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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I wish to inform the House that, in accordance with a representation made by the government pursuant to Standing Order 55(1), the Chair has caused to be published a special Order Paper giving notice of a government bill.
I now lay upon the table the relevant document.
The hon. member for La Prairie on a point of order.
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-09-28 11:05 [p.147]
Mr. Speaker, on September 24, the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes raised what I thought was a very relevant question of privilege. I have a few words to add to that question. I will start by recapping the facts, namely what the Prime Minister and his government did when various committees launched investigations into the WE Charity scandal.
The fiasco involving the Prime Minister, his government and WE Charity is the most serious scandal in history. It is so big that the Prime Minister's Office, cabinet, the former minister of finance, who resigned, and the Prime Minister himself went to inordinate lengths to conceal the facts from the opposition parties, Quebeckers and Canadians.
By proroguing Parliament as he did on August 18, the Prime Minister was attempting to divert attention from the investigations being conducted by no less than four parliamentary committees. The Prime Minister claimed that the pandemic warranted a new recovery plan and a new Speech from the Throne to address issues stemming from the pandemic.
In light of what the Prime Minister actually announced last week, there is every reason to believe that he is using the current public health crisis as a diversion, at the cost of human lives and economic hardship to Canadians.
This situation raises an important question of privilege because the government failed in its duty to comply with the Standing Committee on Finance's order. The government was required to produce documents and communications exchanged among ministers, senior departmental officials and WE Charity from March 2020 without redacting any of the information.
The motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Finance stated:
...any redactions necessary, including to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents whose names and personal information may be included in the documents, as well as public servants who have been providing assistance on this matter, be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.
Words are important. However, much of what is in the approximately 5,600 pages the government submitted before prorogation was blacked out and redacted, which is contrary to the committee's unanimous motion. The law clerk of the House himself said that the documents submitted by the government did not comply with the committee's motion.
By redacting the content of almost 1,000 pages of information, the government has failed to meet its obligation to be accountable for its actions. It has violated the committee's right to order the production of documents in the course of investigations related to its mandate, and, in this specific case, to an order of reference from the House of Commons.
I refer hon. members to section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which extends parliamentary privilege to the right to conduct inquiries, to compel witnesses to testify, and to order the production of documents. This constitutional principle is extended to the various standing committees in Standing Orders 108(1) and 108(2).
My colleague from the Conservative Party also raised this issue. The power to order the production of documents is “a broad, absolute power that on the surface appears to be without restriction.” This quote is from chapter 20, page 984, of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, edited by Marc Bosc and André Gagnon.
A previous ruling made by Speaker Milliken on April 27, 2010, concerning the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, beginning on page 2039 of the Debates of the House of Commons, said that only the House has the power to decide whether information or information contained in the documents ordered to be produced must be protected.
In that same ruling, the Speaker explained that:
The right of Parliament to obtain every possible information on public questions is undoubted, and the circumstances must be exceptional, and the reasons very cogent....
Therefore, the government does not have the power to decide what information to redact in this case. If the government wants to hide information, it must prove to the House that the reasons for which it wants to redact this information take precedence over the public interest, which in this case is the administration of money belonging of Canadians.
In keeping with Speaker Milliken's analysis, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and in fact an obligation for the government.
He argued that the only limitation, which could only be self-imposed, would be that any inquiry must relate to its legislative competence for reasons of national security, national defence or international relations, but that is not at all the case here.
As indicated at pages 152 and 153 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, Bosc and Gagnon, custom dictates that questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings will be heard by the House only upon presentation of a report from the committee, except in the most extreme situations.
I believe that the current situation justifies direct intervention on your part, given the extreme gravity of the consequences.
Mr. Speaker, I think you would agree that, since the Prime Minister bizarrely dissolved the Standing Committee on Finance, it cannot look into this matter and report to the House.
In the middle of a pandemic, with numerous concerns threatening public health and impacting the financial security of many individuals and businesses, this House has a duty to work effectively for our citizens.
This question of privilege has to be dealt with quickly to prevent other political manoeuvring aimed at delaying the work of the committee to the detriment of the urgent needs of the public.
Partisan strategies to distract from the We Charity scandal involving public funds and the urgency of acting to restart the economy are extremely serious circumstances in the current context of the pandemic.
Mr. Speaker, I invite you to determine whether this is a question that affects parliamentary privilege and undermines the dignity of the House so that the House may debate it.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I thank the hon. member for his submission. We will come back later with a response.
The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby on another point of order.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague and parliamentary leader of the Bloc Québécois for his submission. It has been four days now since the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes made his presentation, along with the leader of the Bloc Québécois, and myself on behalf of the NDP. All three of us said that this required a quick decision. The government has had four days to make its presentation and I presume it will do so now. If not, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to quickly—
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order. I am grateful for this advice. We are working very diligently on a response.
The hon. member for Banff—Airdrie, also on a point of order.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-09-28 11:14 [p.148]
Mr. Speaker, I thought you had notice, but if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion, that the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be amended as follows: Ms. Vecchio for Mr. Richards; Mr. Lukiwski for Mr. Brassard; and, Mr. Doherty for Mr. Duncan, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Normally when there are requests for unanimous consent, the Chair asks in the affirmative whether members agree.
This being a hybrid sitting of the House, were the Chair to proceed in this fashion, if there were any dissenting voices, particularly for members participating via video conference, they may not be audible.
Therefore, for the sake of clarity, I will only ask for those who are opposed to the request to express their disagreement. In this way, the Chair will hear clearly if there are any dissenting voices, and I will accordingly be able to declare whether or not there is unanimous consent to proceed.
All those opposed to the hon. member moving this motion please say nay.
An hon. member: Nay.
The Speaker: I believe we have a nay. We do not have unanimous consent.
We will continue.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:18 [p.149]
moved:
That the bill standing on the Order Paper, entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19, be disposed of as follows:
(a) the bill be ordered for consideration at second reading later this day;
(b) when the House begins debate on the motion for second reading of the bill, two members of each recognized party and a member of the Green Party may speak to the said motion for not more than 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments, provided that members may be permitted to split their time with another member; and, at the conclusion of the time provided for the debate or when no member rises to speak, whichever is earlier, all questions necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill shall be put without further debate or amendment, provided that, if a recorded division is requested, it shall not be deferred;
(c) if the bill is adopted at second reading, it shall be referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed;
(d) until the said bill is disposed of at second reading or read a third time, whichever is later, the House shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by a minister of the Crown; and
(e) no motion to adjourn the debate may be proposed except by a minister of the Crown.
He said: Mr. Speaker, this a momentous time in our history, and we must all act accordingly.
We are gathered here today at a momentous time in our history. Indeed, the last six months have changed our country. More than 9,000 Canadians have died from COVID-19. Many thousands more have contracted the virus. Millions of Canadians have seen their jobs disappear in the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. So many people are still worried about how much longer their jobs will last, and we all know so many of these people.
As the days grow shorter and the autumn leaves begin to appear, we are at a crossroads. We can ignore the challenges that remain before us and blindly walk down a dark path with dangerous consequences, or we can walk together on a second path with our eyes wide open, and prepare our families and our country for the twists and turns that lie ahead.
Our government is committed to responsibly leading Canadians down that second path.
We must continue to be honest with Canadians, as we always have been.
The second wave poses serious risks. We must not take it lightly, on the contrary. Over the coming weeks and months, we must do everything we can to protect Canadians. That is what is most important to us. In fact, as elected members, it is our greatest responsibility; it is the greatest responsibility. Canadians know it, all my colleagues in the House know it and we know it: We are facing the gravest of threats. It continues to weigh on all of us, our families, our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues. We are all at risk, with no exceptions.
Canadians know how to do their part by staying home, washing their hands, wearing a mask and following public health guidance.
As a government and as parliamentarians, we also have a duty to do our part. First, we need to help the most vulnerable Canadians, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet. There are many of them. This crisis is affecting all Canadians. Many people have lost their jobs, and others worry they are next. Some people are starting to pull through, while others now need to stay home to care for a sick father, mother, son or daughter. Some need to stay home because they themselves are sick.
Canadians are worried, as are we all. They have valid questions. How are they going to pay the bills? How are they going to feed and clothe their families? How are they going to pay the mortgage or rent?
From the beginning of this crisis, our government has been working day and night to meet the needs of Canadians. We do not want to leave anyone behind. We want to be there for everyone. At times like these, we need to assure all Canadians that we will be there for them, that we will never let them down, that we will keep helping them, that we will get through this crisis together, and that, together, we will come out even stronger on the other side. The key word is “together”. We have to do this “together”.
This is a message that I hope all parliamentarians will reflect on as we discuss the motion before the House today. It is a simple message. It is time for action. It is a time of urgency. It is not a time for members to slow walk their way toward inaction. It is definitely not a time to play political games.
Canadians need our help now and this is exactly what the motion is meant to accomplish: quick action. Canadians need members of the House to recognize the urgency of the situation and to work together. They are watching us. Can we work together for the benefit of all Canadians?
I hope that all members from all parties will leave politics aside and work with us. We must move forward to provide millions of Canadians with the financial support they need and we must do it now.
The government presented a Speech from the Throne last week in which we clearly stated our plan for the coming weeks and months. We are going to show some leadership; guide the government through this crisis; guide the government and the country to economic recovery; and rebuild the foundations of our society to make it stronger, more just and more humane.
In its throne speech, the government promised to help each and every Canadian, and Canada is in a sound financial position to do so, compared to other countries. That is why we did not hesitate to use our financial resources to help Canadians, through programs such as the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency wage subsidy. We did not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal or to create new ones in order to help Canadians. Canadian workers and employers must have the support they need to weather this fierce storm.
Madam Speaker, if I may, I would like to quote a passage from the Speech from the Throne: “Canadians should not have to choose between health and their job, just like Canadians should not have to take on debt that their government can better shoulder.”
Every member of the government is working as a team to support Canadians. I commend the thousands of public servants and thank them from the bottom of my heart for their dedication and the extraordinary work they have done. They continue to work to make a positive difference in the lives of all Canadians. Members of cabinet, like all members of the Liberal caucus, have never lost sight of the fact that the most important thing to do is to help the people we serve.
Canadians elected us. We are here because they made that choice. They are the reason were are here in the House. They are the reason we are standing up and working together to develop policies that will make a difference for the men and women of this country, for the young and not-so-young, for our seniors and our businesses.
Among those who have worked the hardest is my colleague and friend, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. For months now, right through recent days, I would say all the time that she has adopted an open and collaborative approach. She has listened to Canadians and has collaborated with her fellow parliamentarians. I would say her door is always open. She is always ready to discuss and accept ideas from all others. Sometimes good ideas or better ideas come from the other side. She is totally open to that.
She and her team have worked hard and have come forward with a proposal to create three new benefits.
First, there is the Canada recovery benefit. This would help Canadians who have stopped working because of COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI, and Canadians who are employed but have seen their income reduced.
Second, there is the Canada recovery sickness benefit. This would assist Canadians who are unable to work because they must stay at home.
Third, there is the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. This would support workers who need to take unpaid leave to care for family members as a result of COVID-19.
When my colleague announced those benefits in August, she said she would monitor the development of the pandemic closely, and that is what she is doing. She has been keeping a close eye on the situation since schools reopened. She is also monitoring the number of jobs created in the country. She is keeping tabs on what is happening in every province and in every region of the country. She made it very clear that she would be flexible with respect to details of the benefits and that she is open to collaboration. She always works collaboratively.
Everyone is aware of the urgency of the current situation. Canadian workers and their families are counting on us to provide the help they need to pay their bills and buy groceries. They need our help to get through this crisis. Objectively speaking, this motion puts forward a reasonable way for the government to fulfill its responsibilities and help Canadians. Crucially, in our opinion, the motion gives all parties an opportunity to speak to the motion. It enables the House to do what needs to be done to study the proposed legislation without delay.
I ask members to join us in support of the motion. This is not a time for delay. It is time for action, and Canadians are counting on us. We must not let them down.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-28 11:31 [p.150]
Madam Speaker, we will have an opportunity to get to the bottom of things a little later.
Does the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons think it is right, fair and balanced for parliamentarians to spend barely four hours examining a bill that will involve nearly $50 billion in spending?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:32 [p.150]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and commend him for his work.
This motion takes a number of things into account and strikes a balance between the urgent need to act, which is very real, and allowing all parties to speak to the issue. This motion makes both of those things possible.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, we begrudgingly support this motion.
The reality is that, as of midnight last night, there is no more support for people who are experiencing COVID-19-related financial difficulty. That situation is a direct result of government decisions. Because of the prorogation of this Parliament, the closure of this Parliament, today, people are distraught. It was irresponsible of the government.
Since midnight last night, Canadians who are suffering, who are trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, find themselves with no supports at all because of the government's actions. The government prorogued Parliament. The Prime Minister basically shut it down and now, as people have absolutely no supports to turn to, we are forced, with the motion, to try to put back in place supports that were taken away by the government.
My question to my colleague, whom I respect a lot, is very simple. Why did the government not allow for the sitting in August that would have put this legislation in place, and why did the Liberals take millions of Canadians right to the precipice before acting?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:34 [p.151]
Madam Speaker, I respect my colleague a lot, and I thank him for his support and the support of his party. It is the responsible thing to do. I think the motion strikes a balance between the urgency of the situation and the capacity for all parties to be able to debate the motion.
I would remind everyone of what we already know: We are living in a pandemic. The government has struck this balance.
Over the summer, we sat several times. We were here, and members could ask us questions for hours. That was crucial, and we were in favour of it. We have always tried to strike a balance between moving and acting quickly to meet the needs of all Canadians and ensuring that we act democratically by allowing our colleagues from different parties to ask questions. That is why we were so insistent on having a hybrid model, which our Conservative friends opposed for so long for who knows what reason.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-09-28 11:35 [p.151]
Madam Speaker, I have a little trouble believing what I am hearing.
It seems that our friends in government are avoiding the question raised a few minutes ago. It is September 28, the clock is ticking, and we must act before September 30.
This summer, the House was prorogued. The main reason for the prorogation was to put a lid on the WE scandal. Today, we are hearing emotional speeches. Canadians need help, Quebeckers need help, and employers need support. Employers in particular needed the CERB to be incentivize work over the past few months.
I would ask the hon. government House leader to explain why the government waited until two days before the deadline. A real debate definitely takes time. Now we have to move quickly because Parliament was shut down to avoid a scandal.
How does the leader feel about that today? What does he have to say to Canadians?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:36 [p.151]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, even though it was a bit partisan.
The last thing we should be doing right now as parliamentarians is addressing these issues with such partisan rhetoric. That is one thing I would never do, as my colleague very well knows.
We are here to debate things that are fundamental to Canadians. This motion includes measures for people who do not currently have these supports, like people who are self-employed, whose income has been reduced or who have to stay at home.
For their sake, on behalf of those individuals, if we can set partisanship aside, will the Bloc Québécois support them?
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2020-09-28 11:37 [p.151]
Madam Speaker, we have just had the worst results in Ontario since the beginning of the pandemic, with 700 cases reported on Monday morning. We are looking at closing our constituency office again.
In light of where we were in April, and the fact that we have never had this bad a result in Ontario, could the hon. member comment on how serious this is right now?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:38 [p.151]
Madam Speaker, my colleague asked a very responsible question. He is absolutely right. We are right in the middle of a second wave. It is not a theory, and there is no “maybe” or “if”: We are there. We see the cases increasing pretty much everywhere across the country. In my own province, the numbers are extremely high. I see that in Ontario it is the same.
We have to act responsibly. We have to act as leaders, which we all are. We are all leaders. We are the government, and all members of Parliament were elected. We all share this responsibility. The responsibility is not only on the government's side. It is the responsibility of all members of Parliament.
Are we going to show up and support Canadians or decide instead to be political?
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Brassard Profile
2020-09-28 11:38 [p.151]
Madam Speaker, let us not be fooled by what is going on here. The government is putting itself in an angelic position by asking us to just get this done.
In fact, there was an opportunity to get it done. The member for New Westminster—Burnaby spoke about it a month ago. In fact, last Friday it was the Conservatives who proposed a motion to allow weekend sittings of the House, including this past weekend, so that we could work on this on behalf of Canadians. It is a $57 billion bill. There is no question that Canadians need help.
Would the government just stop playing these games? Its intent is to make the opposition look bad. The government needs to realize that Canadians not only expect us to work together, first and foremost, but also expect the opposition to be able to scrutinize what is, in effect, a $57 billion bill. Maybe we can make it better by sending it to committee. Maybe we can make it better by having more debates and interactions in the House.
Instead, the government is rushing this through, painting the opposition as the bad guys on this if we do not agree with it. The government had a chance a month ago, but the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to save his political skin from the WE scandal.
Why will the government House leader not just admit that now and let Parliament do its job on this bill?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:40 [p.152]
Madam Speaker, I want to be very clear. The Conservatives do not need me to make them look bad: They can do that on their own. I can assure members of that. The other thing—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
The hon. leader of the government is answering a question.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:40 [p.152]
Madam Speaker, as I said before, it is time to act. We can debate and look at this and that, but the important thing is that so many Canadians are waiting for this. So many Canadians need our help. So many Canadians will benefit from what we are doing today.
If it is so important to the Conservatives, are they going to support this motion?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, the bill currently before us requires a number of very significant administrative changes.
Can the government House leader explain why Parliament was prorogued for five weeks? Does he not get the impression that time has been stolen from the democratic process, in other words, from the debate needed for this very important bill?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-09-28 11:41 [p.152]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
When this pandemic hit, we moved quickly, always seeking to strike a balance between acting swiftly for the good of all Canadians and allowing members of Parliament to meet and debate with a hybrid system. My colleagues from the Bloc Québécois opposed that. I wonder why they did that, when we wanted to encourage everyone.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-28 11:42 [p.152]
Madam Speaker, all Canadians want Parliament to function properly. All Canadians care about what is going on with health care. All Canadians, particularly folks in Quebec and Ontario, are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. We need measured, worthwhile, relevant action, but we believe that must happen through healthy democratic debate. What we are seeing now is anything but.
The government is about to introduce legislation that will result in $57 billion in spending, and it is reducing the time parliamentarians have to speak on the bill to barely four and a half hours.
This is anything but parliamentary democracy. As elected officials, we have a duty to hold the government accountable. We were elected to ask the government what it is doing, how it is doing it and why. With four and a half hours of debate, we cannot hope to understand where the $57 billion is going. Unfortunately, that is what the government is forcing us to do, and we condemn it in the strongest terms.
Why are we here today? We are here because we are concerned about the health situation of Canadians. We are concerned about the survival of Canadian businesses. We are concerned about Canadian workers who are out of jobs because of the pandemic. We are concerned because the Liberal government tabled some ideas, proposals and policies that created a lack of manpower and businesses were forced to close.
In my riding, many restaurants and other businesses closed their doors because they needed workers but instead people preferred not to work and to use what we call in French the PCU.
The debate is serious, which is why we must take the necessary time to study the measures the government is proposing.
All of us on this side want to help Canadians. All of us on this side want to help the business community. All of us on this side are concerned about the health of Canadians and want to help everybody on that issue. All of us on this side want to work hand in hand with the provinces. On this side, we are not going to say what is good for the provinces but rather ask how we can help them. That is the Conservative view, not the Liberal one.
What we have today in front of us is a government that acted at the last minute. The government decided to have just four and a half hours of debate for $50 billion in taxpayers' money. This is unparliamentary, and we strongly disagree with the approach of the government.
We are here today because the government has acted in an unfortunate way in recent weeks. We should remember that when the pandemic broke out, we had urgent action to take. We worked with the government, but we also took the government to task on a number of occasions. I will come back to that later. We wanted to work together. That is why we agreed to have the hybrid Parliament and why we agreed to have committees. We were doing our job, which is really relevant.
Some senior members in our party, including the hon. member for Carleton, the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton, just to name a few, asked questions that were very relevant to the WE scandal, but awkward for the government. The government had decided to give $900 million to friends of the regime without a call for tenders. Once it started really feeling the heat, the Liberal government decided to kill parliamentary democracy by proroguing the session.
Let's keep in mind that, in 2015, these paragons of virtue said that they would never use prorogation and that they would never prevent parliamentarians from expressing themselves, but they did at the first opportunity.
We would not be where we are today had the government allowed parliamentarians to continue doing their job, yet that is exactly what the government is encouraging us to do. For six weeks, we were unable to do our job as parliamentarians, a necessary job.
The government recalled the House with a throne speech last week. The very next day, it introduced Bill C-2, which includes budgetary measures to help Canadians.
We understand that time is running out because of the sunset clauses on government measures. Because of these sunset clauses, the House has to vote on certain issues before October 1, but the government is the one in charge of the calendar. It is the government that decided to shut down committees and close Parliament six weeks ago. It is the government that decided to recall the House last week when it could have easily done so earlier. The government could have easily allowed Parliament to do its work in committee, but no.
These people who really enjoy controlling Parliament and the situation have made it so that we have just a few hours before the sunset clauses take effect. They bear all the responsibility for that.
It is very funny to hear the government House leader saying that Liberals want to walk together and work together and that there is no time for political games. This is exactly what they are doing. We are not working together. They want to work all by themselves. They say they do not want to play political games. That is exactly what they are doing right now. We have $50 billion in front of us that we have to debate and they are letting parliamentarians talk about it for only four and a half hours. This is a big joke. This is everything but parliamentary democracy. We need to work together, obviously, but we need the tools to do that and what the government is tabling today does everything but give parliamentarians the right tools to do the work.
Conservatives are here for Canadians. I can assure everyone that we will stand by our guns in this situation because we need to work correctly, and that is exactly what we intend to do.
Last week the government introduced Bill C-2. We saw millions of dollars' worth of spending on the horizon. After question period last Thursday, the government House leader told us that Monday and Tuesday, so today and tomorrow, would be dedicated to Bill C-2, which was fine.
Even then we realized that we might not have enough time to really get to the bottom of things. Acting in good faith and to avoid partisan games, we proposed something that we thought was entirely fair and appropriate and that, above all, would mean that we could get the work done. We proposed meeting on Sunday in committee of the whole for over six hours to allow four ministers to appear before us and answer questions from the opposition and the government, in order to get to the bottom of the matter in relation to Bill C-2. That is our job as parliamentarians.
That is the way Conservatives are working. We have to hold the government to account. We are here to ask questions and the ministers are here to answer questions.
Being in cabinet is a privilege. If the gods and my leader are willing, maybe one day I myself will be in cabinet. Who knows? At any rate, being a minister is certainly something.
The ministers we hoped would answer questions before this committee were serious ministers, senior ministers who are responsible for billions of dollars. We wanted to hear from the Minister of Finance. We wanted to hear from the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, as well as the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Labour. These four ministers played a central part in the discussions surrounding Bill C-2, which represents more than $50 billion in spending. They could have answered the committee's questions. However, our proposal was declined. We were fine with that, because it is part of the democratic process.
A few hours later, however, we found out that the government and the NDP had hammered out an agreement on Bill C-2. That agreement was negotiated in a proper democratic fashion. We are not going to raise a fuss over it.
We will see how the debates go. What points will people raise about the bill that is about to be introduced? What are members going to be able to say in a mere four and a half hours about $57 billion in proposed spending?
This is the key element of this debate today. The government is asking taxpayers to spend $57 billion and we, the representatives of Canadians, will only have four and a half hours of discussion and debate. That is absolutely not enough, and there is no partisanship in that. Those are the facts. Technically speaking, we need to go deeply into this bill. We need to know exactly what the intention of the government is. We have a job to do, but the government, which killed the parliamentary process this summer and dodged the responsibility it had to work with other parties, decided to kill our responsibility to go deeply into the bill.
When the Liberals are attacking us on that, they are not attacking us; they are attacking Canadians. Canadians deserve answers. Canadians have elected us to ask tough questions. I know them. I know they are ready to answer that. Let us do our jobs. The government is not doing that right now.
It might come as a surprise to some of us that the government would treat parliamentary procedure so grievously.
I have had the privilege of representing the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent for almost five years now. I cannot thank them enough for electing me twice. This is not the first time in the past five years that this government's approach to the rights, privileges and responsibilities of all parliamentarians, including those in opposition, has been a little too authoritarian.
Members will recall the infamous Motion No. 6 tabled in May 2016. It gave the government extraordinary powers to ram through bills that should have been given more serious attention.
Sadly, we all remember how that led to a deeply unfortunate and disgraceful incident: the Prime Minister left his seat, grabbed an opposition member—our party whip—by the arm and marched him across the chamber like a crook.
This was called “elbowgate”. The Prime Minister crossed the floor, grabbing a political adversary and using it just like that. That was everything but good. That was a shame. I have never seen an act so disgraceful, and it was coming from the top, the Prime Minister. Why? Because we were asking to have a friendly debate, and Motion No. 6 was anything but that. The Prime Minister was not happy with our position and he did something very wrong. Obviously, he excused himself the day after. He did what he had to do.
We were then able to proceed. However, the government's main intention with Motion No. 6 was to hinder the work of parliamentarians, especially opposition members.
A year later in May 2017, the government did exactly the same thing. It once again proposed measures aimed at limiting parliamentary work, especially that of the opposition and particularly in committee. Thanks to a vigilant opposition and our tireless work at committee trying to block this measure, the government realized that it made no sense.
A number of bills were introduced in May 2019. The government wanted them to pass after just minutes, never mind hours, of debate. It was unacceptable.
Hon. members will also recall that in the winter of 2019, when another Liberal scandal, the SNC-Lavalin one, had just erupted, the government decided to put an end to the parliamentary committee's work. That was also unacceptable.
This Liberal government's first Parliament ended with 63 time allocation motions. Yes, the current government imposed 63 gag orders. That was also unacceptable.
As I said earlier, during the campaign, the Liberals said that they would be very frank and very honest with all parliamentarians, that they would make Parliament work, that they would not prorogue the House. However, that is what they did. They also adopted 63 time allocation motions. This is anything but parliamentary freedom and this is everything but good parliamentary attitude.
We ended up with this new Parliament following the election. When the COVID-19 crisis began, all members from all parties worked in good faith for the good of Canadians. Obviously we had to give the government certain powers, as the situation was unforeseen. Nevertheless, the Liberals gave themselves powers that were excessive, to say the least.
Let's not forget that the first version of Bill C-13 would have allowed the government to take measures and write cheques at will until the end of 2021. They were very ambitious, not to mention greedy. That was not what needed to be done. Our vigilance, and that of the other parties, ensured that the government backed down.
That was a good indication that the government was very ambitious. When it came time to say that this was an extraordinary situation and that Parliament could not sit in its usual fashion, the government decided to give itself all sorts of powers until December 2021.
How could we accept the fact that the government was ready to have full power for more than a year and a half? That is not parliamentary democracy. Canada deserves better. We understand and recognize that we to address some situations if some emergency arises, but we shall respect the responsibility of parliamentarians. Again, this morning the government is so happy to shut down the parliamentary system and this is unacceptable to us.
We are very sad to see that the government wants to muzzle parliamentarians once again. The Conservatives are well aware that we need proper measures for Canadians and that these measures have to correspond to the needs of Canadian families, that we must take into account Canadian businesses that are facing tough challenges, that we must take into account Canadian workers who lost their jobs, and that we must take into account the men and women with children who are worried.
Indeed, we have measures to bring in. Indeed, we must work together. Indeed, we must put partisanship aside in order to act for the good of Canadians. However, we have a job to do, and when the government is getting ready to spend $57 billion, we think parliamentarians should do their job. Four and a half hours does not leave enough time for us to do our job properly.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Therefore, I move the following amendment:
That the motion be amended:
(a) in paragraph (b), by replacing the words “not be deferred”, with the words “be deferred until the expiry of time provided for Oral Questions at the next sitting day which is not a Friday”; and
(b) by replacing paragraphs (c) to (e) with the following:
“(c) if the bill is adopted at second reading, it shall be referred to a committee of the whole and the House shall, when the orders of the day are next called after the bill has been read the second time, resolve itself into a committee of the whole on the said bill, provided that:
(i) the committee be subject to the provisions relating to virtual sittings of the House,
(ii) the Speaker may preside,
(iii) the Chair may preside from the Speaker’s chair,
(iv) the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and the Minister of Labour be invited to appear,
(v) each minister shall be questioned for 95 minutes, provided that:
(A) the chair shall call members from all recognized parties and one member who does not belong to a recognized party in a fashion consistent with the proportions observed during Oral Questions, following the rotation used for question by the former Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic;
(B) no member shall be recognized for more than five minutes at a time which may be used for posing questions;
(C) members may be permitted to spilt their time with one or more members by so indicating to the chair, and
(D) questions shall be answered by the minister or another minister acting on her or his behalf,
(vi) notices of amendments to the bill to be considered in committee of the whole may be deposited with the Clerk of the House at any time following the adoption of this order until the conclusion of the second hour of debate in committee of the whole,
(vii) at the conclusion of time provided for questioning ministers, or when no member rises to speak, whichever is earlier, the Chair shall put forthwith and successively every question necessary to dispose of the committee stage of the bill, including each amendment deposited with the Clerk of the House pursuant to subparagraph (vi);
(d) once the bill has been reported from the committee of the whole, the Speaker shall put forthwith and successively every question necessary to dispose of the report and third reading stages of the bill, provided that no recorded division shall be deferred; and
(e) the Standing Orders relating to the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be suspended while the bill is being considered under the provisions of this order”.
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
The amendment is in order.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-09-28 12:04 [p.155]
Madam Speaker, I listened to the opposition House leader and a major aspect is missing from his speech. In order for the House to proceed in a fashion where there is a great deal of constructive debate, we need the co-operation of opposition parties.
It does not take very much to filibuster a bill, let alone in any important message that comes out of the House of Commons. We all know that. If an opposition party wants to prevent something from taking place or cause frustration, it only takes a few members to do that. The Conservatives have demonstrated over the last five years that their priority is to make the House look dysfunctional. During the coronavirus pandemic, we are looking for a higher sense of co-operation from the Conservatives and opposition parties. We would like that higher sense of co-operation.
If it were up to the opposition House leader and he could wave his wand, when would he want this measure to pass? How many hours of debate would the member want in order to allow it to pass? Would he strive to achieve that within the next 24 hours?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-28 12:05 [p.155]
Madam Speaker, I would not say “arrogant” or “funny”, but I would try to find a word between the two, because what we are seeing now from the government is a total lack of responsibility. We also see the government's intention to kill the job we have to do here.
Why did I use the word “kill”? It is because that is exactly what the government did six weeks ago. It decided to kill parliamentary procedure by proroguing. Had it not done that, we could have worked hand in hand this summer to reach an agreement. We could have worked correctly as parliamentarians.
This was shown to us last week. The government decided to have a throne speech at the end of the month of September, which is its choice, even though it knew all this reassurance would be coming at the end of September. It calls the shots.
Seeing that, what did we do as parliamentarians? We acted responsibly. On Friday morning my colleagues and I tabled a motion offering the government the opportunity to go deep into Bill C-2. We called for a committee of the whole on Sunday for six full hours, with four senior cabinet ministers answering questions. That is what parliamentarians are all about. That is what we asked for, and the Liberals refused.
View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-09-28 12:07 [p.156]
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent on his appointment as House leader. I also look forward to hearing from his party's new Quebec lieutenant, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who is a very outspoken individual.
I would like to ask my colleague what he thinks was the reason for the prorogation. We know that, during a pandemic, people want swift and pragmatic action. The government decided to put the House on hold for six weeks. We could have passed this bill much sooner and we could have focused on things that are a little more important, such as a real recovery plan. The Speech from the Throne was a pretentious petition that many thought was lacklustre. We lost six weeks. That is a lot of time.
I would like the House leader of the official opposition to tell me what he thinks was the reason for the prorogation.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-28 12:08 [p.156]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière for his kind words. I really appreciate it. We are going to continue to work for the good of Quebeckers and Canadians.
The reason the government decided to kill off Parliament two months ago is perfectly simple: it was stuck in a quagmire of its own making with WE Charity, and it desperately needed a way out.
Let's not forget that at the very moment when the government or the Prime Minister announced the prorogation of the House, we, the Conservatives, had just received 5,000 pages of documents about the WE Charity scandal, 1,000 pages of which had been redacted. It is easy to see why the government wanted to keep parliamentarians from doing their job. It is precisely because we were doing our job, the job we were elected to do, namely asking questions and holding the government accountable.
The Right Hon. Prime Minister of Canada once made a shockingly dishonourable remark that may have revealed his true mindset. He said he had a level of admiration for China's dictatorship.
Unfortunately for him, we are not a dictatorship like China. We are the Parliament of Canada, and all Canadians need to work together for the good of the entire country.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-09-28 12:10 [p.156]
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague the opposition House leader talked about the government's prorogation of Parliament, something we are also deeply concerned about, and that the Liberals waited until today, the day after the end of CERB and the end of supports for workers and for businesses that closed their doors for public health. These people are vulnerable right now. Many of them are suffering from mental health challenges because they are worried about how they are going to pay their bills. That is something we agree on.
I am wondering where the Conservatives sit regarding paid sick days. The member talked about the NDP working with the Liberals to move this forward because of the desperation that is going on right now. We know many workers are going to the workplace while sick. In fact, low-income workers are more likely to take unpaid leave than are their high-income counterparts. Only 14% of workers earning less than $16,000 took paid leave, compared with 70% of those earning more than $96,000 a year; this is from the Huffington Post. Workers are going to work sick. They are putting their colleagues at risk and they are putting businesses at risk. These businesses could be brought to their knees if people get sick and the virus spreads.
Do my colleague and the Conservatives support increasing workers' sick days to 10 working days so that people can stay home when they are showing symptoms of the virus? This is not just important for workers. It is also important for the economy. I wonder if the Conservatives and my colleague support our efforts in pushing for this and making sure this happens.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-28 12:11 [p.156]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the NDP for his important and passionate question. I do recognize his passion for those issues. That is what democracy is all about; we have to share our positions.
This is why we totally disagree with what the government is doing right now. The government wants to kill that kind of debate. The government does not want to see us asking tough questions or tabling where we are so that we are sure that our position is well known.
This is why we had the proposition to have a committee of the whole. We were ready to sit here in the House of Commons as a committee of the whole on Sunday just to be sure that we were doing our job. The government did not agree with our proposition, but, more than that, it decided to have only four and a half hours of debate. The question raised by my colleague is quite important. This is why we need to debate this correctly in the House, not only for four and a half hours.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Brassard Profile
2020-09-28 12:12 [p.156]
Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the beginning of this crisis when all of these pieces of legislation were being proposed by the government. I am going to give credit where credit is due, not just to the Conservative side but to all sides of this House, for the work that was done to make those bills better and to recognize that in many cases they were woefully inadequate.
To use a couple of examples, the wage subsidy initially proposed a 10% wage subsidy, but it was the opposition, all of us, that spoke to the government because we were hearing from our constituents that it was woefully inadequate. There were changes made to the CERB, changes made to the CEBA and changes made to rent relief because all parliamentarians worked with this team Canada approach. We went to the government and said, “These are the changes that need to be made”.
When these pieces of legislation were first introduced, a lot of the deficiencies in them were not known until after the bill had been rammed through Parliament. What is the value of having committees? What is the value of having parliamentarians deal with these pieces of legislation to improve them for Canadians and for the businesses that employ people?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-28 12:14 [p.157]
Madam Speaker, my colleague from Ontario has detailed quite clearly why we need to have good parliamentary debate. This is exactly why we are asking the government to let us do our job.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, naturally, I rise to speak to Bill C-2, an act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19.
Sometimes the saying “better late than never” applies, but not here since it is too late for the bill before us. In fact, the three economic support benefits in this bill, which affect thousands of workers and were announced by the government on August 20, are still not in place, while the CERB ended yesterday. Why is that?
The reason is that this government, which was involved in another major scandal, the WE Charity scandal, deliberately chose to prorogue the House for petty political considerations. If that is not partisanship, I do not know what is. It has left thousands of people in the lurch, in a state of distress and uncertainty. It is scandalous.
Long before now, long before the crisis started, we knew that the EI social safety net was torn and needed a complete overhaul so that it could fulfill its purpose. The eligibility criteria, coverage, duration, benefit amount and funding arrangements all needed to be reviewed.
Without going into details on the regular EI program, I want to remind all members that only about 40% of workers are currently covered. Among women, youth and seasonal workers, that figure is even lower. Self-employed, part-time and contract workers are not eligible at all. That is why action is needed, and we knew that long ago.
At the height of the crisis, nearly nine million workers became unemployed. It became glaringly obvious that our EI regime was unable to do what it was designed to do and insure and protect workers in the event of unemployment. That is why the government implemented the CERB.
On April 11, the current President of the Treasury Board said the government knew that the EI safety net had a few too many holes in it and did not provide sufficient coverage. However, the government did not move forward with its reform quickly enough, even though in 2016, during the previous Parliament, the Liberal government had promised to conduct a broad review of the EI system and modernize our income support system for unemployed workers, since this social safety net was failing too many of them.
It is even more troubling, and indeed downright outrageous, to see in the throne speech just how quick the Prime Minister was to interfere more and more in areas of provincial jurisdiction while being so agonizingly slow, so lax, in taking care of the federal government's own social programs for workers and seniors. We therefore join the consensus among politicians in Quebec and call on the federal government to mind its own business and look after its own affairs.
As we know, strong measures to help workers and support employment must be the cornerstones of the economic recovery. In fact, it was the Bloc Québécois that proposed that the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency student benefit include employment incentives. Our hope was that these benefits would support two objectives, namely to provide support while creating jobs. Despite the government's firm commitment to the House on April 29 to attain both objectives, nothing has been done.
Furthermore, the government knew that many workers who had lost their jobs because of the crisis would not qualify for EI when the CERB ended. For that reason, the government decided to relax the EI rules and make the program more accessible.
We welcome these adjustments. However, there is more work to be done, because even with less stringent rules, not all workers in need qualify. Today, more than 900,000 workers are wondering whether they will qualify for EI and, if not, whether they will be eligible for the measures we will be voting on.
Today, self-employed workers, workers in non-standard jobs and seasonal workers need help more than ever before.
This state of uncertainty—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Order. Could the hon. member repeat her last sentence? I think the mic cut off. I am sorry, I moved.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
No problem, Madam Speaker. At worst, I will repeat myself.
Today, self-employed workers, workers in non-standard jobs and seasonal workers need help now more than ever before.
Leaving our constituents in this state of uncertainty is unacceptable, and we must do everything we can to prevent these workers from slipping into poverty.
We could have passed the new measures sooner, but the government decided to prorogue Parliament, thereby delaying passage of the necessary measures in Bill C-2. Once again, we condemn this government tactic.
Let's not forget that in June, the Trudeau government was making headlines with its inept mishandling—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Order. I would remind the hon. member that the use of members' names is not permitted.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I will try not to do it again.
The Liberal government made headlines for mishandling the Canada student service grant program by asking WE Charity to manage it. The government did everything it could to keep this quiet, and it put protecting its image ahead of helping workers and managing the crisis.
Why did the government prorogue Parliament for five weeks when it could have taken action in July? We sat during the summer, and the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities could easily have been called upon, because it was sitting to discuss these matters. The government could have prorogued Parliament for just 24 hours.
We believe that the prorogation of Parliament was just another Liberal tactic to draw a red herring across the trail. It is another example of the government's ineptitude. The Liberals were more concerned about protecting their image than giving priority to workers in need. What is more, this approach is a blatant example of this government's lack of respect for the work of Parliament.
We could have taken the time to study the bill properly and hear from witnesses in order to fix any problems, but now we are being forced to adopt it right away. That is unacceptable.
We are in favour of using a more flexible EI program to transition away from CERB. That is what we asked for. We are also happy with the three economic benefits in the bill we are debating even though we condemn the government's way of doing things.
However, we must remind the House and the government that this new flexibility and Bill C-2 are only the first step toward true employment insurance reform.
I would also like to point out that these new measures will be in effect for just one year. What happens 12 months from now? As we said, employment insurance needs real reform and has for quite some time. I think this is the time to decide what the future looks like.
A number of unions and groups advocating for the unemployed have already expressed their enthusiasm for the measures that are going to be adopted. However, all these groups have also insisted that the new measures lay the groundwork for a future overhaul. We stand with Quebec workers in calling for these changes.
I would also point out that the adjustments made and the measures introduced today do not solve all the problems with EI; far from it. Let me remind hon. members that I myself presented a motion to the House that was unanimously adopted, to increase the special EI sickness benefits from the current 15 weeks to 50 weeks. The situation is critical for these individuals, too. We do not have a minute to waste. Why did the government not use this as an opportunity to address the matter of sickness benefits and extend them immediately?
In closing, I would like to reiterate that we want this bill to pass. We owe it to Quebec's workers and to everyone whose CERB ended yesterday. We cannot leave anyone in the uncertainty and anguish they are feeling today.
Our hope today is that this government will finally decide to take a serious look at the EI reforms that are needed and not let any future scandals distract it from this crucial objective.
I ask today, is the government prepared to go ahead with a long-term reform of the EI system?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-09-28 12:27 [p.158]
Madam Speaker, indeed, the minister responsible has done an incredible job in terms of the amount of effort. I suspect if we were still giving out those awards, I would be nominating her for the hardest-working member of Parliament, especially over the last eight months. Virtually day in and day out, seven days a week, there has been a tremendous amount of consultation and working with Canadians.
The member made reference to the bill and that it is there to help and continue to provide the support that is absolutely essential to Canadians, which is why it is so very important that we see the legislation passed.
However, the member had concerns in regard to the manipulation of Parliament. I would ask her to provide some comment and indicate the last time the Prime Minister and the ministers made themselves available right here on the floor of the House of Commons during the months of July and August, when literally hundreds of questions were asked by opposition members and answered. I can't recall that happening in the last 30 years.
Can the member opposite tell me the last time that happened in the House of Commons and questions were put forward?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, the government is not answering questions from the opposition or from parliamentarians. We need to get back to the bill before us today.
Earlier, I heard the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say that we need to act now. He said that we need to leave politics aside and work together to help all Canadians. He said that Canadians need our help.
How disappointing. We had plenty of time to work on this between June and August, when we had a set schedule and already knew that the Canada emergency wage benefit would be coming to an end. They prorogued the House on August 18 and announced the three new measures on August 20. That seemed shifty to me.
If the government is wondering when we were last consulted, the answer is “never”.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-28 12:29 [p.159]
Madam Speaker, the member raised some very important points in her remarks, such as the right of parliamentarians to do their jobs. She did a fine job illustrating the fact that the government was caught red-handed in the WE Charity scandal, so it decided to shut down Parliament. Two days later, it presented some financial measures that are included in the bill. For six weeks, we were unable to do our jobs as parliamentarians.
Why does the member think that the government decided to muzzle opposition members?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, we did not get time to discuss it. We could also use some forward planning. It is not always possible to manage things as if it is an emergency.
In my speech, I wanted to show that even before the CERB was introduced, we knew that the main social safety net, the EI program, would not meet needs in the event of a crisis. The program has been slashed repeatedly by government after government over the past 25 years. If we had taken the time to have this conversation, we would not be in the situation we are in today, neither when the CERB was active nor today.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-09-28 12:31 [p.159]
Madam Speaker, here we are. The benefits of the CERB ran out last night at midnight, and we are rushing through legislation right now to get people help. I agree with my colleague that the government prorogued Parliament at a time when people needed help the most.
Right now, we are seeing people fall through the cracks, such as those who have closed their businesses and workers who do not have a job to go back to. They need help. In my riding, many people did not qualify for the first fish harvester benefit and grant program that the government rolled out. We have a crisis with our wild salmon right now. Fishers are not on the water fishing when they should be, and this is impacting them right now. It is so important that we get support for workers.
Does my colleague support the idea that benefits should not be cut? The government proposed cutting CERB payments from $2,000 to $1,600. Does my colleague agree that it should stay at $2,000? Even with that, it will be difficult for many families to survive this pandemic and get through it, especially with the second wave hitting our country particularly in Quebec right now.
I wonder if my colleague supports standing up for workers and the people who need the support, such as business owners and those collecting the CERB as we walk toward this new EI. I am very grateful to hear the member speak about the need to reform EI. Clearly, that is evident in this crisis.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I hope this answer is clear: The Bloc Québécois supports EI reform.
Currently, 3.5 million workers are still unemployed. The more flexible employment insurance system will therefore pay at least $500 to those who qualify for EI.
The new Canada recovery benefit targets those in certain age groups or working in seasonal industries or other economic sectors such as accommodation and tourism. These folks have nothing in front of them. They do not qualify for EI. They should have received the new benefit we are considering, not the day after tomorrow, but yesterday.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, my question is for my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville.
For years, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for EI reform to help workers who experience the spring gap, who are not eligible for EI, who are self-employed or who do not have access to sickness benefits.
Since the COVID-19 crisis, the government has woken up and realized that the EI system is not working. There is a problem with it. We are unable to help all those who are losing their jobs. We are seeing that all of the cuts that have been made over the years by Liberal and Conservative governments were not a good idea.
The government rushed to create the CERB during the crisis. That caused problems because it disincentivized work. Rather than holding a meaningful debate, the government created the CERB. Then the WE Charity scandal broke out, and the government decided to shut down Parliament.
Is that something that frustrates my colleague?
If the government had dealt with it from the beginning, perhaps the EI problem would not be as serious as it is today and we would be in a better position. Perhaps the government would not have created programs that disincentivize work, or any other hastily designed programs that ultimately fail to solve the problem.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for his question.
It does not make me sad. It makes me mad. Civil society groups in Quebec and across Canada have been demanding change for 15 years. There have been no significant changes to EI in 15 years.
The purpose of EI is to protect workers who lose their jobs, to protect the unemployed. That is all it is supposed to do. The system has not been changed in 15 years. Actually, it has been changed for the worse, whittled away little by little. It is outrageous.
That is why I am seizing this opportunity. We have time to really undertake a complete overhaul of the EI system. We do not want to find ourselves in another economic crisis or health crisis, wondering if the program is doing what it is supposed to be doing.
I think there have been a lot of missed opportunities, even though this has been pointed out plenty of times.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-09-28 12:37 [p.160]
Madam Speaker, what an honour it has been to have the opportunity to represent the people of Elmwood—Transcona throughout the course of a very challenging time in our history.
I was elected not quite a year ago with the general mandate to defend the interests of working people here in Ottawa and to try to make Parliament work for people. That has been foremost in my mind and in the work of the NDP throughout the course of this pandemic, which could not have been foreseen at the time of the last election. Nevertheless it is our responsibility as public office holders to deal with it, in the best way we possibly can.
Many things have been called into question about the way we did things before the pandemic. There are many urgent questions about how we deal with the particularities of the pandemic and the challenges it presents.
We have heard a lot from other opposition parties today about the challenge to parliamentary process. Is that the main thing that the people we represent are concerned about? It is certainly something that is important. It matters how things work here. It matters that we are able to hold the government to account, but is it the main thing that ought to preoccupy us on a day when the income support program that has been sustaining Canadian households throughout this pandemic expired yesterday at midnight? I think not.
I think it is incumbent upon us to be a little flexible in our understanding of parliamentary process at this time. We can continue to talk about the role that the government played in creating this situation, where Parliament has not had more time. Nevertheless, we find ourselves here and have to respond to that situation. I hope Canadians will have been paying attention to the way that the government manufactured this sense of urgency and judge its members appropriately at election time.
We can talk about the economic crisis. It was severe. There is a lot that Parliament and the government need to do to avoid the economic threats that the pandemic presents. Of course, the CERB has been a very important part of heading off those threats to the economy. It has helped the economy continue as best it can in very difficult circumstances by ensuring that people have money to pay their landlords to stay housed, by ensuring that people have some money to put food on the table, and by ensuring that people have some money to spend in their local economy to help businesses that are struggling.
Those are all things that are very important, but first and foremost what we are called to respond to is the very real story of human tragedy that the pandemic has given rise to. We know that what people are struggling with, and what is top of mind for them, is a sense of fear because they have lost their jobs. In some cases people have gone back to work, which is great.
For other people, their entire industry has been called into question, with the future of their industry being on the ropes. Not only are they not back to work, but they are not sure if there will ever be work to go back to, in the industry that they worked in before, in the way that they knew it prior to the pandemic.
We know people have been overtaken with grief at the loss of loved ones, particularly in personal care homes. They were not able to go to visit someone at the height of the first wave. We are concerned as we enter into a second wave that families will find themselves in that position again, or that families will be limited to one visitor or none at all for a relative in a hospital. It may not be that someone is sick with COVID-19, but because they have another issue that has landed them in the hospital, concerned family members are challenged by not being able to see them.
We can think of people living in indigenous communities who have been abused for far too long. They worry about systemic problems that have led to overcrowded housing and a lack of clean drinking water, and what it will mean for their communities, families and loved ones if the virus enters their community. There have been travel bans put in place. It has made life hard for people.
These are the things that people are really worried about and they have been foremost in the minds of the NDP members and our work.
What can Parliament and government do to support Canadians as they deal with all of those consequences of the pandemic, on top of the challenges that they already had in their lives? As they try to manage that stress and they try to show compassion and care for the people around them, what can we do to ensure that we do not pile additional unneeded stress, particularly financial stress, on top of all those many concerns?
That is what the Canada emergency response benefit was meant to do. It was something that we had to fight for, initially. I remember sitting here, in this very place, prior to the initial lockdown, listening to the NDP leader question the Prime Minister about what they were going to do to support families as we headed toward lockdown. I remember, very distinctly, the Prime Minister talking about tinkering with the employment insurance system, a system that has long been broken and not serving Canadians well who have paid into that insurance program to support them when they are out of work. We knew that was not going to be enough. We knew that playing at the edges of that broken employment insurance system was not going to support Canadians through it.
New Democrats pushed for a basic income for all Canadians during this time that would be taxed back from those who did not need it at the end of the fiscal year, as a way to get help out as quickly as possible to as many Canadians as possible. We negotiated with a government that was determined to have an exclusionary approach to income, to decide who was deserving and who was not deserving. That is how the CERB was born.
Then, in the subsequent months, we spent a lot of work championing the cause of many different groups of Canadians who were left out by that exclusionary approach. I am thinking especially of persons living with disabilities, because we did, through multiple rounds of negotiations, finally convince the government to make some income support available for persons living with disabilities. It was not the kind of support we wanted to see. It was to be a one-time payment. It is shameful that that money has not yet been delivered. It was meant to be an emergency support payment, and people living with disabilities in Canada are still waiting.
Seniors were left out. It could be that the income of some seniors who have the good fortune of having a defined benefit plan did not change, but their circumstances changed. The support networks that they knew, the friends and family who would come and help them to do laundry and get groceries, were now being asked not to go to their parents' place or their grandparents' place. That meant that in order for seniors to replace the work that was done in that support network, money was required for laundry services, for grocery delivery, for whatever it may be.
We fought hard to try to get support for seniors as well. That payment was made, but it was only a one-time payment. We know that this pandemic is going to last a long time. That is why we need better solutions that build towards a better Canada that supports its seniors and that supports its people living with disabilities.
We fought for students who were left completely out of the CERB, notwithstanding the fact that we all knew that their summer employment prospects were not going to be the same as they had been before and that finding a job that could support them in paying their tuition in the fall was going to be impossible. Also, not every student is a kid living in their parents' basement. That is the impression we got from the government, while negotiating for the student benefit. That is simply not true. A lot of students are supporting themselves and supporting families as they go to school. They have to pay rent and put food on the table, and they were not able to get employment.
The government finally, after New Democrats pushing for students to be on the CERB, set up an entirely separate benefit that paid less. One of the reasons the government said it was justified in paying students less and having a whole separate administration, bureaucracy and program for students was because they were going to have an excellent summer work program that was going to top up students' benefits. That came to be known as the WE Charity scandal. That money has not flowed to students in any way, shape or form. That employment was never created. In fact, we found out that that money really was a targeted benefit for certain wealthy and well-connected friends of the Liberal Party, including their own family members, to the great shame of the government.
Part of the reason why we are in the urgent scenario that we are in is because they did such a terrible job of that. It was so obscene that the Prime Minister felt he had to prorogue Parliament just to escape scrutiny from it. That meant that Parliament did not have the time it ought to have had, and could have had, if Parliament had not been prorogued.
The economic challenges of the pandemic are not going away. They are not going to go away until we get back to normal, and that is going to take a significant amount of time. As I said earlier, the CERB expired yesterday at midnight, so we now find ourselves in a position where a significant portion of the over four million people who were still on CERB now do not have anything in place. We heard some discussion of this earlier in the House, and I think everybody is quite right to feel a great sense of frustration at the government that it came to this point. The NDP had negotiated a series of summer sittings, once every two weeks, partly to check in and make sure that the government was not misappropriating funds or spending them on its friends in inappropriate ways. It is a good thing we had those summer sittings, because we learned a lot about what the government was doing behind closed doors.
However, we did not get to have the last one, during which we could have done one of two things.
First, we could have considered legislation for the government's new program. We know that they knew the details, because they announced all of the details of the program the day after the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament. The idea that this was not ready to go or that we could not have had that discussion in August is simply false. We know they were ready to have that conversation, but they decided not to for reasons that had to do with their own political interests and nothing to do with the public interest. I submit that in that moment the government lost sight of the real stories of human tragedy that the pandemic has engendered and the importance of the role of government in supporting Canadians through this time. Had that been foremost in their minds, they would not have prorogued Parliament. They would have brought this legislation to us then.
Second, the NDP called for Parliament to resume earlier, for an earlier Speech from the Throne. Anybody familiar with Liberal election platforms for the last 30 years could have mocked up that Speech from the Throne on the back of a napkin in about half an hour. There was nothing special in that Speech from the Throne; there was nothing new. There was nothing even particularly eloquent about it. There was no good reason to wait on this important work for that Speech from the Throne, so we could have gotten that done. They could have done that a lot sooner. It was a canned speech as far as I am concerned. We could have been dealing with this and subjected it to more and appropriate scrutiny.
However, there is no doubt that there is an urgent need for this help, because we find ourselves where we find ourselves. We can play the blame game, but I think Canadians want us to move beyond that. Assigning political blame should not be a recipe for paralysis in a crisis.
We do need to move forward. We do need to have something to replace the CERB. Finally, after weeks of no communication, the Liberals got serious about talking to opposition parties, and we were able to push them to stop the cut that they announced in August to the CERB benefit, from $2,000 a month to $1,600 a month, and get them to maintain that benefit level for Canadians who needed it. That was a real, productive outcome of those negotiations, even if they happened late.
Likewise, we were able to secure improvements to the government's sick leave plan, a sick leave plan that, incidentally, the government was opposed to for a long time. The NDP had to make it a real priority in our negotiations with the government to get a commitment to paid sick days for Canadians in the context of the pandemic. Then it took months for the Liberals to announce a plan, and when they finally announced it, they prorogued Parliament. There has been delay after delay after delay, but I think we have shown that when the government is finally ready to work, we are there ready to get to work right away. We are ready to make improvements to these measures on behalf of Canadians.
I will say once again that when it comes to laying blame for the situation that we find ourselves in, although this is not a recipe for us to not ensure there is something in place for Canadians, in a democracy the ultimate mechanism for accountability is an election. Even though we are going to do our job and make sure there is a program for Canadians in their time of need, I do hope that Canadians remember at election time, whether it is in a month from now, a year from now or three years from now, that the Liberal government was prepared to play political games with their futures and, if nothing else, even if this legislation passes expeditiously, to rob them of the time to plan for what the replacement would look like.
We know in this minority Parliament that it takes negotiation among the parties to get something passed. Canadians know that. They are not fools. Notwithstanding whatever the government announced in August, Canadians did not know what they could rely on until this moment, until there had been negotiations, and they will not know until the legislation is passed. That makes it very hard for them to plan for their futures.
That has been a theme of the government: It has been ragging the puck and making it hard for Canadians to plan month to month. We saw it with a couple of eleventh-hour extensions of the CERB. The government wasted that time instead of using it to come up with something that could have either replaced the CERB or extended the CERB for a longer period. We saw month-to-month extensions and then an extension over the summer, but that time was not properly used to develop an alternative that Canadians could rely on.
Despite the fact that we are prepared to support these measures as a matter of urgency, the paid sick leave provisions are not what Canadians deserve. Canadians, like workers in many other jurisdictions internationally, should have the right to 10 paid sick days from their employer on a permanent basis, regardless of what the illness is. In the bill the Liberals presented before, Bill C-2, we saw a very restrictive approach to these sick days and know they are only temporary. When the new bill is tabled, I am hoping and expecting very much to see expanded eligibility that makes it easier for Canadians to avail themselves of this sick leave, which is not quite COVID-specific. I hope it is just a stepping stone to get to the point where Canadians have permanent sick leave.
It is also relevant to the pandemic. What we want to do is take as many barriers off the table for Canadians that would cause them to question whether they are eligible for this benefit or not, because we saw this in the story of CERB and the attestation, as well as with the concern over the fraud provisions in Bill C-17. Canadians are honest, by and large, and they are deeply concerned about applying for benefits that they are unsure they qualify for. What was really important when it came to sick leave was to ensure that Canadians had the maximum level of comfort to be able to avail themselves of those provisions. Let us remember why these sick days are such an important tool for the pandemic. It is so that when Canadians wake up and are feeling sick, whether they are sneezing, coughing, have a headache or feel sick to their stomach, they can make the call to not go into work to protect their colleagues and their communities from the spread of a virus that we know is spreading rapidly. This is what we are asking people to do to prevent the spread of the virus, and they need the tools to be able to do that. Paid sick leave is an important tool.
We have pushed to try to make this as easy to access as possible in the context of a government that does not want to see 10 permanent sick days allocated to Canadians as a matter of right. That is unfortunate, but it is a battle we will continue to fight, notwithstanding supporting this legislation today. What we are doing today is getting something in place that can serve Canadians now. It is not building back better. It is not what we would like to see when it comes to having immediate solutions that build toward a brighter future. It is a band-aid solution, but one that is badly needed in the circumstances.
I hope one day Canadians will have a government that is willing to respond to a crisis in a way that sets us up to have a better future beyond the crisis, rather than just limping through. That is something Canadians can count on the NDP to continue fighting for here in this chamber.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, there has been a lot of discussion today about whether proroguing the House was necessary and why that happened, but when we think about what has taken place over the last six or seven months, we know billions and billions of dollars have been spent to assist Canadians. Quite often there was very little debate before those funds were approved by all parties of the House. It happened the majority of times when those bills came forward.
The thought that perhaps we needed to come back to the House to ask if the government was going in the right direction and whether we should continue down this path was extremely important. What we saw was one of the shortest prorogations in modern history. Only two sitting days were actually lost as a result of it.
I find the comments from my NDP colleague very interesting because I thought the New Democrats were on board with the Speech from the Throne and were going to vote in favour of it. Now I hear him talking about horrible it is, that it was not even eloquent and that it did not have anything good in it. Is he going against his party? Is he not going to vote in favour of the Speech from the Throne?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-09-28 12:58 [p.163]
Madam Speaker, I do not feel quite right dignifying that with a response.
What the New Democrats have been doing is working with a government that we are quite critical of. We were elected to a minority Parliament, as were they, and we said we would come to Ottawa and make Parliament work as best we could for people. That is the work that we continue to do, notwithstanding the shenanigans of the Liberal Party. We will work as best we can. As long as we can find agreement on a path forward that is better for Canadians than what they would get if the Liberals were simply left to their own devices, we will continue to do that work. That is what we are here to do.
It came as no surprise to me that it was not a very inspiring Speech from the Throne. That was not my criterion. I was not looking to be inspired by a Prime Minister who has had ethical scandal after ethical scandal and is clearly looking to help his friends. What I was looking for is an opportunity to do my work and leverage more out of the government for ordinary Canadians who it does not think about enough, frankly, and I will continue to do that work for as long as I can.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Brassard Profile
2020-09-28 12:59 [p.163]
Madam Speaker, I think the hon. member would agree with me that Matt Gurney of the National Post described the throne speech best when he said it was bizarre.
I really appreciate what the hon. member had to say and his interventions in the House because he speaks with passion. He speaks succinctly and with reason as well. During his speech, he mentioned band-aid solutions. We saw that very early on in this crisis when the government was trying to ram through legislation without any parliamentary oversight, without any committee work, without the ability of stakeholders or advocates across this country to really assess those pieces of legislation and allow them to be better, better from the stakeholder and advocate perspective, better from parliamentarians' perspectives and certainly better for Canadians.
I wonder if the hon. member agrees with me. If we are proposing to spend $57 billion for programs that Canadians need, would it not be wise to have this go through the normal parliamentary process, putting it through committees to hear from people who are affected by these programs to see whether they are negatively affected and whether there is more that can be improved? Would that not be the normal process to go through rather than the process we are going through right now?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-09-28 13:00 [p.163]
Madam Speaker, I certainly agree with the hon. member that this is the gold standard, but given the expiration of CERB yesterday, we are in a situation of real urgency and that help needs to get to Canadians.
I am as frustrated as anybody that the opportunity was not afforded to Parliament to do that very work and to follow that normal process. This was as a result of a government trying to run and hide from a political scandal that it created without any prompting and for no good reason. However, now we find ourselves in the situation we are in.
I hope Canadians are paying attention. I hope they will remember this come election time, this crass disregard the government had for Canadians' vital interests. However, now we need to make sure that there is a net to catch all of the people who are coming off of CERB, and that requires us to be flexible.
I think we need to draw a box around a lot of the procedural things that have happened during the pandemic and recognize that we are not setting precedents for how Parliament ought to operate normally. What we are doing is working hard to get the help to Canadians that they need on an urgent basis. With a different government and a different attitude in government, we could have done that in a way that observed more of the normal parliamentary process. It is regrettable that we do not have a government that is willing to do that in good faith. Nevertheless, what needs to come first is the interests of Canadians, and those are what we are here to support first and foremost.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would remind hon. members that on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît introduced in this Parliament Bill C-242, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act. As my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville was saying earlier, we should have had this kind of legislation on employment insurance 15 years ago.
By rushing through programs like this we quickly get a sense of their flaws. Instead of fixing them this summer, the government chose to prorogue Parliament and put democracy on hold.
Today, we are being asked to pass a bill at lightning speed without having the chance to hear from a single witness to help us uncover any possible weaknesses, such as identifying who is truly affected by the situation or even those who are taking advantage of these programs.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to act quickly, but is this not the right time to review the entire employment insurance system instead of bringing in even more programs? We could avoid recreating a program by piecemeal if we just accept that the Canada recovery benefit is also not a good fit for our reality.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-09-28 13:03 [p.164]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. She may be aware that the NDP has been pressuring the government for quite some time to make changes to the EI system. Indeed, this is something we must do. I myself tabled in this Parliament a bill to increase EI sickness benefits to 50 weeks. That is something we support and want to discuss.
However, the problem we have today is that the CERB came to an end yesterday and we want to ensure that a new program will provide Canadians with the support they want to be able to count on. Our work in the House today is to focus on that.
View Laurel Collins Profile
NDP (BC)
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-09-28 13:04 [p.164]
Madam Speaker, I want to share a story from one of my constituents. She is a single mom raising two school-aged children. When the pandemic hit, she lost her job and CERB was a lifeline. For the last month she has been facing uncertainty, not knowing what is going to happen when she can no longer afford to put food on the table or pay rent. Then the government proposed cutting the benefit by $400 which, for many Canadians including this mom, would mean the difference between keeping their homes and losing them.
Does the member agree that it was irresponsible for the government to prorogue Parliament and make this mom and millions of Canadians face the kind of uncertainty that we have seen?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-09-28 13:06 [p.164]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing it back to the lived experience of Canadians who are struggling through this. Here we are having a policy debate, and then there are politics layered over that. It is easy to get lost in all of that. The task that the NDP has really set for itself in this Parliament and throughout the pandemic has been to bring it back to that experience, not to this administrative deadline, this political reason or that political reason.
There is a single mom who is trying to make rent. She does not know if, at the end of the month, she is going to get a cheque for $2,000 or $1,600, or nothing at all. That makes a big difference in her life. The stress and anxiety of not knowing that is serious. It is real and it compounds all the problems of the pandemic.
The least we can do from here in Ottawa, and those in government can do, is to act in a timely way to make sure that people have as much knowledge and lead time as possible to prepare themselves—
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-09-28 13:07 [p.164]
Madam Speaker, it is really good to be back in the House representing the residents of Windsor—Tecumseh and also good to be back in the House with all my colleagues across the aisle.
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Orléans.
I am pleased to rise today to participate in today's motion, but before I begin I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government has put Canadians first and provided the support they need to continue to make ends meet while staying safe. As long as the pandemic continues, our number one job will continue to be supporting Canadians. That is what our Speech from the Throne was all about on September 23. The pandemic crisis exposed many gaps in Canada's social safety net. As a result, the government committed to addressing these gaps in ways that both keep Canadians afloat and boost the economy for an eventual recovery. The measures our government has put forward are part of that commitment. If passed, the measures will help Canadians weather the next phase of the pandemic while at the same time helping keep people connected to the labour force. Let me provide some context.
In August, the government extended the Canada emergency response benefit, also known as the CERB, for another month: from 24 to 28 weeks. We also made changes to the EI program to enable more people to access benefits. On September 27, Canadians began transitioning from the CERB to this more flexible and more accessible EI program, but not everyone who is currently receiving the CERB will be eligible for EI even with the new temporary measures in place.
Our message to Canadians is that if they cannot work for reasons related to COVID-19, there will be support available to them. Specifically, our government has proposed a suite of three temporary benefits: the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit.
I will spend my time today on the Canada recovery benefit. This new benefit will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to workers who have stopped working due to COVID-19, or who are working but have experienced an income drop of at least 50% due to COVID-19. This new benefit will be available to them if they are available and looking for work, and are willing to accept work when it is reasonable to do so. This makes the CRB different from the CERB. It aligns more with how EI benefits function and will reintroduce measures that help keep people connected to jobs and the labour market. Let me provide a real-life illustration.
Ibrahim is a self-employed bookkeeper in Toronto. He earned $34,000 in 2019, but his business has slowed to a trickle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, Ibrahim applied for and received the CERB, but like many Canadians, his benefits ran out on September 27. While his business has begun to rebound, it is still not business as usual. He is back to working at only 50% capacity, but he is available for work and is actively seeking new clients. Ibrahim would not qualify for EI, but he would qualify for the Canada recovery benefit. As I mentioned, he could receive $500 per week for up to 26 weeks between the period of September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.
If his annual net income ended up being above $38,000, not including the CRB payments, he would need to repay 50¢ on every dollar over that net income through his annual income tax return. Thanks to this benefit, Ibrahim would be able to maintain his business, help support his family and continue to be an active participant in the economy.
This new benefit also differs from the CERB in terms of the integrity measures we have put in place. The government is committed to setting up safeguards to protect Canadians from fraud and to prevent non-compliance.
To prevent misuse of the CRB and the other benefits in this proposed legislation, the following measures would be part of the package: The Canada Revenue Agency would collect the social insurance numbers of applicants, CRB applicants would need to provide documentation to prove their eligibility for the benefit and individuals would have to repay any benefit amounts they were not entitled to.
In other words, we would have stronger integrity measures in place for the new recovery benefits. Unlike with the CERB, which had integrity measures built into the back end, the new recovery benefits would have robust verification measures up front. Applicants would experience different up-front and downstream validation checkpoints to ensure they only receive the benefits to which they are entitled. Applicants should prepare for a potentially longer gap between the submission of their application and their payment than they experienced with the CERB or the Canada emergency student benefit, the CESB. As well, unlike the CERB, the benefit would be paid in arrears and taxable at the source.
Our government has been there for Canadians. Since March 15, we have paid more than $76 billion in CERB benefits to almost nine million individuals. In my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, thousands of Canadian families and workers took advantage of, and benefited from, the support the government provided during these incredibly difficult and challenging times.
While millions of Canadians have returned to the workforce and are no longer actively receiving the CERB, many Canadians are still facing the reality that they do not have a job to go back to. That is why we introduced measures that are delivering a more flexible and more accessible EI, and the Canada recovery benefit would work in parallel with it to ensure all working Canadians are supported as we work together to build back better and stronger.
The recovery plan our government has laid out would help us span the gap between the emergency support of the spring and summer and the new measures that will help us get through the next phase of this crisis, and that is why I encourage hon. members to support this motion.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Brassard Profile
2020-09-28 13:15 [p.165]
Madam Speaker, near the end of the hon. member's statement this morning he said something interesting, which was that Canadians should expect a longer gap in transition from the CERB to this new program. I am wondering what that longer transition will look like in terms of weeks or months.
There is a second part to my question. Knowing that there would be this longer transition, why did the government prorogue Parliament in August when it knew this situation was going to happen? It could have recalled Parliament to deal with this piece of legislation so Canadians would not have this gap in the transition. There are two questions there.
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-09-28 13:16 [p.165]
Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate that from the very start of this pandemic the primary focus of the government was to make sure we got the support Canadians needed into their hands as quickly as possible. With the new Canada response benefit, I can assure the member that when people apply online they will be able to receive benefits within three to five days of the application if they have a direct deposit account. I reassure the hon. member that Canadians will receive the support they need in a timely fashion.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-09-28 13:17 [p.165]
Madam Speaker, I believe that my colleague clearly explained, a few moments ago, that changes to the EI system have been needed for a long time. It was foreseeable that they would be needed by the time the CERB came to an end.
Why then did the government prorogue Parliament? And why did it set so little time between the end of the CERB and the start of new EI provisions?
In other words, why did the government choose once again to put Parliament in such an untenable position?
In his speech, I heard my colleague talk about the support provided by the government to Canadians. It ensured that Parliament would be of very little help to Canadians.
Why has the government once again put Parliament in an untenable position, as it is doing now?
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-09-28 13:18 [p.166]
Madam Speaker, though the members in the opposition are focused on talking about prorogation and other such matters, this government's focus, first and foremost, has been to deliver the support Canadians require to get through the pandemic. That has been our priority and that will always be our priority.
Through legislation such as the Canada recovery benefit, we will ensure we get the supports to Canadians when they need them in a timely fashion. That has always been our priority. That will always the priority of this government.
View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
View Paul Manly Profile
2020-09-28 13:19 [p.166]
Madam Speaker, I want to echo what I have heard from other people. We hear through the media that 400,000 people will not get the help they need through this new program. This affects several people in my riding. One person had a medical leave of absence and was going back to work just at the time the pandemic hit. Another person was taking care of an elderly father and was just going back to work when the pandemic hit.
Would it not be better to look at a revamp of our social safety net to ensure that no Canadian can fall below a specific income level and that we take care of Canadians no matter what their circumstances? Does the hon. member not think it is time for a guaranteed livable income?
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-09-28 13:20 [p.166]
Madam Speaker, we know how hard the hon. member is working both in his riding and also for constituents across the country. This government believes that strategic, targeted support is what Canadians are looking for to ensure the money gets into the hands of the Canadians who need it the most and in a timely fashion. That is our priority and that is why we have designed the programs the way they are designed currently.
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2020-09-28 13:21 [p.166]
Madam Speaker, on behalf of the community of Orleans, I am truly proud to be able to speak to these measures, and especially to the three new recovery benefits that will help Canadians who are unable to work because of COVID-19.
No one should be left behind as we enter the recovery phase. The Canada Revenue Agency is now ready and remains ready to implement these new recovery measures once they are approved by Parliament. I want to acknowledge the Canada Revenue Agency and the tremendous work it did to implement the government's previous emergency measures.
First, I want to remind members that the CRA is responsible in large part for administering and delivering the Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB. It is fully responsible for administering and delivering the Canada emergency student benefit, or CESB, the Canada emergency wage subsidy, or CEWS, and the 10% temporary wage subsidy for employers, or TWS. The latter two benefits were intended for Canadian businesses.
We must heartily salute the employees of the Canada Revenue Agency for their hard work. CRA has dedicated, highly qualified staff who are committed to serving Canadians in times of need. It has proven this to us beyond all doubt from the beginning of the pandemic. The mobilization has been very impressive. I must say that in my riding, Orléans, people really appreciate the professionalism shown by CRA staff in getting out the money allocated through these new programs quickly to those in need.
I will relate the sequence of events that led to the successful implementation of the emergency measures, namely, the CERB, the CESB, the CEWS and the TWS. In March, the agency immediately realigned all of its activities to improve efficiency during this crisis. It then worked to quickly implement the government's various economic measures. On March 18, it announced that it was extending the deadline for filing personal, corporate and trust income tax returns, thereby lightening the burden on the people of Orléans and Canadians. On March 20, the agency began publishing information about the TWS on its website. On April 6, the agency's CERB portal registered its first applications. On April 27, the agency rolled out the CEWS and offered the subsidy calculator to businesses and their representatives. On May 15, it launched the CESB.
The results so far are impressive. Since April 6, nearly 22.1 million CERB applications have been received and processed by the agency, providing support to close to 5.3 million unique individuals. In regard to the CEWS, as of September 20, the agency had received over 1.14 million wage subsidy applications, with a total of nearly $37.5 billion being paid out to support more than 317,000 Canadian businesses. Where the CESB is concerned, as of September 24, the CRA had approved over 2.13 million CESB applications to help support more than 706,300 Canadian students.
Now let us talk about some of the agency's accomplishments throughout the rollout of the emergency measures. First, we saw a significant increase in the technology deployed to serve Canadians day to day in an even more accessible, efficient and timely manner. The agency managed to deliver online services within only a few weeks. The Canadian media qualified the technological aspect of the CERB rollout as miraculous. When the CERB launched, the agency's system received 30,000 applications in 12 minutes.
It is also important to point out that it was quick and easy for Canadians to apply for emergency benefits, regardless of type. What is more, the money was paid out promptly. Most individuals and businesses received their benefits via direct deposit within three business days.
The CRA was also able to mobilize its human resources by moving many of its employees to its call centres. For example, 7,500 CRA employees responded to the call to help the call centres.
The agency received over two million calls from businesses and their representatives. Over 120,000 of those callers received an answer about COVID-19 tax relief measures and 150,000 of them were given general information on the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
As we prepare to implement three new stimulus measures, it is important to recognize that the CRA is perfectly positioned for this task, not to mention the fact that it has highly qualified staff who work hard to serve Canadians. This is even more impressive when we consider that the agency did all of that at a moment's notice. The CRA had no idea that it was going to be implementing critical programs to support Canadians during this crisis.
Among the key elements of the agency's success is its service model, which is undeniably based on its people-first philosophy. Since the current Minister of National Revenue took office in 2015, redesigning the agency's service model has been at the heart of all its commitments. More than ever, the agency is a fair and trusted organization whose service delivery is focused on the needs and expectations of Canadians. This is a top priority.
Add to this the fact that all this work was obviously done while ensuring that appropriate compliance measures were put in place for all these applications for emergency financial assistance. Compliance is an essential factor in the agency's mission. The agency has therefore developed electronic and manual verification measures for the eligibility of applicants, and the terms and conditions of repayment.
In short, the extensive implementation of the CERB, CESB, CEWS and TWS emergency measures by the Canada Revenue Agency is a guarantee for the future. The administration and roll-out of the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit will be in good hands with the Canada Revenue Agency.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-09-28 13:29 [p.167]
Madam Speaker, while I certainly appreciate the incredible work done by the public servants in CRA, and in all the departments, who have gone above and beyond, the member also spoke about students and the incredible work done by the government for them.
However, I know, specifically as the NDP critic for post-secondary education and youth, that those students who come to me are desperate for additional supports. They did not receive the supports through the Canada student service grant, which they were expecting. Graduate students did not receive supports. International students did not receive the support they needed from the government.
In fact, there was not a single word in the throne speech about students. Could the hon. member explain why?
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2020-09-28 13:30 [p.167]
Madam Speaker, as the member for Orléans, I represent many students who are part of the pandemic and who are certainly affected by having to make decisions about their course of action.
As a society, we have asked them to change their entire way of going to school, to online learning, for many months. Today, we still are seeing the impact of the pandemic.
I appreciate the fact that the government, from day one, showed engagement and commitment to supporting students all across Canada. One thing we have said since the beginning is that we are listening. We are listening to the opposition. We are also listening to students and Canadians in addressing their immediate needs.
View Warren Steinley Profile
CPC (SK)
View Warren Steinley Profile
2020-09-28 13:32 [p.167]
Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the debate brought forward by the hon. member for Orléans. She was talking about tax relief for businesses during this time of crisis with the COVID pandemic. I am glad to hear her say that she is listening to members and people across the country, because one form of tax relief the Liberals could have brought forward during the pandemic was to not double the carbon tax on producers across western Canada on April 1, which I found to be a seriously unfunny April Fool's joke.
If the Liberals are talking about tax relief during this time of need and trying to put more money into the pockets of Canadians across the country, why would they not take the opportunity to not raise the carbon tax on our farmers, producers and manufacturers across western Canada? That would have left more money in not only businesses' pockets but also in consumers' pockets, because we all know the carbon tax trickles down and affects people at the grocery stores, gas pumps and across all industries in our country.
If the member is looking for a way to keep money in Canadians' pockets, why would the government not scrap its carbon tax, or at the very least not raise it on April 1, when Canadians are going through a health crisis and a financial crisis across the country?
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2020-09-28 13:33 [p.167]
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question but I think on this one I would disagree.
I am so proud of the work that we have done for all businesses. Before politics, I was a business owner and I can certainly relate to many of the businesses here in Orléans and across Canada on the impact that this pandemic has had. I was pleased to see that the government mobilized a lot of effort and financial help, such as the wage subsidy, which is still needed and has been extended until next year, as we heard in the Speech from the Throne. There is also CEBA, which was one big thing that our businesses needed. Again, by listening to our businesses and the sector, we have improved CEBA to make it more available to various businesses throughout Canada.
With all due respect to the member, I believe that we need to move forward, as we have learned from this pandemic, on the need to address climate change. Very few people in the riding of Orléans would not agree with me that we need to be firmer and stronger on our climate change initiatives, and I was very happy to see this reflected in our Speech from the Throne.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2020-09-28 13:34 [p.168]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.
Canada is facing a critical moment in the continuing COVID crisis. Millions of Canadians are still in need of emergency funding of one sort or another. Although the early soaring numbers with tragic loss of life in seniors homes and beyond were brought down by the first lockdown with a range of precautions and restrictions, as imperfect as it might have been, we are concerned now about the sharp resurgence of infection in some urban areas and among certain groups whose compliance with the advice of public health officials and government at all levels relaxed far too soon.
The COVID crisis is not just a health crisis. COVID has taken a terrible toll on our Canadian economy, as it has on economies around the world. Canada today has the highest unemployment rate in the G7, despite having almost the highest spending in the G7. With the amendment to Bill C-2, now before us today, Canada's deficit and debt would soar to historic record new levels.
The government must recognize that a significant number of businesses and industries, despite COVID restrictions and precautions, have gradually been able to safely reactivate their workplaces to bring back workers safely and fire up their respective corners of the economy. Over the past month, I visited large industrial manufacturers and small businesses, and I have been impressed at how they are safely, defiantly, coping with the challenging new realities of their workplaces. However, I have also heard from a range of small, medium and large employers and members of chambers of commerce and boards of trade who say that government needs to balance essential emergency financial support with meaningful incentives to return to work where it is safe to do so.
When we first saw Bill C-2 last week, after six weeks of prorogation with the Liberals in hiding from scandalous revelations in committee, the estimated costs of the post-CERB expanded benefits were enormous: $37 billion in one year. The estimated costs are now in the mid-$40 billion range with another $17 billion in ongoing COVID program spending attached to this bill. We are debating almost $60 billion in new spending in two days. The deficit for 2021 is now certain to be well past $400 billion.
There is no question that the three principal elements of Bill C-2, the Canada recovery benefits act, would provide a lifeline to millions of workers and folks left out of earlier support. The government's decision to effectively embrace our Conservative back-to-work bonus proposed in June is an overdue step forward, a work incentive that would allow workers to earn beyond the benefit payments with a 50¢ on the dollar repayment of earnings if they exceed $38,000 in annual income. However, the original expectation of a minimum taxable payment of $400 a week expired when the Liberals caved in to NDP demands that $400 a week was not enough.
The Liberals caved in again on Friday when the NDP demanded more, a two-week paid sick leave demand, without any consideration by the House or Parliament of its possible negative impact on Canada's struggling economy. One must consider the continuing disincentives discouraging many healthy workers from safely returning to workplaces that can provide assurance of strict adherence to public health guidelines.
In my province of Ontario, under the new legislation an individual who works full time for just over three weeks will be able to access EI for six months at $500 a week. An Ontarian working full time at minimum wage, $14 an hour, receives $525 a week.
That said, the three pillars of the Canada recovery benefits act are needed: first, the CRB, the Canada recovery benefit for workers who are self-employed or not eligible for EI; second, the CRCB, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit for eligible Canadian households where a parent cannot work because they must care for children or a high-risk dependent; and third, the CRSB, the Canada recovery sickness benefit for workers who are sick or must self-isolate because of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the time wasted in prorogation and the closure vote tomorrow, a most offensive application of the legislative guillotine, prevents the due diligence these benefits deserve.
The last-minute amendment to the sickness benefit that the Liberals caved into Friday, which provides for what the act calls a “leave of absence”, lacks answers to abundant questions on how it may be used or abused.
The amendment says that “every employee is entitled to and shall be granted the leave of absence” from work of “up to two weeks—or, if another number of weeks is fixed by regulation” if the employee is unable to work because, one, “they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19”; two, they have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority would make them more susceptible to COVID-19; or three, “they have isolated themselves on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19”.
There are huge legitimate, logical questions in these provisions. Pre-existing underlying conditions like asthma, diabetes, weakened immune systems, etc., don't go away in two weeks, and the provision for cabinet to extend coverage weeks is unlimited. There are some very big questions here.
As well, employment lawyers and experts have long raised red flags about this intrusion into areas of provincial jurisdiction, because most workers are governed provincially. One noted Ontario employment lawyer, Lior Samfiru, says that new incentives may be required to provinces and to employers in the form of tax cuts to get the buy-in in those jurisdictions. There have been, as well, fears expressed by economists and employers that 10 paid sick days could have a serious negative impact on productivity, that said with an eye to some public service unions' exploitation of already-contracted sick days. Then there is the unanswered question of monitoring and enforcement of a violation of the program criteria.
All of these issues should have and could have been explored during the six weeks of the WE scandal turtling by the Liberal government, rather than the clumsy presentation of Bill C-2, followed by the Liberals' second desperate concession to the NDP, and this debate and tomorrow's taking place in the shadow of the legislative guillotine of closure.
As I said at the top, millions of Canadians need emergency funding and many of them are caught now between the ending of CERB and when they will be able to access the new programs. They are caught in dire circumstances again because of the latest self-inflicted stumble by the Liberal government.
Conservatives believe extraordinary emergency funding has been needed and continues to be needed to support Canadian workers, employers and all those in need of support from the start of this COVID crisis, but we lament the lack of transparency and accountability of the Liberal government, the unacceptable neutering of Parliament, the time lost during the unnecessary prorogation for all-party consideration, debate and more reasonable outcomes, and the rush now to confect legislation on the run in the interest of self-serving partisan survival.
Even as we all struggle to do our part to deal with the resurgence of infection spread in certain areas, Conservatives lament the lack of a meaningful recovery plan with the investments, the tax cuts and regulatory improvements that will build competitiveness, incentivize workers and employers, and make Canada a better place to invest, to rebuild and to safely live.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-09-28 13:44 [p.169]
Madam Speaker, we agree with the member that the government should not have prorogued Parliament and delayed the rollout of fixing the benefit program, the CERB, which ran out last night at midnight. We completely agree with him that the government waited too long and people are struggling.
I am concerned, though, about his statements around paid sick leave. As I cited earlier from The Huffington Post, 14% of workers earning less than $16,000 took paid sick leave versus 74% of those earning over $96,000. Clearly, workers are going to work because they are afraid they will unable to make ends meet, feed their families and pay their rents, and they are desperate.
Paid sick leave would allow people who have COVID symptoms to stay home and protect themselves, their co-workers and the businesses where they work. If COVID spreads in the workplace, it is going to be shut down. If a person works in a restaurant, becomes sick and continues working with the whole team at the restaurant, that could take the restaurant down. A restaurant previously closed by public health could get shut down again and be wiped off the map if an employee became sick.
I would like my colleague to speak about what the Conservatives would do to protect those workers in the workplace. We have not heard what they would have done with CERB. Would they have cut it? What would they have done with paid sick leave? We have not heard what they would like to do, so I hope my colleague can talk about what the Conservatives propose to do to protect those workers who have lost their jobs or those businesses that have closed their doors. Those people have relied on CERB and have nothing right now.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2020-09-28 13:46 [p.169]
Madam Speaker, I agree with many of the points my hon. colleague raised at the beginning of his intervention and question. Of course it is absolutely necessary to ensure workers do not have to choose between going to work and earning a living or staying at home and taking the precautions that will protect us all. For the last six weeks of prorogation, the Liberals were hiding from scandal, we could have been discussing this in committee among parties.
This is a massive change to the Canada Labour Code. In many ways, it is in potential conflict with provincial jurisdictions. Employers and the boards of trade and chambers of commerce should have been engaged in the long-term discussion of how to make this effective in those areas where it is essential, but also in ways that it is not exploited, as we have seen exploited, for example, in Ontario with regard to teachers and their abuse. The school boards are very clear in saying that their contracted sick days have been abused in a variety of ways. They have been reduced, but are still a huge cost consideration and a challenge to continuity in teaching in public schools. This is a consideration that we wish had been considered.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-09-28 13:47 [p.170]
Madam Speaker, there is no doubt we are in a second wave of the pandemic. This legislation is greatly needed to protect Canadians in all regions of our nation. It would provide necessary support for us to continue moving forward through this situation.
Members have raised the issue regarding the number of hours. I would like to ask the member about something I expressed previously, and that is that it has been decades since a government has sat during summer months. That allowed opposition members to literally have hundreds and hundreds of additional questions of the government about programs.
Could the member give his thoughts on how important that vehicle was in providing members the opportunity to provide direct input into legislation such as the one before us today?
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2020-09-28 13:48 [p.170]
Madam Speaker, that is an outrageous claim by my hon. colleague. The several hybrid sitting days during the summer did not provide any meaningful answers at all to the questions raised in those sessions. Where we were getting answers was in committees, which the government shut down with the unnecessary and outrageous prorogation of Parliament.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-09-28 13:51 [p.170]
Madam Speaker, if you seek it this time, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be amended as follows: Ms. Vecchio (Elgin—Middlesex—London) for Mr. Richards, (Banff—Airdrie), Mr. Lukiwski (Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan) for Mr. Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil) and Mr. Doherty (Cariboo—Prince George) for Mr. Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry).
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Normally when there are requests for unanimous consent, the Chair asks in the affirmative whether members agree.
This being a hybrid sitting of the House, were the Chair to proceed in this fashion, if there were any dissenting voices, particularly for members participating via video conference, they may not be audible.
Therefore, for the sake of clarity, I will only ask those who are opposed to the request to express their disagreement. In this way, the Chair will hear clearly if there are any dissenting voices and I will accordingly be able to declare whether or not there is unanimous consent to proceed.
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
The House has heard the terms of the motion. There being no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.
View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, my whip gave a much better response than I will. On behalf of the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, it is an honour to speak after the master class; that is the member for Thornhill.
This year has been unlike any other in at least 100 years. A deadly virus has impacted all our lives and necessitated a significant pause on our economy. Just yesterday the total worldwide death toll from COVID-19 passed one million people. Even now that things are opening, until the virus is dealt with, there can be no going back to normal.
In the face of unprecedented job and economic impacts, the government has created the largest social assistance program ever, the Canadian emergency response benefit. In the face of a recovery insurance system that simply could not manage the scale of requests and millions of Canadians were not even eligible for EI, all parties came together to support this program.
As we now debate the next phase of COVID benefits, I want to be clear that we will not stand in the way of Canadians getting the benefits they need. Many sectors of the economy are still paralyzed by COVID and may not come back any time soon.
Those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic need support. However, the government's handling of this benefit has been shameful.
The Prime Minister prorogued the House to avoid scrutiny on his WE scandal. We all know this. The day after prorogation, the government announced these benefits, several of which would need legislation. Instead of spending time over the last month debating and passing these benefits, the Prime Minister shut down Parliament. Now that the CERB has ended and many Canadians are not eligible for EI, the government is playing politics with the well-being of Canadians.
They come to us and tell us that if we do not pass everything at once with no debate, people will not get support.
We could have debated this three weeks ago, and it could have gone through proper parliamentary review. The government is becoming far too contemptuous of the House.
At the beginning of the crisis, we all understood the urgency and need to pass bills quickly, but now the government thinks that this is how all bills should be passed. Why have real debate when the government can pass everything it wants immediately and blame the opposition for being callous when it wants to have even the bare minimum of scrutiny?
What the government wants is to eliminate Parliament and treat the House as a rubber stamp for its program.
This is unacceptable, and it cannot go on.
We wanted to work on this bill over the weekend and the government said no, that it would rather pass it on Monday with no debate. Canadians deserve better. They expect better from the government. I will do my job for the people who have sent me here and participate in the sacred responsibility with which I have been entrusted.
Parliament is not an inconvenient annoyance for the government that believes it knows better. It is a demonstration of the democratic will, the will of the people of Canada, not the unelected staffers in the Prime Minister's Office.
When the question emerges as to why debate and scrutiny are so important, I have a good example why. When the government proposed the CERB originally, people lost the entire benefit if they made one dollar. In many cases, people were forced to chose between the CERB or turn away clients who kept their doors open, but could not pay their rent or put food on the table.
The opposition pointed this out, but it took a while for the Liberal government to pay attention and set a $1,000 threshold. That was certainly better, however, there were still major problems. Through the spring and summer, we in the opposition repeatedly pointed out how the threshold would be a disincentive for workers to pick up extra shifts. Doing so put them right above that $1,000 threshold that would remove their entire CERB. We proposed a back to work bonus where workers would have their CERB slowly phased out to ensure people were never worse off for having worked. We presented it and the government ignored it.
The minister even said that the disincentive to work, the CERB, was problematic. That was at the beginning of the summer, and the government had options. What did it do?
The government refused to make any changes and just accepted the problems in the CERB until now, in the fall, when it is getting around to making this change. The Liberals were either stubborn or lazy, or did not want to admit the opposition was right or maybe just did not care. If we had a chance to debate these bills and study them at committee, we could uncover these issues and propose changes that would make the bill better.
Another bill the government put forward this summer was designed to create a one-time payment for people with disabilities, a payment I will note that has not been given yet. When the government first proposed the payment, it only applied to existing disability tax credit holders. Many people highlighted that was far too narrow a group and it should apply to Canada Pension Plan Disability recipients as well as those on a veterans disability benefit.
I and many opposition MPs were ready to debate it and work to make that bill better. However, the government refused to allow a debate, demanding to pass the bill immediately or not at all. Our then leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, proposed a full debate and the government said no. Therefore, no improvements could be made.
Soon after that, the government introduced a new bill to make these changes. However, the purpose of this assembly is to improve bills or reject them if they are a bad idea.
Rather than work with others, the Liberal government took a much longer road to pass a bill to support people with a disability, support, as I said, has not even come yet.
We have all been sent here for a reason. I was sent here by my constituents just the same as the member for Papineau was sent by his. He should remember that. Why are these benefits important? As we see a surge in cases through the country, we are constantly reminded of the danger of this pandemic to our health and to our economy.
I have heard workers say they really have no idea when they can go back to work. Entire sectors of our economy, such as hospitality, food services and entertainment, could be shut down for quite some time. Those affected by these job losses did nothing wrong; they are the victims of a terrible virus, and they need support.
I think of parents who are unable to go to work. Their children cannot go to school because they have medical issues that make it far too risky. I think of people who develop symptoms and must wait a week or more for test results and cannot work during this time even if they want to.
Data comparing this recession to the previous one shows that people are looking for work in the same numbers as before despite the new benefits. We know Canadians want to work. Many can however many cannot. That is why we are not standing in the way of these benefits. Our system was simply not designed for this situation. Our EI system is built on a house of spaghetti from the 1970s.
In a briefing earlier this year, I was told by government IT officials that fixing the system would take a decade. Many people have not paid into employment insurance, usually due to being self-employed or gig workers.
However, in a time of crisis, those individuals need support. The impact the pandemic is having on white-collar jobs has been largely addressed. Workers in lower-paying jobs are the ones still feeling the worst repercussions of these job losses.
Sectors like accommodation and food services are significantly down, as are sectors that generally employ lower-paid workers. We see from Statistics Canada data that unemployment remains considerably higher than average among racialized Canadians. The people with the least are bearing the largest burden, and they need help.
I understand the need for new benefits to flow to people who need them, but the government has to stop playing political games. It is clear as crystal what the Liberals are doing here. They prorogue and wait until the last possible moment to introduce this bill and then exclaim that if we do not pass it all today at once, people will not have support.
We could have done this last month. Instead, the government continues to play political games with benefits and gets up in arms when the opposition dares to propose that Parliament operate as it is supposed to: as a deliberative body. In the Liberals' minds, Parliament is an inconvenience at best. They know what is best for everyone and they will do it, Parliament be damned.
I was sent here by the voters and I will come here every day to do my best to make government programs work. I wish that the Prime Minister and his marketing department at the PMO would understand that too.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order. The hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola will have five minutes of questions and comments coming to him when we return to this.
Mr. Dan Albas: I have many questions. Can I pose them to myself?
The Speaker: We will see if no one else is interested, but I am sure there will be plenty of interest.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mike Kelloway Profile
2020-09-28 14:01 [p.172]
Mr. Speaker, each September Cape Breton—Canso residents Mike and Nicole MacArthur, along with their family, prepare for the annual Caleb's Courage Superhero Walk, Run or Fly. It is a community fundraiser in honour of their son Caleb, who bravely battled cancer until he passed away in 2015. He was only four years old. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the MacArthur family was unable to host this fundraising event as planned this year. However, knowing the impact it continues to have on the community, they have decided to host the event virtually, inviting participants to join from across the country. The Caleb's Courage movement has raised more than close to a million dollars to support critically ill children in Cape Breton. It is thanks to Caleb's Courage the Cape Breton Regional Hospital is now home to the Caleb's Courage Superhero Suite, a superhero-themed pediatrics room that allows so many children to receive their treatments, often life-saving, and at home.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and today I want to honour all the little superheroes who have fought or continue to fight big battles just like Caleb's.
I would also like to thank Mike, Nicole, Ella, Aubreigh, Lauchlin, Emery and all those involved with the Caleb's Courage movement for doing their part to strengthen health care in Cape Breton—Canso.
View Terry Dowdall Profile
CPC (ON)
View Terry Dowdall Profile
2020-09-28 14:02 [p.173]
Mr. Speaker, throughout this pandemic, my riding has been put at a significant disadvantage as lockdowns and working from home have become the norm. People in the cities have the privilege of reliable high-speed Internet, which allows them to work from home or their kids to learn online. They are also able to stream and connect with friends and family without worrying about exceeding their monthly data allowance. Canadians in my riding of Simcoe—Grey are not so privileged. Our parents cannot reliably work from home and often must head into the city despite the health risks. Our kids often cannot connect to online courses and fall behind their peers. Also, our isolated seniors suffer as they are unable to visit loved ones in person at this time. With all of this, we still pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra fees for less than what other Canadians are taking for granted.
The government had some nice words in the throne speech about connectivity. There were nice words about many things, but actions speak louder than words. We need a plan to connect rural Canada to high-speed Internet now.
View Élisabeth Brière Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Élisabeth Brière Profile
2020-09-28 14:03 [p.173]
Mr. Speaker, in early September, I joined Marianne Auclair, the executive director of the Eastern Townships branch of Femmessor, on a tour of SOS Odours. Josée Samson is the president of this family business, which specializes in making air fresheners. During the pandemic, Ms. Samson was proactive and innovative, designing a modern assembly line to produce hand sanitizing gel that she could sell to her clients and the governments of Quebec and Canada.
We have a host of examples of women entrepreneurs who are helping to fight the spread of the virus and contributing to the economic development of our communities. However, even today, only 16% of Canada's small and medium-sized enterprises are owned by women.
I am proud to be part of a government that is investing nearly $5 billion to boost the number of women entrepreneurs and make the business world fairer and more dynamic.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our leader and all of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I want to express our sadness at the passing of a great sovereignist and one of the first Bloc Québécois MPs.
Suzanne Tremblay passed away on Saturday, and this staunch defender of our interests is being mourned not just in the Lower St. Lawrence region, but all across Quebec. I once had the privilege of working with her to showcase what our corner of the country has to offer, and I can assure the House that she was extraordinarily dedicated to regional and rural development.
She will be remembered for her outspoken nature, her audacity and her indomitable spirit, as well as for the enormous contribution she made to cultural issues and the way she defended the industry as a whole from international giants. I am grateful to Suzanne Tremblay for standing up to promote Quebec and our region. Her career is an inspiration to the new generation, which I belong to.
Thank you for everything. Farewell, Suzanne.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, ALS patients in Canada suffer from a lack of access to new therapeutic treatments and a quarter of Canadian ALS patients do not have access to clinical trials within their own provinces. The current system is prohibitive to ALS patients who wish to access new therapies that could significantly improve their quality of life. We have a duty to care for those individuals who are vulnerable, and we must do better. We must work with our international partners to uncover and approve new treatments for ALS patients, ensure that ALS therapies are covered by provincial health authorities and make certain that ALS patients have equal access to the treatments they need. Pursuing these goals will see the burden of ALS decrease with patients living longer with less severe symptoms and a greater ability to contribute to society.
View Alex Ruff Profile
CPC (ON)
View Alex Ruff Profile
2020-09-28 14:07 [p.173]
Mr. Speaker, on September 19, Canada lost a great Canadian, rural media personality and columnist. Jim Merriam passed away surrounded by his loving family after a 21-year battle with cancer.
Jim's “Funny Farm” column was well known and well read. Whether sharing his opinions on newsworthy events or controversial decisions, details about his farm and beloved mules, light-hearted jokes or promoting charitable events, his was a loud, reasoned voice that came directly from the heart. Jim loved to tell those personal stories and connect people with each other right across the region. It was that ability to tell a story with a sense of humour, yet get to the crux of the issue, that was fundamental to who Jim was. Maybe most telling about Jim is that he was approached by different parties to run for politics. He was smart enough to stay away.
I consider myself lucky to have known Jim my whole life. I am confident that many others still can through his written work.
Rest in peace, Jim. You have earned it.
View Gary Anandasangaree Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, Alex Neve is a fierce defender of human rights and the conscience of his nation. As the outgoing Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, Alex has fought to preserve, promote and protect the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of individuals and peoples around the world. A man who speaks with purpose, listens with humility and acts with conviction, Alex's work is defined by countless compelling victories overcoming many injustices in the world.
Alex continues to inspire and challenge all of us to advance human rights. Some of his recent work includes advancing refugee rights, ensuring corporate social responsibility, implementing the optional protocol on torture and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as seeking accountability for atrocity crimes in places like Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
This week, Alex passed the torch to Ketty Nivyabandi, a passionate human rights defender who will lead Amnesty. I want to thank Alex, his partner Patricia Goyeche, and his children, Brennan, Sean-Daniel and Selina, for all of their sacrifices to make our world a better place.
View Raj Saini Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Raj Saini Profile
2020-09-28 14:09 [p.174]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the talent and accomplishments of a truly exceptional member of my community. Like most members, I take special pride in the success of all of our citizens from coast to coast to coast. Whether it is an athlete, musician, businessperson or any other Canadian, we are here to root for them, which why I rise today to highlight one of Kitchener's finest, Jamal Murray. As a basketball player for the Denver Nuggets, Jamal has shown remarkable leadership, poise and determination while taking his team to the NBA conference finals.
Jamal is an inspiration for basketball fans in Kitchener Centre and in communities across Canada, not only for his plays on the court but also off the court. He is an advocate for the Black community and youth sports, including assisting in building local basketball courts and providing backpacks for children returning to school.
Although Jamal's team was not successful, he was successful in uniting a nation and elevating our hope and pride. I ask all members to join me in wishing Jamal all the best.
We are all rooting for Jamal.
View Eric Melillo Profile
CPC (ON)
View Eric Melillo Profile
2020-09-28 14:11 [p.174]
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate Randy Nickle and the entire team at Kenora's A&W for raising over $27,000 for research and support for those living with MS.
There are 77,000 Canadians who have MS. It is a chronic illness that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing pain and weakness as well as issues with vision, speech and coordination. There is currently no cure, but research is being done into new therapies to improve quality of life.
This year, A&W's Burgers to Beat MS campaign raised $1.3 million in support of the MS Society of Canada. Randy and his team in Kenora have cracked the top five in fundraising seven years in a row, and this year they were number one nationwide. They went above and beyond the scope of the campaign by finding a number of creative ways to raise money, including holding bake sales, collecting personal donations and even selling rain barrels. I salute them for their continued passion for this cause and thank everyone who donated or helped to raise funds.
Together, we can beat MS.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it has been some time since David Smith died. David was a lawyer, MP, cabinet minister, senator, chairman of the world's largest law firm and a born raconteur.
I got to know him through the Liberal Party politics and the Wednesday morning prayer breakfasts. His standard greeting was, “How's brother John today?” Regardless of the scripture passage or prayer concern, David would have a story. My favourite featured he and Colonel Gadhafi sitting around a campfire in a Libyan desert and being serenaded by fornicating camels. I do not know what a fornicating camel sounds like, but it was extremely difficult after David's story to maintain a prayerful attitude.
David also liked to sing the great old hymns of the faith. The hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus became infinitely more poignant when David told us about the deeply tragic life of the Port Hope man who wrote the hymn, Joseph Scriven.
I miss that raspy voice. I miss that off-key singing. I miss those hilarious anecdotes. May my friend rest in peace.
View David Sweet Profile
CPC (ON)
View David Sweet Profile
2020-09-28 14:14 [p.175]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday at sundown, Jewish communities across Canada and the world gathered to observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
Marking the end of a 10-day period of prayer, fasting and introspection, Yom Kippur is a sacred day of atonement when those in the Jewish community seek forgiveness for the past year and reflect on where better choices and actions could have been made. However, this is not only a time for reflection, but also a chance to look forward to the future for new and more hopeful days of joy and opportunity.
Hamilton is blessed with a vibrant Jewish community. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of Beth Jacob Synagogue, Temple Anshe Sholom and Adas Israel Synagogue, along with all Jewish Canadians, for the profoundly positive contributions they have made to Canadian society and will continue to make for generations to come.
As Yom Kippur draws to a close, I hope the day has been an easy fast and brought meaningful reflection to all Jewish people who are celebrating this solemn, sacred day.
G'mar chatima tova .
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-09-28 14:14 [p.175]
Mr. Speaker, today I am proud to rise in the House of Commons to honour Nova Scotia and particularly the residents of West Nova.
Back at home, as elsewhere in the country, our communities work very hard supporting each other during the many difficult challenges that have deeply affected our entire population due to the current pandemic. We all know that the strength of a community can certainly be defined in tough times, and God knows how much our community in Nova Scotia has gone through over the past number of months.
I want to send out a special thanks, a shout-out to the Kingston-Greenwood Isolation Support Network, which was created to respond to the need for help during the first peak of the pandemic. The network's goal was to get essential items like groceries to individuals remaining at home, whether for their safety or the safety of others, due to the pandemic.
Congratulations and a big thanks to the local Lions Club, 14 Wing Greenwood, and Sobeys, as well as all the volunteers who made sure our residents did not go without during this difficult time.
View Richard Cannings Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, after several catastrophic years, we had relatively few forest fires in Canada in 2020. In my riding, there were only three fires that threatened homes.
Unfortunately, after those fires were brought under control, southern British Columbia was beset with thick, choking smoke from fires south of the border, as California was beset with temperatures not in the 30s, but in the high 40s and even in the range of 50°C.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all the firefighters on the ground and in the air for battling the fires in southern British Columbia, especially the volunteer crews who worked in extreme terrain and in extreme temperatures to keep family homes safe.
We had only three serious fires this year, but I can remember only one fire that came close to homes when I was growing up in the Okanagan in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, there is no going back to the cool days of the sixties, but we can hold global warming to 1.5 degrees if we take bold action now. I call on the government to do just that.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, there was not a word about aerospace in the Speech from the Throne. It is inconceivable that it be left out.
Aerospace is to Quebec what the automobile is to Ontario. Greater Montreal is the third-largest aerospace hub in the world, after Seattle and Toulouse. It is the leading exporter, which translates into 40,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs. It is big, granted, but it is on shaky ground.
That is why we have been asking for an aviation policy for years. The pandemic has made the need more pressing. With COVID-19, aircraft are grounded, maintenance activities are limited, and order books for new aircraft could remain poorly stocked for years. The precarious situation is even forcing aviation technicians into the construction industry to make ends meet.
While Quebec is starting to envision a carbon-neutral plane, Ottawa remains at a standstill, with no vision, no targeted support. There is nothing. Ottawa must listen to reason. We need an aerospace policy and we need it now.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Brassard Profile
2020-09-28 14:17 [p.176]
Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I received an email from an Innisfil resident who, like roughly 780,000 Canadian homeowners, chose to defer her mortgage payments when COVID-19 forced businesses to close and workers to be laid off. In the email, she spoke of not being fully back to work as a result of the shutdown, yet her financial hardship is mounting because, as it is for many Canadian families, a deadline is looming this week when mortgage deferrals end, and payback will be required with interest. This means she will have to pay a lump sum of $3,750 in principal and interest, which is more than her monthly income.
In last week's throne speech, not one word of this looming crisis was mentioned. Instead, what we heard was the Prime Minister delivering no plan to get our economy back on track, no plan to secure investment, no plan to secure jobs, no plan for rapid testing, and no plan to pay for the mounting debt and deficit. What we did hear was a Prime Minister willing to bankrupt our country to win the next election.
View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is important to keep in mind that, well before the virus arrived in Canada, winter was already a major challenge for marginalized people experiencing homelessness.
This year, these people will face significant additional hardships. Implementing public health measures such as physical distancing is a massive challenge in enclosed spaces like the shelters that take them in.
As indicated in the throne speech, our government is aware of these realities. This is a major issue that matters to us all, and the government is focusing on it. We are concerned about Canadians living in extremely precarious situations.
Homelessness can happen to anyone. More than ever, solidarity and compassion must guide us through this trying time together.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Before continuing, I just want to remind all the members who are joining us virtually that they have access to headsets that are provided by the House. The members really have wonderful voices, so we want to make sure that those voices come through in their true colours. I want members to take that headset and use it, as opposed to the ear buds. Not that there is anything wrong with ear buds, but they do not bring out the full force of their voices.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-09-28 14:20 [p.176]
Mr. Speaker, my first question today is on behalf of that single mom who is standing in line right now, for the second day in a row, waiting to get a COVID test, for that senior widower who is at home alone, scared and isolated, waiting for his result, and for the thousands of Canadians just like them who are scared and worried and do not know if they have COVID.
Very simply, what is the government doing to ensure that Canadians get access to rapid and safe at-home testing?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, our government is very aware of the urgent need for rapid testing. We know that rapid tests can save lives and help keep our economy strong, but it is also very important for all of us to appreciate how valuable it is to live in a country where the independence of our health regulatory authorities is respected. Our lives quite literally depend on that.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-09-28 14:21 [p.176]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister always seems to be playing catch-up. Whether it was months ago and the decision around the border, or today, being slow and inept in helping small businesses or getting rapid, safe at-home testing for Canadians, the Liberals are always giving Canadians too little too late. Things are not okay. There are 700 new COVID cases in Ontario alone. Shutting down the economy and going back to the Prime Minister's morning show is not the answer.
When will the Prime Minister see that he is failing on dealing with the COVID crisis and that he is actually leaving millions of Canadians behind?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, our government is absolutely aware of the gravity of the global pandemic that we are fighting together. That is why, in the throne speech last week, we were very clear that we will do whatever it takes to support Canadians in the fight against this virus, to acquire essential vaccines, and to work closely with provinces, territories and municipalities on stepped-up testing and tracing efforts.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-09-28 14:22 [p.176]
Mr. Speaker, six weeks ago when Bill Morneau, the finance minister, resigned, it was clear the Prime Minister was going to do whatever it took to shut down the noise around the WE scandal. He was more concerned about himself and covering his own hide than governing, so he locked up Parliament, wasting precious time that could have been used doing work for Canadians.
Does the Prime Minister not know that his scandals are not going to go away and that by trying to cover them up, he has put his own interests above the interests of Canadians, their lives, their livelihoods and their peace of mind?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I do not know about the members opposite, but speaking for the members on this side of the House, I can say that we have all been very hard at work over the past six weeks. We put together the safe restart agreement at the beginning of the summer because we knew that a second wave would be coming. That is why we knew we needed to give the provinces $19 billion to help us get ready together. Then, just a few weeks ago, we knew it was a priority to get kids safely back to school, which was another $2 billion.
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