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View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2021-04-13 15:19 [p.5520]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-14, the economic statement that was introduced last fall. As has been noted by a number of speakers, there is a little irony to the debate today on this bill, because it has been superseded by a federal budget that will be introduced next week.
I have to point out for the record that it has been over two years since the last budget was presented by the government, and that is a record, but not a record of which any government ought to be proud. Every G7 country and every province and territory in Canada tabled a budget last year. When there is no budget presented by a government in Parliament, that constitutes a fundamental breach of accountability to the Canadian people and to Parliament.
When I was first privileged to be elected to this House some 12 years ago, one of the first things I learned was that one of the prime responsibilities of a parliamentarian is to scrutinize the spending of government. That is what we are sent here by our constituents to do. When a budget is not presented by a federal government, that is a fundamental violation of that core responsibility we hold to the people who elected us.
Having said that, this bill does give me a chance to raise certain critical issues that I believe Canadians wanted expressed back in the fall, when this financial statement and this bill were introduced, and as they want to see addressed in the upcoming budget. I am going to speak to several of these priorities that not only are priorities to the people of Vancouver Kingsway, but reflect the aspirations and needs of people across this country, in every single community.
It will not surprise my colleagues to hear me, as health critic, start off with some core health issues that I believe this upcoming budget needs to address and that the statement does not address in any real, meaningful way. It has been noted many times throughout the COVID pandemic that while this crisis has created many problems, it has also exposed many other problems of a serious and long-standing character. One of them is Canada's long-standing crisis in long-term care.
Recently, the Canadian Institute for Health Information published data that reveals Canada has the worst record of all developed countries when it comes to COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes. This follows previous reports that showed Canada's death rate in seniors congregate settings is the highest among OECD states. That is a matter of international shame. The data also reveals that many provinces and territories were slow to act and that steps could have been taken to avoid many of the deaths that occurred. The data internationally highlights that many other countries were better prepared for a potential outbreak of infectious disease and dedicated more resources and funding to this sector.
With notable exceptions, such as the province I come from, British Columbia, the CIHI report notes that the lessons learned from the first wave of the pandemic did not lead to changes in outcomes during the second wave last fall, resulting in a larger number of outbreaks, infections and deaths. This is inexcusable. It means that there were many deaths of Canadian seniors that could have and should have been avoided.
Certain provinces did take early and effective steps to address the long-standing issues in long-term care. Again, the NDP government in British Columbia was one such leader, taking timely action to expand resources to staff, prohibit working between multiple sites and raise standards of care. This leadership is borne out by the data, which shows that B.C. had the best numbers of all comparable jurisdictions. However, the crisis in long-term care, and the urgent need for resources and legislative change, is a national one. Seniors have a right to proper care in every province and territory, not just those fortunate enough to reside in select provinces that are responding to the problems.
The upcoming budget provides a timely and powerful moment to deal with the NDP's repeated call for urgent federal action to establish binding national standards in Canada's long-term care sector backed up by federal funding tied to meeting those standards.
These include very critical factors like meeting minimum hours of care, which I note recently has been described as a minimum of six hours of care for every senior in long-term care. We need patient-aide ratios that allow people who work in these homes to be able to give the kind of quality care they are trained to do and so desperately want to provide, and we need decent working conditions for all staff. It has been said that the conditions of work are the conditions of care. We must ensure that this skilled work performed by skilled workers, predominantly women, by the way, often racialized and historically undervalued, is finally recognized for the essential public health care it is, and paid accordingly.
Speaking of public health care, we finally must address the problems in for-profit delivery. It is time we built a long-term care sector that is built on non-profit delivery, preferably through our public health care system and the non-profit sector. The data is overwhelming, long-standing and clear that for-profit care reduces standards of care, because it is obvious it diverts money to shareholders and profit that ought to be going directly to our seniors, and it incentivizes cost-cutting. That is borne out in the fact that, generally speaking, the death rate, infection rate and poor standards of care are higher in for-profit delivery systems.
National problems require national solutions. It is time our federal government acted. Our Canadian seniors deserve it.
I also want to state that another long-standing problem that has been profoundly revealed to all Canadians as a serious failure of public policy for decades has been revealed for all to see, and that is Canada's lack of domestic capacity for producing vaccines and, indeed, most essential medicines. Some of my colleagues may remember that just a summer or two ago we faced a serious shortage of EpiPens in this country, and we were only weeks away from having Canadians, particularly young Canadians, left without this life-saving medication.
Clearly, this has been one of the key problems behind Canada's painfully slow vaccine rollout, but it is not limited to pandemic vaccines. Our lack of Canadian production capacity is felt across many therapeutics, including numerous life-saving drugs Canadians rely on that routinely face crises in availability. This situation reveals how vulnerable Canadians are to the multinational private drug industry and indeed foreign governments in a time of crisis.
Of course, that was not always the case. For seven decades, Canada was home to Connaught Labs, a Canadian publicly owned enterprise that was one of the world's leading medicine and vaccine producers. Connaught Medical Research Laboratories was a non-commercial public health entity established in Toronto in 1914 to produce the diphtheria antitoxin.
It expanded significantly after the discovery of insulin by Canadians at the University of Toronto in 1921 and became a leading manufacturer and distributor of insulin at cost in Canada and overseas. Its non-commercial mandate mediated commercial interests and kept medicine accessible to millions of people who otherwise could not have afforded it. It also contributed to some of the key medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, including insulin, penicillin and the polio vaccine.
In 1972, Connaught was purchased by the Canada Development Corporation, a federally owned corporation charged with developing and maintaining Canadian-controlled companies through a mixture of public and private investment. Connaught provided vaccines to Canadians at cost, manufactured them here in our country, and sold vaccines to other countries at affordable prices. It operated without government financial support. It even made profits, which it reinvested in medical research. This was a fabulous example of public enterprise.
Despite this remarkable record, Connaught was privatized in 1986 by the Mulroney Conservatives for purely ideological reasons. The Liberals share squarely in the blame for this appalling, short-sighted public policy debacle that has left Canadians vulnerable in 2021. Despite being in power for 19 years after the privatization, 15 years in a majority government when they could have done anything they wanted to do, the Liberals never lifted a finger to re-establish public medicine production in Canada, so when they turn to Canadians and say that we cannot produce vaccines fast enough in Canada because we do not have the production capacity, Canadians have every right to look them squarely in the eye and ask them why they let them down.
Why did the successive Conservative and Liberal federal governments let Canadians down and leave us in this vulnerable position where we are dependent on a handful of multinational vaccine producers situated in other countries of the world for our essential life-saving vaccines? That is the result of the public policy decisions of the Liberals and Conservatives up to now, and Canadians need to hold them accountable for it.
Never again must Canadians be left in such a vulnerable position. As a G7 country, we deserve to be self-sufficient in all essential medications and vaccines as a public health priority of the highest order, so I am looking to the budget next week, and I would point out that this economic statement makes no mention of the establishment of a public drug manufacturer in Canada. By doing that, we could leverage public research done in Canada's universities, where, by the way, most of the new molecules and research for new pharmaceuticals actually comes from, and turn those into innovative medicines at a reasonable cost for the public good and not for private profit.
As we stand at the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin in Canada by Canadians, let us honour that legacy by building our Canadian medicine capacity. We have done it before. Let us do it again. I would like to see that in the budget next week or hear from my Liberal colleagues as to why they do not think it is a good idea.
Turning to another core foundational issue, the Liberals have been in power for six years now. That is long enough to be measured by their record. When they came into office in 2015, this country was facing a serious housing crisis. They have had six years to deal with it. Where is the affordable housing? The reality is that the crisis today is worse than it was prior to them taking office. Young Canadians across this country have no hope of purchasing any housing, and there are millions of Canadians in precarious housing who cannot live in dignified secure housing, whether rented or owned.
In my view, housing is a fundamental human right and a core foundational need. It is key to individual health and self-realization. It is also a foundation of health, as it is a central component of the social determinants that are so essential to keeping Canadians healthy. Housing should be available to every Canadian. It is simply unacceptable that a country as wealthy as Canada is unable to provide every citizen with the opportunity to own their own home. This is especially the case when we consider how large Canada is, how much land we have and how small our population is. Real estate is not just a commodity. It is a necessity.
I believe homelessness and precarious housing are social scourges that ought to shame us as a society, but homelessness and precarious housing are neither inevitable nor unsolvable. With enough political commitment and economic resources, there is simply no reason why a wealthy G7 nation such as Canada ought not to be able to ensure that every citizen can live in an affordable, secure and decent home.
Clearly, the present situation is a result of decades of poor policies at every level of government, federal, provincial and municipal. I believe there are a number of contributors to this calamity. These include a federal government that has been largely absent from the housing file since the late eighties, a lack of public investment in affordable housing of all types, extremely lax laws that permit extensive foreign capital into our communities that destabilizes domestic housing prices, and a misguided belief that the private sector development industry can and will provide affordable housing. All of these have contributed to a disastrous situation where people who have sacrificed enormously and done everything right cannot even purchase a modest home in the communities in which they live and work.
I believe we need a multipronged approach to address this unacceptable situation, and we will be keeping a keen eye on the budget coming up to see if these suggestions are contained in that budget. I think this requires a national program with federal leadership and harnessing local creativity and innovation. Most importantly, it involves public enterprise.
Solutions include strong and effective curbs on foreign capital investments in residential real estate, particularly in overheated local markets where the cost of housing bears no relationship whatsoever to the average income or wages earned by people in that community. If anybody is looking for any proof of the destabilizing impact of foreign capital, they only have to look to a place like the Lower Mainland where houses are going for $2 million, $3 million, $4 million and $5 million, and 98% of the people who work here cannot afford those houses. Who is buying them? It is certainly not people in our communities.
We need tax incentives that promote the construction of affordable rental buildings, not just market rental buildings, but affordable rental buildings. We must ensure that all developments over a certain size include a minimum number of truly affordable units owned, perhaps, by the municipalities in perpetuity, like they do in Vienna.
We must create an ambitious national co-op housing program, targeted at building 500,000 units of housing over the next 10 years. This could be a modern version of the extremely successful program of the 1970s and 1980s with expanded targets and with an ironclad commitment to the principle of tying rent to income, say no more than 30%. While I know that co-operative living is not for everyone, it does represent a demonstrated successful model that houses people from varied family situations across all age limits and socio-economic categories and permits security of tenure, affordable housing and ability to age in place.
Vancouver Kingsway has many of these wonderful communities still in operation, and I believe this concept can be harnessed to house a new generation of Canadians. Let us see if next week the Liberal government has the creativity to bring in a strong national co-op housing program.
We need to implement each of the suggestions in the recovery for all campaign's initiatives. I think every parliamentarian has likely received this, which contains excellent suggestions for federal policy on things that they can do in their jurisdiction. We need an effective national housing strategy act, the appointment of a federal housing advocate and members of a national housing council with teeth.
In the end, secure, dignified housing represents a foundational, core need for people without which their ability to participate meaningfully in society or to reach their potential is seriously impaired. It must be a priority of the first order. I wish I could say that this is regarded as such by the current Liberal government, but its lack of meaningful progress to date on this critical file leaves me with no other conclusion than that they are not prepared to allocate the kinds of resources or policies that are truly needed to adequately address this crisis.
Now I know that Liberals will stand up in this House and say it is a priority for them, but I ask them once again to show me the housing. After six years in office, can they show me where the tens of thousands of affordable housing units are that could and should have been built in the last six years. They cannot. They will make all sorts of weak excuses like housing takes time. I would remind them after World War II, the Government of Canada built 300,000 units of affordable housing for returning soldiers in 36 months. That is what a government committed to housing can and will do.
I urge the present government to make the creation, building and expansion of affordable housing of all types as a matter of prime political priority in the upcoming budget. After all, making sure everyone in our community has appropriate housing is the responsibility of us all.
Finally, I want to say a word about climate change. There are few issues that are existential in nature in politics. The climate crisis facing our planet is one of those. The IPCC has repeatedly stated that we have less than 10 years to take meaningful action and reverse the calamitous impacts that will occur if we do not do so. I would note that carbon emissions have gone up over the course of the government's tenure since 2015. In fact, since the early 1990s, despite repeated pledges to reduce carbon emissions by such or such a date, no government has ever hit them. This must change—
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2021-04-13 16:51 [p.5534]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the government's financial and economic response to the pandemic as we are doing in the debate on Bill C-14. Obviously the pandemic caught the world by surprise, not just folks in Canada following up on the 2019 election.
What became clear very quickly was that, without an appropriate public health response, medical systems around the world were overwhelmed. People were dying because they could not get access to care as there were simply too many people who needed care all at the same time. That meant that in order to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus and to keep people safe, there had to be a serious reduction in economic activity because people largely had to stay home.
That has been responsible for enormous costs, not just here in Canada but around the world, and governments around the world are facing similar kinds of financial stress that the federal government here in Canada and provincial governments across the country, regardless of political stripe, are also facing. The NDP government in B.C., and Conservative and Liberal governments right across the country, are all facing significant financial strife, just as so many governments around the world are, because that is the nature of the situation we are in. The question is how are we going to deal with this?
It has been very interesting to listen to the debate today. I have to say that I am having trouble squaring some of the claims made by my Conservative colleagues. On one hand, they are very quick to point out that the pandemic relief measures, whether the Canada emergency wage subsidy or the Canada emergency response benefit, now the Canada recovery benefit, or a number of programs brought in to help Canadians cope with the financial stresses of public health measures, passed with unanimous consent, which means that the Conservatives also supported those measures. They are very quick to say they supported those measures and endorsed that spending, but on the other hand they want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to say that all of this spending has to be curtailed, but that they should get credit for the spending when it is happening. It is a bit of an incoherent message, frankly. I am at a bit of a loss as to how to explain it. I do not think it has been adequately explained.
What I do know is that, if we take them at their word, they want to roll back pandemic support spending. This seems to be a pretty clear implication of their attacks on spending in the pandemic. Even earlier today, in question period, they asked about access to various EI benefits that are part of the spending package they are apparently opposed to even though they supported it. One starts to get a sense of the incoherence that I am trying to get at as I bounce around. I am trying to capture what I have heard of the Conservative position here today.
As long as we continue to need these kinds of public health measures in place and there is a corresponding reduction in economic activity, that cost has to be borne one way or another. It can either be borne on the public books or privately. The question that we face as a country, which we faced at the beginning of the pandemic and we still face, is this: Who pays for that? This is the kind of decision that the NDP tends to support and that we certainly supported through this pandemic. It is the right approach.
New Democrats do not agree with the Liberals on all of the details, but the debt that has been caused by the drastic effects on the economy ought to be borne collectively by Canadians together through their government, rather than being put haphazardly on the backs of individual Canadians who would be affected differently, depending on whether they were financially vulnerable prior to the pandemic. Many seniors, people living with disabilities and others, such as students, for instance, were already vulnerable. If they were put in a position where they had to bear that privately and could not, they would then end up in default or homeless, or worse.
That is one scenario. That scenario also includes Canadians who, by virtue of the industry they happen to work in, may have had very successful careers and were able to provide for their families, but who, because they happen to work in an industry that was severely affected by the pandemic as opposed to another, might incur serious costs and find themselves without a home. That is what things look like if we do not have a serious and significant public spending package. It is one way things could have been dealt with.
The other way to do it was to say that this is not anybody's fault, that no one deserves to be ruined by the pandemic. In fact, the pandemic has shown how connected and interdependent we all are and how much we already rely on each other, despite the fictions of radical individualism that drive certain ways of thinking about the economy. The fact is that we do all rely on each other, and the pandemic has really shown that.
The other way to respond to the pandemic, which I am glad Canada largely chose, was to bear the costs of this together and make sure that Canadians are not left out in the cold by virtue of the industry they happen to work in or their financial position prior to the pandemic.
We need to think deeply about how we are going to pay for this big bill, and not just what has been spent already in the pandemic, but the very real cost we will have to continue to incur, as governments across the world will also continue to incur, in order to get us to a full economic recovery. There is that question.
What I want to highlight here is the fact that whether we chose the collective model or not, the cost to the economy was going to be there. It is a question of who is going to bear it. As we move forward, the other things that do not show are the economic effects and the cost of all the private bankruptcies, with people losing their homes. All the things that would have happened had there not been a meaningful financial public response do not show up on the ledger. It is hard to quantify what did not happen.
It can also be hard to quantify, although many people have done a lot of work over the years to quantify it, the cost of homelessness and poverty for people who, because they do not have a home, end up in emergency rooms and end up struggling with addiction. They end up overrepresented in the justice system and have many more interactions there than people normally would because they are poor and do not have the resources that many other Canadians enjoy. Those things all have a price tag as well. They are harder to quantify, but researchers over the years have done a good job of showing that when we invest in people in the long term, we can save money.
In one moment, we were forced into massive public expenditure by our circumstances, and I think there was a will and sense of solidarity that enabled that kind of expenditure. However, we are going to need more of it going forward. This is a moment for Canadians to realize the extent to which we can actually save money in the long term if we make the right investments now and if we continue to make those investments on an ongoing basis.
There is therefore one question: How do we pay for these things? Well, when I look at where the country has been and where it has been going over the last 20 or 30 years, this issue is not new to the pandemic. As much as the Conservatives want to rail against the prevailing tax rate, the fact of the matter is that the corporate tax rate has gone from 28% in the year 2000 to just 15% today. One of the huge emerging industries over that time period has been on the Internet. It is the digital economy, with Facebook, Netflix and Amazon. Quite frankly, some of these economic monsters, which did not exist 20 years ago, do not pay any meaningful taxes here in Canada.
To some, the idea is that the wealth does not exist for us to make these prudent investments, to recognize the dignity of humanity and to allow people to live a decent life, with a roof over their heads and enough money in their pockets to go to the local grocery store and fill their fridge. However, that wealth is there.
Canadian taxpayers, or Canadian “citizens” is frankly a better word, would be saving more money in the long term because we would be spending less on some of the main line budget items. What are some of the huge budget lines? Whether it is the federal government or more particularly provincial governments, where the real costs of not making these investments are borne, what are some of the biggest items? It is health and justice. Those are some of the biggest items.
We have an opportunity here to do more at the federal level, which is something we do not see in this economic update. We are missing an opportunity again. We just had a vote on the legislation that could create a framework for pharmacare in Canada, which is an opportunity to save money. It is going to be more money on the federal ledger, but overall we know from many studies conducted that Canadians are paying more for their prescription drugs than it would cost to have a national pharmacare plan. We know that from the commission the government just had. We know it from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We know it from a report that was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal back in 2014 I think it was.
We know this all over the place, and it is no coincidence that Canada does not have a national pharmacare plan and we pay among the highest rates. This is another example where an upfront investment and a rearrangement of the way we pay for things between governments could actually issue in real savings.
We know the sticker price of a guaranteed annual income appears high, but we also know we already do this in many ways. We do it with a guaranteed income supplement for seniors. It is not good enough. Too many of our seniors who depend on the GIS are living in poverty. They are legislated into poverty by the GIS rate that this House and the government accountable to it set.
We already do a fair bit of that. We do it through the universal child benefit. We have many ways in which we are already supplementing the income of many Canadians. The marginal cost of getting there is something that could be bearable if we could have a real conversation about how much the wealthy pay. The wealthiest in Canada have already increased their wealth by $37 billion during the pandemic. It is just ridiculous to say the money is not out there and these are not things we can do.
There is a lot of opportunity when we talk about investment we make in recovery to help create jobs, and to create jobs in a new lower carbon economy that actually helps Canada meet its climate change commitments and try to avert a climate catastrophe, which is also going to be very expensive.
We hear a lot from the Conservatives about how they think they are these great fiscal managers, but the policy ideas they are presenting to respond to the pandemic are either those of the Liberals, because they say they supported all this stuff so we should give them the credit, or they do not want to do it. They need to just be honest about what tree they are actually barking up. Is it the “get rid of these programs in order to balance the books immediately” tree or is it something else? What are the kinds of supports they want to provide? Put the ideas on the table.
The NDP has lots of ideas about what we could do. We hear a lot of the negativity from the Conservatives, but we do not actually hear a lot of the positive proposals for what they would do differently. Here in Manitoba, I was astounded when the provincial budget came out this week and the Conservatives here in Manitoba chose to cut property taxes to accelerate the timeline on which they were reducing property taxes. As if that was going to help anybody with the pandemic.
Again they are screaming about how much debt and deficit there is. They are asking the federal government for more money, although they are not flowing that money out to people during the pandemic, which is partly why their popularity here in Manitoba has tanked. They have been doing a bad job, and what they come up with is to further reduce revenue in a way designed to help the people who already have more money and more resources than others. It is a completely bogus way to try to respond to a pandemic.
Now, that is not to say that everything has been done right in the House. One of the real frustrations for the New Democrats is that while, yes, the Liberals are willing to spend, they do not put the kinds of checks and balances in place that need to be there, because they are not willing to take on the wealthy and the well-connected. This is not just about what the tax rate is. It is also about the details for program spending.
When we look at the Canada emergency wage subsidy, for example, we see this very clearly. First of all, the Liberals proposed a 10% wage subsidy, which was not going to be enough. It was a bad enough idea that it precipitated a joint letter from the labour movement, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the NDP, which is not something we see every day. They called for a 75% wage subsidy.
When we moved forward, the New Democrats were quick to say that we needed to have rules in place right away to make sure the companies that ended up doing well overall in the first year of the pandemic were not able to keep their wage subsidy money and could not pay dividends to their shareholders and bonuses to their CEOs based on profits if they were receiving money under the Canada emergency wage subsidy. This was something that many other jurisdictions did when they brought in similar programs in their own countries. It was a key component of getting the wage subsidy right, but the Liberals failed to get it right because it involved standing up to some of the more powerful people in the country. I am not talking about people who are powerful in the democratic sphere, but people who are powerful in the economy.
We saw that again with the WE Charity fiasco. Instead of running more money through the Canada summer jobs program, a successful student employment program that goes back decades, the Liberals decided it would be better to invent a whole new program with, it just so happens, buddies of the government and particularly an organization that the daughter of the previous finance minister was working for.
With these kinds of things, the Liberals ended up giving a lot of public spending, which could have been good and could have been in the public interest, a really bad name. They mismanaged it because the culture of entitlement endemic in the Liberal Party and the Liberal government got in the way of good implementation, which is quite frustrating.
We need to have a conversation in Canada, which the NDP has been trying to lead, about how the wealthy pay their fair share after decades of tax cuts. We cannot kid ourselves. Taxes have not been going up on the wealthiest Canadians and the biggest corporations. They have been going down significantly. They still have options to shunt their earnings out of Canada and into tax havens located across the world so that they are not paying their fair share. We ought to have seen action on that from the government by now but we have not.
There are ways to pay for these things, and real savings can be accrued if we make these investments. If we do not make these investments in the context of the pandemic, then costs are not going to disappear. They are just going to be put on the shoulders of individual Canadians already struggling to figure out how to live their lives in this new, unsettling and challenging context. Then they will have even more to worry about when it comes to paying their rent or mortgage.
That is not the right approach. We needed to support people, and we will need to support people a lot more. This is not government supporting people with some father-knows-best attitude. This is people electing representatives to work on things they want, like more accessible prescription drugs and more affordable prescription drugs. They elect people they trust to set up a system that can deliver that appropriately. It is like making sure that we are not paying for homelessness through emergency rooms and the justice system, and that we are doing it up front by investing in housing, putting roofs over people's heads and allowing them to live a decent life despite the fact that they may not have a lot of personal wealth. Those are the things we are talking about.
This is a really important debate. I wish we could have had this debate without a pandemic forcing it upon us, but these are some of the things that I hope Canadians are keeping in mind as they listen to the debate at home.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2021-03-24 17:02 [p.5195]
Madam Speaker, the second is a petition from Canadians from across the country. They are especially concerned about the lives of the elderly with regard to Bill C-7 and the inclusion of mental illness. The petitioners call on the government to support measures to protect human life, as all human life should be regarded with great respect. They are calling on the government to support Canadians who are the most vulnerable and defenceless, instead of facilitating their deaths.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, the fourth petition I am tabling deals with Bill C-7, the government's euthanasia bill.
The petitioners are very concerned about the fact that the government is, through this bill, removing safeguards it said were vital not so long ago. They are expressing particular concern about the removal of the 10-day reflection period, the reduced requirement around witnesses, and other problems in the bill, including the government's inclusion, at a late stage, to allow euthanasia for those with mental health challenges.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
That, given that,
(i) COVID-19 restrictions have had serious economic and mental health impacts on Canadians,
(ii) COVID-19 restrictions have been advised by the federal government, including specifically by the Prime Minister on three separate occasions in November of 2020, as temporary measures to alleviate pressure on the public healthcare system,
(iii) public health tools, such as rapid tests, shared data on how COVID-19 spreads and vaccines, have not been positioned as permanent solutions to replace COVID-19 restrictions by the federal government, including in areas of federal competency like air travel and border restrictions,
(iv) the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom have both released public plans for economic reopening, while Canadian officials have not yet given Canadians clarity on when regular economic and social life will be able to resume,
the House call on the government to table within 20 calendar days, following the adoption of this motion, a clear data-driven plan to support safely, gradually and permanently lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.
Before I start, I want to tell Lynne Walker that this one is dedicated to her.
Yesterday in the House of Commons, I asked the health minister what I thought was a very simple, non-partisan question. I asked when fully vaccinated seniors could give their grandchildren a hug. The answer we got back from the health minister, a year into the pandemic, could be summarized like this: She does not know, is not sure she wants to tell us, and believes it is a provincial jurisdiction, but she will give the provinces advice.
That is not what Canadians want to hear. I think that answer encapsulates best the need for this motion.
We are a year into COVID‑19, and enough is enough. A year ago, Canadians from coast to coast pulled together to say we had to shut down the economy and undertake these restrictions in order to buy time for public health experts, all of us here in this place, provincial governments and municipal leaders to figure out what COVID‑19 was, how it spreads and who was most vulnerable, and to develop tools to permanently combat it, like therapeutics, rapid tests and vaccines. A year into the pandemic, those tools now exist. The problem is that in Canada, we have not had clear guidance from our health officials on the circumstances under which widespread mass lockdowns can safely end. That is a huge problem.
Those who are watching today need to understand that no level of government in Canada has issued any advice on what fully vaccinated people can do. The only thing the federal government has said to date, when asked, is that vaccinated people still have to go into controversial quarantine hotels. The federal government has to at least tell people what the plan is to develop benchmarks on how these tools are going to bring freedom, prosperity and normalcy back to the lives of Canadians. Today, we are calling on every member of this House to support the federal government in developing a plan within 20 days on the benchmarks by which these tools can be used in order to let life get back to normal.
We all acknowledge that it is important to combat the spread of COVID‑19, important to protect people from serious illness, important to prevent death. We have been doing that for the last year, all of us in this place. What is missing now is hope for the future. Canadians have no idea when lockdowns are going to end, and that has to stop.
Why does that have to stop? It is not just me asking for this. We have Unifor asking for “a national recovery plan to include adapting border restrictions to safely reopen borders”. There is the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada has stated, “The news of COVID vaccine distribution gives us reason for cautious optimism”, but said that we need to plan for the recovery of Canada's tourism industry now. The Fitness Industry Council of Canada is asking for a plan. Mayors are asking for plans. Everybody is asking for a plan. It is not just stakeholders who are saying this; it is also medical experts who are saying, “We can't just live in a bubble and have a life of no risk. Everything we do has consequences.” We need a better path forward that uses these tools to protect Canadians' health while also ensuring that life gets back to normal.
These are stories from the CBC.
The federal government has to deliver this. Probably the most critical thing the federal government could do right now is deliver a plan with benchmarks on how lockdowns can be gradually, permanently and safely lifted.
We do not have that. How can businesses plan to reopen if they do not know the circumstances under which they are going to do that? Can we imagine being a restaurant owner right now, when every day it says in the news that we might lock down again, or we might not?
Public Health officials have not even been clear on the data showing where transmission is occurring and whether we are applying these tools to the most vulnerable places. A lot of Canadians are saying that it seems like a lot of reactive measures and a lot of guesswork.
Canadians have pulled together and Canadians have sacrificed a lot, but the federal government has to stop asking Canadians to sacrifice normal life. It has to stop asking people to sacrifice hugs, their mental health, their safety at home. It has to stop asking people to sacrifice those things, and it has to start giving them a plan for hope: “This is how we are going to reopen. These are the benchmarks. This is what we are using and this is how we are doing it.”
Other countries around the world are already doing this. This week Iceland has said that if people are vaccinated, there is no quarantine for them, and they can just come on in. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a reopening plan with benchmarks. Under the Biden administration in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC have issued guidelines on what vaccinated persons can do. They have set an aspirational target of July 4, Independence Day in the U.S., and Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that the United States is going to have a normal Independence Day.
Why can we not have that here in Canada? Why can we not have nice things too? I want to re-emphasize that the federal government has not told Canadians what they can and cannot do if they have received a vaccine. It has not told airlines any sort of plan for safe border reopening. This cannot be a taboo topic anymore. The federal government is spending billions of dollars on lockdown restriction measures, so it has a responsibility.
All of the Liberals who stand up to talk to this motion today are going to say that it is not the federal government's job, that it is the job pf the provincial governments. There is a big problem with that. We are in an emergency crisis situation, and it is the federal government's job to lead because it is spending billions of dollars, money that we do not have, to support continued lockdown restrictions with no plan to end them. To refute their talking points, that is problem number one.
Number two, Prime Minister has come out many times and asked for lockdown restrictions that are within provincial jurisdiction. On November 24, the Prime Minister said that the federal government is working with the provinces so that they can impose restrictions. He said that again on November 10 in a CTV article, and again in the Canadian Press on November 13. Those are just a few quotes from him that I pulled.
Yesterday in the House of Commons, to that question that I referenced around hugs, the health minister said that the federal government is working with provinces and territories to develop guidance, with support from the federal government, on restrictions. The Liberals cannot suck and blow. They cannot say that it is politically convenient for them, ahead of a potential election that no one but the Liberals want, to offload this responsibility to the provincial governments.
To the bureaucrats who are watching this speech, if bureaucrats in Health Canada are advising the minister that it is not her job to provide guidance, why are we paying your salaries? If the health minister is not asking her department, with its thousands of bureaucrats, for guidance on this, why are we paying your salaries?
We need hope. We are not saying that we should just willy-nilly do anything. What we are saying is that the federal government has to start issuing direction to the airlines, to hospitality and tourism, to retail, to marginalized communities, to women who are having domestic violence issues. We need this plan. It should be a no-brainer.
The motion we have in front of the House of Commons today is asking for a data-driven plan. This is what the ask is. It is that the House “call on the government to table within 20 calendar days, following the adoption of this motion, a clear data-driven plan to support safely, gradually and permanently lifting COVID-19 restrictions.”
I said I was dedicating this to my friend Lynne. Her husband passed away. She did not even get to see him when he went in for his heart attack. People should not have to say goodbye to their loved ones over FaceTime.
The federal government needs a plan. Every person in this House and every Canadian should support this motion.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2021-03-23 11:24 [p.5098]
Madam Speaker, I want the sound quality to be good enough for the interpreters to do their extraordinary work.
I will then resume my speech.
I was talking about the article by journalist Joël‑Denis Bellavance in today's La Presse newspaper. According to the article, there is a document circulating internally among deputy ministers and within the government to remind everyone what a fiscal imbalance is. It also explains just how unsustainable the financial situation facing the provinces is and that a solution absolutely must be found. This confirms what the Conference Board of Canada, the Council of the Federation and the Parliamentary Budget Officer have been saying. Year after year, the PBO publishes a fiscal sustainability report reminding us that the provinces are facing an untenable situation. This is primarily due to the underfunding of health care by the federal government in Ottawa.
The deputy government House leader said that the government has never spent so much on health, as if the problem were resolved, even though the opposite is circulating within his government. He said that Canada-wide standards are needed. That is tantamount to federal encroachment into Quebec and provincial jurisdictions. Not only is the government maintaining its underfunding, but it is also interfering in provincial jurisdictions.
Let me relate that to the motion we are debating today. The motion calls for a reopening plan. Back home, the Government of Quebec is in charge of health measures as well as the lockdown and reopening measures. These measures are debated at the National Assembly of Quebec and supported by Quebec public health. Decisions are based on scientific studies and analyses. That is how to do things. I really do not see how Ottawa has anything to do with that.
The government, the Liberal Party, is interfering by not fulfilling its role to properly fund health. The Conservative party is also interfering. The trend is to constantly interfere in other people's business and take over. The government misinterpreted its role during the pandemic on many fronts.
In the discussions over the previous speech by the Liberal member, an NDP member also said that interference is always used as an excuse for inaction, in other words, it is a good thing that Ottawa is interfering. The NDP always proposes those sorts of measures. Even my esteemed colleague from the Green Party said that although she is against the measure it is not because of interference.
If we exclude the Bloc Québécois, there is a sort of unanimity in the House about Ottawa having to interfere in jurisdictions, especially in the health sector. I find that completely unacceptable. The motion we are debating today is about health. Ottawa's primary role is to properly fund health care.
It is clear from opinion polls and from speaking to people on the street that Canadians are asking that health care be adequately funded. Although Ottawa is many years behind in this regard, that has to change. This is a priority.
Implementing a reopening plan is a decision that must be made by Quebec City, by Toronto, by the Government of Alberta and by every province. We must respect jurisdictions. In the House, we must deal with Ottawa's areas of jurisdiction.
I am certain that my colleague, who will be speaking after me, will talk about how the border and airports were managed. These are areas under federal jurisdiction. It has been a fiasco. The Liberal member spoke about the record number of doses of vaccines per capita that Canada has. I say bravo, that is very good, but can we get them in a reasonable period of time? Canada is truly behind compared to other countries, and that is unacceptable. I am not surprised, but, once again, I am very disappointed to see the approach and the actions of the other parties in the House.
I will come back to the motion to support safely, gradually and permanently lifting COVID-19 restrictions. I am sorry, but, according to public health authorities, we could unfortunately be facing a third wave very soon.
It makes no sense to permanently lift restrictions. We need to be practical and rely on the science. These measures are not taken lightly.
The government and the House can introduce good economic measures to get us through the pandemic. There are two aspects to the Bloc Québécois's approach.
During the pandemic, certain measures are needed to support people, businesses and organizations that are struggling. Since political parties are not struggling, they should not have had access to the wage subsidy. That was not stipulated in the act, and they should return this money immediately. The businesses and people who faced hardship need measures to help them through the economic crisis caused by this pandemic.
It is simple. We are calling for the support measures to be extended for the duration of the crisis, especially for the sectors that will experience long-term impacts from the pandemic. It is very important that the government commit to such support. We hope to see it and we demand to see it in the budget, which is long overdue, I might add. In addition, these measures must reflect reality. They must be targeted. These measures should not be like others we have seen in recent months that encourage people to stay home instead of returning to work once proper safety measures have been implemented.
We must also provide support for industries. I am thinking in particular of the cultural industry, for example, festivals, and of the hotel and restaurant industries, because they have been affected in more lasting ways. We need to support them until the crisis is over. We also need plans for targeted support for certain industries, such as the aerospace industry, which has been hard hit by the public health restrictions.
Why has Canada still not unveiled a targeted plan for these industries? That is very important. We are waiting and we hope that such a plan will be included in the upcoming budget.
I am almost out of time because of technical problems with the interpretation. I will therefore pick up the pace so that, in the minute I have left, I can at least list the subjects that I wanted to address.
The measures were extended during the pandemic, and now we are calling for a recovery plan that will help stimulate the economy and launch the industries of tomorrow that we believe in. Obviously, I am talking about the green economy and strong sectors. I spoke about the aerospace industry, but we also think it is important to have a strong pharmaceutical industry. Let us regain that expertise.
I will end there, Madam Speaker.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-03-23 13:05 [p.5113]
Madam Speaker, like my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, I was also very touched. My goodness, I am still moved. I immediately did something about it and followed my colleague from Kingston and the Islands on Twitter. However, I should warn him that I will block him the first time he tries to give me any information. I certainly do not want to be influenced in any way.
My question is a little more serious, because we are discussing relaxing certain measures and presenting a plan for getting back to normal. I would like to know what my colleague thinks of the intentions expressed in the House over the past few days and weeks to encroach the provinces' jurisdiction over health care. I want his opinion. I know very well that he will tell me that the federal government has a responsibility and so on and so on. Above all, I would like to know if, in the many debates on the provincial jurisdiction over health care, the government is actually telling the provinces that they are not doing a good job and need to be told how to do it properly.
Is that the message the government is trying to send?
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the only thing more predictable than the member for Calgary Nose Hill blocking somebody she does not like is the Bloc Québécois getting up at every single opportunity on every single motion or bill before this House to talk about transfers to the province. Whether it is yesterday's or today's opposition day motion, it does not really matter what they are about, as the Bloc is here to talk about health transfers.
The reality is that we need to make sure we allow the proper jurisdictions to implement and release those lockdowns based on the expert advice they get. There is a role for the federal government to play as it relates to its measures with respect to border security, which I addressed during my speech, and those should be done based on the advice being received by the minister responsible.
View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
Mr. Speaker, what makes sense is more money for health care during the pandemic, not after the pandemic. Nevertheless, it is spring, and things are looking up.
Yesterday, along with Premier Legault—who was accused of being a white supremacist—the Prime Minister condemned Quebec bashing. That is great, truly. Now what? What can he do to walk the talk? How can he signal to the rest of Canada that Quebeckers are no more racist than the Prime Minister of Canada?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2021-03-23 14:26 [p.5126]
Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to what my hon. colleague said at the beginning of his question, which is that the provinces need money for their health care systems now, not in the future, because we are in a crisis now. That is what we have been saying and doing since day one.
We transferred tens of billions of dollars to help Quebeckers and all Canadians deal with this challenge to our health care system. We will always be there for Quebeckers and Canadians, now and in the years to come. That is a promise.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the third petition deals with Bill C-7. The petitioners are very concerned by the fact that this bill has removed vital safeguards associated with the euthanasia regime, safeguards which the government said were essential only a few short years ago.
The petitioners call on the government to restore the 10-day reflection period, restore the original requirement that a person must give consent to a life-ending procedure immediately before it is performed, restore the requirement for two independent witnesses, require medical professionals to do everything possible to enable the person to access life-affirming services to relieve their suffering, and accommodate persons with communication disabilities by clarifying their refusal of or resistance to administration of physician-assisted death.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2021-03-22 15:50 [p.5051]
Mr. Speaker, the last petition I am presenting today is with respect to the importance of the lives of the elderly and the passing of Bill C-7. The petitioners are calling on the government to support measures to protect human life, as all life should be regarded with great respect. They believe we should support the most vulnerable and defenceless Canadians instead of facilitating their death. The petitioners are concerned about the passage of Bill C-7, especially with the inclusion of mental health.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate having this opportunity to participate in today's debate on behalf of the good people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I have been listening to the debate throughout the day. It has certainly been, at times, very frustrating to listen to. We have taken this opportunity to identify a clear problem. We know the solutions that are out there, but we still seem plagued by the government's inertia to actually step up and do the right thing.
I want to start by expressing one very key point, which is that our parents and grandparents built this country. Whether they were born here or they immigrated here, this country is the way it is today, with all of its strengths, because of the work they put in. As they age, they deserve to live in comfort, dignity and safety. However, because of decades of cuts, underfunding and privatization, our continuing care system, our long-term care homes system, is broken.
This pandemic has very much revealed so many shortcomings in our society. It has shown the precariousness of work. It has shown where the gaps are in our social safety net. It has shown how vulnerable workers, those with the most to lose, are often at the front lines of the pandemic. They have most often been the ones at risk of both contracting COVID-19 and of bringing it home and spreading it to their loved ones. We really need to take a hard look at ourselves as a country and make some notes of what went wrong, and most important, how we can improve.
We have seen the cost of government inaction and neglect. We have seen the devastating loss of loved ones in long-term care centres across the country. In fact, it was so devastating that we actually had to send in the army to help out. The reports that emerged from those interventions were absolutely shocking. We had army medical staff finding residents who were dehydrated, who were starving, and who were left lying in their own feces and urine. There were residents who had fallen on the floor and could not get up, and some who had passed away in their beds with no one noticing. We have utterly failed to protect long-term care residents and workers through this pandemic, and it is absolutely a national disgrace. We owe our seniors so much more.
Today, New Democrats are using our one opposition day in this supply cycle to highlight the sorry state of our long-term care system and the fact that 82% of COVID deaths in Canada happened in long-term care, the highest proportion in the OECD. There have been over 12,000 long-term care resident and worker deaths in Canada since the beginning of the pandemic.
By acknowledging these incontrovertible facts, we are calling on the House today to take action. This is an opinion of the House. The House is calling on the government to take action. We want to see the transition of all for-profit models to non-profit models by the year 2030. We want to see our federal government working with the provinces and territories to stop licensing any new for-profit care facilities. We want to make sure that measures are in place to keep all existing beds open during that transition. We also want to see an additional $5 billion invested over the next four years in long-term care, and we want that funding tied to the principles of the Canada Health Act. We want to boost the number of not-for-profit homes.
There is a very clear precedent in what we are trying to do. In fact, our public health care system is based on this type of federal leadership. When we look at the for-profit model, unfortunately the facts are there for everyone to see. It is impossible for us to argue with them. This has been documented in the news. We have heard the harrowing stories of families who have had to deal with the loss of a loved one in a long-term care facilities, of the grandparents whom grandchildren are no longer going to see, and of the entirely avoidable deaths.
For-profit homes have seen, tragically, worse results than other homes. They have had far more deadlier COVID outbreaks. At the same time, we see these big, for-profit operators getting public subsidies, like the Canada emergency wage subsidy, though I acknowledge it is an important measure in this pandemic and has helped many workers keep their jobs. However, when we have a large corporation taking the wage subsidy while paying out dividends to its shareholders and also experiencing this loss of life, that, to me, goes against the spirit of the COVID interventions that our federal government is providing. It is a part of this national disgrace, and we need to have a full reckoning of how that money was spent.
Research has shown that the homes run on a for-profit basis tend to have lower staffing levels, more verified complaints, more transfers of residents to hospitals as well as higher rates for both ulcers and morbidity. This is the fundamental problem here, because when we come to this relationship between profit and care, I think that care is always going to lose out, because shareholders need their dividends, executives need their pay increases and stocks need to climb in value. When it comes to making a profit, it is a fact that private enterprises are going to be managing these facilities with an eye for what they call “efficiencies”. These efficiencies are usually found with the chronic understaffing, low worker pay, reduced investments in equipment and so on. When it comes to profit and to care, I am sorry, but those two concepts do not belong in the same sentence together. I believe that national standards could include basic references to the standards of care that we want to see in our facilities, including in employee health and well-being and pay.
I have been listening to today's debate, and I hear my Liberal colleagues repeatedly falling over themselves to find a reason to vote against the motion. What they often bring up is provincial jurisdiction. We all acknowledge provincial jurisdiction in the delivery of health care services, but there are ways to show federal leadership.
I believe that the Liberals' motto these days when it comes to bold, innovative leadership on the health care file is: Why go all the way when we can go only go half the way? We saw that with their vote against Bill C-213, brought in by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, on something that was based on their own report and that would follow the principles of the Canada Health Act. We have another proposal to bring forward on national dental care. Here we are using our opposition day motion to propose some basic standards for long-term care homes in the for-profit model.
When we look at the Canada Health Act, it very clearly recognizes provincial jurisdiction, but it puts in place basic principles for provinces to comply with if they want those federal transfer funds, and we are proposing something similar for long-term care. We already have the principle of public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility, and no one argues about those principles anymore. They are an enshrined part of our health care system, fully recognizing the provincial jurisdiction over health care delivery, but also recognizing that the federal government can play a leadership role with its power of the purse. I remain disappointed in my Liberal colleagues for finding yet another way to vote against a bold proposal when it comes to health care, because health care is top of mind for so many Canadians today, whether it is pharmacare, dental care or serious reform of our long-term care system.
I will conclude by saying that families really want to know that their loved ones are getting the best possible care. If we poll Canadians, we will see an overwhelming majority of Canadians in favour of bringing long-term care facilities under the jurisdiction of the Canada Health Act. An overwhelming number of Canadians want to see government investments to rebuild health care and other public services that were previously cut. We have promise Canadians that our seniors are going to have safe and dignified care, and that families will know that their loved ones will have the care they deserve with proper standards in place.
I appreciate the opportunity to have taken part in today's debate, and I welcome any questions.
View Rob Moore Profile
View Rob Moore Profile
2021-03-12 11:11 [p.4971]
Madam Speaker, yesterday the Liberals invoked closure on their motion that significantly altered Bill C-7 by expanding medically assisted death to those with mental illness. They did so at the absolute last moment possible in the parliamentary process.
I have received hundreds of emails, letters and calls in opposition to Bill C-7, in particular from persons with disabilities and groups that advocate for them. Many of them wanted more time to speak out in committee against Bill C-7. The government has now expanded Bill C-7 so that MAID will be accessible by those with mental illness. This was done with no consultation directly on this issue in the House of Commons.
I call upon the government to actually listen to those who are raising concerns with the changes made by Bill C-7 and be willing to address them through the upcoming parliamentary review.
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