the BA.2 subvariant, which have led to an increase in the number of cases in many parts of Canada and the rest of the world.
    Although the number of serious COVID-19 cases is dropping in Canada and most other countries, several hospitals in Canada are still under considerable stress. The pandemic is therefore still putting pressure on our health care system and our health care workers.
    We need to be able manage this pressure when public health measures are lifted in many parts of the country. We must also be aware that, during this transition period, we do not all see the lifting of health measures in the same light. Some people are thrilled to get back to their usual activities, while others are more careful and sometimes far less comfortable.
    In the past two years, Canadians have shown incredible flexibility and great resilience, and they will continue to do so. They will make choices that reflect their own reality, based on factors such as their personal situation, their aversion to risk, their COVID-19 vaccination status, the number of COVID-19 cases in their environment, underlying medical issues, and the risk associated with contact with friends and others who are infected. For example, some people could very well continue to wear a mask, even if it is not mandatory in certain places.
    We therefore encourage everyone to continue making informed decisions in order to protect themselves, their family and their community, and to respect others’ decisions by showing compassion.

  (1100)  

    Screening tests are among the tools that will help Canadians make informed decisions in order to manage their own health and safety. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to discuss them.

[English]

    Rapid testing, in particular, empowers Canadians by providing them with the ability, on their own terms, to determine quickly and easily whether they have COVID-19, thereby building confidence and supporting reopening efforts.

[Translation]

    Ensuring equitable and efficient access to COVID‑19 rapid tests will remain a priority because Canadians are increasingly relying on them to make decisions about things such as whether they should visit a loved one, particularly someone in a long-term care facility, send their kids to school or organize a family gathering.

[English]

    The federal government started buying and providing rapid tests, free of charge, to the provinces and territories as soon as October 2020. In last December alone, the Government of Canada delivered more than 35 million rapid antigen tests to provinces and territories. Another 140 million landed in Canada in January.
    In light of the growing demand for rapid tests across the country, the Government of Canada also introduced Bill C-10, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19. The bill, which received royal assent earlier this month, will provide Health Canada with $2.5 billion in funding and the statutory authority to purchase and distribute rapid tests across Canada. With this funding, the Government of Canada will be able to ensure Canadians continue to have the rapid tests that they need, free of charge and in all provinces and territories.
    In addition to supplying provinces and territories and indigenous communities, the funding also allows Health Canada to continue to provide tests for distribution through important partners such as the Canadian Red Cross, chambers of commerce and pharmacies. This will allow schools to stay open and help protect our children, as well as our parents or grandparents in long-term care. With this funding, the Government of Canada will put in place critical contracts in a highly competitive global market to purchase efficient and sufficient quantities of rapid tests to meet the anticipated demand across the country.
    As we continue to manage COVID-19, the Government of Canada is also making use of waste-water surveillance to help us understand the community transmission of COVID-19. This waste-water surveillance is an extraordinary tool, which PHAC, the Public Health Agency of Canada, is using independently of clinical testing so that we can learn whether the virus is increasing or decreasing in a community by testing the community's sewage.
    Waste-water testing is conducted in collaboration with communities and local health authorities to help inform decision-making and public health guidance. The Government of Canada's scientists are working together on a community-level waste-water surveillance program in 65 locations across the country. Samples are then sent to the Public Health Agency of Canada's national microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg, and I know some of our members of Parliament will be happy to be reminded of the pride we have in that laboratory, for analysis and detection of the virus that causes COVID-19, including variants of concern.
    Waste-water testing provides unique opportunities to detect and monitor emerging variants of interest and concern. With limitations related to clinical testing, for example, molecular and PCR testing across Canada, waste-water is therefore an important surveillance tool to provide a picture of the community burden related to COVID-19.

  (1105)  

[Translation]

    The testing and monitoring tools I just mentioned and briefly described all help orient our public health measures, particularly those in effect at the Canadian border. These measures, together with all the other COVID‑19 measures, are based on scientific data and evidence about the current epidemiological situation in Canada and around the world.
    That is why, as of April 1, fully vaccinated travellers will not have to present COVID‑19 test results prior to entering Canada by air, land or sea.

[English]

    We will obviously continue to review and adjust our border measures, as we have always done, in an effort to keep Canadians safe while ensuring efficiency at our borders for both travellers and trade.

[Translation]

    Everything I just mentioned has helped put us in a position to be able to manage COVID-19 more effectively in the coming months. The measures will continue to change along with the epidemiological situation.
    All the knowledge and tools we acquired over the past two years, including the strategic use of testing and tracing, as well as changing border measures based on the most recent data, will be very useful to us.
    That being said, it is very important to remember that vaccination continues to be the most important tool for protecting against the serious consequences and spread of COVID-19. Over 85% of Canadians have already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and approximately 81% of Canadians are fully vaccinated. Nearly 18 million people received a booster dose, and approximately 57% of children aged 5 to 11 have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Vaccination will continue to be essential as new variants and subvariants continue to emerge.

[English]

    When it comes to COVID-19, we cannot afford to become complacent. This virus does not follow a predictable path. There will continue to be ups and downs. There will continue to be new variants, and there will continue to be new waves. We have to be prepared to manage that. This is a matter of responsibility and transparency. As well as we have done so far, we can always do better. In the short term, that means continuing to get vaccinated, including boosters.

[Translation]

    About three million eligible individuals in Canada have not yet received the first or second dose of the primary vaccine series. In addition, approximately 60% of adults have received a booster shot, which considerably reduces the risk of serious consequences. That is not enough though. Even though we would like to put COVID‑19 behind us, we cannot take our success for granted.
    In conclusion, over the past two years, the Government of Canada's approach to addressing COVID‑19 has always been based on scientific data, the epidemiological situation, and the precautionary principle, and that will not change.
    We will continue to base our policies on the latest data and lessons learned over the past two years. Canadians expect nothing less. Even though many communities are beginning to reconsider their public health measures, we must acknowledge that COVID‑19 is still very much a part of our lives, which means we must continue to be careful.

  (1110)  

[English]

    As Dr. Tam said before the Standing Committee on Health on Monday, the epidemiological situation in Canada is improving but it is unstable. We have seen this in Europe, where there has been a resurgence of COVID-19 very recently.

[Translation]

    The same thing could happen here in Canada because of the presence of omicron and the emergence of the BA.2 subvariant, which is 50% more transmissible and contagious than the original omicron variant.
    As such, even as we carefully return to the many activities we have missed over the past two years, we must not let our guard down. Vaccination continues to be one of the most effective ways available to all Canadians to protect themselves and their family. This, combined with masking and other personal protection measures, will remain important in the weeks to come.

[English]

    As I conclude my remarks today, I want to acknowledge the full range of emotions that we are feeling right now as jurisdictions adjust the public health measures that we have lived with on and off for two years now.

[Translation]

    I strongly encourage everyone to be prudent and patient and compassionate toward others as we continue to adapt to the evolving pandemic.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for taking the time to speak to our motion today. In his remarks, he talked about transparency and about the different surveillance tools and the monitoring that happens. I am wondering if the minister take the opportunity today to be transparent with Canadians and share with us what the benchmarks are.
     He mentioned the lifting of one of the testing requirements on April 1 at the border. If we use that as an example, what were the specific metrics that were used, whether it was hospital capacity, numbers in wastewater surveillance or case positivity rates? As well, will the government commit to releasing the metrics it would use to reimpose COVID restrictions once they are lifted?
    We are calling on the government today to follow the science that the provinces have used to lift the restrictions that the federal government has put in place. Will the minister commit in this place today to release the metrics that were used previously to lift some measures and could potentially be used to reimpose measures in the future? What are those metrics?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his fair and fine question. I will answer only one piece of it, as he spoke about border measures.
    We have been using a set of measures to monitor the way in which those border measures should be adjusted. One of them has been on the PHAC website for more than a year now. It is the positivity rate for people entering Canada. We have had tests, PCR tests, for more than a year now.
    If the member looks at the PHAC data, he will see that because of omicron, in January the positivity rate for people travelling into Canada, either by land or through airports, was 40 times the positivity rate that we had seen prior to omicron at the beginning of December. Fortunately, that positivity rate then fell in February and again in March, which is the reason we are now going to be able to move to new rules on April 1.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Health for his presentation on everything the government has done to manage the crisis.
    One thing he did not mention, which I would have liked to hear, is his justification for Canada's vote at the WTO against temporarily waiving patents. This proposal came from India and South Africa, two countries that were the source of variants of concern.
    To call this a global crisis means that what happens in one country will automatically impact other countries. However, if we leave the distribution of vaccines and medications solely and blindly in the hands of the market, what will happen is that only the rich countries will be able to procure doses. Meanwhile, vaccines and medications will be treated as business opportunities rather than shared resources to be used to address this global health crisis.
    When the question comes up again, will Canada continue to treat vaccines as a source of profit for big pharma, or will it actually do the one thing that will get us out of this crisis? Let me remind the House that while we are here talking about administering a fourth dose, there are billions of people around the world who have not yet had access to their first.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very good question.
    First, as my colleague suggests, the Canadian government and Canada will have to continue to work with the other countries to ensure that the distribution of pharmaceutical production capacity, such as for vaccines, is equitable, including in developing countries.
    Second, Canada committed to delivering 200 million doses of vaccine in 2022. So far, we have already delivered roughly 100 million doses, or around half. There remains another 100 million doses to deliver, and we will see to it as soon as possible.
    Third, Canada ranks sixth among the countries that provide vaccines. We are very proud of that, and we will continue to work hard not only to deliver these vaccines, but also to have these vaccines administered in developing countries.

[English]

    Qujannamiik, Uqaqtittiji.
    Health measures are being lifted by provinces. Many first nations, Métis and Inuit communities continue to say they lack basic health care and infrastructure. This is dangerous, especially for elders.
    Does the minister agree that increased financial investments and infrastructure must be provided for indigenous health?
    Mr. Speaker, through the member for Nunavut, I would like to thank Minister John Main in Nunavut, with whom I have a very good relationship. I have a lot of esteem for him. We have been working on many different things, including providing health care support to the people of Nunavut, including providing rapid tests. We had a brief very recent exchange on that to make sure that the rapid tests and of course vaccines are coming at the right speed and in the right manner.
    I congratulate and thank the large number of people in Nunavut who have been vaccinated. As we build on the health care support and investment that we have provided to Nunavut over the last few months, we will continue to be able to protect the health and safety of those living in that territory.
    Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the health restrictions in our country and the vaccination rates across our nation have contributed to a hearteningly low death rate in Canada when compared to many of our peer nations in the G7, particularly in the U.K. and the United States.
     It is evident that our protocols have managed to keep Canadians safe. What specific protocols can we look back on as ones that contributed to our lower death rate?
    Mr. Speaker, I think we heard recently that if we had the same death rate in Canada that we saw in the United States, there would have been 60,000 more people dying in Canada than we saw over the last two years. Despite that, 7,000 Canadians did die over the last few weeks because of omicron. These are obviously individual and community tragedies.
    The reason we have been able to do much better in Canada relative to many other countries is that there has been less misinformation and less disinformation, in particular on vaccination. In Canada, we have been able to trust our experts, trust our scientists and get access to that tool, which is the most important tool for continuing to protect people's health, lives and safety.
    Mr. Speaker, the isolation, the financial pressures and the extraordinary measures that Canadians have endured have all taken a toll on our mental health. Pre-COVID statistics tell us that every day an average of 11 Canadians die by suicide. For every person lost by suicide, over 275 Canadians attempt suicide each and every day. Unnecessary vaccine mandates are further exacerbating our mental health issues.
     Over 468 days ago, the members opposite all voted in favour of my motion to bring an easy-to-remember three-digit suicide prevention number, 988, to Canada. Can the minister tell us why they have done nothing to bring the 988 to Canada? They have dragged their feet. Why have they not implemented this important number?

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have these brief reactions.
    The member is correct in speaking to the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. About half of Canadians report that their mental health has suffered because of COVID-19. Eighty per cent of health care workers also say that their mental health has fallen. I was speaking to a representative of the Canadian Pharmacists Association yesterday. About 90% of pharmacists in Canada have found the experience of the last two years very stressful.
    Regarding the engagement and commitment of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the minister spoke to that at the health committee just a few days ago, I think on Monday. I would invite the member to look at the record. We assure him that the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions will keep working very diligently on that important file.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
    Since the start of this pandemic, I have often asked myself the following question: What should I do? It is the pre-eminent ethical and political question.
    In this debate, we must consider the ethical principle of responsibility. That is the approach taken by the Bloc Québécois from the outset of the pandemic. Since the first wave, we have been making decisions by trying to predict the positive and negative impacts they would have on the future. We did not make decisions based on what had happened or what would happen. We owe it to the most vulnerable to do what is ethically responsible.
    I will try not to make this a partisan debate. Obviously, everyone is fed up with the pandemic and tired of restrictions. When making public health policy, we must avoid making decisions based on whims or on which way the wind is blowing. As representatives of the people, we must avoid being opportunistic and partisan. Above all, we must make informed decisions that are based not on individual interests or how we feel that day, but on the common good and everyone's best interest. The position that the Bloc Québécois is taking today is guided by these ethical considerations.
    It might be easier if we were in an endemic situation. Has the pandemic reached its endemic threshold? Some people think that, once we reach this threshold, we will be able to lift all of the health measures and act as if the pandemic and the virus no longer exist.
    In the five waves that have hit us, what infuriates me is to see how some people and some members of the House have unfortunately appropriated the opinions of experts and scientists. We have embraced a new religion, scientism. Scientists, however are unpretentious people. Usually, they are certain only about their uncertainty. Science is merely the calculation of uncertainties. The difference between science and religion is that science can be falsified.
    That being said, it is really tiresome to hear so many people say that we need to base our decisions on science. I do not have a problem with that, but scientists themselves cannot agree on many issues. Beyond the scientific facts, we need to apply the ethics of responsibility for the common good. That is the point to our discussion today.
    Will immediately lifting all the health measures as proposed in today’s motion help or hurt the situation? That is the question.
    I would like to talk about the endemic phase, because no one has brought it up during this debate. Some experts, if I may use the term, say that those who believe that the word “endemic” means living with the virus and lifting all health restrictions are wrong. It can even be dangerous to believe that, because it can lead to an excess of optimism and, by extension, unexpected waves of outbreaks.
    In the endemic phase, we still need to control the disease. We need to limit the spread of the virus by providing better ventilation, controlling the spread and increasing hospital capacity, since some people will end up in hospital.

  (1125)  

    Point (a) of today’s motion says that we need to protect jobs. I looked at the employment rate recently. In February 2020, it was 5.7%. Two years later, in February 2022, after two years of pandemic, it was 5.5%.
    Point (b) mentions enabling Canadians to travel unimpeded. As of this morning, according to the United States embassy and consulate, if I want to cross the border, I must show a passport, proof of vaccination or a negative test result. If I want to go to Europe, the same rules apply.
    Just recently, WHO spoke out strongly against the lifting of measures in Europe. Were measures lifted too soon?
    Earlier, I was listening to the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, who talked about a plan throughout his speech. We agree that a plan is needed. The federal government should have tabled a plan like the provinces and Quebec did. A plan would enable us to plan and to adapt to the situation. There are some constants in this pandemic.
    Quebec's plan includes lifting the mask mandate in some public places as of mid-April, but just having a plan gives Quebec the time to react if the number of cases grows, as is currently happening in Europe. It is therefore quite possible that the Quebec government will tell us that the lifting of the mask mandate is postponed for two weeks. However, the federal government did not table a plan, and that is shameful. It would be good if the government would think about that and if today's debate would inspire the government to table a plan.
    Point (c) of today's motion says that we need to ensure the recovery of Canada's tourism industry. However, the day we lift all restrictions and face a resurgence in the number of infections, the tourism industry will be the first one affected.
    One of the constants of this pandemic is that we have always had a month to see things coming. What happens in Europe happens here a month later. We thought we would be spared during the first and second waves, but that has never been the case, and we might be on the verge of a sixth wave.
    Another constant that everyone has experienced is that infections surge every time restrictions are lifted. The restrictions were lifted for legitimate reasons, such as ensuring that people would keep complying with public health measures and messages, to protect mental health, or to give people a break over the Christmas holidays or March break, for example.
    Implementing public health measures is akin to practising medicine on a large scale. If patients stop complying, there is nothing else that can be done. I believe that we are on the verge of a new wave, at least in Quebec.
    The people who are saying that it is not so bad because omicron is milder should try saying that to patients with terminal cancer who do not have COVID‑19 and who feel abandoned. The pandemic is affecting our health care networks, which were already weakened. Our quality of life has been restricted because these networks have not been able to provide care to patients dealing with anything other than COVID‑19.

  (1130)  

    The federal government needs to increase health transfers immediately. It is inconceivable to think that the government would not provide more funding to strengthen our networks so that we can get through the sixth, seventh and eighth waves without having our lives disrupted like they were during the first five waves.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his balanced and well-thought-out speech, as well as for his collaboration at the Standing Committee on Health.
    I have a simple question. Did the experts my colleague talked to indicate that the time has come to declare this pandemic over?
    Mr. Speaker, we could, in fact, be on the verge of a resurgence of infections. Quebec is preparing for a sixth wave.
    We have not yet reached what is referred to as the endemic phase, where the rate of infection levels off and, with the appropriate measures and predictability, we are able to control the vectors and therefore the health care networks. We are a long way from that.
    Just look at what is happening in other countries. This is going to affect us too or is starting to affect us. I am talking about the resurgence that happened in Denmark and is currently happening in Europe.
    We have to continue to be careful. The precautionary principle must be applied. We owe it to the most vulnerable.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Montcalm for his speech.
    I want to follow up on a question his colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, asked the Minister of Health earlier this morning.
    Given that vaccination rates remain significantly lower—below 15%—in low-income countries, we obviously need to do more to support global vaccine equity if we are to get through this pandemic.
    Can my colleague comment on the importance of Canada supporting the World Trade Organization's efforts to temporarily waive certain parts of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights as it relates to COVID-19 technologies?
    I thank my colleague for his patience as I work on my French.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague speaks French very well and his question is fundamental. We are in a pandemic. By definition, a pandemic is global. This is not an epidemic; it is a pandemic.
    I invited members of Amnesty International to appear before a parliamentary committee. They came to speak to us about this waiver, which Canada should support. It is absolutely clear.
    Canada has good intentions, but it does not seem to be following through. It must be much more proactive and help get patents waived since that would democratize access to vaccines and anti-virals.
    We must also provide more support for the supply and deployment chain in developing countries. It is not good enough to send vaccines that sometimes expire two weeks later. We must provide the logistical support needed so that the vaccines can be administered.
    Having vaccines produced on site would prevent a lot logistical problems in many cases. It would make it possible for people to be much more autonomous in terms of vaccination and enable them to provide the drugs needed to fight the pandemic.

  (1135)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question. The resolution itself is very clear. It says:
the House call on the government to immediately lift all federal vaccine mandates
    I wonder if the member can provide a simple answer as to whether or not the Bloc supports the resolution.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as one of my colleagues stated this morning, the Bloc supported the Conservatives' last motion, which called for a plan.
    Today, we continue to ask for this plan, but we will not support the motion. In light of the situation around the world and here in Canada, vaccination is not the only indicator used to monitor the pandemic. That is why we will be voting against the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montcalm for his speech and the essential work that he does for the Bloc Québécois on the very important health file.
    I, too, am going to talk about the Conservative Party's motion, which calls on the government to immediately lift all federal vaccine mandates. I will not keep members in suspense for very long. I can say right now that my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I will be voting against the Conservative motion.
    It would be both irresponsible and excessive to immediately lift all vaccine mandates, and the Conservatives chose a rather strange time to move this motion. I am wondering which media outlet the Conservative strategists get their news from.
    I would like to inform my colleagues of the latest news. After a period of pandemic calm combined with the lifting of restrictions across the western hemisphere, we have been seeing a strong resurgence in cases of COVID-19 in Europe over the past week. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, there has been a resurgence of the pandemic in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, France, Italy, Germany and 12 other countries in the European region. On Tuesday, the WHO director for Europe criticized European countries for lifting their COVID-19 restrictions too abruptly, saying this was likely responsible for the current rise in cases.
    Since the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 waves have started in Europe and then come to Canada. There have been five waves in two years, so we are starting to get familiar with the pattern. There is nothing to indicate that the sixth wave will be any different. Just yesterday, Luc Boileau, Quebec's director of public health, announced that Quebec should prepare for a new wave of COVID-19 because of the arrival of the BA.2 subvariant of omicron.
    According to published epidemiological data, this variant is responsible for one in two infections in Quebec. Moreover, this variant is 30% to 50% more contagious than omicron, which suggests that transmission of this variant is likely to accelerate in the coming days and weeks. Yesterday, new cases topped 2,000 in Quebec, a high that has not been seen since mid‑February. It seems irresponsible to demand that the remaining measures be lifted at this time. We run the risk of abruptly going from too much to too little.
    We would be better off taking a cautious and well-thought-out approach that takes into account the epidemiological data on the ground. Decisions must be made based on the science. This type of motion is excessive and serves no purpose right now. This motion looks more like an attempt by the Conservatives to politicize the pandemic, vaccination and health measures. The Conservative Party is not the only one doing that, however. The Liberals and the Prime Minister are also guilty of fuelling the extreme polarization that Canadians deplore. I remind members that the Liberal Party made mandatory vaccination for federal employees a key part of their campaign during the election that they called last summer for no other apparent reason.
    By constantly inserting the vaccination issue into political debate, the Liberal Party has helped turn this public health issue into an ideological one. That is bad. It has turned the choice not to get vaccinated into a political act, an act of protest. Rather than foster compliance and solidarity, it has kept Quebeckers and Canadians away from vaccination clinics and divided them.
    The Conservatives, for their part, have adopted a frankly irresponsible attitude since the start of the public health crisis, and this has only gotten worse in recent months. They have become standard-bearers for the most radicalized elements of movements opposed to public health measures. Early last month, that opposition culminated in a full-blown siege of Canada's parliamentary precinct. For three long weeks, the day-to-day lives of the people of Ottawa and Gatineau came to a standstill. Businesses had to close up shop, and historic and symbolic monuments were desecrated by the invaders.

  (1140)  

    As this chaotic circus was unfolding just a few dozen metres from the House, the Conservatives were taking photos with the illegal protesters.
    There are no winners in this ideological war being waged between the Liberal Party and Conservative Party. Everyone loses. In contrast to these two warring parties, which are ignoring science so as to further their political interests, the Bloc Québécois is rising above the fray and advocating a reasonable, transparent approach based on science rather than points in the polls. In that sense, we believe that the government must act prudently by lifting health measures gradually and in accordance with the evolving epidemiological data.
    In addition, in order to encourage compliance with measures that need to be maintained for a while, the government needs to be transparent and explain why certain measures must be maintained. Pandemic fatigue is real, and people deserve information and some degree of predictability from their government. In that sense, the government needs to justify the measures it decides to maintain, while setting out, with the help of public health, the conditions and thresholds that must be met for them to be lifted.
    I would remind members that these measures should protect the most vulnerable, our health care workers and our hospital system, which were hit even harder in the fifth wave. However, it would be false and dangerous to believe that the health care system is only vulnerable because a minority of people continue to refuse to be vaccinated. The system is vulnerable because, unfortunately, the federal government has slowly cut its investments in health care over the decades. In 1958, the federal government covered 50% of the system's costs, while today it funds only 22%.
    The provinces and Quebec have had to steadily rationalize the services provided as they kept being forced to do more with less. Until we have a robust health care system, we will be vulnerable to health crises and at the complete mercy of the epidemiological ups and downs caused by the emergence of new variants. In March 2020, many believed that COVID-19 was over. Two years later, very few people dare to predict how much longer it could last.
    To be adequately equipped to deal with the pandemic and stop the revolving door, the first step is for the federal government to restructure health care funding. On that point, the Liberal government needs to understand that it is completely alone in its stubborn decision to keep transfers too low or to postpone until after the pandemic negotiations with Quebec and the provinces to increase health transfers. Every opposition party is united in support of a major increase in health transfers. The premiers of the provinces and Quebec are united in condemning the federal disinvestment in health. On hospital floors, health care workers are expressing the urgent needs they see and the inhumane conditions they have to work in because of the lack of resources. Even PHAC is inviting the government to learn from the pandemic and ensure that there is stable and ongoing funding for public health expenses.
    I will conclude my speech by calling on the Liberal government to take note of the consensus expressed at all levels of Quebec and Canadian society and realize that we cannot fully and sustainably get out of this pandemic without a robust and sound health care system. The government needs to increase health transfers to 35% of the cost of the system and guarantee a subsequent annual escalator of 6%. These transfers also need to respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, which have the expertise and the constitutional prerogative to lead their respective health care systems.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his judicious speech today.
    He quite rightly noted that we must remain vigilant. The Conservatives have continuously politicized the pandemic.
    Can my colleague comment on our mutual obligation to do the prudent and responsible thing in the face of such a risk?
    Mr. Speaker, on the subject of prudence, I have a few suggestions for my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.
    Calling an election in the middle of a pandemic is not very prudent. Making mandatory vaccination of federal employees an ideological issue right at the start of a pointless election campaign was not very prudent either, and it certainly did not encourage compliance.
    When it comes to prudence, I would invite my colleague to stop and think about whether his government's actions really resulted in greater compliance or whether they divided people and raised tensions over vaccination.
    Mr. Speaker, the Charter rights of three million unvaccinated Canadians have been violated over the past year. They cannot board a plane or train or cross the border.
    Does the member think this is one measure that could be lifted right now?
    Mr. Speaker, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
    Is it unreasonable to want to protect people who use certain means of transportation? I do not think so. This is about trying to protect people. I think what is unreasonable is calling for the removal of measures without taking the science into account, especially when case numbers are going up and people expect the government to keep things predictable.
    We agree with the Conservative Party on that, but just tossing all the restrictions with no real plan in place is unthinkable.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am looking at the work we have to do.
    The cultural sector is in need of assistance, the employment insurance regime is in need of reform and health transfers need to be paid, yet today we are debating the opposition motion.
    When the Liberals brought up vaccines during the election campaign, they cast their line. Since then, the Liberals have been reeling it in and the Conservatives are the fish flopping around. In the meantime, we are not getting our job done.
    Could my colleague tell us what we could be working on for Quebeckers and Canadians if the Liberals had not politicized the vaccination issue?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Mirabel for his question.
    We would be working on all kinds of things, such as an upcoming budget. The government did not present a budget for two years, which was unprecedented.
    We would certainly be working on the record inflation rates that are affecting all Quebeckers and Canadians.
    We would certainly be working on improving working conditions in our health care system, while the government stubbornly tries to hold off negotiations with the provinces and Quebec on the increase to health transfers until the pandemic is over. No one knows when this pandemic will be over, which means that the government is shelving that issue.
    We would be working on the housing crisis that is raging in Quebec and in many regions, including my own. The city of Rimouski has a historically low vacancy rate of 2.2%.
    In the meantime, members are sowing division and trying to figure out who is and who is not vaccinated.
    Those are the types of things we are not working on.
    Mr. Speaker, one implication of the motion is that the Canadian government could facilitate the exchange of goods and services across the border unilaterally, but there are still U.S. government requirements for vaccines that affect the exchange of goods and services.
    Would the member like to comment on that aspect of the motion?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his invitation to comment.
    Just because health measures are lifted or the Canadian government decides to go in another direction, it does not mean this will have any influence or significant impact on what neighbouring countries, particularly the United States, decide to do.
    I would add that the Liberal government prides itself on being a strong advocate for science and evidence, but Canada is the only G7 country that cannot produce its own COVID-19 vaccine. There has been a lack of investment in science and research over the past few years. The Liberals need to walk the talk in the next budget.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Vancouver Kingsway.
    It is my great honour, as always, to stand in this place and address my colleagues, and I want to start by acknowledging something that I know we all know. We all know how difficult COVID-19 has been on us. We all know how hard it has been on children and we all know how hard it has been on parents and families. I am a mother myself, and to see my teenage children missing parts of their childhood and parts of their teenage years has been very hard. To be trapped in a house with a very active 14-year-old boy is not easy for any of us, and I sympathize with families across the country and around the world that have had to deal with that.
    This pandemic has been very difficult on people's livelihoods and on businesses too. There are businesses in my riding that started right before the pandemic and could not access supports throughout this pandemic, and it has been heartbreaking to see that. We have seen the impacts on women, and not just women in Canada but women around the world, who have been set back decades by what has happened during this pandemic.
    Of course, my heart breaks for the people who have lost their lives and for the families that have lost children, mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters. My heart breaks for them. In my province of Alberta, over 4,000 people died. That is 4,000 families. That is a massive impact in a province like Alberta.
    When I think of all of these things and our best way forward and the best way we can work together to come out of COVID-19, what I keep thinking is that we cannot and we must not ever politicize something like a global health pandemic. We must listen to science. We must listen to medical professionals. I am not a doctor; that is not my role in this pandemic. My role will be to listen to doctors, to listen to scientists and to listen to experts. What I know is that experts are telling me that COVID-19 is not over.
    I do want COVID-19 to be over. That is fine. However, that is not how global health pandemics work. It is not over. We have numbers spiking around the world. We have numbers spiking in places as far away as South Korea, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The numbers are climbing; the variants are developing.
    I am going to talk today a bit about the need to have a global response. I do not think anyone in this place will be surprised that vaccine equity is one thing that is vitally important to me and a tool we need to use. I also want to talk a bit about what results when we politicize this pandemic, and I am going to use my province as the example for that.
    Members all heard the Premier of Alberta tell us that last summer was going to be the best summer ever. My premier went so far as to print hats that said, “Best summer ever”. Do members know what it became instead? It was a cautionary tale for provinces and countries around the world. We know what happens when COVID-19 is politicized. All we have to do is look at Alberta.
    Albertans have been hit hard by COVID-19, and when the premier's poll numbers were hit just as hard by his terrible decisions, he decided to do the wrong thing. He decided to politicize COVID-19. He put politics, or in this case his own political survival, ahead of the interests of Albertans. He said, “influenza...does not generally threaten life apart from the elderly and the immunocompromised”. He said it is a flu. He mimicked Donald Trump's lines and even pushed ineffective and potentially dangerous treatments.

  (1155)  

    During the third wave of COVID-19, Alberta had one of the highest infection rates in Canada. It had one of the highest infection rates in the world. This is what happens when we politicize this.
     I also want to talk about an idea. I think all of us in here could recognize, at least intellectually, that if we want a global health pandemic to be over, we need to have a global response. We need to make sure vaccines are available for everyone. We cannot have a motion that asks us to ignore science and thinks that is a reasonable response to the global health pandemic.
    What I would have liked to see is the Conservative Party bring forward a motion that said something like, let us update our Canadian access to medicines regime to include COVID-19 medications. Let us work together to make sure that Canada is playing an active role in waiving intellectual property rights so that countries around the world can produce their own vaccines for their own populations, and let us work with countries around the world to help with vaccine hesitancy, to make sure that when vaccines are delivered, there are supply chains, there are syringes and there are all those things that need to happen so that people can actually get vaccinated.
    I would have loved, and would have been so supportive of, a Conservative motion that called for the Canadian government to finally live up to its obligations to deliver the promised doses to COVAX. COVAX is a system that was supposed to ensure that the world was vaccinated. However, that system does not work when countries such as Canada have bilateral agreements and take all of the vaccine stock, and leave countries that desperately need doses to vaccinate their health care workers and their vulnerable populations with none.
    This is the opposite of a good global health response. This is the opposite of what we need to do. I have to say that I look at our response to COVID-19, and I think to myself: We face a global challenge with Ukraine. We face a fundamental global challenge with climate change, and our global responses have not lived up to that task. I worry that these are showing us what a global response will look like in the future for other challenges.
    I am not a virologist. I am not an epidemiologist. I am not a physician. I am pretty sure there are few of us in this chamber who are. This motion that has been brought forward is asking us to be all of those things. It turns what should be a scientific decision into a political decision, and that is wrong. It is not up to us to make scientific decisions. It must never be our role to make scientific decisions. Our job is to develop policy and legislation that is in the best interests of Canadians.
    In my province of Alberta, we have lost more than 4,000 people, and we are going to lose more. Yesterday we had 500 more cases reported, and variants continue to threaten us. Until we are able to vaccinate the world, and until Canada does its part to vaccinate the world, including by signing the TRIPS waiver, the virus is going to continue to evolve, and variants are going to continue to plague the world, including our country of Canada.
    This motion asks us to give up the hope that we will get through this pandemic. This motion asks us to give up our fight against this virus. It asks us to surrender. It asks us to ignore public health and science. It asks us to pretend to know better than scientists. Canadians are better than this. We care about science. We are not about to surrender at the end. We are going to continue to care for one another.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would just like to correct some of the facts for my colleague, the member for Edmonton Strathcona.
    Could the member deny how happy Albertans are now, since some, or even most, of the restrictions have been lifted, and how relieved families are at all levels that life is going back to normal? I am sure the member is receiving as many emails as I am about how happy people are about their lives going back to normal.
    I am not sure if the member's speech reflects the reality of Edmontonians and Albertans with respect to this situation and the lifting of restrictions. I hope the member will take this opportunity to correct the fact that Albertans and Edmontonians are happy, and everybody wants out of the pandemic.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the question. We often see eye to eye as neighbours and members of Parliament for the wonderful city of Edmonton, but I have to say that my perception of where my constituents are on this is very different from what the member brought forward.
    I am getting many emails from people who are deeply worried about those who cannot receive a vaccination, such as children. I am hearing from teachers who are absolutely terrified to be back in classrooms that have not dealt with the ventilation problems that we have had so far and that have not dealt with overcrowding. I am talking to health care workers who are exhausted. They are on their last straw, and hearing that the Government of Alberta does not care enough about them to maintain some of these restrictions that will keep them safe is heartbreaking. I am hearing about seniors who are worried about their own care.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague and friend for her passionate speech today, and for always standing up for people who are vulnerable and for people who need a voice in this space. She is always there for them.
    Today, I would like to respond a little to the notion that our job in the House might be to do what is always popular. I think we have an obligation to do what is prudent and to do what is responsible. We were elected to make decisions based on good facts, evidence and science, and we have done our best over the course of the last two years. Obviously, in retrospect, people make mistakes, but hindsight is always 20/20.
     I would ask my hon. colleague this. In looking across the country at various jurisdictions, who are we here to protect?
    Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I also feel that we have, as a Parliament, tried to work together for the betterment of Canada and for Canadians.
    It is not always easy decisions that parliamentarians are asked to make. Our constituents did not send us here to have the honour of representing them in this place to do cheerleading for them or to do the popular things. We are here to make the difficult decisions, and there are things that we could have done much better. A perfect example of that is the Canadian access to medicines regime, CAMR, which I talked about earlier. We could put those medicines, those therapeutics and vaccination medicines on that list, but we have not done that yet. The Canadian government has the opportunity and could do it today. That would be one way that we could work together.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech.
    In debates about the pandemic, it has often been said that the challenge for public health policy has been to ensure that people are willing to comply throughout the pandemic.
    Does my colleague not think that if the government came up with a plan to ease these restrictions, this would provide some degree of predictability and encourage compliance?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think that a plan is very important. Canadians deserve to have answers and they deserve to get information, but in my mind what that might look like is a plan to actually review the mandates: to look at them and see which ones can be lifted and at what point. To have that research into that piece is really important. However, it cannot be a decision that is based on what the member wants or what I want, but rather on what scientists and medical professionals tell us.
     I would very quickly add that it is very important that our health care system is strengthened, which is another thing that I think all of us in the House should be fighting for.
    Mr. Speaker, as we enter the third year of this pandemic, Canadians are feeling exhausted, frustrated and anxious about the future. Instead of divisive political pandering, they deserve honest answers and responsible leadership from their elected officials.
     Far from feeling this pandemic is over, Canadians are deeply concerned about what is coming next. People are worried about the emergence of new variants and the potential that COVID-19 will be circulating for years to come. However, after two years and many flawed and changing public health measures, New Democrats believe that Canada is due for a re-evaluation of our public health strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why New Democrats are taking a responsible and science-based approach, calling for a review of all federal public health measures that is transparent, data-driven and informed by the advice of public health experts.
    New Democrats believe the prompt completion of this review is in the public interest and should proceed without political interference. That is why, last week, we wrote to Canada's chief medical officer and requested that the Public Health Agency of Canada conduct a thorough review of every federal COVID-19 health policy based on data and science, with a goal of either confirming that we are on the right path or making changes if we are not. Unfortunately, the motion introduced by the Conservative opposition today is the opposite of this approach.
    By calling for an immediate end to all federal vaccine mandates, the Conservative motion is premature and politicizes a decision that should be based on science. Wedge politics and polarization are not going to end this pandemic. Rather than reckless declarations from the floor of the House of Commons, New Democrats believe that we must take a cautious and informed approach to protect public health until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
    This motion before the House violates these principles and this approach in a number of ways. First, it is premature and a threat to public health. This motion assumes, incorrectly, that we are done with the pandemic. It assumes, without scientific basis, that we have entered the endemic phase. This is something no responsible science has declared. It ignores what is happening in countries around the world, especially those that have relaxed their public health measures too quickly.
    Second, it is politically motivated. Both the Liberals and Conservatives have played partisan politics with the pandemic over the past two years. That has been irresponsible and dangerous. I can do no better than to quote a Liberal member of the government: the MP for Louis-Hébert. He stated:
    I can’t help but notice with regret that both the tone and the policies of my government changed drastically on the eve and during the last election campaign. From a positive and unifying approach, a decision was made to wedge, to divide and to stigmatize.
    He added:
    I fear that this politicization of the pandemic risks undermining the public’s trust in our public health institutions.
     He was right. Politicians should not be deciding public health measures; health professionals should. Public health decisions should be based on data, evidence and science, and not on political considerations. This motion reflects the Conservative Party playing the very same game.
    Third, it is precise yet overly broad. This motion calls for the immediate lifting of all vaccine mandates, yet there are very different mandates with different purposes and impacts. For example, there is a clear difference between requiring vaccination for a federal health professional who visits a remote indigenous community to treat vulnerable seniors with compromised immune systems and for an Ottawa bureaucrat who works from home, yet this motion makes no distinction whatsoever and would immediately remove both. There are different considerations when we consider passengers on an airplane sitting inches apart in a closed environment for many hours, than for those on a bus where people may be able to physically distance. Some mandate aspects might indeed be properly removed, yet it may be prudent to retain or perhaps alter others. This motion precludes that approach.
    Fourth, it is factually incorrect and misleading. The motion erroneously claims that all provinces have lifted or have plans to lift their vaccine mandates. What is correct is that all provinces have lifted their proof of vaccination requirements for people attending certain social and recreational settings and events, except for British Columbia. The requirement will be lifted there on April 8. In British Columbia, mandatory vaccination policies remain in place for workers in health care, long-term care and public service. New Brunswick has dropped its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for most employees, except for those who work in health care and other vulnerable sectors. The Government of Nova Scotia has indicated that higher-risk areas in the front lines of health care and long-term care will still require COVID-19 vaccinations when the mandates in other sectors are lifted in the province.

  (1210)  

    When the motion claims that Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, it is referring only to a two-shot vaccine series and ignores the third booster vaccination figures. While it is correct that the two-jab rates are in the 82% range, still leaving almost 20% without full vaccination, incidentally, that rate drops to less than half of Canadians, 46%, with booster shots. This motion misrepresents the vulnerability of Canadians and risks their health in doing so.
    We know that vaccination continues to be the best course of action to protect Canadians from serious illness, hospitalization and death. According to Canada's chief public health officer:
...with the Omicron variant, having two doses—the protection against infection and further transmission goes really low. You really need a third dose to provide augmentation against transmission. All that should be taken into account as the federal government looks at the policies going forward.
     In addition, we need to study the impact of infection-acquired immunity, transmission dynamics and the viability of future treatments.
    We also know that this virus knows no borders and what happens elsewhere is certain to affect us in Canada, so let us look at the current state of COVID-19 cases globally. After a consistent decrease since the end of January, the number of new weekly COVID-19 cases globally has now increased for a second consecutive week, with a 7% increase reported from March 14 to March 20 as compared to the previous week. According to the World Health Organization, a combination of factors is causing the spike, including the highly transmissible omicron variant and its BA.2 subvariant, as well as the lifting of public health and social measures.
    The emergence of the BA.2 subvariant has led to a steep rise of cases in the U.K., Germany, Finland, Switzerland and other European countries in recent weeks. Hong Kong is now reporting the world's highest death rates from COVID-19. China is also seeing major outbreaks in major cities, putting millions of people under lockdown and halting production in major international manufacturing centres, providing grave implications for supply chains. South Korea recently set a new daily record, with reported infections topping 600,000. Australia and New Zealand, which had previously held cases to low levels, have also seen spikes in recent weeks, as have Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
    Here in Canada, a spike in early surveillance signals across the country has experts worried we could be on the verge of another resurgence. While BA.2 does not appear to be associated with more severe illness in vaccinated populations, it is still capable of causing severe disease among people without prior immunity, which underscores the importance of getting up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, including a booster.
    What do respected health experts say as opposed to Conservative politicians? The WHO director said this:
    There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out, and how the acute phase could end—but it is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant, or that we are in the endgame.
    On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.
    Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital and member of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine task force, said this:
    Even though we're in a much better place now than we were one and two months ago, there's still a lot of COVID around and there's still a lot of people in hospital with COVID....
    Sadly, this is not over yet.
    Finally, Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba and Canada research chair of emerging viruses, stated:
    Watching what's going on in terms of case numbers in Europe, I think should be certainly a bit of a stark reminder that the virus has not disappeared....
    BA.2 should, in my mind, kind of reinvigorate us to realize we're not through with this yet and in fact the virus can still change.
    The NDP is fully committed to reviewing all federal vaccine mandates and restrictions, as I said earlier, so we would propose that we amend the motion in the following way.
    I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “has lifted or” and substitute the following: “is planning to lift vaccine mandates, the House call on the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct a comprehensive review of all federal vaccine mandates and restrictions based on the most recent data and best available evidence to determine whether such mandates should remain, be lifted or be altered and request that this review be tabled in the House within four weeks following the adoption of this motion.”
    By accepting this amendment, we can put this decision in the hands of those it should be, those of scientists, based on data, based on evidence and for the protection and best health of Canadians.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    It is my duty to inform hon. members that an amendment to an opposition motion may be moved only with the consent of the sponsor of the motion. Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes if he consents to this amendment being moved.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we reject the amendment from the government member.

[Translation]

    Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 85, the amendment cannot be moved at this time.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am sure it was not the intention of the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes to mislead the House by suggesting that the member for Vancouver Kingsway is a member of the government. That is obviously not true. I wonder if he might want to correct the record.

[Translation]

    I thank the member for that clarification.
    The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I hear a lot of talk in the debate about science and how we need to follow the science. I just want to let people know that I am a chemical engineer. I did work in science and research, so I do have some understanding of the issue.
    One of the facts that I want to talk about is how the 90% of people who are vaccinated in Canada can get and transmit COVID-19. We know this. The Prime Minister has had it. I have had it twice, and a lot of people in the House have had it. These 90% are able to go back and forth across the border easily and get on a plane and take their masks off while they are eating lunch, etc. However, the 10% who are not vaccinated can also get and transmit COVID, but they are not allowed to go anywhere. As the World Health Organization has pointed out, this is accomplishing nothing other than violating the charter rights of these individuals.
    Would the member agree that this would be one measure we could drop today without any adverse impact?

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, as a person interested in science, I am sure my hon. colleague is also interested in the accuracy of numbers. It is not 90% of Canadians who are vaccinated. It is 81.6%. Of course, as I pointed out in my speech, only 46% of Canadians have had their third booster, which, in my view, now ought to be considered required to be considered fully vaccinated.
    We know, based on the science, that the impact of vaccinations wanes over time. After three, four or five months, we know that the efficacy of the vaccine, particularly the mRNA vaccines, can go down to very low numbers, so getting that third booster is incredibly important.
    I would just say that federal policy should be to encourage people to be vaccinated and to do everything possible to ensure that all Canadians receive their third boosters. Relaxing and withdrawing mandates, in that respect, at this time, I think, is not only irresponsible but harmful to the health of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see you in the chair. As you would know and no doubt attest, with regard to the province of Quebec, toward the end of November or beginning of December, no one would have anticipated that the province of Quebec would have been implementing a curfew in the month of January because of omicron.
    I think it is really important that we do not lose sight of the fact that we cannot just wish the pandemic away. There is a responsibility. Things can change and, as we have seen with the omicron variant, they can change quite quickly and rapidly.
    I am wondering if my colleague can provide his thoughts in regard to why it is so important that we listen to what health care experts have to say.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree completely. There is really a number of fundamental flaws in this motion before the House today. Again, it assumes that politicians should be making public health policy. I personally do not agree with that. The Conservatives seem to think that should be the case.
    Second of all, I believe that the decision should be data-driven and it should be accurate. Again, this motion, as I have pointed out, suffers from a number of inaccuracies, if not outright mistakes.
    Finally, I would say that we have been through this before, where we get a temporary lull because of the public health measures and we get case counts coming down, so we prematurely move to relax public health measures. What have we seen? We see a flare-up again. I believe in the prudent, precautionary approach. I personally believe we should be moving very carefully and cautiously for the health of Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your excellent work.
    I think that the pandemic has shown how fragile the health care system is in Quebec and across Canada. We know that seniors in long-term care homes were hard hit. It was hard to find people to work in those facilities. There was not enough money.
    Now that my colleague is in power or on the government's side, I would like to know whether he will acquiesce as soon as possible to the call of Quebec and every province in Canada to increase health transfers from 22% to 35% so that the same tragedies we experienced in Quebec and across Canada will not happen again during a future pandemic.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure that Quebeckers are so grateful to the NDP for working co-operatively with the Liberals in the 1960s to bring them public, universal, comprehensive health care, which he clearly supports because he wants more money for it. That is because the NDP, unlike the Bloc Québécois, works constructively and positively in Parliament in order to deliver for Canadians, which is something they do not do.
    Absolutely, the NDP is the party of health care. We are going to continue to fight for more federal contributions to get the federal government up to its 50% contribution to public health care in this country, as it should be.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is good to see you in that chair. I am going to split my time with the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.
    For two years, Canadians have been living with COVID-19 restrictions. That is two years of lockdowns, of not being able to visit loved ones and of not being able to travel. It is two years of isolation. While Canadians understood the need for various restrictions applied during the pandemic, despite the lack of consistency, despite the mixed messaging and despite the confusion, Canadians have done what was asked of them.
    However, today what they can no longer be expected to live with is the indefinite nature of these restrictions and timelines and the lack of data. They are noticing that leaders across the country, 10 provinces, are following the evidence and advice from public health officials, evidence that supports ending the mandates.
    Provincial leaders have lifted or have plans to lift mandates in their provinces. The only government in Canada that has no plan to lift restrictions is this one. I am sure that members opposite will argue that their compulsion for continued mandates is somehow justified by public health officials, but Canada's own top doctor says that the omicron variant is a game-changer and that it has forced us to rethink vaccine mandates.
    Dr. Tam said that we are at a “very important juncture” and that COVID-19 policies need to shift from “an emphasis on requirements to recommendations.” That is the government's own adviser. The government's own adviser says that federal vaccine mandates are under review now, because the science tells us the COVID-19 vaccine, or at least the first two doses, offers very little protection against the transmission of the variant.
    Advice once valued by the government is now suddenly ignored in an attempt to drive division and dehumanize those who do not agree, doubling down on a tactic that some members of their own caucus have called out.
    The travel vaccination mandate has prevented approximately six million Canadians from travel within Canada and it prevents them from flying out of Canada. They cannot travel. They cannot visit family and friends. They cannot take international vacations or even fly across the country. They cannot live ordinary lives.
    Canada is the only country in the developed world that bans citizens from air travel. If we couple that with Dr. Tam's statements of re-evaluating mandates, one can deduct that the rationale for a ban on air travel is no longer justified. However, the government seems to have a different view, one that suits its political narrative. It may see travel as a luxury, but what about work across federally regulated industries?
    Let me tell members about one of those industries that is pleading for fairness, common sense and conditions in line with anywhere else in the world today, even with its competitors in our own airports: the air travel industry. The Minister of Transport's mandate for vaccinations, enforced through interim orders, was implemented swiftly across the industry. Despite this being a matter of health and safety, employers developed and implemented mandatory vaccination policies without consultation.

[Translation]

    The majority of airline workers complied with their employer's policies, while other workers were placed on unpaid leave without benefits or access to medical benefits. The industry fully supported efforts to ensure the safety of workplaces, workers and the public, as did all members of the House.
    It is important to point out that unvaccinated people are being disproportionately penalized. These workers were required to work during the pandemic. In many cases, they kept going to work during the pandemic, unlike other workers whose workplaces were closed but who were able to continue working from home. These workers flew personal protective equipment to other parts of the world, ensured the supply of basic necessities and even worked under conditions where their health and safety were not protected.

  (1230)  

[English]

    In the travel sector, vaccinations ended up being the only tool employers relied on in the fight against COVID‑19, yet there are many tools to achieve the same goal. We know that. We have used them in other industries.
    We kept each other safe. Most were unimpeded by severe outbreaks, and at a time when employers were experiencing worker shortages, particularly in this industry, they were terminating experienced and seasoned workers. Employers and workers have the equal responsibility to keep workplaces safe, yet the failure to do so results in uneven and disproportionate consequences.
    For workers, the consequences of the loss of employment of well-paying, unionized jobs, those with benefits and pensions, will impact not just the individual but the entire family. It is unlikely these workers will find other employment that is unionized and stable, which will inevitably impact their family's standard of living. No one should lose their livelihood because of personal beliefs, particularly when alternatives to reach the same goal exist. The government knows that.
    We think workers who kept the industry flying during the most challenging times of the pandemic deserve better. By creating an end timeline, an end to this interim order, and a path forward, the government can eliminate the need for these employers to terminate the frontline workers we depended upon and celebrated during the height of this pandemic. It could do that today. Cases of the variant are receding in most parts of the country, and advocates for continued mandates are claiming the mantle of science to justify political positions instead of evaluating the scientific findings that have turned up in each one of our provinces and across the globe.
     Just this week, a member of the House stood and offered masking advice to other members in a contrived attempt to virtue signal superiority, despite the clear rules of this place. These are based, of course, on expert evidence, presumably science, the same science the government is relying on, and which are, it is also worth noting, completely in line with what happens outside the door of this place. That exchange not only suggests a disdain for those who follow the rules the member does not like, it creates an arbitrary standard of opinion masquerading as science. That is exactly what we are hearing today. It is gross. It is purposeful, and in some respects, it speaks to a continued deliberate attack on those who do not share the views of the government. We have seen that.
    When Canadians see behaviour like that, they lose their confidence in those who are responsible for public health decisions. The trust erodes. It suggests to them that the same disdain displayed for members may extend to people outside of the House. Perhaps it does because, in the absence of any data, benchmarks, timelines and plans to end these mandates, there really is nothing to suggest that continued mandates are not just an opinion of the government. If they are, that is troubling. If they are not not, they require an explanation that has not been shared, other than talking points about science.
    The intention of the mandates were predicated on increased vaccination rates. We have among the highest in the world. When that narrative is no longer supported because of those high rates, the goal posts move. This week it became about surgical backlogs, which is tragic and most certainly a capacity issue, but is still inexplicable in relation to the continued federal mandate. Then it was simply a shoulder shrug from the Minister of Health, while he stated that COVID is still here. Of course, it is still here. It will always likely be here, but I hope that has not become the benchmark by which to determine when to lift these mandates or drop these restrictions. I hope that is not the case. I hope we are not hearing about COVID zero from the government.
    It is time to end these unjustified mandates. I hope members of the House realize that public experts, their own public experts, the government's own public experts, have said that it is safe. The provinces have said that it is safe. Public health officials have said it is safe. I hope they agree with the Conservatives and lift the mandates so Canadians can get back to work and get their lives back.
    Mr. Speaker, when we read the motion and listen to the members from the Conservative Party, it is abundantly clear they have used their political science to make the determination that all federal mandates need to end today. I do not know if they are feeling somewhat obligated because of their presence at the blockade protest, but I suggest it is highly irresponsible.
    My question for the member is this: Does she not recognize she cannot just wish the pandemic away, that there is still a need? If we look at what is happening in some of our provinces, there is great concern regarding other variants. I wonder if the member is prepared to say today that we no longer have a pandemic. Would she not at least try to keep an open mind as to what the health experts are telling us?

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, I just want to remind the member that the national immunization task force never called for vaccine mandates. The Public Health Agency of Canada never called for vaccine mandates. The Prime Minister himself, while gallivanting across the country during an election in the midst of this pandemic, said that he would not impose vaccine mandates.
    Does the member know when vaccine mandates were imposed? It was when it was politically expedient, so I am not going to take lessons from the government on political science. That is exactly what it is practising with this pandemic. That is exactly what we have seen for the last number of months. It is a shame. It is a shame for Canadian workers that it would turn its back on them.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question is very simple.
    Considering what we have been hearing in recent days, what public health authorities are saying in Quebec, and the fact that there is now a sixth wave, I can understand the feeling of being totally fed up that people are talking about.
    However, I feel like we are not connecting. On the one hand, we are hearing about concrete solutions with health transfers to deal with a sixth wave. On the other hand, we are being encouraged to listen to our constituents and, because they are fed up, some want to let them shed more measures.
    I am trying to understand. The word “immediately” is used in the motion. Could we perhaps take a slightly more long-term view?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is not just Conservatives calling for this. It is public health officials. It is public health officials from across the 10 provinces that have already lifted their mandates. There are countries around the world where somebody who may not be vaccinated can get on an airplane. We are the only place where that does not happen.
    Absolutely, it should be immediate. In fact, it should have been yesterday. We can talk about the sixth, the seventh and the eighth waves, but every single public health official, including Canada's chief public health officer, has said that it is time to live with this pandemic. It is time to give Canadians their lives back.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to my colleague's attention, after her great speech, a conversation on an Ottawa radio station yesterday with an individual responsible for tracking the variants in the sewage treatment in Ottawa. The numbers have gone up.
    The individual was asked about whether we should be doing what we are doing right now in terms of lightening the mandates and giving people their lives back. His comment was that it is not a problem that the rates are rising because immunity levels are rising at the same time. I wonder if the member would like to make a comment on that.
    Mr. Speaker, certainly the gentleman on the radio is in line with public health officials, including Dr. Tam and health officials from across the 10 provinces that have lifted restrictions. At some point, we have to give Canadians their livelihoods back. We have to stop being vindictive about the punishments of mandates, particularly if they are not justified and if there is no scientific purpose to say they reduce any kind of spread.
    There are people who are not working. There are people who have lost their livelihoods. There are people who have lost entire incomes for entire families. They cannot return to work. We ought to think about that.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of our Conservative motion calling on the NDP-Liberal government to immediately lift all federal vaccine mandates.
    When one listens to the members opposite and their friends in the NDP, we hear it is all about science, and that they are following the science. I ask members of the NDP-Liberal government this: Where is the science? Where is the data? Where is the evidence?
    For example, where is the evidence that an unvaccinated trucker, who spends most of his or her day working in isolation, is a public health risk, which somehow merits them being fired from their job? It does not take much delving into science. Indeed, it simply takes a matter of applying basic common sense to recognize what an absurdity that is, but that is precisely the policy of the NDP-Liberal government.
    In the face of vaccine mandates that have infringed so significantly upon the rights and freedoms of Canadians, the very least Canadians could expect is compelling scientific evidence to back them up to demonstrate a rational connection between the mandates, stopping transmissibility and keeping Canadians safe from COVID.
    After six months, the government has failed to tender any science, data or evidence whatsoever to demonstrate such a rational connection. There is a very simple reason for that, and that is because there is no rational connection. These mandates have nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics, politics of the worst kind.
    Millions of Canadians have suffered as a result. As a result of the NDP-Liberal government's punitive vaccine mandates, millions of Canadians are unable to travel freely within Canada. They are unable to get on a plane or a train. These same Canadians, who are our friends, colleagues and neighbours, cannot leave the country for work, travel or health reasons, or to be reunited with loved ones. They are stuck here at home.
    This is a serious, unprecedented violation of the mobility rights of Canadians and is contrary to section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. When one thinks about not being able to travel within one's country, of not being able to be able to leave one's country, we think of the former Soviet Union, East Germany and Communist China, but this is Canada, and this is the reality millions of Canadians have been living through for the past six months.
    So extreme are these NDP-Liberal vaccine mandates that Canada is the only country in the developed world that restricts air travel on the basis of vaccination status, the only country in the developed democratic world. Under the NDP-Liberal government, Canada is now an international outlier in restricting the freedom of movement of its citizens.

  (1240)  

    Again, it got to this point not because of science but because of an arbitrary policy of the Prime Minister, who said some months ago that it was the policy objective of his government to impose the most restrictive COVID measures in the world, no matter how unrelated and unconnected to the science they might be.
    We are not talking about a severe infringement just on mobility rights; we have also seen tens of thousands of Canadians lose their jobs and the benefits they had paid into for their entire working lives, stripped of the dignity of work and the dignity of their career. They include men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who have fought bravely, putting their lives in harm's way to defend the freedoms that Canadians enjoy, who are now being threatened with dishonourable discharge because of a personal medical decision that they made. This is happening in Canada.
    What these mandates are really about is control. It is about the government saying that Canadians must do as it says, and if they do not, they will be unable to travel, they will lose their jobs and benefits, they will be vilified and they will be treated as second-class citizens. How wrong. How un-Canadian.
    Everywhere around the world, mandates are being lifted. In all 10 provinces, they have already been lifted or will be lifted, as well as in most of Europe. Yesterday even New Zealand, which had a completely failed approach of getting towards zero COVID, announced that is is lifting its mandates—even New Zealand. Here, we have a government that has not even provided a plan, has not even provided any metrics by which these mandates will be lifted. Instead, the government has allocated $37.4 million over the next three years to make what were supposedly intended to be temporary measures into permanent ones.
     Canadians do not want to be controlled. They want to take back control of their lives. They want their freedom back, and they want it now. The only thing standing in their way is the Prime Minister and the NDP-Liberal government, its punitive, discriminatory, unscientific mandates that have caused enormous harm to Canadians.
    When the Prime Minister talked about imposing the most restrictive mandates in the world, if the Prime Minister's definition of success is being punitive, he has certainly succeeded at that, at great harm to everyday, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadians who are upstanding members of their community.
    End the mandates and end them now.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about vaccine mandates and about travel restrictions in particular. He spoke about travel restrictions and mobility rights, and he actually made our travel restrictions tantamount to the regime in the Soviet Union. However, I recall that just last year it was his party on that side of the House that was screaming for border measures to be implemented and for travel to be restricted for Canadians.
    Did the hon. member refer to his former leader and his party as being equivalent to leaders in the Soviet Union, or is it just political talk today and amnesia about his own party's previous position?

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, with the greatest respect to the hon. parliamentary secretary, it might have been a good question if there was any basis in fact to support it, but the problem is that there is no basis in fact to support it, because it has never been the position of the Conservative Party to impose these types of restrictions on Canadians to limit the ability of Canadians to enter and leave and re-enter Canada.
    These are unprecedented measures, they are draconian measures and they are inherently un-Canadian measures.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton today spoke a lot during his speech about the obligations we have to Canadians and the freedoms that Canadians are entitled to. I want to read to him what Dr. Katharine Smart, who is the CMA president, had to say.
    She said, “While governments and Canadians are hoping to move past the pandemic, an exhausted, depleted health workforce is struggling to provide timely, necessary care to patients and make progress through a significant backlog of tests, surgeries and regular care.”
    My question for the member is this: What do we owe our health care professionals, who have stood on the front line and worked so hard? Do we not owe them that? Further, in addition to protecting our health care workers, I would ask the member whether or not he would be supportive of increasing the health transfers to provinces, as the premiers have all asked for, to 35%. Would he be supportive of that?
    Mr. Speaker, my brother is a health care worker, a medical doctor, so I appreciate the important role that health care workers played on the front lines throughout COVID. What I would say to them, and what we owe to them, is that we do not fire them the next day after they were there on the front lines.
    The member speaks about COVID being here and says that Canadians are tired. Yes, we are tired; yes, it is here; and yes, it is going to be here for a long time. The questions that must be answered are on these mandates. Is there a scientific basis to support them? Is there a rational connection? Are they actually making a difference? All 10 medical health officers across Canada have said no and that it is time to move on.
    Mr. Speaker, an hon. member speaking earlier used a line that stuck out to me. She said that what the Liberals have presented to the House and to Canadians as a whole is “opinion masquerading as science”.
     When we see the difference between political science and medical science, I believe we certainly see where this government has followed the former, the political science. In other words, it has done whatever was politically advantageous to it at the time. Right now, 10 provinces have lifted their mandates and countries all over the world have lifted their mandates, yet this government insists that truckers cannot cross the border and come back into Canada without a vaccine, and it has no science, zero science, to reinforce these mandates.
    My question to the member is this: Does he see an ounce of evidence or scientific proof that these mandates should in fact continue in place as they are now?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for Lethbridge. She is a great champion of freedom.
    In short, there is no evidence that the Liberals have tendered. The ball is in their court. Where is the evidence? There is no evidence. What they are more interested in doing is playing COVID theatre, which they do in this place every single day.
    It is truly amazing to listen to some of the Conservatives, especially my friend from St. Albert—Edmonton. In responding to a question from my colleague in regard to travelling, he tried to give the false impression that the Conservative Party, at no point in time, wanted to limit travelling outside of Canada or coming into Canada.
    That is the problem with the Conservative Party. It is that there is that extreme right element, and then there are those who want to be more on the progressive side of the Conservative Party. The member who made that statement is the one who was standing out there when we had the blockade, preaching, at least through the media, in support of the blockade.
    As for misinformation, we have what he stated today. We were all here inside the chamber when the Conservative Party was asking the federal government to put in more restrictions on travel. He does not have to take my word for it. I know he can read. He can read Hansard, and he will see that this is in fact a fact.
    I would like to take a look at what the Conservative Party is actually saying today through its opposition motion. It is in essence a proclamation to all Canadians from the Conservative Party in Canada that they should not worry and that mandates are no longer necessary. They are not saying to give due diligence. They are not saying to review science or consult with health care professionals. They are not saying that at all—

  (1255)  

    Have you read the motion?
    —and I have read the motion. The motion says, “the House call on the government to immediately lift all federal vaccine mandates”. To my friend who posed the question, the real question is whether he has read the motion.
    The Conservative Party collectively, inside the House, stands alone once again. It is not just the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc members agreeing; we are all saying “no” to this motion because it is a stupid motion. The Conservatives cannot click their heels and wish an end to the pandemic. Members should keep in mind that there was a blockade that cost the economy millions of dollars, and potentially billions. There were a number of Conservatives who were out there encouraging—
    The member for Lethbridge is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I think if you look back about 30 seconds, you will note that the hon. member across the way called this motion stupid. He said, “a stupid motion." I believe that if you were to look at parliamentary history, you would know, and I believe this member knows as well, that this is unparliamentary language, so the House would like an apology for that.
    Mr. Speaker, our rules, and in particular if we look at Beauchesne's, are very clear. It would be most inappropriate if I were to say that the member is stupid, but it is okay to make a generalization about a political statement and classify it as being stupid. There is nothing wrong with saying something, especially if it is about the real situation, and in this case it is, and I hope that the point of order will not take away from my time.

[Translation]

    I heard the arguments from the two members and we will resume debate for now. I remind all of my colleagues to conduct themselves with decorum in this chamber.
    Before resuming debate, I want to assure the parliamentary secretary that this point of order has not cut into his speaking time.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think if we were to canvass our constituents, taking a look at how the Conservative Party has brought forward this motion today, they would suggest that it has been greatly influenced by the far right. I really and truly believe that. Even the right-wing guru Jason Kenney from the province of Alberta, the one many Conservatives look up to, would not, I think, support this particular motion. It is quite possible that I could be wrong, but what I do know is that Jason Kenney was very critical of elected officials talking with individuals who were participating in the illegal blockades.
    There is a reason I raise that. What were those individuals asking for? They were asking for an end to vaccines. The illegal blockades and the protests that were taking place were demanding an end to mandates, and today we have the Conservative Party echoing, at least in part, what the blockaders and the protesters were saying just weeks ago. That is, in fact, the case.
    Let us take a look at what has actually happened. Right from day one, when the pandemic came to Canada and went around the world, the government responded by putting in a litany of programs and supports to be there for Canadians as we got a better understanding of the cost of the pandemic from a health perspective. We invested a great deal of resources, whether it was civil servants or financial resources, and had a team Canada approach in dealing with the many different stakeholders out there and in coming up with ways to minimize the damage of the pandemic. That was led by looking at science and listening to what health experts had to say.
    Members should have listened to what the Minister of Health said in his opening remarks on this today. He talked about the easing of some restrictions on April 1 for pretesting when crossing the border. That is based on what we are being informed through the numbers.
    We had a dramatic increase that occurred through the omicron variant, and we were not the only ones to put in place certain aspects to protect Canadians. We saw different provincial governments take action too. The Province of Quebec implemented a curfew. My home province put in more lockdown measures. Who would have anticipated this back in November and December?
    The federal government provided somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30-plus million rapid tests to the provinces and territories in the month of December alone last year, which was more than a number of months prior when there was no demand for rapid tests. We had to put into place stockpiles in order to accommodate changes because the pandemic is not gone. We still need to be sensitive to what might be around the corner. As an increase in the demand for rapid tests came, in the month of January, through procurement, we received approximately 140 million additional rapid tests, in good part circulated to where the demand was: to our provinces and territories and, as I understand, even to businesses and other stakeholders.

  (1300)  

    At least on this side of the House, we recognize that the pandemic is not something people can just wish away. There is a responsibility for all of us to make decisions based on facts and science and to continue to listen to health experts. When members of the opposition talk about Dr. Tam, one might get the impression that she is saying to lift mandates. That is not the case. Our chief medical officer is saying that we need to be diligent. We need to have reviews and we are having those reviews. That is the responsible thing to do.
    As for the Minister of Health, if we read his comments from earlier, we can see there is a plan in place that has some fluidity to it because circumstances change. We on this side of the House recognize that, and we wish the Conservative Party would do likewise.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, there is certainly a lot that could be unpacked in terms of falsehoods, misdirection and avoiding the very clear question. I am confident, and in fact I know, that many Canadians from Liberal ridings have been reaching out to Conservatives across the country, desperate for somebody to listen, desperate for somebody to hear their concerns. Those individuals are among the thousands of public servants who have been fired by the government because of a vaccine mandate.
    Members opposite laugh when we bring forward the concerns of these Canadians within this place. However, what is the member's message to the people of his constituency who lost their job because of the federal vaccine mandate that the Prime Minister promised he would not implement but then a few months later did, right before an election? What would he say to the constituents of MPs across the country and the members of the public service who have been fired because of the government's mandate?
    Mr. Speaker, I would say to my constituents, as I have, that as a government, from day one we have been listening to and following the advice of health experts, realizing that the very best thing we can do for Canadians is work with Canadians in getting through this pandemic. That is one of the reasons that, ultimately, Canada has fared so well in ensuring we have the vaccine supply and the supports in place to be there for workers, seniors, people with a disability, students, just name it. We have been there in a very real and tangible way because we care about the people of Canada and we are not going to put politics ahead of that caring.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, given the rough week that the member for Winnipeg North has had, I can understand why he is so energetic and impassioned here today.
    We are calling for a plan and for more predictability with respect to health measures. This will help maintain social cohesion.
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the idea of a flexible plan that would enable us to look forward and provide some predictability surrounding the measures.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I understand that opposition members will often ask for plans. I was in opposition at one point too and asked for plans. That kind of implies that there is no plan, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is a plan. We have ministries with very competent civil servants who work every day to ensure that we are listening to what health experts and science are saying and what Canadians are saying. We are ultimately making decisions based on that.
    It is not that on April 1 we are saying we do not have to have the pretest. That was decided a little while ago in anticipation, because the science and the numbers were allowing us to make that adjustment. In essence, when members say there is no plan, I would counter it by saying that we do have a plan and we see that plan in action every day.

  (1310)  

    Qujannamiik, Uqaqtittiji.
    Nunavut's chief public health officer has stated that they will be cautious in lifting these measures. These changes in public health rules do not mean that COVID-19 is gone, but rather that we must live with COVID-19.
    Does the hon. member agree that measures to protect vulnerable communities remain a priority and increased investments on current commitments are necessary?
    Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very valid concern and it is something I tried to emphasize. There is a lot of fluidity with regard to the pandemic, and there are certain sectors of our communities where we do need to ensure that extra attention is given. That is one of the reasons the Prime Minister and many of us have recognized that there are ways in which we can learn from the pandemic to enhance programs going forward. The best example that comes to my mind is the issue of long-term care. Let us understand it and look at ways we can improve it through, for example, national standards for long-term care.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak out against the revisionist party of Canada, also known as the Conservative Party of Canada, and its motion today to confuse and conflate what we are dealing with and every sacrifice that Canadians have made throughout this pandemic, as a way for them to try to save their floundering party and the division within it.
    It is shocking to sit here and listen to the Conservatives today, although it should not be shocking after the last six years of being in this place with them.
    Let us talk about the pandemic and the mandates across the country, in particular the fact that I do not think there is a single Canadian who has not been impacted by the pandemic and who does not want to see the lifting of these mandates. Everybody, on all sides of the House, wants to see a return of normalcy, but what Canada and countries around the world have done and what responsible governments around the world have done has been to implement public measures to keep people safe.
    A recent Harvard study actually indicated that if it were not for vaccinations and strong public health measures, over 400,000 Canadians would have died during this pandemic.
    I sat here today and listened to Conservatives scream and say they wanted their freedom back. What about the freedom of those 400,000 families that would no longer have that family member sitting across from them, or that employer who would no longer have that employee, or that young person who might have lost their grandparent before they had the time to have more cherished memories?
    While the Conservatives say they want their freedom back, they mislead the House and they mislead Canadians with regard to the very real tragedies across the country. The actual number of Canadians who have sadly passed due to this pandemic has been over 37,000. It is a number that I find the Conservatives continue to gloss over.
    They talk all about the inconveniences. Trust me, it is an inconvenience. It has been difficult not to travel like we want to, to wear masks and to have limitations, but the alternative has been losing lives, losing family members to this disease and having worker shortages across the country due to infection rates.
    While the Conservatives scream and talk about freedom, they very much do not represent the reality of the over 37,000 Canadians who lost their ultimate freedom because they died due to this disease, and of the family members who have lost that opportunity to spend time with them.
    With that said, obviously, the need to lift restrictions is inevitable. We have seen provinces and territories do it across the country, but what the Conservatives like to gloss over is the fact that, throughout the pandemic, over the last two years, every province and territory has experienced different things at different times. They have had the ability to adjust and put in place measures based on the risk profiles at the time. Leave it to the Conservatives to be out of touch and say they know better than provinces and territories what is needed in their local jurisdictions.
    I come from Ontario, and we have had a very different experience than, for example, my friends and colleagues from Nova Scotia have. Does that mean that the Conservatives know best and they will just implement whatever they want, no matter the local dynamics at the time?
    It is no wonder that Canadians did not trust Conservatives in this place to deal with their health care needs.
    Let us talk about flip-flopping and changes in positions, because I have listened to the Conservatives. The member for St. Albert—Edmonton actually said in his speech, or in a reply to a question from me, that the Conservative position has never been to restrict Canadians' travel abilities. It was actually his former, former, former leader. I forget now how many they have had, as there have been so many. It was the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who in April 2021 slammed our government for not restricting travel more.

  (1315)  

    Also, the member for Calgary Nose Hill, who I sat on committee with when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of health, demanded that we put more travel restrictions in place, but then a few months later, once the Conservatives had another leadership convention, they changed their position back.
    Let us talk about the ultimate hypocrisy coming from the Conservatives. Their former leader, the member for Durham, said in the last election campaign that anyone travelling with him or his family had to be fully vaccinated, yet for the rest of Canadians travelling on planes, buses or trains, that requirement was not there. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander, but we know that when it comes to members of the Conservative Party, they will take measures to protect themselves, but then try to stoke up the flames of the party's base.
    Let us also talk about the fact that I have listened in this place to the members opposite say that they support science and that there is no science for these mandates. It is a little rich to hear members of a party still debating whether or not climate change is real say that Canadians should listen to them on their accreditations about science. Even without that, if the members opposite truly care about science and think that science is going to lead us out of this pandemic, which I certainly believe, then why is it that they still allow members, such as the member for Niagara West, to actually promote Ivermectin as a treatment? It is horse dewormer. I am sorry. The Conservatives are correcting me on the pronunciation. It is something that they have been researching and promoting.
    Conservatives suggested that instead of vaccinations, Canadians should use horse dewormer. This has been widely proven to be false information, but those are still the voices in the Conservative Party that they want Canadians to listen to. They say they are the arbiters of science. There was also the member for Provencher who had to apologize in this place because he made the claim that double vaccines were 13 times more likely to kill people than the delta variant. The member had to apologize. He is still a sitting member in this place on the Conservative benches.
    It is outrageous to think that Canadians should trust the Conservative Party of Canada with their health or with the decision of when mandates should be lifted. There is no question that all mandates will eventually be lifted, as they should be and as we have been doing constantly. As the pandemic has changed, so have our mandates because we have been following the science. What I think Canadians find truly offensive, and certainly I do after listening to the debate in this place, is the suggestion by the party of climate change deniers and horse-dewormer medication strategies that vaccines are not safe. It will not even disclose who is vaccinated or not, and its members continue to spread conspiracy theories on their social media and in this place. Those are not the people who Canadians have trust in to lift mandates and take care of their health.
    The pandemic has been incredibly difficult for everybody, but we must never forget the lives lost and the heroes throughout this pandemic, such as health care workers who are still overwhelmed in hospitals and still care for residents in long-term care homes. We want out of this pandemic, but the only way to do it is through science-based decisions, not the revisionist type of conspiracy theory policies that Conservatives have put forward.
    On this side of the House, we will continue to look out for Canadians, for their health and for the well-being of their families and the economy, and we will reject the politicized alt-right policies of the Conservatives.

  (1320)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is so unbelievably virtuous and knowledgeable about science. If we had not moved this motion today, we would not have even had the opportunity to debate the issue of vaccine mandates.
    On my side of the House, we think that scientists have the right answers. Could my colleague explain why the advice of 10 Canadian provinces that have scientists working on COVID-19 is not valid?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I never suggested that the decisions of provinces and territories, and the scientific advice they are following is not correct. In fact, if the member was listening to my speech, he would have heard that I said that as provinces and territories have made decisions about their particular situations, we, as a federal government, should listen to what provinces and territories feel is best in their particular jurisdictions.
    However, that is not what the Conservative motion is. That member should know that the Conservative motion is saying that Ottawa knows best, and that it should tell provinces and territories how best to deal with this pandemic. We are saying we are going to continue to work with them and we are going to follow the evidence.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot quite believe what I am hearing. All the scientists' ears have got to be ringing. As much as they want us to believe their decisions are informed by science, I think it is actually the opposite because this feels like we are in the magical land of unicorns.
    The House is debating an important issue, but the mood is all-or-nothing politics. The Conservatives are in camp nothing. They say we should cancel all the measures. The Liberals say they are keeping the status quo and will lift the measures someday, who knows when. Is there even a plan? The Liberals say they have one, but they are not telling us what it is.
     Is there any way they can tell Quebeckers something of substance about the public health measures and when and how the Liberal Party will give us some kind of plan so we know what to expect and have some predictability, all without remaining frozen in time?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I actually agree a lot with her statement that it is this all-or nothing proposal that we seem to be debating. In fact, I disagree with that.
    For example, on April 1, there will be another federal restriction lifted when it comes to vaccinated travellers and testing requirements. As much as I wish we could provide a predictable plan, I think in the past two years of the pandemic, we have seen that there is nothing predictable about COVID except that it is serious and it is deadly. We need to make sure that we are agile to lift restrictions and ensure that Canadians can live as we always have, but that it is done with public health measures at the forefront and ensuring that we do not see increased spikes or increased deaths across this country, including in Quebec.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the other thing that is fairly consistent is the fact that the Conservative Party has never taken this issue seriously from day one. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of the debate today, one of the members in the Conservative Party started to talk about how the government has been late on everything. Meanwhile, the Conservatives were late to put on masks, they were late to support Canadians in the supports that were being rolled out to them, and they were late to get vaccinated. We still do not know how many of them are vaccinated. They have been late in almost every single regard as it relates to COVID-19, yet they seem to hold a superior opinion as to how the government should be dealing with this now.
    Can the member expand on that?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague for Kingston and the Islands who has been a champion for his community and for us here in the House.
    I think what is critical in this debate is the fact that the Conservatives, throughout this pandemic, have flip-flopped their way through the entire policy process. As I said, the example I gave in my speech of their former leader, the member for Durham, having a different perspective for him and his family than for the rest of Canadians says it all.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today. I will be splitting my time with the member for Peterborough—Kawartha.
    I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to our Conservative motion, which reads:
    That, given that Canada has one of the world's highest vaccination rates and every province across Canada has lifted or has a plan to lift vaccine mandates, the House call on the government to immediately lift all federal vaccine mandates in order to:
(a) protect the jobs of federally regulated employees;
(b) enable Canadians to travel unimpeded;
(c) ensure Canada's tourism industry recovery; and
(d) allow for the free flow of goods across the Canadian border.
    Of course, before my colleagues across the way try to shame and attack me for various and sundry, let me give a full disclosure for the record. I have had my vaccinations and I have also had COVID-19 twice, once at the beginning of the pandemic and once at Christmastime. I also know quite a bit about science. I have been a chemical engineer for nearly 40 years, so I would like to approach this from a scientific point of view.
    I will start by talking about the charter rights violations.
     This government has trapped almost three million Canadians in the country. They cannot take a plane, they cannot take a train and they cannot cross at the land borders. There was a point in time when this would have been considered a reasonable measure, according to the medical health experts and the World Health Organization, because we were in the time of trying to control the transmission of the disease. However, with omicron, we are now at a place where the World Health Organization has said that omicron is everywhere. Therefore, these types of restrictions are no longer working, and that is the reason countries all over the world are opening up.
    If we think about it, we have quite a high rate of vaccination in Canada, and those people can get and transmit COVID-19. I talked about having it myself. The Prime Minister had it. The member for Beauce had it. A lot of members in the House have had COVID-19, and we have all had our vaccines. Therefore, if we have almost 90% of those people going back and forth across the border, what is the additional risk of allowing another 10% of people who can get COVID-19 and transmit it from going back and forth across the border? There actually is no difference in risk from a science perspective. The government can no longer rely on section 1 of the charter, which allows it to temporarily infringe the charter rights of Canadians to freely come and go. That is one mandate that I would like to see dropped immediately.
    The second thing I will talk about is the people who were fired for not being vaccinated.
    First of all, I think this is just wrong on so many levels, but let us talk about it from a science perspective. Let us take a person who is a federal employee working from home who is vaccinated. What is the chance of that person spreading their germs to somebody in another building who is also working from home? The answer is, quite simply, there is zero risk. Now, if one is an unvaccinated federal worker who is working from home, what are the odds that this person is going to transfer their germs to somebody who is also working from home in another building? The answer from a science perspective is, again, there is zero risk, but those people were fired by this Liberal government. That is discriminatory. It is not based on science, and it is just one example of the many things this government has done to deliberately punish people who chose not to get vaccinated.
    I have had many people approach my office who wanted to get an exemption because they had a history of stroke or a history of heart and kidney problems or other comorbidities. Originally, many of them received exemptions from their doctors, but then the Royal College of Physicians overturned all of those exemptions and threatened the medical licences of doctors in this country if they wrote exemptions for anything other than an anaphylactic reaction to the first vaccine. That is the reason many people were not able to get their exemptions, but they still had valid reasons for not taking the vaccine. I would like to see the federal government hire back every person it fired who is working from home regardless of vaccination status.

  (1330)  

    Now all provinces have started to lift their mandates. Let us take Ontario, for example. We have vaccinated and unvaccinated people whose children are going to school without masks, who are going to malls, who are eating in restaurants and who are all breathing the same air, so it is ridiculous to think that we have to protect them in some way in other places when they are already exposed. That is why, for all these mandates that have to do with the requirements on planes and trains and keeping unvaccinated people out of that line, the science is not there. These people are already exposed to omicron, just like the vaccinated. Everybody can get it and transmit it, so that needs to go.
    With respect to the things causing problems at the border, let us talk about ArriveCAN and the ability to input all of that stuff. Some people do not have cellphones. A lot of seniors are not computer literate. What is the increased risk of exposure to COVID‑19 if the federal government eliminated the need for ArriveCAN today? What is the difference? There is no scientific risk of increased COVID exposure related to an application. It can get rid of it today, and I suggest it does.
    At the same time, I am very concerned about some of the privacy invasions that happened during the COVID‑19 pandemic. We have seen privacy issues that have been put forward to the Privacy Commissioner. We have also seen the digital tracking of Canadians. I am concerned about those things as well.
    Some members may know that at the beginning, when we returned to this parliamentary session, I was quite passionately standing up for civil liberties. I had meetings with MPs who had their concerns. I happened to keep the paper with the list of things we wanted to see addressed, so I thought I would tick these off one at a time.
    There was the elimination of the PCR test for vaxxed and asymptomatic people. I am glad to see that was removed. There was no scientific evidence that it was needed, so that went away. I talked about ArriveCAN and the rules at the border. With respect to those things as well, there is no scientific merit to keep them in place. They are not going to prevent the spread of omicron and need to go. There were the medical privacy violations. I just spoke about that one. Then there was trapping Canadians in their own country. I just spoke about that one. Finally, there was the firing of the unvaxxed, and I just spoke about that one.
     I would like to share a little story. In my own riding of Sarnia—Lambton, Bluewater Health fired 18 medical workers and forced 300, under duress, to take the vaccine or lose their jobs. Four weeks after it did that, there was an outbreak of COVID‑19 among the vaccinated medical staff. What was accomplished? It was absolutely nothing but misery for the 18 families of the people who lost their jobs.
    Keep in mind that these are health care workers who, from the beginning of the pandemic, were dealing with COVID on the front lines with their personal protective equipment. Nobody was vaccinated then and they were considered heroes. Then, fast-forward, they were fired. Really, they were the safer ones. They were getting rapid-tested every day and wearing their PPE, whereas the vaccinated ones who ended up having the outbreak were not. Therefore, we can see that all of these mandates are intended to discriminate and punish, but they are not based on science and they do not accomplish anything.
    I do not think we need to talk about the provincial mandates. There are plenty enough at the federal level so we do not need to bring a lot of that in, but it is the same sort of thing. We need to look at the World Health Organization, which is recommending that we drop these mandates. We need to look at the other countries that have opened up. We need to look at the U.S., where 40 states have dropped all of their mandates. We need to look at the provinces, which have all dropped or are dropping their mandates.
    The current government needs to get rid of these things immediately. We all want to work together. The people who are vulnerable will want to continue to protect themselves, and I support that, but at this point in time we need to learn to get on with our lives. We need to stop punishing people. We need to stop violating their charter rights.
    Together, we will be better prepared for the next pandemic when it arrives.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, over the last 10 minutes, I listened intently to the comments given by this member. I will note she started off by telling us about her expertise as a chemical engineer, but then went on to talk about charter rights violations and civil liberties, both at the beginning and end of her speech. I know for a fact that she is a highly qualified chemical engineer. She was indeed educated at the best university in the country for engineering, but I did not know that she was a scholar when it came to civil liberties or charter rights.
    I wonder if she can inform the House, when she talks about charter rights violations, when they were tested in the courts, how the courts ruled on them and what the ultimate decisions were.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for recognizing that the best university is in his riding of Kingston.
    Actually, I was informed in previous debates by the Liberal members who are actually members of the bar on the Oakes principle, which is applied when looking at section 1 of the charter in trying to determine whether or not the threshold has been met for being able to infringe upon people's rights. It is intended to be temporary, and it has to be shown that there is a threat to Canada. That is my principle at this point in time.
    We cannot show that at this moment in time, with omicron being everywhere and being able to be transmitted by people who are vaccinated and who are not vaccinated, that anything is being accomplished to protect Canada by keeping the unvaccinated trapped in their own country.
    Qujannamiik, Uqaqtittiji.
    According to Indigenous Services Canada, as of yesterday, March 23, the data recorded for COVID-19 for first nations on reserves was 93,154 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 2,384 active cases, 3,068 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, 90,084 recovered cases and 686 deaths due to COVID-19.
    With these kinds of statistics still in existence, does the member believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is over?
    Mr. Speaker, the member pointed out a couple of things that are worth noting. First, there are a lot of numbers out there and the bar just kept getting changed from the beginning of the pandemic.
    At the beginning of the pandemic, the concern was to prevent deaths and to prevent our ICUs from being overcapacity. Once the the ICUs were not overcapacity, then it became tracking the number of cases and then it became 70% vaccination. Then that was not good enough and it needed to be 80% vaccination, and so on and so forth.
    Now, essentially, we see that the ICUs are not overcapacity in our country, and we know that every year, when we have flu season, 12,000 Canadians die from flu and upper respiratory illness. I could not minimize the seriousness of COVID-19, especially for those who are vulnerable and have comorbidities, but I think we need to stop looking at case counts. We do not measure case counts when we talk about the flu every year.
    We do need to look at what is happening with the ICU, and it is a static situation. We could see another pandemic. We could see another strain. We have learned from the past how to react quickly to those and as appropriately as need be at the time.

  (1340)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, since this morning, we have heard several Conservative MPs talk about the need for a plan. I would remind members that, a month ago, we voted in favour of their motion for a plan to be tabled.
    The problem is that there is no mention of a plan in the current motion. Why is the need for a plan being brought up in the speeches when it is not included in the motion? Would the Conservatives be open to amending the motion to explicitly set that out?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question.
    I think that we do indeed need to have a plan. The Liberal-NDP government does not have one at this time.
    I believe that we must get rid of the requirements that are currently in place, for example the ones at the border for people who lost their jobs. We must put an end to these requirements immediately and set out a plan for all the rest.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, everything has an expiration date. Our country was hit with a pandemic that no one had experienced before. We implemented measures we thought were best, and Canadians really delivered on what was asked of them.
    An emergency plan needs to be three things: timely, targeted and temporary. We do not even have a plan, and it has been two years. Every province has lifted, or has a plan to lift, mandates. I can, in fact, go outside of this federal building right now and not show my vaccine passport or wear a mask, yet I have to in here.
    How is the science outside of this federal building different than a non-federal building? People can attend an NHL game with 20,000 unmasked and unvaccinated people, but we still have not fully opened our borders. Why?
    As shadow minister of tourism, I can tell members the travel industry is without a doubt one of the hardest-hit sectors. It is important to take this time to truly convey the magnitude of this industry and how hard it has been impacted by these travel restrictions. People have been shamed for wanting or needing to travel, and that is wrong.
    Many people will say that travel is privilege, but I challenge everyone to think about the millions of people who have a job, a paycheque and a purpose because of the travel industry. People have saved their life savings to go on a trip. I challenge everyone to think about family members who need to travel to see each other.
    Before this pandemic, Canadian tourism was a $105-billion industry. It has been slashed to less than half of that, and unless we take action today, it may not recover.
    It is time to drop the federal mandates and the confusing restrictions. Canada is lagging in the world of travel, and we need to restore travel confidence today. Canadians and international travellers are travel hesitant. The rules and unnecessary restrictions are huge barriers to this industry recovering.
    People will book a trip to visit family or to get away, only to cancel it shortly thereafter because the rules keep changing. We need to move forward. We need to learn to live with this virus, and we need to restore travel confidence. That is key in the recovery.
    Each week, I receive hundreds of heartbreaking stories from constituents who have not been reunited with family and friends. I have a friend who never got to say goodbye to their mother, who passed away alone. This is all connected to the travel industry. Whether one travels by plane, train or automobile, one needs to rely on the tourism sector when one travels.
    Maybe someone needs a dog kennel, a hotel, a restaurant, food, supplies, gifts or clothes. Maybe someone wants to visit the spa and get their hair or nails done before they leave or while they are at their destination. All of these businesses have been decimated, and it is our duty to help them recover.
    The Canadian tourism and travel sector cannot recover without the support of the government. The government took travel confidence away from Canadians, and it is its job to restore it. We need to restore travel confidence and fully open the border. The government needs to show the world Canada is safely open for business. It also needs to take the action to prove it, and not just say it.
    The tourism industry relies on plans that are months out, and our window gets smaller and smaller every day to help this sector recover and restore travel confidence. Travellers who are currently making summer, fall and winter 2023 plans will bypass Canada if we do not act today.
    Travel and tourism is both a foundation for our economy and our mental health. Those who work in the industry are suffering and those who travel are suffering. This is a huge industry that impacts all demographics. People need hope and relief.
    Tourism is the backbone of many local economies across our country, including in my riding of Peterborough—Kawartha. Rhonda Keenan of Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development says that 87.5% of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses were closing their doors or cancelling.
    Many businesses in the tourism sector have shared heartbreaking stories with me about their struggles. Many have invested their life savings, remortgaged their homes or can no longer afford their homes. These businesses cannot endure another season of closure and uncertainty.

  (1345)  

    I want to share some stats with you. The Canadian Federation of Outfitter Associations is a voice for resource-based Canadian tourism. The industry has an economic impact of over $5 billion annually and provides over 35,000 jobs. The industry can accommodate over 700,000 clients for fishing and hunting, many of whom come from outside of Canada. Clearly, this is a significant industry and it needs our help to recover. Ending federal mandates would help it recover. The Saskatchewan Commission of Professional Outfitters reported decimating revenue losses of up to 100%. One in five outfitters did not open its camps in 2021.
    Next, I want to share the experiences of Brian Edwards of Rocklands Entertainment Canada. Brian has been in the industry for decades. He, like so many others, has seen it destroyed. Brian wrote to me recently saying that I was 100% correct that tourism and entertainment are about as connected as one can get. He described how every year they booked hundreds of airline flights, hotel rooms, buses and meals. The bus groups they worked with all across Canada in some cases survived entirely on taking people to entertainment venues. He also said that, for the mental well-being of everyone, including, but not limited to, artists, producers, technicians, promoters, agents, managers and, last but not least, the audience, it needs to survive. He asked if I could believe that one of our most celebrated and successful Mirvish productions, Come From Away, had had to shut down and cease production.
    As we start to hear these stories, we are reminded just how big the travel and tourism industry is and how many lives it impacts. Stewart Grant from Stonetown Travel said that revenue is down over 90% and 50% of retail travel agencies had been lost in their constituency. ITAC, which is the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, said that Canada's indigenous tourism sector has experienced an almost 70% decline in direct GDP and a 59.4% decline in employment. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada, TIAC, is still at 50% of where it was in 2019.
    Since the pandemic started, only 1% of all cases of COVID-19 in Canada have been related to travel, yet it is portrayed and perceived as an unsafe thing to do. The constantly changing restrictions also cause so much confusion. To put this into perspective, in 2021, which was supposed to be a year of recovery, the industry reached only 13% of the total number of international visitors compared to 2019. The year 2021 was worse than 2020 in terms of international inbound travellers.
    The tourism industry was the first hit. It was the hardest-hit. It will be the last to recover if we do not plan and act now to remove the unscientific mandates. It is time for the NDP-Liberal government to give hope and relief to the tourism sector and end the restrictions that continue to hold their businesses back.
    Why are we punishing the industry that brings us the things that we need the most right now: jobs, mental health, a thriving economy, happiness and hope? It is time to end the federal mandates.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, on the topic of vaccine mandates and requiring people to have vaccines, it was found out that during the 2021 election this particular member went into a retirement home being not fully vaccinated. I wonder whether she has had an opportunity to reflect on that and if she thinks that was a wise choice.
    More important, would she recommend that somebody else do the same thing? Would she encourage anybody going into a long-term care home to be fully vaccinated?
    Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that many of those who work in long-term care are not fully vaccinated.
     I want to point out for the member opposite that it is unfortunate that he does not care about the travel and tourism industry and all of the statistics I provided in my speech. Clearly, for somebody who has a riding as beautiful as the member's, it is unfortunate he does not care about the travel and tourism industry.
    Mr. Speaker, on February 4, Dr. Tam said that Canada's public health restrictions should be re-evaluated. Later that month, the Conservatives brought a motion to the House for the government to table a plan. New Democrats voted against that motion at the time because there was an illegal occupation in the nation's capital, and we did not think it was appropriate to signal that public health restrictions were to be re-evaluated at that time. That is not a secret to the Conservatives. They knew that at the time because we said it at the time.
    The illegal occupation is now over. Today, the member for Vancouver Kingsway proposed an amendment to this motion that would call on the chief public health officer of Canada to conduct that review in a timely way and for that to be concluded within four weeks. Unfortunately, the Conservatives, despite knowing that is something that would lead to greater agreement in the House, declined to have that amendment considered. Can I ask the member why?
    Mr. Speaker, this tourism sector cannot take anything else. That is what I am here to talk about today. That is my role, to stand up for this sector that cannot survive another season of closure. There are no more plans. How do we not have a plan? How do we not have these mandates being lifted when they have been lifted in every other province? We are the last in the travel industry worldwide.
    That is what I am asking for today.
    Mr. Speaker, in Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola we have three valleys. The Okanagan Valley is well known for tourism, but so are the Similkameen and Nicola valleys. In fact, Experience Nicola Valley recently received the 2022 marketing program of the year award from the Canada Prestige Awards program. They are sharing the stories that get people to come to places like Nicola Valley, but unfortunately, many of the restrictions on travel are stopping people from coming.
    Could the member please say what needs to happen to allow groups, such as Experience Nicola Valley, to capitalize on their good work? What other things can the government do to make it better for our tourism sector?
    Mr. Speaker, the very short answer is to restore travel confidence. People need to know that Canada is safely open for business. As I said, less than 1% are impacted by this. We need to open it up. The government took travel confidence away. It is its job to restore it.
    I cannot wait to visit the Okanagan Valley.

[Translation]

    Resuming debate. Before giving the floor to the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I must note that he will have about five minutes to speak right now. He may continue his speech after oral question period.

[English]

    I will be sharing my time with the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge today after my speech.
    It has been two years now, and I still remember on March 13 getting ready to board a plane to return home on a Friday afternoon on Friday the 13th. It has been two years now, and we have been through a lot as a country and as a world. It was a global issue, but from day one the focus of our government has been on supporting the health and security of Canadians. The second objective, of course, was to help them financially through many of the challenges they faced.
    I have to be honest. When we were faced with a global challenge and trying as a government to put programs together to meet the needs of Canadians, with everybody in this game and all members of Parliament from all parties needing to be engaged because we needed to make sure we were supporting Canadians quickly, doing that while we were moving forward at 150 miles per hour was very difficult. I remember spending 67 consecutive nights talking with colleagues in our party and with ministers and the Prime Minister about the various programs that would be needed, because we were getting information about what would be needed from our constituents, the people on the ground who were facing the challenges.
    There were three million jobs lost overnight. What did we do to help them? Canadians have been there with us, paying taxes for years, and they were in need. We were in a much better position as a government to help them financially rather than to ask them to be burdened by that expense, which would be tremendous. I remember each day getting more information from our constituents, and then in the nighttime talking to members and colleagues and saying that some things were not going to work for a company and that some things were just not going to work for an individual. We put our heads together to find solutions and tweaked the various programs to meet the needs of the people on the ground.
    That is tremendous, in my opinion. That is why I came into politics. It was to help and support people and Canadians, and we were doing that every single day, seven days a week. That, in my opinion, is very important. That is why I want to thank all Canadians, but I also want to thank the individual frontline workers, because most people were scared to leave their homes, yet those workers were going to work every day. I cannot thank them enough, nor our teachers. We have seen our school systems right across the country stay open and continue to ensure solid education for all students, which is crucial.
    I have to thank the businesses, because we were quickly in need of PPE, gowns, gloves and whatnot. Our companies right across the country, from all provinces and all ridings, were able to find ways to support Canadians, and that was extremely important. Then it was a question of making sure we could find vaccines, and it is a very tough challenge to be able to get that done very quickly. Again I want to thank our researchers and the health organizations. All countries were working together to help and to meet those needs, and we were ahead of everybody in the G7 in getting vaccinations. Today, as we speak, over 90% of Canadians have had at least one dose.
    What types of programs did we use to help Canadians? We had the CERB for people, which guaranteed $500 a week for up to four months to help them. We had the wage subsidy, because we wanted people to stay at work if at all possible. We knew companies were struggling and could not keep people at work, but instead of keeping them at home, we could keep them at work, so we offered the wage subsidy at 90%, which was extremely important. Then we moved forward all kinds of recovery benefits as well. Those are some of the programs we put together to allow Canadians to pull through this pandemic.
     I will have the opportunity to go into more detail on how our government invested in various funding. I can tell members right now that we have spent over $72 billion in supporting Canadians through the pandemic, and we will continue.

  (1400)  

    The member will have four and a half minutes remaining when we return to debate.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Domestic Violence Prevention

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to recognize a unique and effective approach to domestic violence prevention and education that is happening in my community and reaching people throughout North America.
     She Is Your Neighbour is a powerful awareness project and storytelling series created by the incredible team at Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. The podcast explores the realities and complexities of domestic violence. The stories talk about the many types of abuse. They address myths about victims and survivors. They discuss the role of men and more.
    Throughout the series, they emphasize that we all have a role to play in ending domestic violence. Their third season comes out in May and features some amazing guests, including Anna Maria Tremonti.
    I invite all colleagues in the House, and in fact all Canadians, to listen in for themselves. They can find She Is Your Neighbour wherever they download podcasts or online at sheisyourneighbour.com.

Kamalambikai Kandasamy

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Mrs. Kamalambikai Kandasamy, a brave mother of the Tamil nation. Throughout 2008 and until May 2009, Mrs. Kandasamy worked day and night as a pharmacist embedded with the Tamil medical team in Mullivaikal. As makeshift hospitals were targeted and bombed by the Sri Lankan armed forces, she fearlessly helped thousands of survivors.
    The world ignored her pleas in 2009 but heard her loud and clear as she became a critical witness and voice to the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide of her people. She campaigned for accountability and justice, seeking to end impunity for Sri Lankan officials by speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council and advocating to our Minister of Foreign Affairs and many other world leaders.
    Until her last breath, she supported the mothers of the disappeared, raised money to support survivors and ensured that those who made the ultimate sacrifice were never forgotten, including her only son, Thivaharen.

Walter “Wally” Philips

    Mr. Speaker, today I rise to commemorate the life of my friend Walter “Wally” Philips. The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Wally was born in Saskatchewan before moving to B.C., where he began several careers in his life. He was a fixture in the White Rock community, a fellow Rotarian, former president of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and a dedicated champion of medical rehabilitation programs, mental health and the like. Wally was a passionate community leader and volunteer. He often reached out to me with welcome and wise advice and will be greatly missed by many.
    Above all else, Wally was a family man. When his delightful wife Kay passed away, he said it felt like he had lost his right arm. Sadly, his son Alan passed away six days after him.
    Wally's legacy will live on through his remaining children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren while he rests peacefully with his brother, sister, son and Kay. He believed they would all be together on the other side, and I have no doubt they are.

[Translation]

Natalie Pauline Agustin

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an incredible young woman from my community who passed away far too soon on Tuesday.

[English]

    Natalie Pauline Agustin, or Nalie, as she was known to her loving parents Tess and Jess; her partner Vee; her wonderful, large Filipino family; and her many, many friends and followers, faced life with cancer with courage, creativity and humour as she shared her daily challenges on social and public media, as well as in her beautiful book of poetry and observations, The Diary of Nalie.
    Today we mourn Natalie, but as she said in her own words, “I want to be remembered by how I made you feel in my presence...I want to be remembered for always giving it my best and, despite how I felt or what was said, I never stopped believing in me—and you...I don't want to be admired, I want you to feel inspired. Through you and your inspired-living is how I wish to leave my legacy.”

[Translation]

Purple Day

    Mr. Speaker, it is with emotion, appreciation and conviction that I rise in the House today to mark Purple Day for epilepsy.
    It is with emotion, because I have an extraordinary four-year-old son named Ulysse who has suffered from the neurological disorder of epilepsy since he was barely ten months old.
    It is with appreciation, because the 100,000 or so Quebeckers living with this disorder can count on health professionals, organizations like Épilepsie Québec, and people like us to support them.
    It is with conviction, because I know that all the support we provide, whether it be in the form of concrete gestures to support epilepsy organizations or symbolic ones such as wearing purple, improves the lives of people living with epilepsy.
    On my own behalf and that of the Bloc Québécois, I want to thank everyone for showing such goodwill and solidarity on March 26 by wearing purple for all the Ulysses of this world.

  (1405)  

Outaouais Community Integration Association

    Mr. Speaker, this week is Quebec Intellectual Disability Week, and I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the work that dedicated organizations are doing in the Outaouais.
    For example, this year, the Association pour l'intégration communautaire de l'Outaouais is celebrating its 65th year of serving our community. The association provides services to people with intellectual disabilities and their families to help them integrate into the community both socially and professionally. I am thinking about Marie-Ève, who has visited us here in Parliament. During my visits to APICO, I have witnessed the positive impact that this organization, its employees and its volunteers clearly have on the people they serve.
    I thank the entire team, the families and the precious volunteers for the tremendous work they do for people with intellectual disabilities. I wish APICO a happy 65th anniversary and continued success in the future.

[English]

Agnes Macphail Day

    Mr. Speaker, today 30% of the seats in the House of Commons are held by women. March 24 is Agnes Macphail Day, in celebration of her birthday and honouring her as the first woman elected to this chamber just over 100 years ago. Agnes was first elected to federal politics to represent the riding of Grey Southeast and would later represent the Grey—Bruce riding, part of the riding I have the honour of representing.
    Last night I had the privilege of listening to the winning speeches at the 76th annual Grey County Federation of Agriculture public speaking contest. What stood out to me was that the overwhelming majority of the student participants were young women. I am confident in saying that many of them will be future leaders in my riding and across Canada, especially in the cultural, political and agricultural fields.
    I hope all members will join me in recognizing the historic and inspiring contributions Agnes made to Canada and in honouring her as a pioneer who inspired and continues to inspire women across this country to take their place in the House of Commons.

[Translation]

Greek Independence

    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, March 25, marks the 201st anniversary of the Greek war of independence. This day is important not only to Canadians of Hellenic origin, but also to people all over the world.

[English]

    I remind everyone that this day is dedicated to all those who love liberty and freedom, and I warn all who would deny them these human values. This is a moment for Greeks to celebrate and an invitation for all to follow the spirit of the Greek revolution and fighting oppression.
    In light of the threat of Russian aggression in Ukraine, I would like to acknowledge the struggle of the countless Ukrainian men, women and children who have been displaced, killed or wounded, and the millions fighting for their sovereignty, identity and freedom. As long as there are heroes ready to sacrifice for justice and liberty, the Greek spirit of freedom and democracy will live on.
    Slava Ukraini. [Member spoke in Greek].

[Translation]

    Long live Canada.

[English]

École River Heights School

    Mr. Speaker, the grade 7 and 8 students at École River Heights School wrote to me asking for support in assisting Ukrainian refugees to find safe harbour in Canada quickly. All 449 students at the school signed the letter and it was hand delivered to my office.
    I visited students at the school to hear more about how they feel about the conflict, the role of economic sanctions, humanitarian aid and how Canada will help Ukraine rebuild after the war. Their questions and comments reveal the depth of intelligence and thoughtfulness reflective of what I know to be true about young people: They are insightful and passionate and want to talk about topics that are challenging, complex and even unsettling.
    I left the students with this message. I said to get engaged and to take their ambitions and aspirations as citizens and members of family and community and put them to work for our nation. They are our future and our future is bright.

  (1410)  

Air Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, earlier today I tabled legislation that would mandate operational collision avoidance systems for gliding clubs in Canada. Bill C-259 is the result of a commitment I made to Martina and Bradley Leinweber of Calgary, who lost their son Adam in a 2019 crash.
    The tow plane's anti-collision system, which significantly reduces the risk of mid-air collisions, was not working at the time, and there is actually no requirement that they be used in Canada. Members should be aware that there have been 30 confirmed incidents or near misses involving gliders since 2010, nine involving commercial aircraft. The Leinwebers have been trying to change that, and I hope the House will support them.
    This is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of safety for all Canadians, and we must take the necessary steps to ensure another life is not lost.

Mike Sharp and Caroline Helbig

    Mr. Speaker, this January, my community lost two local icons when a tree tragically fell through their West Vancouver home in a windstorm. Mike Sharp and Caroline Helbig contributed immeasurably to the fabric of the community of West Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay.
    Caroline's deep connection to nature led her to be one of the founding members of the Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs. Her husband Mike, known as “Sharpie” to his friends, coached and was president of the West Vancouver Minor Hockey Association and was an integral part of the local pickup hockey scene. Together they helped raise over $300,000 for the Feed the Need program in West Vancouver to provide food for vulnerable seniors at the onset of the pandemic.
    The community has come together to set up two memorial scholarships in their honour: one in environmental stewardship and the other to help kids who want to play hockey, which has raised over $30,000 in just a few short weeks. While the loss of these two incredible people will be acutely felt, their legacies will live on and continue to reverberate around the community they loved so much.

Nuclear Energy

    Mr. Speaker, it is time that we get serious about green energy in Canada. That means getting serious about nuclear energy. The IPCC has called for an increase of nuclear energy, as much as 500%, for the environment.
    Nuclear provided 90% of the power needed to phase out coal in Ontario. It was not wind or solar but nuclear that did it. This represented North America's largest greenhouse gas reduction. If not for nuclear, it would not have happened. Nuclear energy is not a sin stock; it is our only hope.
    It is incredibly disappointing that the government's green bond framework treats it like a sin stock, insulting the men and women who work hard every day to create zero-carbon electricity and life-saving medical isotopes. The unscientific, anti-nuclear bias of the Canadian green bond framework must change today.

World Tuberculosis Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is World Tuberculosis Day. More than 4,000 people die every day from TB. Today we stand in solidarity with people who suffer from TB and the millions who have lost their lives. Before COVID-19, TB was the deadliest infectious disease, claiming the lives of 1.4 million people every year despite being both preventable and curable.
     Over the past several months, the communities of Black Lake, Fond du Lac and Pelican Narrows in my riding have announced TB outbreaks. We have dozens of outbreaks, over 100 cases and many of them are children. These outbreaks underscore the need for the government to step up and act on its previous commitments to TB elimination.
    Indigenous Services Canada admitted that the development of a TB reduction action plan for first nations was not completed as promised. Canada must reaffirm its commitment to address the health inequities that allow TB to persist in northern Saskatchewan and all of Canada.

[Translation]

Quebec Meals on Wheels Week

    Mr. Speaker, from March 20 to 27, we celebrate meals on wheels, which provides support to those who need it by preparing and delivering healthy meals to their homes.
    This is an essential part of aging in place that provides some respite for family caregivers. The last two years have been particularly difficult, but meals on wheels organizations, which rely heavily on volunteers, have continued to step up.
    In Alfred-Pellan, meals on wheels organizations receive federal support through New Horizons for Seniors and Canada summer jobs. I am also working on connecting businesses that give generously and organizations that really need their help.
    I want to thank the following meals on wheels organizations and volunteers in Alfred-Pellan: Service bénévole d'entraide de Vimont‑Auteuil, the Maison de la famille de St‑François, Bonjour Aujourd'hui et Après, the Popote roulante Saint‑Noël Chabanel and the St. Vincent De Paul Society.

  (1415)  

[English]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, there is a critical shortage of affordable housing in my community. Many people have given up on the idea of ever owning a home, but even finding an affordable place to rent is getting further and further out of reach. B.C. has not been getting its fair share of federal funding under the rapid housing initiative.
    Worse still, the supply of older rental stock is being bought up by REITs, real estate income trusts, that use tactics like renovictions to jack up rent, pushing people out of their homes and removing affordable units from the market. Housing advocates and the City of Victoria are calling for a federal acquisition fund to give local governments and non-profits the quick capital to buy properties at risk of being bought up by these predatory REITs.
    We must preserve our existing affordable housing stock. It is time for the federal government to return to the table as a true partner with municipalities, indigenous governments and co-operatives to stop treating housing as an investment and start treating housing as a human right.

[Translation]

Salaberry-de-Valleyfield Meals on Wheels

    Mr. Speaker, as this is Meals on Wheels Week in Quebec, I want to take a moment to highlight the 50th anniversary of Popote roulante de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.
    The organization was created on March 7, 1972, to support seniors who wish to remain at home as long as possible. The Sœurs de Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil congregation, with the help of volunteers, was responsible for the very first home-delivered meal in our community.
    These days, the Popote roulante de Salaberry‑de‑Valleyfield delivers 1,200 meals every week. Some 300 meals on wheels programs across Quebec are a daily reflection of the strength of solidarity. They form a mutual support network that is driven by the dedication of the 10,000 volunteers who are always there to cook and deliver healthy, balanced meals. These teams visit more than 30,000 seniors, who often live alone, providing them with gentle, caring attention.
    It is an honour to sincerely thank all the dedicated volunteers and teams who are making real a difference in the lives of seniors in Salaberry—Suroît.

[English]

Juno Beach

    Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful to be joined today by my family here in Ottawa.
    Juno Beach is one of the most sacred places in Canadian military history. The bravery of 14.000 Canadians who landed there on D-Day continues to inspire generations of Canadians and led directly to the liberation of Europe from tyranny and fascism.
    A condo development threatens not only the beach but the operations of the Juno Beach Centre, a museum and memorial that educates hundreds of thousands of visitors on the role that Canada played in bringing freedom to Europe. Simply put, this development should not go forward. In an increasingly polarized world, few truly sacred places remain. In the hearts and minds of Canadians, Juno Beach transcends and represents all that we take pride in as a nation: that we will make a larger impact than our size commands, that we will stand firmly alongside our friends and allies and that no matter the difficulty, we will fight beyond just convening all that is good and right in the world.
    I have one ask of the government. It should do everything in its power to save Juno Beach.

  (1420)  

Whitby

    Mr. Speaker, all across Canada, and especially in my riding of Whitby, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. After two challenging years, it is time for good news.
    That is why I was happy to join the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario to announce funding for the revitalization of downtown Whitby and downtown Brooklin through the My Main Street local business accelerator program. Downtown Whitby and Brooklin will be supported with three dedicated main street ambassadors, customized market research, data analysis and non-repayable funding contributions for new and existing small businesses. This will support our community by assisting our existing businesses to bounce back from the pandemic and enhance the ability of our new start-ups to rapidly grow.
    The entrepreneurial spirit in Whitby is strong, and I look forward to seeing our unique, resilient and diverse small business community thrive all along our main streets.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, according to the Minister of Health, there are many different factors to consider before lifting mandates. He said, “It's quite complicated.”
    Health officers across Canada have worked through these complications and have ended their mandates. If it is not complicated for the provinces, why is it complicated for the minister?
    Mr. Speaker, I know this might sound a bit complicated, so let me make this very simple.
    It is 8,000 and 25,000. Eight thousand is the number of people who will be receiving either their first or second dose today, and 25,000 is the number of people who will be receiving their booster dose today. We are very grateful to them, not only for protecting their health but for protecting the health of those they love.
    Mr. Speaker, on Monday I asked the health minister what the national vaccination target would need to be and for Canada to achieve before the government lifted the mandates. His response was that the booster uptake was too low. Next week it could be that case counts are off, or the following week it could be that waste-water surveillance numbers are askew. The goalposts will keep on moving.
    What numbers do Canadians have to hit before the minister agrees to lift the mandates?
    Mr. Speaker, let me again thank not only my colleague, whose company and work I enjoy, but also all Canadians.
    Let me say the vaccination mandates that opposition Conservative MPs opposed during the campaign have saved not only hundreds of lives but thousands of lives. Estimates are about 1,600 people in the last few months have had their lives saved by vaccination mandates.
     Obviously, had we not had vaccination mandates in the last year in Canada, we would not currently be meeting in this room. We would be locked down, and we would be closing schools, shops, stores and factories.
    Mr. Speaker, the vaccine mandates that the government imposed at the time have served their purpose according to the top experts in every province across this country. Ten out of 10 chief medical officers of health have said it is time to end the mandates and lift the mask mandates.
    What are the metrics that this federal health minister is going to follow so that he will catch up to all of the provinces and our allies who have accepted the science and ended the mandates?
    Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to the member for his work and for admitting, and I think he knew that already, many weeks ago, that vaccination mandates did work. They not only saved lives. I spoke about the 1,600 Canadians who are currently alive because of those vaccination mandates, having not been infected, sent to a hospital and then dying because of not being vaccinated.
    Also there is the large number of dollars. In fact, $4 billion is the estimate that we saved collectively, in household income and small business income, because of vaccination mandates.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian provinces and our international allies have eliminated many of their restrictions.
    The NDP-Liberal government is faster at signing secret agreements than at lifting restrictions on domestic flights. It does not realize that Canadians have had enough.
    When will the NDP-Liberal government look at what is happening in other G7 countries and eliminate the federal restrictions?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am trying to be non-partisan, but the hon. member was not here before the last election, so she may not know that, roughly 13 months ago, her party said that Canadians would be the last in the world to be vaccinated, that they would not be vaccinated until 2030.
    Canadians have been vaccinated in large numbers and, in most cases, before other countries. It is a gift that we received from science and scientists, a gift that we must all take special care of and take advantage of while we have it.
    Mr. Speaker, I am here and I know what is happening.
    Science has not been the NDP-Liberal government's main concern for a long time. It used the pandemic for political gain, and Canadians are not fools. They realize it and even the member for Louis-Hébert has condemned it.
    Will the Minister of Health finally stop playing political games and immediately lift the federal restrictions?
    Mr. Speaker, this is not about politics. It is about responsibility. When one is in government, one must be responsible. I believe that everyone in the House of Commons, not just the government members, must be responsible. I look around and see that members of the Conservative Party are suddenly declaring that COVID-19 is over and that masks are no longer necessary. COVID-19 is still with us. We will soon see the BA.2 subvariant in many provinces. The numbers are already high in Quebec. We must continue to protect ourselves and those around us.

Electoral Representation

    Mr. Speaker, three weeks ago, the Liberals and the NDP voted in favour of a Bloc motion stating that the Quebec nation must not lose any political weight in terms of the number of members in Ottawa. Today, they introduced Bill C‑14, which ensures that we will not lose any seats, but they are adding so many more seats elsewhere that we will end up losing some our political weight anyway. They may not be holding us under water, but they are letting the water rise very slowly. That is what they are doing.
    Why does the government want to reduce Quebec's political weight?
    Mr. Speaker, this morning, we introduced a realistic and practical bill that will protect Quebec's seats. Quebec would retain 78 seats instead of dropping to 77. The Bloc Québécois wants to reopen the Constitution, because their bill will require support from seven provinces representing 50% of the population. They want to enter into constitutional discussions, but we want to address the problem now, right away, to guarantee Quebec's political weight.
    Mr. Speaker, clearly the government does not know how to count. What matters to Quebec is not the number of seats but our nation's weight relative to the total number of seats. If we keep 78 seats but the total number of seats goes up to 343, 350 or 400, that does not work. One does not need an honorary degree to understand that. They are not taking away one of our seats, which would be an overt act of aggression against Quebec, but neither are they protecting our political weight, which is a roundabout way of breaking their promise.
    The Liberals and the NDP voted to recognize the Quebec nation. Why diminish its political weight here?
    Mr. Speaker, we have 35 Liberal members for Quebec who are proud to be Quebeckers and who are here to stand up for Quebec. Today we introduced a bill that guarantees Quebec's 78 seats, but all the Bloc Québécois wants is to open up the Constitution and start a fight.
     The only people that is good for are those who hope to win points by raising a hue and cry, but we, on the other hand, are here for all Quebeckers.

[English]

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, today marks 30 days of the war in Ukraine, and President Zelenskyy has asked the world to reflect on what that means. When he spoke here in the House of Commons, he asked us to imagine what the war means and what it would mean to Canadians, and he asked for help.
     One of the most important ways that we can help, and are helping, is by welcoming people from Ukraine, but recent reports are showing that people who come here from Ukraine are not getting the help that they need. What is the government going to do to ensure that Ukrainians fleeing a humanitarian crisis get refuge in Canada and the support and help that they need?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, certainly, Canada will provide a safe haven for those fleeing Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since January, Canada has welcomed more than 10,000 Ukrainians. Last week, as members know, we launched our new Canada-Ukraine emergency travel authorization, which will make it easier, faster and safer for Ukrainians to come to Canada.
    We are working with our partners, including provinces and territories, the business community, the Ukrainian Canadian community and settlement organizations on how best to support people arriving from Ukraine. We will continue—
    The hon. member for Burnaby South.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have spoken with people. There are reports that Ukrainians coming to Canada are not getting the support they need. We are asking the government to recognize that this is the 30th day of war. Ukrainians still need help, and one important way we can help them is to welcome them here and make sure they are supported.
    What does the government plan to do to ensure that Ukrainians who come to Canada get the help and support they need to have a good life here in Canada?
    We completely agree that we need to help. That is why we launched the new Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel last week, which will allow Ukrainians to come in.
    We are working with our partners, including the provinces and territories, the business community, the Ukrainian Canadian community and settlement agencies, on how best to support those arriving from Ukraine.
    We continue to closely monitor travel volumes and needs, and we will take appropriate action.

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, all 10 provinces and most G7 countries around the world are lifting the mandates. Despite this, federal mandates around vaccines for employment and travel persist. At the health committee, we already heard the Minister of Health talk specifically about the plan to end federal mandates, but he did not quite make it. He talked about this complicated science and did not elaborate further.
    We, on this side of the House, would like to know. What is this complicated science the NDP-Liberal government is not sharing and when will the minister make it available to all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, let me try again to make it very simple. I will use one number this time, instead of two, which is 135,000. That is the number of Americans whose deaths were avoidable. If the U.S. had been vaccinated to the extent we have in Canada, in part due to vaccination mandates, they would not have died. Those lives had a value. How much it is in dollars very few people would know I suppose, but they had personal, health, human, social and family values.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his non-answer reply to that question.
    We know there are countless federal employees who are off work who sadly perhaps have not been immunized. What about Douglas, who is a federal scientist? He has a unique story. He has had COVID twice and is also in an antibody study at the Ottawa Health Research Institute. Interestingly enough, and shockingly, he works from home and is still not allowed to go to work. How can this happen?
    When will the current federal government stop politicizing this and discriminating against hard-working Canadians and provide a date they can go back to work?
    Mr. Speaker, we spoke about being responsible and being kind to each other. I will try to make it even more simple. Instead of 135,000, I will use three, which is a simple number. Three times is how many more deaths we would have had in Canada if we had followed the example of the United States when it came to public health measures and vaccination rates. Three times more people dying would be 60,000 more people in Canada who would have died.

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, many Canadians cannot travel. They cannot leave this country. Many have been terminated and have been othered by the current government for long enough. Its top doctor stated that vaccine mandates are not effective anymore, yet the health minister will not discuss any timelines, benchmarks or plans for ending them. He is not taking hints from provinces. He is not taking cues from our international allies. He is not listening to his own experts.
    On what day, in what year, will the health minister end the federal mandates that nobody is telling him to keep?
    Mr. Speaker, we would all like to be able to declare the date when COVID‑19 will disappear from the earth. That would be marvellous. I would certainly be the happiest man on earth, and in this Parliament, to be able to tell the House on what day COVID‑19 will disappear. Unfortunately, I do not know.
    Mr. Speaker, things would be better if the minister cared about workers even half as much as he does about optics. Employers in air transportation are experiencing worker shortages. They are terminating experienced workers because of the federal mandates. The very workers who were mandated to work through the pandemic are the same workers who are now on the verge of losing their livelihoods for good. The transportation minister can end the interim order on mandates before he strips workers of their pensions, their benefits and their years of service. That is before April 16.
    Why is the Minister of Health saying no?
    Mr. Speaker, I really want to ask my colleague to remind Canadians that vaccination is not a punishment. Vaccines have saved lives, communities, our economy and jobs.
    I understand there are questions about when these mandates will be lifted. We will continue to follow science and advice, and I ask the hon. member to avoid partisanship in the face of vaccination and science.
    Mr. Speaker, the health minister talks a lot about numbers.
    I am wondering if he can tell us whether mental health, particularly the mental health of Canadians who still today cannot work or travel to see loved ones because of the mandates, is one of the metrics being considered in regard to lifting the mandates.
    If so, what specifically are those mental health metrics?
    Mr. Speaker, it is true the mental health of Canadians has been deeply affected the last two years. We estimate that about one Canadian out of two has seen his or her mental health deteriorate over the last few months. For health care workers, it is about three quarters. Now, health care workers have been at the front lines of this crisis—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please.
    I will let the minister restart.
    Mr. Speaker, I was going to point to health care workers. Obviously, we are deeply thankful to them, but thankfulness is not enough. We need to think of them and we need to act in a way that protects them if we want them to protect us.
    Mr. Speaker, even after the imposition of vaccine mandates, some Canadians chose to remain unvaccinated. Many of them sacrificed jobs and their ability to travel to see loved ones because of their authentic anxiety about COVID vaccines.
    The Prime Minister's response was to go on television and proclaim that many of those Canadians were “racists” and “misogynists”.
    What does the minister have to say about the mental health impact of a Prime Minister publicly shaming Canadians who experienced genuine anxiety that has undeniably caused them legitimate hardship?
    Mr. Speaker, hardship is the right word. I was speaking yesterday with the Canadian Pharmacists Association, which represents another group of health care workers who have been at the front line and living very difficult times. Their personal mental stress has been heightened by COVID, as has the stress of their families when they go home after a day at work, the stress of their staff and the stress of the patients they have cared for, now for more than two years. This is an example of the hardship we have gone through. That is why we need to keep caring for each other.

  (1440)  

[Translation]

Intergovernmental Relations

    Mr. Speaker, in the agreement with the NDP there is so much encroachment that they are trampling all over Quebec's jurisdictions with full force.
    Housing, pharmacare, child care, health care, long-term care: encroachment from coast to coast to coast, to use the Liberals' expression.
    There is a much more effective way to help people get services. The government can transfer the money that Quebec and the provinces need and give them a right to opt out with full compensation in any areas that fall under their jurisdictions.
    Will the government agree to a right to opt out with full compensation and without conditions, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc is referring to an agreement that focuses on, for example, fighting climate change, which is good for Quebeckers.
    Help for workers is good for Quebeckers. More social housing is good for Quebeckers. Working together on health is good for Quebeckers.
    When all of that is good for Quebeckers, it is not good for the Bloc Québécois, and they do not like that.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, let us discuss the fight against climate change.
    When we read the Liberal and NDP marriage document, it is very clear that there are no jurisdictions. It is crystal clear.
    What is not so clear, however, is the will to stop producing dirty oil. They will be “developing a plan to phase-out public financing of the fossil fuel sector”. There really is no sense of urgency.
    Did the Liberal Party or the NDP decide to continue financing oil companies in the midst of the climate crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.
    I would like to remind him that we promised to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies two years before our G20 partners did. That is what we are going to do, and we will definitely work with our NDP colleagues, and our Bloc Québécois colleagues if they are interested, to advance this file.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, in their agreement, the great experts in the NDP and the Liberal Party chose to tell Quebec and the provinces what they need, specifically how many nurses and doctors should be hired, where the money should go, and how their networks should be managed.
    However, the real experts are not on this side of the House, they are not across the way, nor are they sitting next to us. Quebec and the provinces know what they need. As we are on the verge of a sixth wave, will the government finally increase health transfers to 35% with no conditions?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has already said that health transfers would be increased.
    The Bloc Québécois has known that for a long time, but that does not allow for any bickering, which is what the Bloc needs. However, the kind of constitutional bickering that the Bloc is looking for does not create jobs for anyone. Bickering does not get hospitals new doctors or nurses. It does not help people heal. All that bickering does is help the Bloc Québécois find more to bicker about and be more adversarial.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Pablo Rodriguez: Mr. Speaker, as you can hear, they love it when I talk about bickering.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on Monday in the health committee, the Minister of Health said, “We want to apply the least disruptive measures in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians, and the conversation will evolve as the situation evolves.” The situation has evolved. We are asking the federal government to follow the science and remove federal mandates, as has been done throughout Canada in our provinces.
    Does the health minister believe that all 10 provincial chief medical officers of health are wrong?
    Mr. Speaker, that question gives me the opportunity to continue speaking about the hardships and stress many Canadians feel, including health care workers and obviously patients. We have seen, over the last two years, a backlog of surgeries approximately equal to 700,000 patients. Their families, friends and communities are affected by that backlog. Today, we still have about 4,000 people hospitalized. Those hospital beds are not available for other patients.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately that was a complete non-answer. The risks have changed as this pandemic has evolved. Canada has the most restrictive domestic travel mandates in the world. This is having a very real impact on families. I have been contacted by families in my riding who want to visit relatives who are in palliative care and who want to attend funerals. Vaccine mandates on travel have limited the ability of families to gather.
    When will the health minister show some humanity and finally allow the transportation minister to remove domestic travel restrictions?
    Mr. Speaker, we all agree and are all thankful for humanity. Humanity means thinking about others and caring for others. I will mention the fact that, on average, in the last week we have had about 50 to 60 additional deaths. Those are not just numbers: those are people whose families obviously are very much impacted. We have 4,000 people who are hospitalized. That is a large number of people. Humanity demands that we look after them while we repair and prepare the health care system for the future challenges we will be seeing.
    Mr. Speaker, according to the health minister, there is no end in sight for the federal COVID mandates. The Liberals have destroyed lives and careers. Many have lost mortgages. Others have had to leave the country altogether, but a Canadian is a Canadian, regardless of a medical condition or choice. Workers and families deserve respect, not abuse. They deserve basic accommodation and accessibility.
    When will the health minister drop the federal mandates, so the mass firings in April will not happen?
    Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have to choose between vaccination, which is not punishment but protection, and lockdown. We cannot have no vaccination and no lockdown.
    The fact that the Conservatives do not seem to believe in vaccination, in March 2022, is very serious. If we did not have vaccination, and if we did not keep insisting on vaccination, we would be closing schools, shops, stores and factories and we would be overloading hospitals with patients. We would not be meeting in this room today.

Housing

    Qujannamiik, Uqaqtittiji.
    On this day, World Tuberculosis Day, I rise to ask a question about housing. An MLA for Nunavut has identified that approximately 3,000 to 5,000 new housing units are urgently needed for people living in my territory. However, the government's housing announcement in Nunavut a couple of weeks ago included just 101 new units.
    What rationale does the federal government have for promising only 100 housing units when thousands are desperately needed? Qujannamiik.
    Mr. Speaker, the program that the hon. member referred to is just one of many programs in the national housing strategy and federal investments in Nunavut housing, including the Canada housing benefit, the bilateral housing agreement between Canada and Nunavut, and over $400 million in distinctions-based funding for Inuit-led housing in Inuit Nunangat. By working together with territorial and indigenous partners, we will address the housing needs of Nunavummiut.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, Putin's horrific actions are killing children, women and elders and forcing millions to leave Ukraine. Even with the special immigration measures, people are still having a hard time getting to safety. People with older identity documents are stuck in the system, which is further delaying their ability to get an emergency travel visa. Biometric centres are being overwhelmed, and in some centres the wait is a month or longer. This wait is putting lives in danger.
    The most efficient way to get people out of harm's way remains visa-free travel. When will the Liberals lift visa requirements for Ukrainians?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, Canada will welcome Ukrainians fleeing Putin's war. We have announced this new program that will cut through red tape and expedite the arrival of Ukrainians to safe harbour for up to three years. This is the fastest, safest and most efficient way for Ukrainians to come to Canada. It eliminates most of the travel requirements for all Ukrainian nationals, with the exception of background security checks. Canada stands with Ukrainians in their time of need, and we welcome them with open arms.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, last year, Canada saw record levels of international trade. Our government continues to open new opportunities for Canadian businesses to export and to expand. The United Kingdom is one of our closest friends and largest trading partners. I know the minister for international trade has been working hard on strengthening our trade ties with the U.K.
    Can the minister update us on her recent activities in diversifying our trade relations with the United Kingdom?
    Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to welcome the hon. secretary of trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, for her first official visit to Canada this week, celebrating the long-standing relationship between Canada and the United Kingdom.
    Today, Canada and the United Kingdom officially launched negotiations toward a new high-standard and progressive free trade agreement. Canada looks forward to negotiating an agreement that will benefit our people and our economies. It will help businesses of all sizes and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Atlantic reach new export markets.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I asked whether the NDP-Liberal government would provide Canadians who are unable to use ArriveCAN with an easier alternative to allow them to visit their families outside of Canada. Instead of answering the question, the Minister of Health, sadly and predictably, responded with the same tired old talking points.
    Will this minister clearly tell Canadians on what date the government will drop its mandates so that we can all travel freely?
    Mr. Speaker, I will speak to something I think is extremely important for us to understand, which is long COVID. Among all those infected by COVID, whether it be severe or mild, the estimate is that between 10% and 30% will suffer from long COVID.
    This has dramatic impacts on their lives in the short and longer term. Thirty percent of them will need to consult more than 10 times after that. Thirty percent of them will need to stop working. This has very significant health, personal and economic costs. The way to protect against that is to protect against transmission and to do that through vaccination.
    Mr. Speaker, four months ago, Donna McCall was denied the opportunity to see her children, who are located in the U.S., while she was at home dying waiting for a liver transplant. That transplant never came. Her husband held up his phone for Donna so they could say their last goodbyes to their mother while she died.
    What happened to John, Donna and their children is devastating. When will this government show some compassion for suffering families like the McCalls and please lift the federal mandates?
    Mr. Speaker, compassion is the key word. We need to have each other's backs. We need to protect each other's health. That is best done by following public health measures, as most of us are doing today, but not all of us. It is also done by being vaccinated, which protects our health and that of those we love.
    It also protects against long COVID. By the way, long COVID affects all vital organs with hundreds of symptoms through the brain, heart, lungs and liver. This is serious and demands responsibility on the part of the government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I come from the Quebec City area, the most beautiful tourist city in North America. The city has suffered enormously over the past two years, economically speaking. Everyone is talking about our businesses, restaurants and hotels.
    How can the Minister of Health, who is the member for Quebec, justify to the hotels, restaurants and tourism industry in his riding that he is maintaining health measures at the border?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are two things I assume my hon. colleague already knows.
    The first is that I am indeed the member for Quebec, which is probably the most beautiful city in the country and I am very proud of it. I represent this area along with other distinguished members of the House.
    The second thing he probably knows is that on April 1, so in a just a few days, pre-arrival tests will no longer be required. This means that more people will be able to come to Canada to enjoy our attractions. We hope that many of them will come to Quebec City and the Quebec City region.
    Mr. Speaker, exactly two years ago, I was the first MP to ask the government to close the border. It was taking too long. It took too long. People in Quebec died because it took too long.
    Now the situation has changed, and it is taking too long to reopen the border and lift the senseless restrictions. If tourists want to visit Quebec City to, say, go to the summer festival in the minister's riding, they cannot understand the Canadian system. They do not understand what they are supposed to do.
    Will the government end all the complicated measures and give the tourism industry a chance to make a comeback?
    Mr. Speaker, we are going to do exactly as my colleague suggests on April 1.
    On April 1, pre-entry testing requirements will go away. That will simplify everyone's life and encourage more people to come see my colleagues and me in wonderful Quebec City and the beautiful surrounding area.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, as we speak, more than half the children in Ukraine have fled the war. In all, 4.3 million children have left their homes. They are either elsewhere in Ukraine, hoping the Russian troops will not catch up with them, or they are in refugee camps.
    Today we do not want to hear about how Canada has welcomed 10,000 Ukrainians since January. We want the government to tell us what it is doing right now for the millions of fleeing children.
    When will the government charter planes to go and get them?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question and certainly for his collaboration since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
    I would say to him that we are working with our partners, including the airlines. What is more, I would like to point out to the House the exceptional work that has been done with the SickKids hospital and the departments here to welcome Ukrainian children, who can now continue their treatment here in Canada.
    We will take the necessary measures to welcome the Ukrainians who are fleeing Putin's war.
    Mr. Speaker, the government's refusal to airlift people out is problematic in two ways.
    On the European side, millions of refugees are stuck in camps because there is no room for them on planes or because they simply cannot afford flights. On our side, in Montreal alone, 40 tonnes of humanitarian aid is sitting in warehouses because we cannot send it to Ukraine.
    At the moment, the only thing we can move between Canada and eastern Europe is the Prime Minister. When will the government start chartering flights?
    Mr. Speaker, I really want to thank my colleague for his question.
    As he mentioned, the government is certainly looking hard, and as aggressively as possible, at how to get as many people as possible here as quickly as we can. This is what we have been doing from the beginning. More than 10,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada. We will continue to work with our partners.
    I would also like to point out to the House that the province of Quebec has not only guaranteed to help us, but has already stepped up by providing asylum, health care and child care.

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, the health minister has been asked about 15 questions today, but he has not answered a single one, so I hope he can answer this one from a young woman named Nancy from my riding. Nancy is an indigenous single mother. She works for the federal government, 100% from home. She is vaccine hesitant for personal reasons. Like members of our armed forces, she is now being told that she cannot go to work and is essentially being fired for her beliefs.
     Nancy and others are running out of options. Will the minister show some compassion and end the mandate for people such as Nancy so they can work from home?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to receive this question because it enables me to add one more piece of information, this time from the United States. One million is the number of deaths that were avoided because of Americans were vaccinated. It was mentioned earlier that they could have avoided many more deaths with more vaccinations, as we did in Canada.
    When we speak to people who may be either concerned or sometimes not just informed about the benefits of vaccination, it is important to talk to them, reassure them, care for them and just encourage them in a very benevolent manner so that everyone, in the end, is protected, including those who perhaps had initially had misgivings around vaccination.
    Mr. Speaker, in Canada and around the world, governments have ended their vaccine mandates and restrictions. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia have all ended their vaccine passport systems. However this government is doubling down and spending $30 million for domestic travel vaccine passports in the next two years.
    Since the provinces have already dropped these passports, will the Minister of Health return this $30 million to the taxpayers?
    Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier the amount of $4 billion. That is a lot of money, which the federal government and other governments have saved because of high vaccination rates, in part due to vaccination mandates, but most importantly, that is a lot of household income, family income, income to look after children, to care for seniors, to look after those who may not often find it easy to make ends meet. That is a lot of dollars.
    This is not only about dollars, obviously. It is about lives, but dollars are also impacted by the fact that we have high vaccination rates and that in Ontario we have more people being vaccinated everyday.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been a lot of replies today and not very many answers.
    Since the pandemic started, only 1% of all cases of COVID-19 in Canada have been related to travel, yet it has been portrayed and perceived as an unsafe thing to do. To put this into perspective, 2021 was supposed to be a year of recovery, but we have reached only 13% of the total number of international visitors compared to 2019, and 2021 was worse than 2020.
    When will the health minister tell his colleagues to fully open the border and remove federal vaccine mandates?
    Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a devastating impact on the industry. I want to stand here to thank all those who work in the aviation sector, and all those who work in the tourism sector, who stepped up, cared for each other and did the right thing, which was to get vaccinated and follow public health advice.
    Everybody knows that COVID-19 has been unpredictable. We are working together with our scientists to do the right thing, protect Canadians and protect those who work in the aviation sector.

[Translation]

Domestic Violence

    Mr. Speaker, intimate partner violence needs to end, and it needs to end now. This matters to everyone because intimate partner violence destroys families and causes serious harm in our society.
    I salute community organizations for the important work they do to help women and children fleeing violence perpetrated by violent partners.
    I announced a $4.5-million investment to help an organization called Nouvelle-Étape create new spaces.
    Could the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion tell us more about the reason for these investments?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    During the pandemic, the most vulnerable members of our community were in greater need of housing. We know we need to act fast.
    Our government created nine new affordable housing units in the member's riding for women and children fleeing violence.
    We will not stop working until every Canadian has a safe, affordable place to live.

  (1505)  

Health

    Mr. Speaker, from the beginning of this question period I have wanted to ask the Minister of Health some questions I had previously prepared. Unfortunately, I am going to change them a bit.
    I would like the Minister of Health to look me in the eye and tell me truthfully right now that it was the federal vaccine mandate that saved so many lives and prevented so many hospitalizations in Canada from the start of the pandemic; that this was not due to the vaccine passports of the various provinces; and that the provinces that are lifting these vaccine passports have data that is rather more credible than his to justify doing so.
    When will the federal government lift federal mandates?
    When will the federal minister listen to the science across Canada and not just the political science?
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see and hear my colleague speak about science.
    If he would like to see the studies I mentioned, I can have people from my department brief him. They would be very happy to show him the statistics, methods, data, the various techniques used, the standard deviations, the confidence intervals and everything that goes with this type of study.
    The 1,600 deaths were prevented as a result of the combination of various vaccine requirements. Nevertheless, the Canadian government's vaccine mandate also played a role.
    The Conservatives opposed vaccination at the time. This means that their policy would have been responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of additional deaths.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives were the first in the House to put pressure on the government to procure and supply vaccines for all Canadians.
    We were the first, while they were slow to act. I do not need any lectures from the government's chief health lecture-giver. All he gave us today was a bunch of numbers, such as 8,000; 25,000; 700,000; 135,000; 3; 400,000; 10; 30%; 100; 1.1 million; and 4 billion. That is a lot of numbers, but he did not answer the question at all.
    When will he join the provinces and announce that the federal government is lifting the health measures?
    It is a simple question and we want an answer.
    Mr. Speaker, I apologize if I disrespected my colleague. That was not my intention.
    I respectfully offer the assistance and support he needs and deserves as a member of Parliament. He has a very important role in the House.
    I think he is entitled to ask for all of the information whenever he wants if he is to continue doing his job properly, as he is already doing within the Conservative caucus.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like him to table that here in the House. He offered to. I would like him to table every study showing that scientific experts called for federal vaccine mandates.
    Dr. Njoo and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said that a vaccine mandate was not necessary and that voluntary vaccination should be encouraged. Those are the facts and figures.
    The Minister of Health keeps telling us there are studies proving his vaccine mandate was justified by science. We want to see those studies now, and we want an answer. When will he end the vaccine mandate?
    Mr. Speaker, the member asked two questions, one I cannot answer and the other I will.
    When will the COVID‑19 pandemic end? Unfortunately, I do not think we can answer that today.
    However, if my colleague wants access to more information in addition to what I have already provided, I would be happy to provide it in the most appropriate way possible. I tried to be as clear as possible, but maybe I was not clear enough.

[English]

International Development

    Mr. Speaker, Yemen is undergoing the world's worst humanitarian crisis and its people deserve decisive action, especially women and girls who are disproportionately affected. Canadians are deeply concerned by the raging conflict and the deteriorating food security situation.
    What is the Minister of International Development doing to help the people of Yemen?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle for this question and for her hard work. The conflict in Yemen continues to impact almost 20 million people who need help, especially women and children. This is why last week I announced an additional $62.5 million in funding to help with urgent humanitarian needs. By providing food assistance, clean water, sanitation, protection and health care, this aid will help the Yemeni people whose lives have been impacted by this.

  (1510)  

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, in December, the government announced the reallocation of crab fishing licences in my riding in an effort to reconcile the loss of constitutionally protected indigenous fishing rights. It is absolutely essential to correct historical wrongs in the allocation and management of this fishery. The government has failed to properly consult the impacted fishers or first nations. As a result, many fishers will lose the income their families need.
    Will the government do the right thing and fully compensate these crab fishers?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for pointing out the importance of including indigenous communities who have a right to fish in the fisheries. We are having those discussions with the crab harvesters who had those licences. This takes some time, but we are doing that. Those discussions have not concluded yet, but we will respect both the prior fish harvesters and the indigenous right to fish.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, despite misguided calls for Canada to build pipelines to join a global effort to shut off Russian oil, the international experts at the International Energy Agency have not recommended that. In fact, they have been very clear that it is not boosting production that the world's nations need to do; it is cutting consumption. The International Energy Agency has published a 10-point plan.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Ms. Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am having difficulty finishing my question.
    Order. Let us show a little decorum. We are on the last question.
    The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
    Mr. Speaker, I will not start over, but I will summarize. There have been calls that are misguided and not based on evidence to increase production or take another decade to build more pipelines in Canada.
    The experts at the International Energy Agency have published a 10-point plan that they want industrialized countries to pursue and that will cut consumption by 2.7 million barrels of oil a day. The International Energy Agency's 10-point plan calls for such things as cutting speed limits by 10 kilometres an hour in industrialized countries, cutting down traffic in our city centres and boosting public transit. Will Canada join the IEA 10-point plan?
    Mr. Speaker, in fact, the 10-point plan is under discussion right now with the Minister of Natural Resources in Paris. In the face of the emerging global energy crisis created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the 10-point plan to cut oil use proposes actions that can be used to reduce demand with immediate impact. As discussed in the plan, the IEA and its members are committed to reducing emissions and creating a more sustainable path for the longer term. From using public transit and biking to working from home, those are all actions we can take, as per the IEA, to reduce our carbon footprint and collectively reduce our emissions. We are working in partnership here at home and abroad to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable energy.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on an exchange that took place during question period with the Minister of Health, in which he promised to table documents in the House. I invite him to table all the documents that have anything to do with all the numbers he mentioned, including 8,000, 25,000, 700,000, 735,000, 300,000 and 400,000, and especially the 10% to 30% of patients he told us will suffer from long COVID.
    I would also invite the Minister of Health to table the documents that justify the federal vaccine mandate.
    I believe that is a matter of debate, but at the same time, it is good to have the numbers.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I just now observed my good friend and colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands trying to get through a question in this House and the amount of heckling that came from this side is completely unacceptable.
    We have had huge challenges in attracting women, not just to run for politics but to actually stay in politics. I want to remind men in this House of the important role they play when it comes to their conduct in any violence against women and attacks on women in this place. What I just heard happen is unacceptable.
    I thank the member for his intervention.

  (1515)  

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, before I get to the Thursday question, today is my youngest son's 18th birthday, and Liane and I would like to wish Mitch a happy birthday.
    As you know, Mr. Speaker, it has been a heck of a week around here. I would like to ask the usual Thursday question of the new NDP-Liberal government House leader. What will the business of the House be over the next week?
    Mr. Speaker, I wish a very happy birthday to Mitch. I hope he has the time to celebrate with his family over the weekend.
    Tomorrow we will call Bill C-8, the economic and fiscal update, for the third day of debate at report stage, and we will continue on Monday, if that is necessary. Tuesday we will resume debate at second reading of Bill C-11, the online streaming act. Wednesday we will continue with debate on Bill C-5, which is mandatory minimum legislation, at second reading.
    I would also inform the House that Thursday, March 31, will be an allotted day and next Friday, a week tomorrow, it is our intention to begin consideration of the second reading of Bill C-13, the official languages bill.

Points of Order

Status of Opposition Party  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. I am rising to add to my point of order of Tuesday afternoon and further to the intervention by the member for La Prairie yesterday concerning the coalition agreement between the Liberal and New Democratic parties.
    Firstly, a timely ruling is essential and today is the last day of the supply period, which means that a new one starts tomorrow. That means we need to know how the eight opposition days this spring will be distributed. Of course, we have question period every day where ministers now receive eight lob questions from two government parties, instead of the typical three lob questions daily. Then there is the matter of the Liberals' coalition partner being stationed in the opposition lobby behind me right in between the Conservative and Bloc sections. This all needs to be addressed, and I say that respectfully.
    The Speaker is recovering from surgery and I did hear from him today. It sounds like he is doing well and we are all thankful for that.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    Mr. John Brassard: I know the House is unanimous in wishing him a complete and speedy recovery, but we cannot wait for his return for a ruling, nor would we wish to stress or tax him with these matters.
    Subsection 43(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act vests you, Mr. Speaker, with full and adequate authority to address this matter. It states:
    Whenever the House of Commons is informed of the unavoidable absence of the Speaker thereof by the Clerk at the table, the Chairman of Committees, if present, shall take the chair and perform the duties and exercise the authority of Speaker in relation to all the proceedings of the House, as Deputy Speaker
    Secondly, there is the matter of full disclosure of this agreement. My counterpart from the Bloc Québécois put it bluntly yesterday, saying, “The news releases bore the same titles and were identical.”
    Was it pure fluke and coincidence that both parties each managed to issue identical-looking press releases at the same time of day? We both know the answer to that, Mr. Speaker. It is obvious that there were a lot of emails, text messages and the like flying around about this agreement to coordinate that much. It would not shock me to hear that there may even be some emails or memos that demonstrate how both sides interpret and understand the terms of their backroom deal.
    Would you be able to indicate whether it would be helpful for you in approaching your ruling, Mr. Speaker, to know whether there are any signed versions of this agreement or additional side deals? I expect that you would and I expect that to be so.
    This was a government that claimed to believe in the principle of “open by default”. If ever there was a time to show that it means it, it is when it has entered into a unprecedented power grab arrangement to govern Canada. Transparency and openness used to be watchwords for the NDP. I hope that they still are.
    Therefore, in the interests of transparency and openness, I am calling upon the government to make full disclosure to the House and to all Canadians by tabling all relevant documents concerning the negotiation of this unprecedented agreement and, in the meantime and in closing, I would ask for unanimous consent to table, in both official languages, copies of the press releases issued Tuesday morning by the Prime Minister's Office and the New Democratic Party, so that you formally have before you, Mr. Speaker, the versions those parties have chosen to let Canadians see.

  (1520)  

    All those opposed to the hon. member's moving the motion, please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on that point of order. It is surprising to me that the House leader of the official opposition is doubling down on something that he knows is fundamentally incorrect. For him to come into the House and pretend that this is a coalition government when, as a new member of Parliament, he received the information that clearly identifies what a coalition government is and what things like “confidence and supply” mean.
    As we know, earlier today we outlined the many cases in Canada and worldwide where confidence and supply agreements have been put into place. At no point have we had parties actually trying to punish other parties for doing the right thing, and this is indeed what the House leader of the official opposition is attempting to do. He should be thanking us, as 30,000 people in Barrie—Innisfil will have access to dental care because of this agreement.
    The reality is that what we are doing is in the interests of his constituents as well. He does not need to thank the NDP, but what he does need to do is acknowledge the fact that this is a confidence and supply agreement that has no impact at all on the Standing Orders and the regular processes under which we operate.
    He has asked for information on the agreement. It is freely available online, as we know. I offered, earlier today, to send him a copy. He has not asked me for that. This is a frivolous and really vexatious attempt to take away time from the House of Commons. I think it is very clear that this holds no water whatsoever.
     We will of course consider that information and try to get back to the House as soon as we possibly can.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Federal Vaccine Mandates  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to continue my important speech on vaccination and the work that our government has been able to do.
    I want to start again by thanking Canadians. Canadians have been doing what they have to do to ensure that the health and security of others are top priorities. I want to thank Nova Scotians as well, because we were the envy of the world for a long time because we had no numbers. Again, this was because of the high number of vaccinations. It was also because of—

[Translation]

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary, but there is a point of order because there is no interpretation.
    The problem has been resolved.

[English]

    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs has the floor.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, thank you. I will speak in French, so there is no need for interpretation.
    I was saying that I wanted to take a moment to thank Canadians for their efforts and the work they have done to help us ensure the health and safety of all Canadians. It is extremely important to point that out. I also want to thank our frontline health care workers, the people who had to go out during the pandemic when it was extremely dangerous.

[English]

    As I said in my speech earlier, eight dollars out of $10 spent by governments was spent by the federal government to support Canadians right across the country. We saw this in vaccination and PPE investments, and we saw Canadian companies come forward as well to provide supports. Let us not forget that we invested $72 billion in health care and education to support the provinces and territories. Another $45 billion will be coming forward in the next few days through the health accord, which is also essential.
    Throughout the pandemic, we have also seen some of the challenges with the health care system and hospitals. Our government, in our platform, indicated clearly that we would invest more in doctors, nurses and assistants to help the provinces with health care and in any other way we could. Long-term care was another area.
    Let us talk about how many lives were saved, which is very important to note. In the United States, some studies are showing that 1.1 million people were saved because of vaccinations. That is a very high number and it is a good indicator for us. In Canada, the numbers from some studies indicate that over 400,000 Canadians were saved. The minister talked today about 1,600 being saved in the last few months alone, which is another very important number. In Europe, over 500,000 people over 60 were saved because of taking the vaccine. The answers are pretty clear on that front.
    On easing the restrictions, I know the opposition has been talking about that, but let us look at what has been done. We have already said that as of April 1, which is in a few days, a test will not be required before boarding a plane to Canada. People coming by air or water will not need one either. We also talked about cruise ships. People only need an antigen test one day prior, and when people get off a ship, they will not need a test.
    Let us also talk about quarantine. Today there is no quarantine needed while waiting for results. Last February, I was here for three weeks and then I went to Nova Scotia. I had to quarantine for 14 days. We are easing restrictions. We are moving in the right direction. The Speaker is indicating he had to sit out 14 days twice or three times, and he was in his trailer. He knows as well I know that we have been easing restrictions, and we will continue to do so as the information we get indicates we can.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my animated colleague's stories when he gets up and speaks in the House. He talked about how many American lives he was saving. The Canadian government should be giving us Canadian statistics, so I am wondering if he can talk about how many Canadians were fired because of the mandates. That is a really important number too. I also really want to know how many Canadians who used to work in health care were fired. Before there were vaccines they were heroes, and now under the Liberals they are zeros.
    Mr. Speaker, those health care workers do not work for us; they work for the provincial governments. The restrictions were placed by the provincial governments.
    Let us talk about numbers, as the member said, in Canada. The minister just indicated today that over 1,600 lives were saved in the last few months. Families can celebrate with other individuals. Over 400,000 have been saved since COVID started. Those are Canadian numbers. They are not my numbers; they are numbers from studies.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are talking about possibly lifting a number of health measures. We are all hoping for just that, and we agree it needs to be done. However, we do not feel that there is a clear path forward. What probably upsets people the most is not having any predictability or a plan with benchmarks. This would give us some hope that health measures will be lifted if a certain result or number of hospitalizations is achieved.
    Would it not help to depoliticize the issue if we had a little more predictability from the government?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. I always like having the opportunity to answer questions, especially in French.
    As the Minister of Health explained today, we have no control over what is happening. We can only make decisions based on the results we are receiving. There is no doubt that this situation is complicated, but we are already seeing that the government is in the process of lifting restrictions.
    The situation is progressing and will continue to do so as we become comfortable with the numbers. However, let us not forget that hospital capacity also leads to more difficult situations in the provinces.
    This is complex, but our government has repeatedly shown, through straightforward processes, that it is lifting restrictions. It will continue to do so.

  (1530)  

[English]

     Mr. Speaker, I served on the veterans affairs committee with this colleague. I respect him and thank him.
    The government always talks about science and evidence-based decision-making, but that also has to come with transparency. Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Tam, has indicated that the government is currently engaged in a broad interdepartmental approach to reviewing all vaccine mandates under federal jurisdiction.
    Does my colleague not agree that the government needs to provide Canadians with a timeline for this review and needs to do it soon, and that there needs to be transparency in its decision-making?
    Mr. Speaker, the work my colleague has done on veterans affairs is very much appreciated.
    As he indicated, people need to know that we were set up from the beginning to review decisions every six months depending on what was happening. That review is taking place as we speak. As Dr. Tam said, we will continue to take advice based on science, but we are moving forward on a review as we speak, so we should get some results very soon on that.
    Mr. Speaker, I think this is the first time I have gotten in on today's opposition day debate on mask mandates, so I will ask my hon colleague from Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook a question.
    He and I are from coastal ridings with a lot of tourism, which we love, and I have heard a number of members opposite say that mask mandates in the federal civil service are blocking tourism. I wonder if the hon. member would agree with me that it would have been much more fruitful today to spend a whole day talking about what the tourism sector really needs. It needs financial support now. It needs to know that as we move out of the COVID restrictions, we will give help to businesses that are going under. I do not think a mask mandate debate for an entire day is what the tourism sector would have wanted.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague always has good questions, and I appreciate this question. We could have had a much better progressive discussion. However, this does give me the opportunity to share that our government has announced a mainstream program that will help tourism right across the country and help various organizations. We are on the right track on that front.
    Mr. Speaker, it is great to see all my hon. colleagues here in the House and to be speaking to today's opposition motion.
    Before I begin my formal remarks, I want to say a few things.
    First off, with respect to the residents of my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge and the residents of the York region, where I live, we have achieved about 85% coverage for two doses of vaccination, which I think is incredible. I thank all of the residents who have done the right thing, or what I call the collective responsibility, and gotten vaccinated and who are doing that continually.
    When the pandemic started, we asked much from Canadians. We asked them to stay home and we asked businesses to shut down. During that time, our government had the backs of Canadians, whether through the CERB, the CEWS or the number of other programs we put in place. We have done things prudently. We asked Canadians to do these things because we wanted to protect their health and safety first and foremost.
    Every government knows that. If we read Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and a number of those books, we see the government's job, fundamentally, is to protect the health and safety of its citizens. That is what we have done as the federal government in all of our measures. We asked Canadians to wear a mask and socially distance. We ensured that we had capacity in our health care system. We helped out the provinces by sending the army into long-term care facilities. Also, we put in place restrictions, including mandates, for the health and safety of Canadians.
    Obviously we have been evaluating the data, as it comes in, on how we are doing against COVID. Thankfully, we can see a light and we continue to see more light as we go along. We have seen changes to the restrictions that are in place, including the removal on April 1 of the requirement to do antigen or PCR testing when returning to our beautiful country after taking a vacation or going somewhere for business. We continue to see progress, and that is very important.
    As a government, it is important to highlight prudence and responsibility, because we must have responsible leadership. When we talk about governing a country or province or being a mayor, we must demonstrate responsible leadership. I would say it is irresponsible leadership on the part of the official opposition for it to say we can just magically turn a switch and COVID‑19 will vanish. That cannot happen. Rather, we must follow the advice of medical practitioners.
    Today, I am pleased to speak about the federal government's ongoing commitment to the well-being of Canadians and our economic recovery as we collectively transition from stringent lockdowns and restrictions to a stage where each of us is assuming more personal responsibility. Ensuring that all Canadians have what they need to be safe during this critical time is a responsibility that our government takes very seriously. We are committed to continuing to work hand in hand with the provinces and territories on these efforts and have done so since the beginning.
    Unfortunately, COVID‑19 continues to have a significant impact on the lives of Canadians. Despite Canada's high vaccination rate, COVID‑19 continues to challenge our health, social and economy well-being. We need to ensure that Canadians have the tools they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe as we enter this new phase.
    Over the past few weeks, many jurisdictions have begun to ease some or all public health measures that were put in place to diminish the spread of COVID‑19, including limited occupancy in bars, restaurants and gyms, the use of vaccine passports and the use of masks indoors. In this phase, it is important that individual residents are equipped with information and the tools that will empower them to manage their own risk, including making decisions surrounding their own care and health.
    This shift has heightened the urgency for the government to continue to procure and distribute COVID‑19 rapid tests. Equitable access to tests across and within jurisdictions is just as critical as procuring and distributing the tests themselves. Canadians will be relying on these tests to inform their own decision-making, whether it is to assess if they are able to visit a loved one in a long-term care facility or send their children to school.
    Canada has been a leader in vaccine uptake, with over 80% of the entire population having received two doses of a COVID‑19 vaccine. As members know, the primary objective of the vaccine is to reduce hospitalizations and deaths, and it has been suggested that COVID‑19 vaccines have been very effective in this regard. They have worked. Thanks to scientists and health practitioners, vaccines are doing their job and continue to do their job. Recently, a number of provinces and territories have moved to the general public distribution of tests and are leveraging the retail sector to make COVID‑19 rapid tests available free of charge.

  (1535)  

    To support provinces and territories, Health Canada sought and received authority through Bill C-10 to distribute tests to provinces and territories, organizations, and individuals. With this authority, Health Canada is distributing directly to entities that have experience receiving medical equipment, such as pharmacies and the Canadian Red Cross, as well as to provinces and territories.
    The omicron variant changed the landscape of the virus for countries around the world. The rapid spread of the virus among vaccinated individuals, even today, led many countries to move to refocus lab-based PCR testing and scale up COVID-19 rapid tests as a key testing method. As a result of the global resurgence of COVID-19 and the increased adoption of rapid tests, an already scarce resource became even more limited in supply, leading to a very competitive market. I would like to commend the Minister of Public Services and Procurement on her job in procuring rapid tests for this country and the ability to get that done.
    Fortunately, Canada was an early adopter of COVID-19 rapid tests and had contracting vehicles already in place to quickly procure additional tests from last fall into this winter. Furthermore, to assist with transporting inventory from Asia, the government has secured international logistics support that suppliers can access in the event that they cannot secure their own airlifts.
     In addition, Health Canada has prioritized applications that seek regulatory approval of COVID-19 rapid tests. Just last week, another point-of-care rapid antigen test was approved, bringing the total number of approved COVID-19 rapid tests to 29, plus 11 self-tests.
     Given the globally competitive market, the government is putting in place additional contracts to secure a critical supply of tests for the coming months. The reality is that not every Canadian finds help readily available or easy to access. Keeping these realities in mind, our government is taking important steps to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 rapid tests.
     As provinces and territories, as well as the federal government, started to roll out workplace screening in spring 2021, the government partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to support the non-profit sector. Through this partnership, non-profit organizations were provided with guidance materials, support and COVID-19 rapid tests free of charge directly from the Canadian Red Cross.
    Given the success of this initiative and the standing that the Canadian Red Cross has in communities, this partnership has recently expanded to support broader distribution of tests, with a focus on individuals who have been hesitant to access services and supports. Working with food banks, YMCAs and YWCAs, and Boys and Girls Clubs, the government, through the partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, is taking steps to ensure equitable access of COVID-19 rapid tests.
    The ongoing commitment to ensure access to COVID-19 rapid tests is an important enabler for the economy. Vaccines, along with rapid tests, are allowing the economy to function to its fullest extent. Ready access will allow Canadian businesses to continue with their voluntary workplace screening, thus diminishing the possibility of outbreaks. In addition, ongoing general population testing will provide a level of comfort to those travelling both internationally and domestically that they are not putting close contacts at risk during or after their travel.
     As I said, on April 1 we will lift the antigen or PCR test requirements for Canadians returning to this country. I know many Canadians have asked for this, and over the last few months I have said to my constituents and many other friends that we would do this when it was prudent and safe to do so. We have done so. We have followed the signs. I have great faith and confidence in the Minister of Health, a great colleague and a dear friend. I know full well he is following the science and advice of medical professionals here in Canada who are doing a great job, day in and day out, and who have been asked and tasked to do a lot over the last two years.
    This will further enable Canadians to travel unimpeded and will support the recovery of the Canadian travel and tourism sectors. As the members of this House are aware, Canadians' health and safety is this government’s main priority during this difficult and unprecedented time. As we have stated throughout the pandemic, this government will be there for every Canadian. The first priority of government should be protecting the health and safety of its citizens, and that has been our primary job over the last two years.
     It goes without saying that the months ahead of us will continue to be full of challenges as we transition from having numerous public health measures in place to supporting tools to empower Canadians to make risk-informed choices and decisions on how to manage the risks of COVID-19.
     I look forward to questions and comments. I would like to extend well wishes to the Speaker of the House, who is recovering from his operation.

  (1540)  

    Today we have had a lot of people wishing the Speaker well. Nobody wants him back more than I do.
    The hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country.
    Mr. Speaker, of course we are debating the federal vaccine mandates today. The government has not been listening to its own health experts. We know that all of the provinces are removing mandates and restrictions. The federal government has not put forth any plan and it has not disclosed any metrics that it is using to make the decisions that it is making, so my question is this: What do these federal Liberal politicians know? What access to information do they have that the provincial medical health officers do not?
    Mr. Speaker, setting a date to lift mandates and restrictions, as we have seen in the past, is very irresponsible. We saw the premier of Alberta say we were going to have a summer free of COVID, and then, during the past federal election, have to shut everything down because COVID exploded.
    What I have been saying and what I say to my residents is very clear: We will follow the science. We will do things on a prudent and safe basis. We are removing the requirement on testing for people coming back into this country. We will continue to follow the science.
    As the Minister of Health stated, I too will be happy when all mandates and restrictions are lifted in a safe manner throughout this country.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the provinces have plans in place to lift the health restrictions. However, the Conservatives' motion calls on the government to do so “immediately”.
    To me, that is not necessarily reasonable, and I think this is worth discussing. I would like to know if my colleague agrees with us. What is causing anger and anxiety among the public is the lack of predictability.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very important question.

[English]

    We continue to explain that the measures are in place to maintain public confidence in following the measures. We have largely done that over the last two years.
     Our government has acted with great prudence and with great faith in health professionals to ensure we protect public health and the safety of Canadians. That is what I define as responsible leadership. What I would define as irresponsible leadership is the members of the official opposition saying that on a certain date COVID-19 will magically disappear for some reason that they cannot even explain themselves.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to echo the comments of some of my colleagues who talked about the need to ensure Canada's tourism industry recovers. There are a lot of other ways that we can do that. One part of it is that the tourism and hospitality recovery program funding will be cut by 50% and will end in May. Also, many seasonal tourism operators were excluded altogether because of the 40% revenue loss requirement for each month, and I am sure the member knows that many tourism businesses are seasonal.
    What is the government going to do to ensure that these businesses are not left behind?
    Madam Speaker, it is nice to see you this afternoon.
    For my hon. colleague from Victoria, let me be as direct as I can. Our family took our first vacation, even with our five-month-old, to Quebec City for three days over the March break. I encourage all Canadians to get out and start travelling when they can and if they can. That is why we are opening up. That is why we are removing restrictions for Canadian travellers who are coming back internationally.
     Victoria is a wonderful place to visit, so I encourage all Canadians to do so. We have had the backs of business owners. There are a number of programs in place for tourism operators. I would be more than glad to send the links on that front. Let us get back to travelling and, if we can, stay domestically for a period of time before we wander off to other places.
    Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to rise before the House, so I am going to split my time today with the member for Niagara Falls.
    The requirement for federal employees to be immunized with two shots against COVID-19 has been in existence now for six months or so, and the other mandates, of course, for much longer. Quite sadly and ominously, we have now passed the two-year mark of this COVID-19 pandemic here in Canada. During this time, many questions have been answered—at least in part, perhaps—but there are many questions left with respect to COVID-19 on which we have received only partial or incomplete replies, but no answers.
    Importantly, one of the questions that remains without an answer, despite significant and perhaps even heroic attempts to obtain an answer from the NDP-Liberal government, is the plan to end federal mandates. We are asking for a plan.
    Let us be clear. I would like for the government today to announce that COVID is over. I know that this is not possible. I am a physician, after all. However, I will even make it simpler for the coalition government, in the sense that all I am asking for is a plan. Today I ask for a plan on behalf of Lyndy.
     What does Lyndy want? Lyndy would like to visit her ailing and aging mother in British Columbia. It is almost impossible for her, because she is unvaccinated and she lives in Nova Scotia. Certainly she could drive to British Columbia if she wanted to; however, it would be way more expeditious for her to fly, but we all know that she is not able to fly because she remains unvaccinated.
    That was something that she was very willing to accept over the past two years. She was willing to accept the consequences of her decision. However, two years into the pandemic, she sees both vaccinated and unvaccinated friends who are testing positive for COVID-19. That makes her wonder what the point is of continuing this particular mandate. Also, if she were to test positive for COVID-19, which we all know would afford her some degree of protection, should she not be allowed to travel to visit her ailing mother?
    I also ask on behalf of Tom. Tom's mother-in-law is from Kazakhstan. Sadly, she is unvaccinated as well, and she is ill and hospitalized. Many out there will think she has COVID. She does not have COVID, but because of her vaccine status, Tom's mother-in-law is of course unable to travel to Canada. Tom's wife, who grew up in Kazakhstan in a dictatorship that is mostly aligned with Russia, is distrustful of any government program, and rightfully so, and of course she has chosen to be unimmunized as well. This means that she is unable to travel to Kazakhstan to be with her ailing mother or to potentially bring her mother to Canada.
    I also ask on behalf of Ryan and Sarah, constituents of mine. Both are federal government employees. One has served in the RCMP for 17 or so years, and the other has served as a postal worker for approximately the same amount of time. They have asked multiple health care providers for the long-term effects related to mRNA vaccines. As everyone knows, this data simply does not exist, as we have used these vaccines on a large scale for a very, very short period of time. One might ask, “Well, you're a doctor. What do you think? Do you believe in these vaccines, and are they safe in the long term?” The answer to this question is simply, “Yes, I believe in them and I believe in that science.” Of course, that has informed my personal decision to be fully immunized.
    We can easily understand, though, that if someone has their own personal choice, as they should, and requires long-term data for their personal choice and personal decision, we simply cannot give them an honest answer because the data does not exist.
    That leads us to the concept of informed consent. As a physician of 26 years, I am personally very familiar with the process of informed consent. Let me lead us through some of this.
    As per the Canadian Medical Protective Association, the consent “must be voluntary”, “the patient must have the mental capacity to consent” and “the patient must be properly informed”.
    With respect to the voluntary aspect, the CMPA handbook for Canadian physicians goes on to say:
    Patients must always be free to consent to or refuse treatment, and be free of any suggestion of duress or coercion. Consent obtained under any suggestion of compulsion either by the actions or words of the physician or others may be no consent at all and therefore may be successfully repudiated.

  (1550)  

    This is important, so I am glad everyone is paying close attention. It goes on to say, “In this context physicians must keep clearly in mind there may be circumstances when the initiative to consult a physician was not the patient's, but was rather that of a third party, a friend, an employer, or even a police officer.” Perhaps it could be the government. It then continues:
    Under such circumstances the physician may be well aware that the patient is only very reluctantly following the course of action suggested or insisted upon by a third person. Then, physicians should be more than usually careful to assure themselves patients are in full agreement with what has been suggested, that there has been no coercion and that the will of other persons has not been imposed on the patient.
    Despite all of this, there are still many here who believe that, during an unprecedented pandemic, vaccines could be mandated, people could be coerced, there could be duress, and that would be a fine and dandy situation. For some, that is an easy leap of faith to make. Others, of course, are vaccine hesitant. What has this meant for those who have refused? It has meant the inability to access services, have meaningful employment and be able to travel freely, both domestically and internationally.
    Two years into this pandemic, the question that begs to be asked on behalf of many Canadians is when the mandate will end. More important, it needs to just give them a plan. Give me a break. Interestingly enough, just this week this very question, and I know we have spoken about this previously, was brought forward in the health committee and asked of the Minister of Health. Obviously I could read through the entire Hansard. However, I believe that a summary of several questions that were asked would be more germane. Members can review the Hansard in their spare time, should they decide to do so.
    My hon. colleague began asking questions of the Minister of Health and this resulted in answers suggesting that the answer to this simple question was too complicated to be given. I do not want to stand here and sound all haughty and whatnot, but there are three medical doctors on the committee, two of whom are my colleagues across the aisle, who actually have masters degrees in public health. I suspect they could probably understand the answer.
    Indeed, the chief public health officer went on to say that the situation is unstable and that because borders were involved, the international and domestic situation must be considered. She also said that, at the current time, without any benchmarks, and this part is great, the government and its adviser are just waiting to see what happens. Wow, that is a great plan.
    I asked the Minister of Health to give us a plan for the domestic part of lifting COVID-19 mandates for Canadians. I asked for the metrics, the benchmarks, what other words we could possibly use to describe it to make it as simple as possible, and the minister then gave us a lecture on post-acute COVID-19 syndrome, long haul syndrome, or long COVID, whatever we wish to call it.
    I then asked the minister if he was suggesting that long COVID was the reason to continue federal mandates and to keep federal employees off work. The reply to that, which again was a non-answer, was that 59 people died of COVID yesterday. He refused to answer the number of federal employees off work due to COVID mandates. From my research, I would say it is countless. It is over 1,000 at least, perhaps. That is a lot of people who are now potentially missing out on their pensions and meaningful work.
    Once again, very pointedly, I asked the Minister of Health if there is a plan for the ending of federal mandates. He asked me which mandates, which is mind-boggling. I said all of them. Sadly, this exchange ended with the hon. Minister of Health saying it would be irresponsible to say yes or no to that question. That is absolutely mind-boggling to me and incomprehensible.
    In conclusion, this concept is not only important for today, but it is important because it sets a precedent in its scope and longevity. It would perhaps help to apply it to other situations in the future. We have seen from the beginning of the pandemic that the government has not given answers and has not given us replies. This is the type of action that is uncharacteristic of a Canadian way of behaving. This state of affairs needs to end, a plan for ending mandates needs to be formulated and communicated expeditiously to all Canadians. If this job remains too complicated for the hon. minister and his advisers, I know many people on this side of the aisle who would be more than happy to help with that task.

  (1555)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his presentation.
    We are talking about lifting health measures. I am a bit apprehensive about this, because we are currently experiencing a significant rise in cases of the notorious subvariant of omicron. It is not only happening in Quebec. It is very much the case in Europe, as well as in Canada. I am concerned for this reason, but also because the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services is forecasting a relatively significant increase in hospitalizations.
    My colleague has studied in the medical field, so I am hoping he can reassure me. It seems to me that we need to exercise caution and act wisely right now.