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Results: 1 - 60 of 1135
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-05-26 10:15 [p.2400]
Mr. Speaker, they had plenty of time to stand up. I do not know what happened.
Maybe they were on sick leave?
In any case, it hardly matters. They did not stand, so I think the decision should be easy to make.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2020-05-26 10:38 [p.2403]
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say, as other colleagues have, that I am at work and that the team I work with in Repentigny and I are very proud of the work we do for the people of our riding.
I will go back to my colleague's remarks about the energy sector. I do not know if he is reading during the current lockdown, but some meteorologists, ecologists and scientists, the International Energy Agency and Stephen Hammer of the World Bank have come forward to say that this has to be a green recovery. Recently, yesterday and today, 40 million health care professionals called for a green recovery.
Why is his party unable to consider green, renewable and environmentally friendly energy?
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2020-05-26 11:12 [p.2409]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. She touched on the issue of domestic violence.
In some cases, in her province and in Quebec, is it that programs could help more women get out of violent situations in this time of crisis, but that the provinces and Quebec are sometimes in the best position to recognize their areas of jurisdiction?
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-05-26 11:15 [p.2409]
Mr. Speaker, Quebec is a distinct society. Even staunch federalist Robert Bourassa said so and championed the cause with other Canadians.
Among other things, “distinct society” means that most of us speak French. It is the only official language of Quebec. Our culture is different. We are no better, we are no worse; we are different.
We are also different economically. Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our province. The vitality of Quebec is built on the dynamism of Quebec business owners, who, by dint of their efforts and their toil, have been able to create businesses that were small to begin with, certainly, but that have become medium-sized, or even huge in some cases.
The pandemic is a threat to Quebec's industrial fabric, to that spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. On the brink of bankruptcy because of the pandemic, some SMEs will disappear. Other places in Canada may say the same thing, and I acknowledge that. However, in Quebec, SMEs are even more important given the difference in our industrial fabric.
These businesses are threatened not only by bankruptcy, of course, but also by the risk that they may be bought by foreigners. If that happens, all the effort and creativity will slip out of the hands of Quebeckers, and medium- and long-term decisions will be made in other countries. This threat may mean that businesses grappling with the temporary COVID-19 situation could suffer permanent harm. We must therefore be on our guard and make sure that this does not happen.
The Bloc Québécois's only objective is to look out for the interests of Quebeckers. That is why, on April 20 and 29, during debates on motions adopted in the House, with a government that was open to our input, we submitted proposals to protect entrepreneurship from the pandemic, where we knew we were vulnerable.
On April 20, when we brought up the idea of collaborating on the Canada emergency wage subsidy project, we knew that some businesses were quite vulnerable, as they had to cover their fixed costs despite not getting revenue. This could be a fatal situation for them. That is why we had asked the government to add additional assistance to the April 20 agreement to help with fixed costs.
We had a $73-billion wage subsidy proposal before us. We managed to convince the government to include in its motion a partial subsidy for businesses' fixed costs, an important measure that would prevent our future economic stars from going bankrupt. That is what we were proposing.
What did we get in return?
What we got was a program that offered almost no solutions for businesses. This program was too timid, too lightweight, and even inaccessible in some cases. Most businesses told us that this program was not good for them and they needed something else.
That is why we have been hounding the government and telling it to improve what was proposed in the motion. We reminded the government that it had made a commitment and that it had given us its word. We said that we needed to help businesses, because the situation is critical.
However, nothing has been done since then. It is radio silence. When the government tabled its motion 11 days ago, the Bloc immediately said that, to protect businesses, the support to help cover fixed costs had to be improved and increased.
Yesterday, the government House leader said that the government had taken a first step—a small step, if that. If that small step stops there, it is not enough, when in fact we were proposing continued assistance for these businesses. That is then a broken promise.
Mr. Speaker, I forgot to tell you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Jean. Sorry about that. I am sure you will forgive me. You are so incredibly nice. You are the person I should be negotiating with in the future.
The second important point is that some businesses want to hire people and some municipalities need to hire people. Economic recovery seems to be on its way. We can see better days ahead. In order for businesses to find employees and for people to want to get back to work, we need to help them. We need to encourage people to work. We need to tell them to start working again and to contribute to the production effort. The economy in Quebec and in the rest of Canada will be better off for it.
On April 29, the government created the CESB, and we commended it for that because it is true that some students will not be able to find a job and they will need financial security to be able to continue their studies. We applauded that measure. When we analyzed the government's proposal, we found it contained a flaw that meant that students might be less inclined to work.
Do I think they are lazy? No, it is not laziness. However, as structured and written, the program ensures that students earn the same whether they work two days or or seven days a week. Even a trained monkey understands that, if its salary stays the same whether it works two days or seven, it should work two days. That is pretty clear, but it seems that the government has not understood, which is why we have asked the government to commit to encouraging students to work by ensuring that, in all circumstances, students' salaries would increase if they work more. Our support was conditional on that.
It is a fundamental rule of economics: the more you work, the more you earn. You do not have to put on a puppet show or draw a picture to understand this. The government told us that it was a good idea. The Deputy Prime Minister told the House that it was a good idea and that the government would work on it. Three weeks later, nothing; it has made no progress. It is worse than the fixed costs, where the Liberals took a single step and called it a day. In the case of the CESB, they have taken no steps at all.
We have a government that is not respecting its commitments. That is why we decided to sit that one out when a new round of negotiations started. We cannot negotiate with a government that promises us things it does not do. We have had a part in this bad movie before, and we are no longer interested.
We even gave them a chance. We were really very nice about it. We told the government to keep the two promises they had made. We gave them eight days, but they made no effort. They were supposed to take more action on fixed costs to build on their very tentative first steps, and then do what they promised to do.
We waited, but in the end they said no and and told us how things were going to work. That is why, today, we are saying how things are going work for us in the Bloc. We cannot work or negotiate with people who have little regard for their word.
We have our word and we have very clear ideas. What is good for Quebec is good for the Bloc Québécois. What is good for the nation of Quebec is good for the people of Quebec. We have to help small and medium-sized businesses survive the pandemic, those budding businesses that will eventually grow into Bombardiers. They must be given a chance to survive, and that is what we have been doing from the start. We are working hard on this and we will not give up. Our platform is clear and simple: what is good for Quebec is good for us.
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-05-26 11:26 [p.2410]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
Of course wage subsidies are important. Just look at the Liberals; they are certainly taking full advantage. It is clearly very important to them, but the problem is that the whole purpose of the program was kind of undermined when the government shamelessly helped itself to the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The Liberals are in no danger of going bankrupt. I am quite sure they will not go bankrupt this year.
Economics teaches about two kinds of costs businesses have to cover: fixed costs and variable costs. Variable costs are usually salaries, which are covered by the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
What we are proposing is even more important for Quebec because small businesses drive our economy. Yes, there are businesses in Manitoba, and that is fine. We are not saying this is bad for the rest of the country.
Getting back to fixed costs, of course businesses have to cover variable costs and payroll, but they also have fixed costs, which they have to cover even when they are not producing anything. That is the crucial point.
Just helping businesses cover their variable costs is not enough; we have to help them cover their fixed costs too. That is microeconomics 101, which I teach at CEGEP and university. We have to help businesses with their fixed costs. That is why we reached out to the government, but the government did not respond.
Is that because it forgot—
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-05-26 11:28 [p.2411]
Mr. Speaker, one thing is for sure: I do not support the fact that the Conservatives are also going to dip into the Canada emergency wage subsidy in order to try and wipe away their supposed financial problems, when they are as rich as Croesus. I might even say that Croesus was poor compared to the Conservatives. The two main, well-heeled parties have both hands in the Canada emergency wage subsidy. It is not a pretty picture.
Yes, Parliament should continue to sit normally. I agree with him. Yes, there are matters that remain pending. When we negotiated fixed costs around the government table, there were two absentees: the NDP and the Conservatives. Only the Bloc was pushing for improvements in the assistance that could be made available to companies. When companies survive, the economic fabric is stronger and jobs are long-lasting and of good quality.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 11:29 [p.2411]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague from La Prairie for sharing his time with me. I appreciate it.
I am sometimes asked how I imagine us emerging from this crisis or what I hope we take from this crisis. I have thought about it and I think it is important that we all think about it a bit.
I want to draw a parallel between this situation and a situation I remember when I was 13 or 14 years old, in 1998.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
My region lived through the ice storm, which left a mark on our collective psyche. At the time, we saw people coming together, similar to what we are seeing now. People were helping each other. I remember my father went around with his generator to empty basements for people who lived on our street and whose pumps were no longer working because they had no electricity. Although I was too young to notice it, older people remind us about how when the lights came back on, people stopped coming together in the same way. Sadly, I worry that the same thing will happen once a vaccine is discovered. Right now, there is a huge push to buy local.
I would like to think that we will continue to see people supporting each other so wonderfully, but the government and Parliament will have to do some things to ensure that we are left with something from this crisis. It would be an insult to those who are suffering now and to those who lose their lives to COVID-19 if we do not learn something from this pandemic and take this opportunity to make improvements.
There are things that can be done now in some cases, but they could also have been done in the past, which would have made it a little easier to get through this crisis. I will give you three specific examples. There is the matter of seniors, which the Bloc Québécois raised on numerous occasions. Even before the crisis, even before we became aware of the risk of facing such a pandemic one day, the Bloc Québécois raised the question. When old age security was introduced, it covered the equivalent of 20% of the average industrial wage. Given the trend toward disinvestment in the ensuing years, it now covers the equivalent of 13% of the average wage. Seniors’ purchasing power has decreased significantly. We would like to be able to say that the $300 benefit is a good thing, but it should not be a one-time thing. Yes, it will help a little during the crisis, but seniors’ problems will not end with the pandemic.
Think about the cost of groceries in the fall, which could be extremely high, especially when it comes to fresh produce, in particular the fruits and vegetables grown by our own farmers. Something should have been done before the crisis, but we can still act now. We can increase seniors’ purchasing power and make sure that they continue to contribute to our economy, that they continue to buy from our local producers and that they continue to be economically active in society. Unfortunately, these are things that we may not be able to do if Parliament is limited to four question periods a week.
Health transfer payments are another point that we repeatedly raised before the crisis. For several years now, there has been a massive decrease in federal health transfer payments to the provinces and to Québec. In some cases, it could be argued that certain reforms introduced by the provinces were to blame. Even some of the people involved in these reforms acknowledge that the result was not perfect, that they could have done things differently and achieved a better outcome. Nevertheless, when you do not have the money, you are starting with a huge handicap. Federal disinvestment is the main cause of the current problems in the healthcare system. It was a problem before the crisis. It should have been dealt with before the crisis. What we are currently experiencing should at least make us admit that we do not want to see it happen again.
One thing that can be done right now is to ensure that companies that use tax havens do not get the wage subsidy. We did the math. The big banks save the equivalent of roughly $2.5 billion a year in taxes. Meanwhile, it would cost between $1.9 billion and $2 billion to restore the health transfers. By making sure that the real wrongdoers, those who legally but immorally use tax havens, pay their fair share of taxes, the health transfers could be restored.
No one wants this to happen, but we need to be ready in case another crisis arises. We need to make sure that we learn something from the current crisis.
Another subject I have really enjoyed talking about during the crisis is everything related to farmers, but more specifically, the issue of temporary foreign workers, who are the backbone of our production. These individuals are absolutely essential to our food security and food sovereignty, and they ensure our access to local, fresh products.
The problem of closed work permits has been around for a long time. Agricultural producers are complaining about the lack of flexibility of closed work permits. I will give a few examples from before the crisis.
First, consider a farmer who only needs someone part-time, maybe one day a week. It is not worth bringing someone in from Guatemala to work one day a week. However, closed work permits do not allow farms to exchange or share the work done by employees with other farms.
Moreover, the workload is not distributed in the same way from one farm to the next. For example, there is slightly less work on dairy farms at the end of the winter because it is not the beginning or end of the harvest. Conversely, the end of winter is a very busy period for maple producers, since that is when they begin planting. These producers are also prevented from sharing employees’ services to address the unequal workload. The problem existed before the crisis.
During the crisis, when there was a major shortage of temporary foreign workers, producers were unable to share workers at critical times. For example, apple producers needed to have their apple trees pruned at the beginning of the season. At the same time, and often on the neighbouring lot, maple producers, whose sugaring off season had been cancelled, had workers that they could not use and that they would have liked to share with the apple producers.
Another example is vegetable producers, who often have two harvests a year. As some workers harvest the vegetables, others behind them plant seeds for the second harvest. Most Canadian vegetable producers now have enough people for the first harvest, but not enough for the second planting. If all farms had agreed to make better use of the available workers, they could have had two harvests, which would have given them a better yield at the end of the year.
In the event of another crisis, it would be wise to consider new terms and conditions for closed permits. If farmers were allowed to share workers’ services, and if a hail storm destroyed my harvest but not my neighbour’s, my neighbour could save his harvest by using my workers. Closer to home, during the floods, the farm workers who had little to do at the time were unable to help lay sandbags to protect people’s homes.
This problem has been around for a long time and we could solve it. We continue to make proposals and recommending solutions, such as allowing workers with closed permits to work elsewhere for a certain number of days.
However, we cannot discuss all of these issues right now, because two parties decided to restrict our exchanges. Still, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was able to conduct a remarkable study on virtual parliament sessions.
I am disappointed that everyone recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is a huge problem, but then we tie our hands and prevent ourselves from finding solutions for now and for the future. In a sense, I think that not working right now to help people who are suffering and those who are dying from COVID-19 shows a basic lack of respect toward these people. It is unfortunate that the crisis is not bringing out the best in us.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 11:41 [p.2413]
Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to take this opportunity to talk about the issue of health transfers and remind the House that Quebec's minister of health and social services wrote to the Minister of Health to remind her that there was a problem when it comes to the transfers and that she was calling for those to be restored to 25%. This was in fact a common and unanimous request of all the provincial premiers at the Council of the Federation in December. I think there are others who share my point of view.
As far as the issue of Parliament is concerned, the motion before us allows us to question the government. That is good. I am not saying it is awful, but it is not enough. We do not have opposition days. We cannot introduce bills. We cannot debate motions. It is more of a question period than an answer period. Unfortunately, it is not enough to allow us to advance programs as much as we could. Indeed, things have been done. I do not deny that. However, the opportunity to do much more is being denied us today and that is what we take issue with.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 11:43 [p.2413]
Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Internet is not always readily available everywhere. I grew up without cable and with limited access to the Internet unfortunately. I do not believe it need be an argument to prevent us from working virtually. Returning to the House in person would also indirectly be a breach of parliamentary privilege for those who live far away, who might not have access to air travel or who may be older and fear for their health, which would be understandable. It seems to me that a good option would be a hybrid Parliament, which has been successfully tested in other countries and in parliaments in the Westminster tradition. I do not believe that it has to be all or nothing. We can find an even better way forward and that is what I am recommending.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2020-05-26 11:53 [p.2414]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
She spoke a great deal about the economy and the importance of helping our businesses get through the crisis. I would remind members that the Bloc Québécois made a proposal concerning fixed costs, which could be extended to tourism businesses.
I am from Shefford. In my riding, in the Eastern Townships, tourism is an important industry. At this time, the current program and assistance programs are not designed for tourism businesses, which require greater flexibility with respect to fixed costs to help them get through the crisis. They were among the first to be affected and will probably be among the last to be able to start up again.
View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-05-26 12:36 [p.2421]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her speech.
It was fascinating to hear her talk about ideals, about what we should be doing, and about how the government should respond to the crisis.
Let's go down the list of the people who need help from the government during the crisis, who need programs like the CERB and the emergency wage subsidy. That list includes workers, seniors, students, community groups, very important food banks, sick people, fishers on Canada's east coast, the tourism sector, which is huge, single moms, people with disabilities, indigenous individuals, people working in grocery stores and hospitals, and artists. The cultural sector was the first to shut down and will be the last to open up again. Our society needs theatre and the performing arts.
The thing is, I do not see either the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party on the list of people who need government help, yet both of them availed themselves of the Canada emergency wage subsidy. We recently learned that the two leadership hopefuls and other members were against that.
I would like to ask my hon. colleague if she thinks the Conservative Party, which raised almost $4 million in the first quarter, really needs the help that should be going to all those other people.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-05-26 12:50 [p.2422]
Mr. Speaker, I have a two-part question for my colleague across the aisle. He talked about his staff at the beginning of his speech. Obviously, we all rely on our staff and consider them to be extremely important.
I want to ask him if he applied to the program to receive assistance for his office staff. Obviously, his answer will be no, because his office budget has not been cut. The office budget has not suffered as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The funds made available to businesses are meant to save businesses that are struggling.
Here is the second part of my question. Hoping that his answer to the first part is “no”, how does he explain that his party has unscrupulously gone ahead and applied for public money that has been made available to help struggling businesses, when that same party refuses to fulfill its commitment to restore public funding for political parties?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I will also take this opportunity to thank my team, starting with my chief of staff, Christian Rivard. He has worked non-stop during the pandemic and I can even share a story with you about that. We practically worked around the clock during the repatriation operations. I slept at the office and Christian did as well on other days. We set up a war room, even for all the assistance programs.
I would also like to mention Marie-France Beaudry, who helps me out with community organizations which, together with cultural organizations, had difficulty qualifying for assistance from the various programs. We had to be sensitive to this reality and guide these organizations.
There is also Valérie Lafond, who helps out on the administrative side, and Yves Dumulon, who has 20 years' experience providing services to constituents. As you know, the Canada summer jobs program is rather complex and expectations have been much greater this year. I also want to send best wishes to Philippe Guertin, another member of my team, who suffered a mishap during the COVID-19 crisis.
This is a question for the member from Pontiac. Earlier, he mentioned that his constituents were emailing him many questions. I know that Internet access is an issue that is particularly important to him. How is the Internet in his area? How can we make a real difference in terms of Internet coverage, which the COVID-19 crisis has confirmed is a problem?
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague's party is always quick to stand up for the most vulnerable, much like the Bloc Québécois stands up for Quebeckers.
A 60-year-old paramedic in my riding has congenital heart disease and had to stop working because his job puts him in daily contact with the public, which could put his health at risk. As a result, he does not qualify for the CERB, even though it was recommended by his doctor. He is not eligible for any kind of government assistance. I find that a bit ironic, since the government provides these programs, but with criteria that are often too strict for some people and too inclusive for others.
What does my colleague think?
What can we do to improve this situation from here, whether it is in a virtual or hybrid Parliament, to propose solutions to the government?
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-05-26 13:32 [p.2429]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his presentation.
I have been sitting in the House on and off since October 21. I have noticed that we often agree with the NDP on the substance of things, such as support for the public, decent health care, and so on. However, there is a big disconnect between us. It looks like they did not read the contract they signed behind our backs in 1982. Health falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, period.
No, it is not normal for the army to have to come help in long-term care homes in Quebec. No, the current situation is not normal. How did we get to this point? In Parliament, they are trying to pin the blame on Quebec, but that is not where the blame lies. This is happening because of the fiscal imbalance and the many years of gross, appalling and scandalous underfunding of our health care system. The federal government taxes half, keeps the money and does what it wants with it. It has been rationing it out to the provinces and Quebec for many years. Mr. Chrétien even bragged about it in Europe. It is simple: they make cuts and the people complain to the provinces.
I will try to calm down, but it is hard to stay calm sometimes.
I will explain to the NDP what the solution is, and that will be the point of my question.
Does my colleague from Timmins—James Bay not think that the federal government should simply increase health transfers, as we have been calling for and as all the provinces and Quebec have been asking for in a reasonable, intelligent and rational way?
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-05-26 13:48 [p.2431]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention. I am pleased that he brought up the subject of agriculture, because that is what my question is about.
What does he think of the timid, even ridiculous, support that the federal government has offered the agricultural sector since the start of the pandemic?
Specifically, how does he feel about the minister frequently saying that farmers just need to take the money from AgriInvest? That is the same as telling a student that they will get a benefit as long as they empty out their bank account.
What is his view on that?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, last weekend, Air Canada announced that it was cancelling its flights to and from Abitibi-Témiscamingue until at least September 8. This is a blatant lack of respect. Our regional leaders are angry, especially when the economic recovery is urgent.
I remind the House that Air Canada, to which the government loaned $780 million to help it get through the crisis, is claiming the status of a carrier that includes a regional component. We, too, want to get through this crisis. Knowing that the Rouyn-Noranda airport is the third busiest in Quebec, it is inconceivable that our region would get hit by these kinds of cuts. Air Canada must assume its obligations, shoulder its responsibilities and show consideration for the people of our region.
I thank the Minister of Transport for his empathy, but what can we do now with this most delicate, if not most frustrating, situation?
Now more than ever, it is time we considered concrete and sustainable support for small carriers serving the regions of Quebec and Canada. They want to offer us their services. They are sincerely reaching out so we can all find a lasting solution.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 14:18 [p.2436]
Mr. Speaker, Quebec has entered phase two of the pandemic, which is the reopening phase.
Sadly, for some industries, it will be a lengthy process. I am thinking in particular of tourism industry workers in eastern Quebec, who still do not know whether there will even be a summer. For those workers, getting back to normal will not happen overnight. To make matters worse, their 16 weeks of CERB payments are almost up.
The government has no choice. It must extend the CERB, because too many families and communities are depending on it, but not in the same format. The government promised the Bloc Québécois that it would amend the CERB and the CESB so that working would always pay better than not working. However, it broke its promise.
Quebeckers have guts. They want to work. They want to contribute to their region's well-being and be part of the recovery. When they finally get to go back to work, they certainly should not be penalized for their efforts. Quite the contrary.
That is why I want to remind the government that it must keep its promise. Before extending the CERB, the government must amend it so that it genuinely supports the economic recovery instead of slowing it down.
This is not just about respect for workers, it is also about the continued survival of our businesses and communities.
View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many empty, hollow responses the Prime Minister has for the media, Parliament and Quebec taxpayers, but he will see that the Bloc Québécois is going to keep an eye on him right up until the election because he has his hand in the public purse. At a press briefing this morning, he said that programs do not judge, but voters do. The program has no judgment. The Prime Minister should have some.
Will the Prime Minister have enough judgment to forgo the wage subsidy, which the Liberal Party does not deserve, and to return the money, where appropriate?
View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, this will come up again. Until the NDP said it had applied to the program, nobody had any idea that the Liberals and the Conservatives had not only applied for money but also received it. They kept things very quiet. The purpose of the program is to keep people employed. It is a program for businesses and workers, and jobs needed to be protected.
Is the Prime Minister now saying that, if not for the wage subsidy, he would have laid off everyone working for the Liberal Party?
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 14:40 [p.2440]
Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that the emergency wage subsidy is for businesses and SMEs that are worried they will have to choose between going bankrupt or laying off their employees. It is not for multi-millionaire political parties.
On May 15, the finance minister announced that the emergency wage subsidy would be extended by three months until the end of August. My question is simple. Did he know at that time that his own party would benefit from the subsidy?
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 14:41 [p.2441]
Mr. Speaker, the migrant workers who are taking care of seniors in our long-term care facilities have proven that they are extraordinary. That is why we are asking that the government exceptionally give their applications priority and fast-track them.
We moved a motion yesterday to ask the government to take action, but the Conservatives refused to support it. We are moving another today in the hopes that all parties will have as much heart as these people who are risking their lives to save the lives of those who built Quebec.
Will the government give their applications priority and fast-track them?
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-05-26 14:55 [p.2444]
Mr. Speaker, the government has announced that it is going to give workers 10 days of sick leave.
Unfortunately, given that 95% of workers are not covered by the Canada Labour Code, we see that this issue will not be decided here.
I was pleased to hear the question from the leader of the NDP, and especially the reply from the Prime Minister, who said that he was not going to encroach on the areas of jurisdiction and responsibility of Quebec and the provinces. That is what we are talking about, Mr. Speaker.
My question is simple. Just before he made the announcement, did he come to an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces?
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-05-26 14:57 [p.2444]
Mr. Speaker, they obviously had no agreement with the provinces and Quebec.
The government is just telling us that, if the provinces decide to give 10 days of leave, the feds are in agreement. That is not a measure, it is a wish.
Who is going to pay for this? The federal government? Quebec and the provinces? The employers struggling with COVID-19 and wondering whether they are going to go bankrupt? The tooth fairy?
How can the government announce a measure as a done deal, when it does not apply to 95% of the people and, above all, depends on other legislatures?
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 15:11 [p.2447]
Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, you will find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion: That this House recognize the contribution of hundreds of essential workers, particularly in the health sector in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, who are asylum seekers, and call on the government to work with the Government of Quebec and the rest of Canada to prioritize and expedite the processing of their and their families' applications in recognition of the work they did during the current health crisis.
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-05-26 15:18 [p.2448]
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the House Leader of the Official Opposition. We heard that this morning, but it did not come up. I held out hope.
Unfortunately, the motion before us summarily puts an end to the business of the House as we have known it for the past two days. The government says that we will continue to sit and that it will answer our questions. It does not take an Einstein or a Leonardo da Vinci to realize that sitting four times a week with 90 minutes of oral questions a day is not the same as five days of Parliament sitting from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Nobody is going to buy that.
We are in a pandemic. However, the lockdown is easing. The Quebec National Assembly and the legislatures of the other provinces have resumed sitting. Businesses in Quebec are open again, while businesses elsewhere have already been open for some time. We are emerging from the lockdown. Things that were true and went without saying a month and a half ago are no longer relevant today. We are able to act intelligently, open up Parliament, vote on motions, study bills, and advance debate.
Why is the government running away like this when we are in a pandemic and the deficit is $300 billion and climbing? The government is refusing to provide an economic update and going into hiding.
The leader is acting surprised. That is what the government is doing. I am an objective observer of the government, and it is doing everything that it can to avoid answering questions. I think that democracy is ailing in Canada right now. I do not understand, and I want to know why the government is running away like this.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-05-26 15:26 [p.2449]
Mr. Speaker, I heard the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say a few moments ago how well parliamentarians on both sides of the House had managed to collaborate so far, to the benefit of Canadians and Quebeckers. I think we can all agree. However, what we are witnessing right now is downright embarrassing. I am not sure that Parliament is earning any dignity and credibility with what has been going on for the past two days.
It seems to me that it should have been easy to come to an agreement. The Conservatives want Parliament to keep working in a more regular fashion. The government wants a hybrid Parliament. What is stopping us from doing both? No, the government decided that it did not have enough ideas for introducing new bills.
How come the government no longer wants to make legislation? Usually a government is elected to make legislation. This government does not want to make legislation. This government just wants to be asked questions behind closed doors here and allow the Prime Minister to keep putting on his daily sideshow in front of his cottage in Ottawa. What we are seeing is not particularly impressive.
It is also not particularly impressive that, in order to get what it wanted, the government negotiated with the NDP behind closed doors about something that is not even a federal matter. They tinkered with a provincial matter, without even talking to the provinces, just so that the Liberals could do what they want with Parliament. That is frankly embarrassing.
I will leave it there. The leader was saying that the Bloc did not participate in the negotiations. As we have said, we have been collaborating from the beginning, but when someone gives their word around a table, we expect them to keep their word. As soon as one party fails to keep its word, there is not enough trust to sit back down at the table. What we have seen over the past two days shows that we were right not to trust the Liberal government and sit down at the table with them.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 15:35 [p.2451]
Mr. Speaker, we have heard other parliaments being cited as going virtual. The government is saying how wonderful it is because we can ask them questions, just like people outside. I completely agree with that.
On the other hand, other hybrid parliaments are not necessarily limited to question period. In fact, they have tested electronic voting. They are going much further.
Why should we limit ourselves to question period? Why should we not proceed with the legislative agenda? Why should we not have opposition days?
Why should we not go further and play the role of a real parliament, which we can do in a hybrid manner?
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 15:41 [p.2451]
Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the words “Côte-Nord”, because it just so happens the Côte-Nord expects more from me.
The government House leader talked about people who are sick, who have lost their jobs and who do not know what tomorrow will bring. What I am being told is that, as an MP, I should work less and stay away from Parliament. We are getting a math lesson, being told that six is more than two and more than four.
Recognizing that we normally spend 30-some odd hours discussing things here in Parliament, that is going to be replaced by committee meetings that do not always go so well, because we have less time to ask questions and we are constantly cut off. I think there is something the government would have us believe, but I would not call it a lesson in democracy.
We should do more for our constituents. We are considered essential workers. I consider it my duty to drive 10 or 12 hours to be here and participate in the committee meetings. It is my duty to stand up for my constituents.
I find it unacceptable that a minority government should decide to shut down the House. It is a denial of democracy, even if the government would have us believe that we are going to be able to ask more questions. I expect more from this government. I do not expect it to shut down the House. It is a minority government and it needs to remember that. The government needs to bring us together here so that we can ask it the right questions, and it must answer them. There are suggested questions, but they are not at all worthwhile and do not address the needs of our constituents. Our constituents want us to work. If we are asking them to make an effort, then we need to make an even greater one.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 16:09 [p.2454]
Mr. Speaker, I have so many things to say that I do not know where to start.
I would like to come back to the idea that the functioning of Parliament will be improved as of tomorrow, that is to say from the moment we no longer do what we normally do as parliamentarians.
Like all members of the House, I was elected because voters wanted me to work for them. We know how difficult times are for people in our ridings right now. I am from a rural riding. I am thinking of people in the tourism industry, people in the fishing industry, indigenous communities and all the small and medium-sized businesses.
There are natural resources in my riding. My region is what is called a resource region. All these large companies work with small businesses that are really struggling right now. For instance, the paper, aluminum and forestry sectors are having a very hard time.
Two ideas came to mind at the same time. I have the impression, or rather the certainty, that someone is trying to make me swallow a big fat lie. I am being told that, starting tomorrow, I will be able to do more than if I were in Parliament. What is more, I am being told that this is exactly what people are asking for, yet that is not what people are asking us to do.
We have talked a lot about people who have lost their jobs, people who are sick and families who are struggling to make ends meet because they do not know which way to turn. People have to take care of their sick loved ones or their children, all while trying to work at the same time.
I know that my colleagues are doing a tremendous amount of work in their ridings. We are being told that they have found a solution for parliamentarians. We are being told that the work we do in the House is not useful, that we have to call our constituents and that we have to set aside our work as legislators and our work in committee.
We are being told that by doing less in the House, we will be doing more in our ridings. Personally, I believe that the ideals of dignity, respect and effort, as part of our duties as elected officials, should be reflected in the work of the House. I am quite open to the idea that this work should adapt to the current situation. However, no one can say that there is no longer a legislative agenda, that not all committees can sit, and that we cannot have all the space we can in committees because of the pandemic.
Instead, we should capitalize on the situation. More than ever, we need to find ways to do our job as lawmakers in the House and in committee, while working in our ridings and dealing with the pandemic.
I feel like we are on pause. Quebec and all the provinces have also been on pause. People are going back to work and getting on with their lives. However, the signal we are sending them is that we are not fast enough, that we are not working hard enough, and that we do not have the will to do the work that we usually do.
I think that today we have shown that we are able to work together safely, since we are observing social distancing. Later today I will be going to committee and doing my job. If we are able to do that, why would we not?
All my constituents, as well as Quebeckers and Canadians, must be telling themselves the same thing: that we are asking more of them. They are being asked to go to work, to make sacrifices, and to put themselves a little more at risk. We, their representatives, should be flawless. I say flawless, but we certainly all have flaws. However, we should lead by example. Right now, the message we are sending is that we want to do less.
I can give an astonishing number of examples.
I come from a rural region. I am from eastern Quebec. I have been working with my colleagues from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia and Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for the past few weeks to jointly serve our constituents. Although video conferencing is available, we know that when we are back home in our ridings, we do not have a place for dialogue, a place to get answers and get things done. We need to be able to get things done with the House, with colleagues, like we usually do.
I spoke about small and medium-sized businesses, tourism, fisheries and forestry. Ridings as big as mine, which, at 350,000 square kilometres, is one of the largest in Quebec and Canada, are home to many isolated communities, communities of 200 to 300 people, indigenous communities that are struggling and very vulnerable right now. The House does not necessarily deal with issues of concern to these communities, since those issues seem to be less important from a purely demographic standpoint. However, these people are entitled to the same representation as everyone else. I want us to be able to move forward, to present and talk about these realities in order to find solutions. We must remember that it took weeks before the fisheries sector got any assistance.
Coming to work in person in the House also allows us to speak to the Prime Minister and all of our colleagues, to get a specific topic out in the open and to find solutions.
We are seeing this now with tourism. I keep bringing it up, but I am thinking of all those people who rely on tourism and whom I see every day all over my riding. Some families that live off tourism are struggling to make ends meet and have no idea what is going to happen next week, next month, or even in September, when they may not have accumulated enough hours to qualify for employment insurance. I cannot imagine what kind of year these people might have. I keep hoping that something will happen for them. We need to work for these people. I want their voice to be heard, here as well as in committee.
I do not want us to have fewer opportunities to defend our people and propose solutions. That is Parliament's role.
We talked about the CERB earlier. It is an extremely important topic in Quebec as well. I have spoken to businesses that are in desperate need of workers, especially in the remote regions of Quebec. This benefit deters people from working. Our people need to work to survive. We are talking about families and individuals, but this benefit will also have an impact on the community and on our businesses if people do not go back to work.
Improvements need to be made, and I think that Parliament is still the best place to do that. The Liberals are not going to make us believe that we will be able to get more done better with less time, fewer committees, and fewer answers and discussions amongst ourselves and with our colleagues. I find that very hard, if not impossible, to believe.
Of course we need to keep working on these issues. I also raised the matter of indigenous peoples, which is a very important issue for me. The Innu and Naskapi make up 15% of the population of the riding of Manicouagan. We know that these populations are very young and still growing. I experienced this crisis, this pandemic, with them. I saw all the needs they had and still have, needs that still have not been met. Yes, millions of dollars have been provided, but these populations are fragile and vulnerable because of their isolation and their health issues. I would like to discuss their reality and their needs here in Parliament.
Yes, there is the regular business of the House and committees, and we need to make legislation. However, now there is also all the work that comes with the pandemic.
I always feel like we are lagging behind. We are lagging behind in terms of what happens next. There is nothing stopping us from thinking about the recovery, what is going to happen this fall or a second wave. We are not really talking about those things, but I believe it is our duty to anticipate them and to be ahead of the curve in terms of what is going to happen and what we can do to make sure that the impact is not as big as it was at the beginning of this crisis. We need to prepare. I say this for indigenous communities, for our businesses, for our workers and for all our communities. That is what they need. We have enough work to do, and we have the means to do it. We have more work than we would normally have. When I am told that we are going to meet once, twice or three times this summer, I do not feel that is enough. If I had to, I would come all summer long so that I could give even more to my constituents, so that I could defend them and find solutions.
For the sake of my constituents, I hope we can come up with something other than what we are seeing right now. We are being told to just go home and make calls, when there is so much to be done here. That is what the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons told us earlier. That is disappointing. In some respects, it is almost shameless given what we talked about yesterday when we learned that the two major political parties, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada, had decided to apply for the wage subsidy.
At the beginning of the crisis, I noticed that indigenous people in my riding did not have masks. SMEs in my riding are telling me that they cannot make ends meet and are going to go bankrupt. I see fishers who know that they are going out on the water at their own expense and are going into debt. I see workers who have had to leave their jobs because they have sick children. The government is not improving these programs, these subsidies. It is not trying to adjust them based on real needs. Emphasis on the word “needs”. The Liberals have brushed all that aside, while at the same time taking money from the pot, claiming they need it. The richest party in Canada decided to avail itself of that subsidy even though it had absolutely no need for it. I think that is terribly shameless coming from any party.
The government is creating subsidies, and some of the wealthy are taking advantage. Then, in the same breath, it tells us that in order to work for our constituents, whose needs are so great, we should stay home and not work in the House, since we are able to.
Where there is a will, there is a way. We can do it, and the Bloc Québécois wants to do it. I want us to continue doing our work, in all moral conscience as elected representatives. We need to be aware that what we are doing is not for our party or ourselves, but for the people we serve. In my case, that is the people of the North Shore. I want to be on duty here as much as possible so we can find solutions fast.
We have been to the moon, so I think we can find a way to vote electronically pretty quickly. There is no earthly reason the work of the House should not proceed as productively as possible. I urge all members of the House to say they want us to get back to work, and serious work at that. That is what our people need. It is what they want, and we are here for them.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 16:24 [p.2456]
Mr. Speaker, this is not a dilemma with just two choices.
I definitely think we can do both. We can sit. Of course, if there is an emergency, we can focus on the emergency. That should not prevent us from doing all the other work.
I believe I am capable and fit enough, and I will give all of my time to this. I would expect no less from all my colleagues, as I am sure all my constituents expect no less from this Parliament.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 16:25 [p.2456]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.
That is something that is very important to me. The people back home and elsewhere are brave and hard-working. They want to work and contribute to the effort in their way, by having their own job, but having a job penalizes them. Obviously people think of their families first, but we have to think about the greater community, and that is what the government should do.
What the Bloc Québécois is proposing is not to penalize the people who want to work, quite the contrary. We have to give them access to the benefit, but once they earn money, they should be able to get ahead and increase their income. I think that is a solution worth considering.
The government should do this quickly. Yes, there is a crisis, but as I mentioned earlier, there is also the recovery. This is no longer the beginning of the crisis. We are at a different stage. We have to adjust our measures and adapt to things as they come. We also have to think about the future.
I certainly agree with my colleague. We have to find incentives to get people to return to work and contribute to economic recovery.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 16:28 [p.2457]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his work, which I greatly appreciate. I would like to tell him that.
However, I do not think that we are gaining anything. I find it unpleasant to hear almost the same words that the leader of the government was using earlier about making gains. Having less is not a gain. Less is still less. I am saying this as an arithmetic lesson for the leader of the government in the House: less is still less.
Now I am being told that there may be a day this summer when we will be able to talk about programs and that we can do so through committees. However, we could be doing that tomorrow. If we vote against the motion, we will be in the House again tomorrow. We could already start working on it.
Once again, I am having a hard time understanding certain things. Can someone help me understand how it is possible that, by doing less and having less, we will be able to do more?
Of course, this is an extreme analogy, but what would we do if we were at war? Would we stay home? Would we be asked to do more? Would we say no, we cannot do anything and we are being asked to do too much? Would we say that there is a crisis, that we are going through a crisis?
My impression is that there is a lack of will. I hope that it is not the case, that it is simply the wrong perception. I am ready to work. The Bloc Québécois is ready to work. I think that the Conservative Party is ready to work.
Why are we halting the sittings of the House rather than continuing them and working even harder, as all of our constituents have been asking us to do since the crisis began?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for Manicouagan.
Can she give us a concrete example of a situation where the current format might prevent us from moving things forward and properly representing our constituents? I am thinking specifically of not being able to work in committee.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 16:30 [p.2457]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question. He is very attuned to the concerns of the regions. We both come from rural regions and are well aware that Internet access is problematic, deficient, difficult and sometimes non-existent. This makes our jobs extremely difficult.
Even in the context of these committees, we are interrupted much of the time because people are not using their headsets or because the interpretation service is having difficulties. What this means is that, once again, we have less, not more. Every time we are interrupted, or we have to repeat ourselves or there are technical difficulties means more time wasted. Things simply come to a halt. How many times have some of my colleagues been deprived of their right to speak, their right to ask questions? We can never make up for lost time.
I find that very problematic. We are often stripped of our parliamentary privilege, and that has to stop. Obviously, it would be better if we could work together here in person, since no one would cut me off, except you, Mr. Speaker. We are perfectly capable of doing the work we were elected to do.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-26 16:32 [p.2458]
Mr. Speaker, that is a false dilemma. I said what I wanted to say. The government said what it wanted to say in its motion. We can talk about the different ways to make this happen, which is what the House is for.
As the saying goes, only a fool does not change his mind. We are able to change our minds, to come to an understand and to find a way. This not about being the opposition or a particular party. It is about knowing what our constituents want and what is best for them. I think that is what we proposed earlier.
I am prepared to find ways other than having this minority government force the format that it wants but that does not sit well with Quebeckers or, I would imagine, with Canadians.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 16:45 [p.2459]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
I would like her opinion on a question I have already asked. I would like to know what she thinks personally.
We have debated the idea of a hybrid Parliament to resume the overall role of Parliament. However, I sense a certain reluctance from the Conservatives, who would instead like us to be physically present in the House.
I would therefore like to know what is most important to my colleague. Is it the fact that the person answering her question is physically present in front of her or the fact that each member—who may, for example, have a health problem or is an age that puts him or her at risk by coming here, have young children at home or live very far away in an area that is currently poorly served by transportation systems—has access to his or her privileges as a parliamentarian through a hybrid Parliament?
What is most important?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-05-26 17:02 [p.2462]
Mr. Speaker, I have the same question as my colleague.
A return to the House with full parliamentary and legislative powers means that there will be question period and accountability. Democracy will require that all members, all 338 elected members, have a voice. We cannot have 338 members in the House. We cannot have only half the members of the House present without our other colleagues being present, as well.
I do not understand their proposal. If we want to come back to the House, we must have a process that permits all members to do so. How do my colleagues see their solution?
Members from Quebec and Ontario are not in a tough spot. I heard the message. We can travel. However, all 338 members cannot travel. There are still some health issues to consider.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-05-26 17:04 [p.2462]
Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, I rose in the House to express the fact that I was extremely concerned about what was going on.
My colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, with whom I am sharing my time, will certainly have the opportunity to express his own views on the matter, but I had the opportunity to say how uneasy I felt about what we are seeing right now.
What I find deeply disturbing is that, while claiming that co-operation between the parties has yielded extremely positive results so far, the government insists on ending negotiations, on ending this co-operation that, in its own words, has been so fruitful up to now.
As proof of that, earlier, a Liberal member asked a Conservative member what they were proposing. That is all they have been doing for the past two days, proposing things. This has been a fruitless discussion, because the government has decided that, no matter what we might say here in the House, that is how it is going to be.
Why has the government decided that this is how things would go? It is because it negotiated an agreement with the NDP behind closed doors. The government prefers to reach agreements in secret rather than reaching a compromise here, in front of everyone, where Canadians and Quebeckers can listen to us. I imagine that they have listened a little over the past few hours, and I imagine that they were a little disappointed to hear us having discussions without reaching any sort of compromise.
I do not believe that it would have been so difficult to find a compromise. I will explain. The government was really intent on having a hybrid Parliament based on the highly laudable principle that all 338 members of the House must be able to participate in its work. No matter their age, no matter where they live in Canada, they must be able to participate in this work.
I think we should applaud the government's desire to allow all parliamentarians to participate in the work of the House. The problem is that they decided to use the objective of having a virtual Parliament to change how the work is done. Not content with establishing a hybrid Parliament, they decided to mothball Parliament. That is what I find extremely troubling.
I believe my colleague from Manicouagan has very thoughtfully explained what we see as problematic. We are being told we will get more time to ask questions, which I am trying to reconcile with the fact that we will be getting 90 minutes a day for four days. When I compare that to five days of parliamentary work from 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., I simply cannot figure out how that works out to more time. I have never been good at math, but something tells me this works out to less time at the end of the day.
I am perplexed as to why there are parliamentarians in the House, whether Liberal or NDP, who think it is a good idea to muzzle parliamentarians during all this time when we could be not only asking questions but also passing legislation.
What is absolutely mind-boggling to see is that this government, which was elected with a very full agenda, now seems to no longer want to legislate. It is as though the Liberal Party has run out of ideas. Conversely, they may have decided that it is much too cumbersome to have to come before Parliament to pass legislation, when it is so easy, with the extraordinary powers they have given themselves, to just step outside the cottage and announce all sorts of measures that then become reality. Why go through this necessary evil of a Parliament when they can do everything directly from the Prime Minister’s residence? All they have to do is step outside every morning at 11 a.m. to make a little announcement. Everything has been decided behind closed doors, without consulting the provinces, as we saw, for example, in the purpose behind this secret—now no longer a secret—agreement between the government and the New Democrats. They reached a deal saying that it would be a good idea to give workers sick leave.
Of course it is a good idea. It is an idea that we welcome and support. The problem is that this is not the right Parliament to do that. Once again, our Liberal and NDP friends have decided to trample on the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. They are always interfering in the affairs of Quebec and the provinces. After reaching a backroom deal with the New Democrats and without consulting the provinces, the Prime Minister came out one morning at 11 a.m. and announced a sick leave program for workers. He said in the same breath that because he lacks the constitutional jurisdiction over that, he needed to reach an agreement with the provinces first. That is putting the cart before the horse. It seems to me that they should have first talked to the provinces, agreed on the terms and then made the announcement.
Instead, the government exploited this very important and crucial issue of sick leave for workers in order to mothball Parliament. The government took advantage of this very important issue to muzzle members. I do not understand why opposition members agreed to do away with their speaking time in the House. Sure, we can ask more questions. That is great, but we will not be passing legislation. Our main duty as parliamentarians is to legislate. We have a duty to oversee government activities, sure, but we also have a legislative function. Is there anyone here who remembers that one of our functions is to legislate? We are no longer doing that. We are operating through orders in council. Cabinet meets, decides what could work, and then it is implemented.
It is simply disappointing to see that the government would rather negotiate behind closed doors than out in the open where everyone can see what is going on. The government is saying that we have not yet agreed on how members will be allowed to vote. We need to send that to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and have the committee think about how members could vote. It has been proven that necessity is the mother of invention. In the beginning, when we talked about a virtual Parliament, everyone was wondering how we would do it. When we spoke about a hybrid Parliament, everyone was wondering how we would do that. It did not take much to make those things happen. We made it work. I think that we could have just as easily come up with a mechanism that would allow members to vote. There was simply a lack of will to do so. The government preferred to muzzle Parliament. In my opinion, these are not exactly the glory days of Canada's parliamentary system.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague. I love listening to him speak. He does such a great job. He obviously has some experience under his belt.
I like the way he talked about an electronic vote. In his opinion, how could that have been implemented? There is certainly a lack of will from the government. If we already managed to do the impossible, which turned out to be not so impossible after all, we can certainly do more.
I would like to hear what the member has to say about that.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-05-26 17:14 [p.2463]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, which I find most relevant.
Indeed, if we were able to deal with the technology to allow virtual sittings and a hybrid Parliament, we would also have been able to deal with the technology to vote electronically.
Therefore, it was not a technical problem that prevented us from reaching an agreement on how members vote. It is simply a false argument that we are being given today to explain the fact that we will be working in committee of the whole, rather than in a virtual or hybrid Parliament. That argument does not hold water. They just did not want to find a solution.
The best way not to find a solution is to send it to committee. The committee will consider the issue. No one asked the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to consider the issue of a virtual Parliament. No one asked the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to consider the issue of a hybrid Parliament. We racked our brains, hunkered down and found solutions.
There is a real rush to muzzle Parliament. Once again, I find this extremely disappointing.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-05-26 17:18 [p.2464]
I will not spend too much time on the second part of the question. I believe I have answered that fully.
I think if we found solutions for the virtual Parliament and the hybrid Parliament, we could have also found solutions for electronic voting. There was no reason to defer that until later by referring it to a committee.
As far as the objectives are concerned, again, I completely agree: It is important to set objectives. I have to say that my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, like all my colleagues from the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, got the wrong Parliament. It is not up to this Parliament to set this type of objective.
I almost feel like saying to my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and he will not like this, “Jean Chrétien, be gone!” Jean Chrétien once said that the best part of being at the federal level is that we are the ones who make the decisions but then it is provinces who have to enforce them. That is exactly the same reasoning underlying the intervention of my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
It is not for us to set these objectives. It is up to the provincial governments and the Government of Quebec to make these sorts of decisions. It is not up to the federal government to say what objectives the provinces must meet. It does not work like that. Actually, yes, it does work like that unfortunately.
It should not work like that in a real federation where there is a division of powers between the central government the government of the states that make up the federation.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to see you again live and in person.
Today, May 26, is a historic day for the people of Rouyn-Noranda because one year ago, we were the Memorial Cup champions. It is difficult to speak in the House without alluding to that. The good thing about this pandemic is that we will be able to say that we were the champions for two years. However, it is too bad for a great captain like Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, who will not have the chance to lift the cup two years in a row or on two different teams.
I am here to speak to the bill, of course, but also to analyze what we have experienced and what has happened in recent weeks, and to talk about our role as parliamentarians.
First of all, I must mention that the funding measures for businesses and organizations offered by the federal government have been as numerous as they have been disparate. Many businesses and organizations are still struggling to keep up, since the measures are changing every day. That said, it is a good thing that they were changed, because sometimes they were not at all adapted to the reality of businesses and organizations. This is an example of something we have not been able to debate and on which I did not have much opportunity to speak.
I also have the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I want to acknowledge the chair of that committee. I have the privilege of sitting on this committee, which has resumed sitting and has the opportunity to work on sectors that are essential to the prosperity and survival of Canadians and Quebeckers. We have been able to address a number of issues that are particularly important to us.
As we reflect on a virtual Parliament and remote attendance, I want to point out that the chair is doing an exceptional job. There were some technological problems, especially in the beginning. High-speed Internet is not available in all regions. If there is one thing this pandemic has shown us, it is that we urgently need to invest a lot of money to reduce wait times and to ensure that all Quebeckers and Canadians have access to a good Internet connection. That is essential for carrying out our role as parliamentarians.
During this pandemic, people who have to telework are seeing their Internet and cellphone bills skyrocket. Their data is on a saturated network, and they are unable to get the same quality of service. That is not even counting those who have no Internet access whatsoever.
We have heard testimony on this subject from many citizens, professors and committed people from my riding and elsewhere in Canada. I hope we will study this issue. Many ministers have mentioned that, like the Bloc Québécois, they believe that high-speed Internet and the cell network are essential services.
During meetings of the industry committee, we had the opportunity to discuss several subjects, in particular assistance for farmers, which is clearly inadequate. We also discussed our concerns about data protection.
I would like to digress for a moment. If not for the fact that the committee I sit on resumed its work, I might not be so aware of this issue as a parliamentarian. Why does the House not ask itself the fundamental question of what will happen to our data? Google, Apple and other companies are considering data traceability, which worries me. There is an issue of professional ethics. If I were to contract COVID-19, would my medical records belong to me or to the government?
This is a fundamental ethical question that we are not talking about. Based on what we are hearing, the debate could start next week. However, we will not be able to do our jobs as parliamentarians because we do not have a place to do so.
When we are sick, who owns our data? Do they belong to the government, in order to protect society in the event of a pandemic? This is a fundamental question that could set an extraordinary precent. This worries me a lot.
At the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, we spoke about innovation. The idea of a green recovery, particularly in the supply chain, is one that is dear to my heart. Self-sufficiency, particularly food self-sufficiency, our sovereignty and the protection of our borders are important issues. We need a place to debate them. As I said, I am a privileged parliamentarian because I am part of an important committee. However, not everyone has the same power to defend their constituents. It is very frustrating to be an MP during this pandemic. We all experienced it when we had to defend inadequate programs, for example. We saw that the CERB was tax free in the beginning.
Businesses that offer essential services were calling us to say that their employees no longer wanted to work. That was fair, since they were worried about contracting COVID-19. That is understandable, but at the same time, these employees thought that they could make more money by staying home than by going to work. That was not so long ago. We understand that the programs were put together on the fly. It could not be helped. In two days, the benefit went from being tax free to taxable. As members, we act as intermediaries for our constituents. We need to answer for that. It is frustrating. We saw all kinds of flaws in the programs but were unable to express ourselves in the House and tell the government that some things were not working. I think it is important to mention that.
Take, for example, assistance for small businesses. For partnerships and business owners who pay themselves in dividends, it took a long time. They had to be supported and given a message of hope. I have always loved and hated the slogan “Everything will be all right” because it implies a somewhat naive view. At the same time, it is important to stay hopeful.
I will give some examples. For fixed costs, most economic measures are in the form of credit. This option does not help the recovery. Every business owner knows that it is risky for a small business to offset a loss of revenue with credit. It only increases debt and payments over the long term and hinders a successful recovery. The Bloc Québécois proposed that the government adopt a subsidy program that would cover a portion of the fixed costs of SMEs and organizations. Our objective was to prevent SMEs and organizations from making up for their lost revenue with credit when they resume operations, as it would only increase their debt load and the burden of their monthly payments. I would have liked to be able to debate that here.
Creating a tax credit that is 50% refundable on fixed costs would have been a more appropriate and effective solution. When we talk about negotiations amongst smaller committees, including with the leader, there is give and take, and common sense does not always prevail. That is something I learned during this crisis.
The commercial rent assistance is not effective. Many SMEs and organizations do not qualify. According to the latest survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 51% of property owners are not using the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program because they have to assume 25% of the cost of the rent. Of course some property owners refuse to apply for the program. Once again, support for fixed costs would have been much more appropriate and more universally available to organizations and businesses.
In contrast, we have the regional relief and recovery fund, which was not debated in the House. That one is a good program because planning for recovery is more complex than getting a regular loan from a financial institution. The CFDCs' analyses of financial requests are key to an economic recovery that must succeed. That is the right approach. CFDCs are local. They are in touch with people and businesses. They have the right tools, and they can get money out the door fast, but they all say that the deadlines are too tight. Meeting with businesses, assessing their situation and making decisions by July 15 is a tall order. Where can I raise that issue?
Generally speaking, programs were announced hastily and rolled out much more slowly. People have to go all over the place to access the money, and deadlines are tight. None of this is conducive to a real and sustainable recovery.
I have lots of other concerns, such as programs not being a good fit for community and cultural organizations, many of which slipped through the cracks. The available funds do not always encourage organizations to innovate and adapt since project management makes our organizations more vulnerable than they already were because of their independent financing.
Many other issues required our attention. I am thinking of the situation of Air Canada, which I mentioned earlier, or that of Canada Post. Why does it cost less to ship a parcel from another country than to ship it from Canada? It is because of agreements. I do not understand it, but that is what is currently happening. That is not how we are going to help small businesses.
In conclusion, I would like to tip my hat to the people in my riding, who have shown a great deal of patience and have been able to readily adapt to all the economic and health measures put in place by governments. Our lives have been turned upside down by the crisis, both at work and at home. Many organizations are at risk. I would like to applaud the resiliency of my constituents.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, if we have the opportunity to resume parliamentary work in committee, to legislate, what would my colleague like to look at? As my hon. colleague from Montarville said earlier, we are first and foremost legislators.
For several weeks and even months now, all we have been talking about is COVID-19. That is only natural because public health is a priority. However, we need to look at other issues. The crisis is becoming an excuse for everything. I am thinking about the environmental policies that have been delayed for various reasons, about a number of policies that were supposed to be put in place and about the many bills whose introduction has been delayed.
I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.
What bill would he like to work on?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.
The most important issue right now obviously is health. That has already been made clear.
As an MP representing a region, I would like us to be able to ensure equity and the same dignity for all Canadians when it comes to accessing an essential service such as a cellular network and high-speed Internet. I think there are people in all 338 ridings in Canada who do not have access to these services.
As far as the programs are concerned, there is currently a long-term vision. The plan is to connect 95% of Canadians by 2030. However, I do not get the impression that there is a willingness to invest new money.
How can we deem a service essential and not want to invest new money into it? That makes no sense. Several ministers have acknowledged that it is an essential service. They need to be serious and table a budget bill, for example. We need assurance that the government is going to be accountable.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his excellent question. Honestly, it is something I wonder about daily.
I regret not being able to welcome you to the food fair in Ville-Marie this year. We made plans to meet there when you were elected.
It is an example of a fantastic celebration. It is a food festival. It is a festival where people get together. Obviously there is a financial loss associated with not holding an event like that. The same thing is happening everywhere. How will we ensure the survival of these events in the long term? How will the tourism industry bounce back?
We have to consider that it takes people working year-round to put on an event in July, or any time. How will all that be supported when the event is not held and there is no revenue? It is going to take direct grants.
The tourism industry is currently looking into promoting inter-regional tourism. That is a very interesting model, but there is no answer for now, and the uncertainty felt by every Canadian, every business owner, is untenable.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, my colleague said she is eager to get back to committee work, and so am I. A firearms ban was introduced in recent weeks. As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I am eager to talk about that.
I am also a member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. Quebec has an amazing resource that could contribute so much if it were optimized. I am talking about the forestry industry, of course. It could be more profitable than developing other resources such as fossil fuels and oil sands. Given the opportunity, we can come up with solutions.
I would like to know my colleague's thoughts on fossil fuels because I think we are headed for a brick wall if we keep subsidizing them. Why not develop our forestry industry, which could really benefit us going forward?
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I must first mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.
We are here today to debate a motion that would allow us to debate more often and at greater length in this place. Debate is what drives us, what drives democracy, and we look forward to doing it.
I remember seeing Gilles Duceppe's troops arguing with passion and guts when I was younger. Since October 21, my Bloc Québécois colleagues have been doing so well that we are very much looking forward to being here again.
Of course, circumstances dictate that we must find hybrid ways of doing things, not only to debate but also to point out the flaws in the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis. It is our job as parliamentarians to put forward proposals and ideas, and we have spent enough time in our ridings to understand how our constituents are dealing with the crisis and need help.
Directly on the ground, speaking virtually with local stakeholders, we can see that government assistance in times of crisis is extremely important, essential even. We are talking about the survival of small businesses and the financial security of our own people.
Since the crisis began, the federal government has announced many assistance programs. I am sure that most of my colleagues will agree or will have made the same observations as I have. These programs, as generous as they may be, are not suited to everyone. In my riding, Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, many people are still falling through the cracks.
Today I would like to talk about one example in particular, Gaston Berthelot. I briefly touched on his situation earlier today, in questions and comments, but I would like to tell the House more about him.
He is a 60-year-old paramedic. He has a congenital heart problem and had to stop working for health reasons, because he could have serious complications if he were to contract the coronavirus. He called Service Canada, and an employee told him he was not eligible for the CERB because it was his decision to stop working. His employer refuses to compensate him, and so does the government.
I will digress for a moment. We often seem to forget something of great importance in these times. What is being done in Quebec, Canada and elsewhere in the world, namely putting the economy on hold, is being done for the sole purpose of protecting people's health. However, those people in fragile health are the very people who have been forgotten. I am not going to dwell on long-term care homes in Quebec. The most vulnerable are in precarious situations and have been forgotten in this crisis.
Mr. Berthelot is at risk of serious complications. I am not the one saying so, but rather his attending physician and also a representative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada who was interviewed by Cieu FM, a radio station in Baie-des-Chaleurs that I want to salute.
I would remind members that Mr. Berthelot is a paramedic and that it is a little harder for him to telework. He is in direct contact with sick people every day. Therefore, he had to stop working, but not because he did not want to work. He tried to work. People who want to go to work are being encouraged to do so. The assistance programs are there for people who cannot go to work, but he was penalized.
In the case of Mr. Berthelot, the federal government has obviously failed. Why does he not qualify for the CERB just because he, himself, made the decision to stop working? This is nonsense to me.
Here we have a perfect example of someone who wants to work. We often find that certain program criteria are too restrictive for some people and too lax for others. You guessed it: I am talking about the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party, which will use the Canada emergency wage subsidy to pay their employees, but that is another issue I will not get into.
Mr. Berthelot is in a very unfortunate situation, being without pay for two months. He is not the only one in this kind of situation, because the government has also decided to close its Service Canada offices. That was justifiable early on in the crisis for reasons we can all understand, but as the lockdown gradually eases and certain sectors of the economy reopen, our local merchants are proving to us that it is possible to reopen businesses and serve the public by putting in place a number of health measures.
Services provided by Service Canada offices are fairly essential, especially in times of crisis. People often forget that about 45% of Quebeckers are functionally illiterate, which means they struggle to understand what they are reading. That makes it virtually impossible for them to fill out forms online without help. Now those people are being asked to go online or call Service Canada, but it is practically impossible to get a hold of anyone there.
I do not know if you have ever tried it, Mr. Speaker, but I know a man in Baie-des-Chaleurs, Fortin De Nouvelle, who spent a whopping 18 days trying to reach an agent on the Service Canada line. He ended up calling my riding office, and of course my team rallied to help him out. We managed to put him in touch with an official, but we waited several days for a simple question, for a service that could have been provided while adhering to appropriate public health guidelines.
Forcing people to use online services completely ignores the reality of rural areas where, even in 2020, not everyone has Internet access. In my constituency office, we have received calls from families who were desperate because they could not register online, as they had no Internet access and could not talk to a Service Canada agent. Again, our office teams are taking action to help these people.
We end up wondering about the work that public service offices have to do and the work that constituency offices have to do. We want to be there for people, and it is our job to be there, but there is a certain amount of work in between that the government should be doing. These are not second-class citizens; there are no classes. They are entitled to effective service that should be available in times of crisis.
The solution is quite simple, and that is to reopen the Service Canada offices as soon as possible. I have just listed off some reasons, and it is possible to do so, unless the federal government has another motive, namely not to reopen them. I am thinking of the small regional offices, whose business hours have been cut back considerably anyway. Why not close them to save money? Maybe that is the government’s reasoning. Who knows? If it wants to come clean, let it make the announcement and we will fight that battle.
Another one of the federal government’s glaring shortcomings in this crisis is the silence surrounding the tourism industry in my region, the Lower St. Lawrence and the Gaspé Peninsula. We have heard my colleagues from eastern Quebec speak about this at length. Tourism is a major economic driver that is critical to our region’s survival. In our region, it accounts for 1,500 businesses and 15,000 employees, half of them permanent. It also brings in 1.7 million visitors and generates more than $6 million in economic activity each year. This is not insignificant for our population. The industry is in dire need of funding so that it does not collapse, so that it can restart and continue to showcase what the Gaspé and the Lower St. Lawrence have to offer.
We are still waiting for those announcements, because most of these industries are falling through the cracks of federal programs, again, because they are seasonal. Some of our businesses have been waiting for announcements and have been under stress since March 15, and there is still nothing for them. A vast number of programs have been announced for a vast number of sectors, but there are still people who do not qualify.
For a few weeks now in our region, the public health authorities of Quebec have set up roadblocks to prevent people from entering our region in order to protect the population. Only owners of a principal residence could travel there. The roadblocks were lifted on May 18, which caused a wave of concern in the region, and rightly so. People are worried. They want to welcome tourists this summer, but not at any cost. In order to reopen their doors and put health measures in place, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions must have financial support, and they have yet to receive any.
The Gaspé and the Lower St. Lawrence are known for their lobster, but also their crab, a word that has a very particular pronunciation back home. Lobster fishermen were not fans of the assistance announced by the government, since it was too little. This industry sells the majority of its catch to the United States and has lost nearly all of its income. We are talking about tens of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, the measures that have been implemented are poorly designed, because the fishermen must be paid by percentage of catch and not by the week in order to be eligible for the program.
The measures for family-owned businesses are also poorly designed.
There are a lot of family-owned businesses in the Gaspé, fishermen with their sons or uncles, but they do not qualify either.
I will stop there. I think my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert will carry on. I shared a lot of examples to show that, regrettably, the federal government's programs are poorly designed; it is our job to make them better.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-05-26 18:15 [p.2472]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her presentation. Clearly, the reality in the regions and in rural areas is quite different than that of large urban centres. My colleague said some measures were poorly suited, especially to the fishing industry. If she had had more time to continue her speech, what else could she have told us?
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to continue what I was saying about something I care deeply about.
On most of the wharves in eastern Quebec, close to 50% of fishers are related. As I was saying, the crew members are often family members. It has been that way for generations. However, this means that they do not qualify for federal programs.
It is the same thing for a host of seasonal industries. I am thinking in particular of day camps, an issue that I have been interested in given my role as the Bloc Québécois youth critic. The Association des camps du Québec polled its members, and 71% of them will not be able to reopen despite the Government of Quebec’s announcement giving them the go-ahead. They will not be able to reopen because they do not qualify for federal programs either, because they hire camp counsellors for only part of the summer, they are non-profit organizations, and so on. They have less revenue, because their revenue is in the form of deposits from parents. If parents cannot send their children to day camp, they will not put down a deposit, so the day camp will not have the revenue it needs to reopen.
There are many more examples like these, which show that the government could expand certain programs or make them more flexible, or provide direct assistance to those who need it most.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2020-05-26 18:17 [p.2473]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her passionate determination to defend her constituents, to know her riding and to memorize her constituents' names.
I know she has another passion: the environment. I would like to hear her talk a little more about that. She ran out of time, and I am sure she would have done so if she had had a little more time. Would she not agree that it is about time we started talking about a green recovery once the pandemic is over?
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that my colleague is encouraging me to talk about this subject because it is another one of my passions.
It is crucial that we think about the future that we are going to leave to the next generations and even my generation. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it, we are spending billions of dollars to help people in this time of crisis. By so doing, we are passing on a rather astonishing amount of debt to future generations. It is therefore time to think about our way of doing things and to come up with an economic recovery plan without forgetting about environmental measures. We have no other choice.
Shortly before leaving Parliament in March, I introduced a bill to compel the government to meet its climate change commitments. I was so looking forward to debating it, but we cannot do that in the current situation.
At some point, however, we will have to start talking about other subjects again, particularly the environment. That is absolutely essential. My colleague is working hard on a green recovery plan, and I am working with her. We are very much looking forward to debating it here in the House and to bringing forward suggestions, ideas and solutions that we will have no choice but to implement if we want to ensure a better future for generations to come.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks. It is a very nice way of looking at things. I completely share his point of view. I think this crisis is the right time to rethink all the ways we do things, as I was saying earlier. Indeed, what was normal was not necessarily right.
We often talk about returning to normal after the crisis, but we do not want to go back there. Earlier today, I heard my colleague from Saint-Jean talk about the ice storm, and recall how quickly we forgot about it and went back to our old habits.
Our role as parliamentarians is to create something else, a different way of life from the one before. Of course, we would have preferred the pandemic not to have happened, but I think something good can come out of it, such as rethinking our way of life.
View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-05-26 18:21 [p.2473]
Mr. Speaker, the tone just changed. While I was listening to my colleague, I was thinking. As some of my colleagues know, I was an actor in a previous life. When I rise in the House, I always wonder if I am putting on a show for the camera or playing to the house.
Things are pretty strange right now. Because of the pandemic and social distancing, there are just 38 members here instead of 338, and right now it feels like I am playing to an empty house. This feels like the eighth performance of a pretty bad show that got panned by critics. The place is deserted, but nobody is going to listen to me anyway. Half the time, people are busy doing their own thing. Still, I hope people are following the debate.
I would be remiss if I did not begin my presentation by acknowledging Quebec's front-line workers, especially those working in our long-term care centres and hospitals, including all the orderlies, nurses and doctors. They are on the front line. We, meanwhile, are on the third or fourth line. It is hard to say. We are definitely an essential service, because we take care of the people.
That is the main thesis of my presentation. I think we must come back to this place. Parliament must resume its work. We must find ourselves face to face with one another, with people from the other parties, including the ministers and the Prime Minister. This is not about having little Zoom conferences for two hours a day only to turn around and negotiate behind the scenes. Parliament needs to do its work, because there are serious problems to address.
Let's back up a bit. I was commending the nurses. They are running the show. It is no small injustice in this crisis that the soldiers on the front lines, those who come out of the trenches and go to the front, are earning minimum wage. CHSLD workers earn $13 an hour. That is an outrage. This is not Zimbabwe or Eritrea, it is Canada, the best country in the world, and yet the soldiers we send to the front lines are earning minimum wage.
Where is the answer to this crisis? It is here, in the House. We have been talking about health transfers for 30 years. Health care is underfunded. People are underpaid. We are looking for the problem in the CHSLDs. We all have a responsibility here to ensure that the federal government covers 50% of the provinces' health care costs to pay for doctors, hospitals, nurses, surgeons and orderlies. We must give them a decent wage. We have to take care of the people who take care of our people. Right now, the federal government is paying 23% of provincial health care costs. That is billions of dollars. What would we do with that money during this period? We would pay people well.
We all have the power here to change that. Are we going to use it, or are we going to continue to do little Zoom meetings from time to time, sitting comfortably in our living rooms, where we can see what books the ministers are reading and the hockey trophies they won when they were young?
We want to make meaningful decisions. We want to sit so we can take care of people's problems. That is what I am thinking.
I was speaking about nurses. I wanted to pay tribute to them because they are working on the front lines. We are debating whether or not we will continue with Parliament. In two months, the government signed cheques totalling $300 billion. It threw together some laws. For years, we came here to debate and try to do things. Three or four public servants and two or three ministers got together and in two months cheques totalling $300 billion were hastily signed.
That is unbelievable. They signed $300 billion in cheques to solve some problems. We want to continue doing that because there will be more problems after the crisis. There are problems now and there will be some after.
Our nurses are dying. That upsets me. That is another thing. I do not think that anyone is at risk by coming here. It is always possible, but it would be an accident. We could get hit by a car on Wellington, but that is not very likely to happen. Young men and young women, who often come from another country, which is another issue, get up every morning and may contract a deadly virus. They can wear protective equipment, but it could happen anyway. No one here can say the same thing. Our job is make sure that they do not get sick. We have that power. The best way to pay tribute to all these people is come sit here to do our work, vote on legislation and distribute money. We were able to inject $300 billion into the system. I think there is still some missing. Even today, long-term care homes in Quebec are having a hard time finding people. We have to find people, and for that we have to pay them. This money needs to go to serving these people, not into the pockets of the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party. People who are working need to get paid. That is what we want to do.
That is the kind of work I want to do. I want to come here and vote to give money to the people who really need it. It would be the best way to thank them. It is one of the needs that could be met.
I have three minutes left. I wanted to talk about housing.
An hon. member: Do not forget to talk about nurses.
Mr. Denis Trudel: I think I talked enough about nurses. That is one problem, but there is a slew of problems that could be resolved. We need to sit down here to do that.
Let's talk about housing in Quebec. There was a crisis, there is a crisis and there will be a crisis. Right now, we do not know what we are going to do, but all parliamentarians can take action in this regard. Three or four years ago, the Government of Canada implemented the national housing strategy. It promised that it would find housing for people, that it would take care of that. It allocated $55 billion, which was spent all across Canada, except in Quebec. Over the past two months, it has signed $300 billion worth of cheques. We need $1.4 billion to house people who are going to end up on the street in two months. When will the government give out that money? People are going to be out on the street tomorrow morning. We know that. Just ask all of the organizations involved in housing, homelessness or low-income housing. In three months, these people will be out on the street. Just ask all of the food banks. The crisis is happening now, but it will start all over again in six months.
A woman from one of the food banks in my riding told me that if she does not bring in $80,000 over the coming year, she will have to shutter the place. That woman feeds 100 people every week. Where will she find the money? On the housing front, Quebec needs $1.4 billion to house its people. Just because of a flag, the government across the way is refusing to hand over $1.4 billion even though it has pumped $300 billion into the system over the past two months. That is unacceptable. Parliament must sit. We will not do this online. We need to be here, face to face, talking about what folks need and cutting people cheques.
View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-05-26 18:32 [p.2475]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I understood what my colleague said, since I switched over to the interpretation a bit late.
I will say it again. There are needs, especially with respect to housing. I did not mention figures earlier, but 150,000 households in Quebec did not pay rent in April as a result of the crisis. That is a whole lot of people. That figure comes from Minister Laforest, in Quebec City. On May 6, we already knew that people had not paid their April rent, even if they had received the CERB cheque. The same is true for May: 10% of Quebeckers did not pay their rent. The figure for Montreal is worse, at 15%. That is not nothing.
I have some interesting figures from another study. In the past two months, 300,000 Quebeckers went to a food bank for the first time in their lives. Three hundred thousand people were already using food banks, so that brings the total to 600,000.
I have one more thing I want to say about that. In a survey, people said they already knew that within a month of these measures ending, they would not be able to feed their families. These are real issues. I want to know how we are going to solve these very real problems, which are going to smack us in the face in the coming months. I want us to be able to talk in person.
View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-05-26 18:35 [p.2475]
That is another thing I do not have enough time to talk about. I have eight pages of things that are not working in Canada during the pandemic, including tax avoidance.
Billions of dollars are legally held elsewhere. I am not even talking about tax evasion. This is allowed under tax laws. God knows that people who have that much money can afford the services of people who spend days finding loopholes in the law and figuring out ways to take advantage of them.
Earlier there was talk of what happens after the crisis and everything we might do, including with regard to the environment. We might also deal with tax avoidance. Is this not the right time to do that? We need billions of dollars, and billions of dollars happen to be lying around.
That is not what the government across the way is doing. It is even worse. It is giving money to those companies. We immediately asked them multiple times not to give money to people who avoid taxes. They told us no.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-05-26 18:50 [p.2477]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed Conservative colleague for sharing his time with a Bloc member. Everything will be all right.
I would like to look back in time, because there was a time when things were done right. March 13 was our last day in the House. After that, the country was put on hold. This break turned our lives upside down, our personal lives, our collective lives and our lives as members of Parliament, as parliamentarians. However, we were able to adjust.
I heard my colleague from La Prairie say that solidarity was one of the greatest strengths we showed during this time. I agree with him on that. What is more, we hope that we will be able to continue to work in solidarity after the crisis.
We also had the opportunity to talk about things that we needed to do. One of the things that we had to do was to allow for an exception regarding our role in the House. The Bloc Québécois helped with that. We had to give the House exceptional powers. I would like to remind my colleagues that, from an economic perspective, the current crisis is as significant as the Second World War. That is no small thing.
I thank the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his kind words about my previous career as a nurse.
With respect to health, we are dealing with a virus that we do not yet fully understand. That is why public health officials are asking the public to be cautious about reopening. We must keep this in mind, because it would be irresponsible not to do so.
That said, the government has brought in emergency measures. The Canada emergency response benefit had its problems at first, but then it became inclusive. The Canada emergency response benefit was intended primarily to address a flaw in the social safety net, a flaw in the employment insurance system. We realized that the EI system could not provide for the eight million workers who lost their jobs.
There is also the Canada emergency student benefit. We called for it because some students had fallen through the cracks. This benefit is more recent. The Bloc Québécois demanded that these support measures, which benefit workers and students alike, come with work incentives. We saw this coming.
I also want to point out that, on April 29, if I remember correctly, we were promised that we could keep doing our work as usual. That promise was broken.
The emergency wage subsidy started out at 10%, but we worked hard to push it to 75% and to make the rules more flexible so that more businesses could get it. We need to keep people employed for a strong recovery.
We never thought that the scope of the benefit would be expanded. When you eat your Smarties, you usually eat the red ones last. In this case, the Reds are eating first.
I find it disappointing and even indecent that wage subsidies meant to help businesses will be propping up partisan salaries.
At this point, I find it deplorable that no solutions have been found. People can no longer put their lives on hold and remain in lockdown. People need to “open up”.
Besides, our society is already doing it. It has begun in every province, and I would even say it was happening during the crisis, because we had Zoom.
Incidentally, Zoom is the first thing I would like to get away from.
Chambers of commerce and the municipalities had to respond to the crisis. Right away we saw people mobilizing to come up with solutions to address gaps and trying to think ahead, because everyone knew this situation would not last forever and one day the recovery would begin.
That is where we are in the House. If we want to think about the “now” and the “after”, we must take back our power to legislate. I will give some examples. One of my colleagues talked about this earlier, but I want to talk about the environment.
If we can envision a green, sustainable recovery, we also have to consider—and I will talk about workers because that has been my field all my life—how this transition can also be done for the workers. This is crucial, and it will require legislation.
The Canada emergency response benefit will end. Our federal employment insurance program as we know it will not be able to respond to everyone when the CERB ends because it leaves behind primarily women, who are most likely to hold atypical and part-time jobs and who are therefore excluded, because workers in the seasonal industry are currently in the EI spring gap when pilot projects were ending on May 20 but for which there is still no answer, and so forth.
We are talking about sick leave. If there is one measure that people needed before and we could put in place it is special sickness benefits, which are only 15 weeks and should increase to 52 weeks.
For that we need a Parliament that legislates. We are going to need permanent, lasting and predictable measures if we want to avoid another wave, another pandemic. Some are already saying that there is going to be another wave in the fall. We hope not. There also may not be one, but we have to be able to prevent it. We cannot do that just by asking questions, by wondering what works and what does not and how we might react.
I want to talk about what is happening with businesses. We are seeing more and more bankruptcies. More and more businesses will not be able to survive and are filing for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
What happens to the pension plans, to workers' nest eggs? On top of losing their jobs and earning wages well below the value of their work, they are at risk of losing their nest eggs if we do not protect pension funds.
There are many things we should have been debating, but instead, the Prime Minister decided to be opportunistic by touting the 10 days of sick leave—which we certainly support—knowing full well that this requires amendments to each of the provinces' laws. It is impossible to impose this, and he was bound to get agreement.
This makes me angry, not because this is not an important issue, but because it does not fit in with what we should have been doing today in the House. We should be deciding that we can and must resume work in Parliament because we have a duty to implement long-lasting, sustainable and predictable legislative measures. We cannot take a piecemeal approach.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-05-26 19:00 [p.2478]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her inspiring speech.
I am going to go back to something she said just to expand on it a little.
My colleague stated that she detests Zoom meetings. There may be a second wave and we do not know what the future holds. There may even be a case of COVID-19 in Parliament one day, which would force us to actually physically close Parliament. We do not yet know.
She also spoke about very important bills that we could have debated.
Although she hates virtual meetings, I would like to know what she thinks of a hybrid-format Parliament where we could have debates both in person and virtually.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-05-26 19:01 [p.2478]
Mr. Speaker, it was truly heartfelt.
Our role as members is also to take care of others. The political role also entails getting together with people, being with them and socializing. How many events and presentations have we had to cancel? We now have to meet on Zoom. I completely agree that we need a hybrid format where electronic means are available. That is also something that we have to provide for and put in place because it is very likely that this will last much longer than what we would like. We will take whatever time is necessary before being physically present in the House, which is impossible to do right now with 338 members.
We must allow this, and we could have been proactive in asking that it be worked on. I will be very pleased if we have both.
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