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View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Oliphant Profile
2021-04-19 11:03 [p.5773]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
On Friday, April 16, at the last sitting of this House, we had debate on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code, conversion therapy. During the question-and-answer period following my speech opening the morning's debate, contrary to Standing Order 18, the member for Cloverdale—Langley City used language that was offensive to me and, in my understanding, to many other members of the House. While she did reach out to me on Friday evening to offer an apology for “any misunderstanding”, I am of the belief that such an apology should be made not just to me, but to all members of the House and to members of the LGBTQ2S community in Canada and around the world who have expressed their hurt and their anger at her inference.
In quoting Matthew 23:27, the member inferred that either I or all members of the LGBTQ2S community are unclean. As an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, I am well aware that at its best this passage has been used to deride someone as a hypocrite. However, this passage, along with the whole of that particular chapter, has been used for centuries to bolster anti-Semitism and, very specifically, anti-Jewish sentiments. The misuse of this passage has led to misunderstanding, even hatred of Jews, by Christians, as pointed out by the famed theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruether, in her book, Faith and Fratricide. It is, however, the first time that I have heard it used to cast negative aspersions on members of my community. The biblical concept of unclean has long been disavowed by Jews and Christians alike, and there is certainly no place for it in this House, especially in the debate on important amendments to the Criminal Code, which will further recognize an attempt to heal the hurt perpetrated against lesbians, bisexual, gay, transgendered, queer and two-spirited people. We are not unclean.
I would ask that you, as the Speaker, request that the member apologize and withdraw those remarks, and that you also remind all members to be mindful of their words, which may be heard by other members and by many Canadians as being offensive.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to thank the hon. member for his point of order. I take it under advisement. I will return to the House with a ruling on that.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
moved that Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, this is it. We made it. It is finally time to debate a very compassionate, common-sense bill that seeks to extend special employment insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I am very honoured to sponsor this bill on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.
It is finally time to put forward a practical, viable solution to a very real and documented problem. It is finally time for parliamentarians to once again tangibly demonstrate their support for the idea that sick workers deserve better and deserve more.
I would like to remind members that the Bloc Québécois's February 2020 motion to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks received the support of all opposition members. I would therefore like to thank the 169 members who supported the proposal and remind them that sick workers still need their support. I hope that, together, we will be able to convince the 149 Liberal members who voted against the motion to support it this time around. As the Speaker pointed out, the Liberal government's support is essential to my bill. I need this government's help because my bill needs a royal recommendation in order to be passed.
It is finally an opportunity to honour and remember Émilie Sansfaçon and bring her political struggle, which courageously began when she was fighting for her own life, to a successful conclusion. It is an opportunity to finally implement something that more than 618,000 people have been calling for, namely extending EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I want to thank the incredible Marie-Hélène Dubé for her perseverance and tenacity in rallying support for this effort.
I invite parliamentarians to think back to January 4, 2021, which feels like just yesterday. Think about it this way: If one of your loved ones had a serious illness, like cancer, and their treatment had begun on January 4, that individual would no longer have any income today, because their benefits would have run out. They would have used up their 15 weeks of special benefits. This is unacceptable and, I dare say, embarrassing for a wealthy society like ours.
My bill would make some very simple amendments to the Employment Insurance Act. It would replace all references to the maximum of 15 weeks of special EI sickness benefits with a maximum of 50 weeks.
I want to make it clear that these benefits are for people who lost their jobs against their will. Eligible workers who are sick can collect 55% of their average salary to a maximum of $573 per week.
We can all agree that nobody decides to be sick. Nobody plans to be away from work for a long period of time because of illness. Nobody wants a cancer diagnosis or anything like that. These things are totally involuntary and unpredictable. The workers who need this safety net are the most precarious workers, those who are not lucky enough to have good jobs with private insurance or good coverage under collective agreements.
In 2017, 400,000 people needed this crucial support. It was their only option. These are people from all across Quebec and Canada, of all ages and backgrounds. In many cases, they do not have the privilege of holding well-paid jobs. When they get sick, they typically do not have the financial leeway to fully focus on getting better.
Back home in Salaberry-Suroît, a rural riding, when people get sick they usually have to go to Montreal for treatment. They have to budget for travel, parking and all sorts of medical expenses. Often, spouses also have to take time off work during the treatment periods to support their partner, which adds to the families' financial stress.
These workers deserve better. EI sickness benefits have the added advantage of preserving the employment relationship between the worker and the employer. In other words, when the person recovers and feels better, they can return to their position.
We can all agree that this job security is far from a luxury, especially after fighting for one's life.
My bill is also a posthumous tribute to Émilie Sansfaçon. At 31, this young mother lost her battle with cancer, leaving behind her grieving spouse and her two children. She died before she could see the outcome of her political fight to improve EI sickness benefits by extending them from 15 to 20 weeks, despite a meeting in 2019 with the current Liberal Prime Minister, who gave her hope. However, nothing has changed since then.
The Bloc Québécois leader and member for Beloeil—Chambly noted in the House that Ms. Sansfaçon is the face of the inequity, injustice and discrimination that the seriously ill face in the employment insurance program, but Émilie is also the face of hope, a fighting spirit and perseverance. By passing Bill C-265, the Émilie Sansfaçon act, we will finish the fight for all the Émilies in Quebec and Canada.
I am pleased to remind all my colleagues that in 2019 the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a study confirming that we collectively have the means to adequately support sick workers. It is a sensible and compassionate proposal. It is both realistic and achievable to increase EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks with a premium increase of six cents per $100 of insurable earnings.
The idea that 50 weeks are necessary in the event of illness was recognized to some extent during the pandemic, as temporary adjustments to EI provided for 50 weeks of benefits in case of need. Nevertheless, it is incoherent that there are still only 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits.
My colleagues will agree that it is peculiar and incoherent that we have the means to support caregivers for a longer period than the person they are caring for. In fact, the caregiver is entitled to 28 weeks, which is excellent, but the person being cared for is only entitled to 15 weeks. Where is the logic in that?
One thing is clear: We cannot afford to let workers mortgage their homes to cover medical expenses, as was the case for longtime advocate Marie-Hélène Dubé. Ms. Dubé was even forced to delay surgery for her third bout of cancer because she had not worked enough hours to be eligible for another 15 weeks of sickness benefits.
We cannot afford to delay remission and leave workers living in financial insecurity throughout treatments. We cannot afford to choose precariousness over compassion.
Today we are debating a progressive bill that I think should galvanize all progressive members in the House.
I never thought I would find myself quoting a former Liberal member, but my Liberal colleagues might be more receptive to the words of one of their own. On November 22, 2011, the former member for Bourassa said, “In a non-partisan way, I am asking all my colleagues to make that gesture of solidarity and support my bill.” This makes good sense. I want to echo this statement and call on all of us to support vulnerable workers.
In the past 10 years or so, parliamentarians have had the opportunity to debate similar bills introduced by the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. The Liberal Party even made the same proposal during the 41st Parliament.
If the Liberals decided to change their position and hammer home the message that workers do not need the 50 weeks that we are proposing and that 15 weeks or 26 weeks are sufficient for all workers, then they need to explain why. For a government that tells anyone who will listen that it governs based on science, this position is untenable and lacks ambition. Statistics from the government's own department contradict its position and confirm that they are abandoning the most vulnerable workers.
The Quebec Cancer Foundation supports extending benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I would like to get it on the record that the Canadian Cancer Society is also in favour of extending these benefits and sees 26 weeks as the minimum increase and 50 weeks as the more desirable option.
It is time, hon. colleagues, to join that consensus and support Bill C-265.
I would like to close with a heartfelt plea. Today is budget day. The Liberal government could be generous to the most vulnerable members of our society, to sick workers who need more from the government than financial insecurity, stress and abandonment.
When parliamentarians, citizens and the media read the budget announcements, I hope they will all think about Émilie Sansfaçon and the hundreds of thousands of people like her, and I suggest they look at the situation in the following way.
If the government makes no mention of this issue and continues to provide only a measly 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits, then it is breaking its promise and insulting sick workers.
If the government increases these benefits to 26 weeks, then it is simply providing false comfort hiding the terrible reality that the Liberals are letting down approximately 68% of workers who need those benefits.
If the Liberal government decides to extend these benefits by only slightly more than that, then it has missed an opportunity. The Liberals will not have increased these benefits enough in the eyes of the over 618,000 people who signed the petition started by Marie-Hélène Dubé, which calls for extending EI sickness benefits to 50 weeks.
If the Liberal government is suitably generous and decides to extend benefits to 50 weeks right away, I would be the first to congratulate it and withdraw my bill, Bill C-265, which would then be obsolete.
In other words, let there be no doubt that I will continue to demand what is fair and realistic, because we in the Bloc Québécois have not forgotten Émilie Sansfaçon; because we in the Bloc Québécois stand with vulnerable workers; and because we in the Bloc Québécois choose compassion, solidarity and kindness.
I know the House is capable of doing so, as well. I call on all my colleagues to support this bill.
Let us pass Bill C-265 for the most vulnerable workers.
View Bernard Généreux Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît for her excellent speech and her excellent bill.
As she indicated when she was introducing her bill, we have decided to support this legislation and we will continue to support it. I have a very simple question for her.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer believes that anyone eligible could take full advantage of the entire benefit period. The reality is that this is not always what happens.
Can my colleague comment on the fact that, if the bill were to pass and 50 weeks of benefits became available, that does not necessarily mean that most people would take the full 50 weeks?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question and the opportunity to clarify.
My bill provides for up to 50 weeks of benefits, but we know that, on average, people need 41 weeks. That is an average, which means that some people who are sick need less than 50 weeks but quite a bit more than 26 weeks. That is well documented and proven. In 41% of cases, workers need more than 26 weeks. They actually need a minimum of 41 weeks.
Just because the bill provides for 50 weeks, people might think that every worker fighting illness will use all 50 weeks. That is not at all the case. We are talking about an average.
In costing this proposal, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that, as a society, we have the means to provide these workers with significant protection so they can focus on fighting their illness instead of stressing about how they are going to support their families and pay for rent, groceries and medical bills.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Mr. Speaker, I commend the speech and the initiative by my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît.
She is right. For about a decade, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have been proposing measures to take care of the most vulnerable workers when they fall sick, because we know that the current 15 weeks are not enough and that the proposed 26 weeks provide false comfort.
I would like her to keep going. The average recovery period is often 36, 37 or 41 weeks, as she said. We must also consider the doctor's advice. It is not the worker who chooses to take more or fewer weeks, it is their doctor who determines how much time they should take to recover before they are fit to return to work.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
He is quite right. As I stated in my speech, nobody decides to be sick. None of us can predict when we will get sick, and often we cannot predict when we will get better, either.
Today, highly effective treatments are available that may affect a person's ability to return to work, but it is the doctor who makes these decisions. The sick worker cannot decide to return to work if their doctor believes that they do not have everything they need to handle their workload. The worker must take the time to fully recover.
A person with an unforeseen illness should only return to work with their doctor's permission. This bill is about supporting a worker fighting for their life who does not have everything they need, such as a collective agreement or private insurance. Even if they want to return to work, they must first accomplish just one thing, and that is to heal. That is why my colleagues must support Bill C-265.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2021-04-19 11:23 [p.5776]
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on her thoughtful and passionate speech about a bill that will correct a grave injustice.
I would like her to tell us about the choices available to workers. In her earlier remarks, she said that the limited sickness benefit period could force a person who is still recovering to go back to work. A person who has not fully recovered may fall ill again more quickly, and that is another cost to society.
I would like my colleague to comment on that aspect, and I would also like to know if she has had discussions with the Liberals. Does she know on what grounds they would reject this proposal when there is money in the EI fund, which is supposed to be managed independently?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent question.
Quite frankly, I do not understand why the Liberals refuse to propose or give royal recommendation to this bill. We have known for 10 years now that 15 weeks of benefits are not enough. We knew that long before the 15 weeks were granted.
The Liberals are hiding behind their proposal to increase benefits to 26 weeks, which has been announced by the minister several times in the House, but what is her rationale for proposing 26 weeks?
Legislation like the Employment Insurance Act is not amended very often. It is an old piece of legislation that needs to be updated, but just because we change it today and increase the number of weeks to 26 does not mean we could change it again next year. These kinds of changes do not happen often. The Liberals need to reverse their position and agree to this change to increase the number of weeks of sickness benefits to 50. That is what vulnerable workers need.
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2021-04-19 11:26 [p.5776]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in this important debate. Before anything, I want to share my condolences to the friends and family of Émilie Sansfaçon. I would also like to recognize the work and advocacy of the member for Salaberry—Suroît.
We never want Canadians to face unnecessary hardship. We are doing whatever we can to put in place the necessary measures to support them when they are going through a difficult time. When eligible Canadians are unable to work, the employment insurance program is there for them. Sickness benefits within the EI program are designed as a short-term income replacement measure, for temporary work absences due to illness, injury or quarantine.
The benefits provide up to 15 weeks of temporary income support at an amount equal to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum weekly amount. In 2021, this maximum weekly amount is $595. Right now, too many Canadians exhaust their 15 weeks of benefits before they are able to return to work. That is why our government is committed to extending EI sickness benefits to help Canadians pay their bills while they recover.
EI sickness benefits are one of the many supports available to Canadians with longer-term illness and disability. These supports include the Canada pension plan disability benefit, as well as benefits offered through private and employer insurance, and supports provided by provinces and territories.
Access to EI benefits is normally based on the number of insurable hours that individuals have worked in the year prior to their application or since their last claim. This is known as the “qualifying period.” When we recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic was preventing many Canadians from accumulating the number of insurable hours that are normally required, we took action to address the problem.
We made adjustments so that workers with at least 120 hours of work as of September 27, 2020 could receive a one-time insurable hours credit of 300 insurable hours for claims for regular benefits related to job loss, and 480 insurable hours for claims for special benefits, such as sickness, maternity and parental, compassionate care or family caregiving.
The hours credit is retroactive to March 15, 2020 for claimants who were looking to transition early from the CERB to EI but could not establish their EI claim due to insufficient hours. For those claimants, the qualifying period may also be extended. The hours credit is available for new EI claims for one year, in recognition that labour market conditions remain uncertain and will take time to stabilize.
We knew that even with these temporary changes to the EI program, many workers would still not be eligible. That is why our government introduced the suite of recovery benefits. These benefits include the Canada recovery benefit to support workers, including self-employed workers, who are, themselves, ineligible for EI; the Canada recovery caregiving benefit to support workers who have been unable to work because they need to provide care or support for a child, family member or dependant as a result of COVID-19; and, of course, the Canada recovery sickness benefit.
Along with the CERB and other measures our government introduced, the Canada recovery sickness benefit has become a critical part of our government's public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was created through the safe restart agreement as a temporary income support program for workers who need to stay home because they are unable to work at least 50% of their scheduled work week due to being sick or needing to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or having underlying conditions or undergoing treatments or having contracted other sicknesses that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
Our government also amended the Canada Labour Code to ensure that workers can have access to job-protected leave and can avail themselves of the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit.
This past February, we proposed amendments to the Employment Insurance Act, which received royal assent on March 17, to increase the maximum number of weeks available for EI regular benefits for claims established between September 27, 2020, and September 25, 2021. We also made changes that would facilitate access to EI special benefits for self-employed workers until September 25, 2021, when all the temporary EI measures end.
Complementary to these amendments, we have made regulatory changes to increase the number of weeks of benefits available for the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. Again, we did what needed to be done to continue supporting Canadians.
Before I conclude, I would like to say a word about the future of EI. Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how the EI program has not kept up with the way Canadians work, nor emerging trends in labour markets. That much is clear. It was not built to respond to a major crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why, when the pandemic hit, we recognized very quickly that the current system was not able to cover enough Canadians in the workforce who had been impacted with job loss. It was also not able to keep up with the volume of applications that needed to be processed quickly and efficiently to help Canadians pay their bills and put food on the table.
We have a unique opportunity right now to bring the employment insurance program into the modern era to make it more inclusive. Flowing from last fall's Speech from the Throne and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion's mandate letter, we are committed to bringing forward a plan for a modernized and inclusive EI system.
We have been working very hard over the past year to introduce a number of benefits to help Canadians get through the pandemic. These benefits have played a pivotal role in buffering the worst economic impacts to Canadians. As I said, we never want to see Canadians suffer. That is why we are doing whatever we can to support them as they are going through this difficult time.
View Bernard Généreux Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-265, introduced by the member for Salaberry—Suroît.
The bill focuses on EI sickness benefits, which have been capped at 15 weeks since the 1970s, whereas EI regular benefits can last up to 26, or even 50, weeks.
This is not a new issue. I heard about it from Marie-Hélène Dubé, a Rivière-du-Loup resident who contacted me about it. I hear about this issue quite regularly from my constituents. Marie-Hélène Dubé is an acquaintance of mine. Over the years, I have spoken with her several times about the topic we are debating today.
Nearly four years ago, in 2018, I presented a resolution at my party's general council, held in Saint-Hyacinthe, to extend EI benefits in the case of serious illness. This resolution was adopted the members of my party. Last month, I also got this resolution passed by all party members at the Conservative convention, which was held virtually earlier this year.
All parties in the House want to address this issue. The Liberals are sadly the only ones dragging their feet.
I remind members that the Liberal government has been in power since October 2019. It had a majority for the first four years and has remained in power for another year and a half with the help of other opposition parties. So far, the Liberal government has not done anything to extend EI sickness benefits, and I do not see why.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a study two years ago in April 2019, estimating the cost of extending sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50. According to this study, it would cost between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion a year. That may seem like a lot, but it is important to know that the EI program is first and foremost supposed to be independent and self-sustaining. It is funded through premiums paid by workers and employers, which are adjusted periodically based on the claim rate.
In 2019, the contribution rate for workers was $1.62 per $100 of insurable earnings to a maximum of $56,300 a year. The employer pays 140% of that amount, or $2.27 per $100 of insurable earnings. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that extending sickness benefits would cost 6¢ more per $100 earned by a worker. For someone who earns $35,000 a year, that is an increase of $21 a year or $1.75 a month. For someone who has reached or exceeded the maximum insurable earnings of $56,300, the proposed change would cost $33.78 a year or $2.81 a month. If we asked people whether they were prepared to pay between $1.75 and $2.81 a month for peace of mind and access to EI sickness benefits if they were to get cancer or need heart surgery, for example, it is very clear that the answer would be yes.
Balance protection insurance for credit cards and credit disability insurance on car loans both cost far more than 0.06%. They usually cost around 1% of the monthly balance. That amount is 20 times higher than the small increase we are talking about here to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50.
We might well wonder if that is why the Liberals are reluctant to offer EI sickness benefits for longer than 15 weeks. Have insurance companies lobbied the government because they do not want this safety net to make their financial products less attractive?
Let us remember the incestuous relationship between the Liberal government and major financial institutions, which was an issue when the Liberals introduced Bill C-27 in the previous Parliament. That bill proposed legislative amendments to pension standards that would have benefited Morneau Shepell, the family-owned investment company previously run by Bill Morneau, the former finance minister.
As a Conservative, I am very wary of any new tax or government directive that could make it harder for Canada's small and medium-sized businesses to compete. As the owner of a business with about 30 employees, I am all the more wary considering the especially difficult year all SMEs have had. I am here to help them get through the pandemic that we will have to continue grappling with for the next few months, or maybe even more than a year. However, I do not think that contributing an extra $29 or $47 per year per employee will bankrupt my business.
My employees are important to me, and I would love for them to have this lifeline to count on in case they ever have to face such a difficult struggle.
On this subject, I would not accuse the government of overspending. Why, then, are we still here, six and a half years after the Liberals took office? They still have not addressed this issue. The Liberals had a chance to include parts of Bill C-265 in their own Bill C-24, but they decided against it. To top it all off, we learned last week that the government has decided to refuse royal recommendation for Bill C-265, so its odds of being passed by the next election are slim.
Is this what the Liberals call co-operation with the opposition parties? It sounds more like “my way or the highway”. It appears as though they want to call an election right away, so that the Prime Minister can run as a great saviour and promise, for a third time, to increase the number of weeks of EI benefits for serious illnesses, when he had every opportunity to get it done sooner.
A few weeks ago, I asked the government whether it was going to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks, as set out in the motion the House of Commons passed in February 2020. The government responded that it would first extend this benefit period to 30 weeks.
That is great, but when? Will it be in the budget? We shall see this afternoon. Can the government tell us the difference in cost between 30 and 50 weeks? I remind the House that the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that extending these benefits from 15 to 50 weeks would cost 6¢ for every $100. This figure is not for 30 weeks, but perhaps the government and the Department of Finance did their own assessment.
What is the difference in cost between 15 and 30 weeks? What would be the difference in cost between 30 and 50 weeks? Is the government seriously obstructing Bill C-265 to save 2¢ or 3¢? The Liberal member who will be speaking next has a few minutes to ask me questions. I would like him to start by answering mine.
Beyond the figures I just cited, Marie-Hélène Dubé and Émilie Sansfaçon were extremely resilient, and in the case of Ms. Sansfaçon, to the very end. Ms. Dubé went through three cancer diagnoses in the last 10 years. Earlier I heard my Liberal colleague note that the government has made changes related to COVID-19. I am glad that it did that, with our support, but here we are talking about a recurring thing and not something sporadic in connection with a pandemic. As mentioned by my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, these are legislative amendments that do not happen often. The Employment Insurance Act has not changed since the 1970s and is no longer adequate. As my Liberal colleague aptly put it earlier, we must absolutely overhaul this legislation to adapt to today's realities.
I could go on for several more minutes, but the reality is that many businesses are struggling to find employees. That is the case in my riding right now. Unfortunately, when some get sick they not only have the burden of their illness weighing on them, but they also bear the financial burden, which becomes an additional stressor and is very hard to bear for anyone going through these difficult times.
Some will say that the Conservatives refused to make these changes in the past. It is true, but the way things are changing we must take care of one another. As my colleague mentioned earlier, people who can take care of those who are sick are entitled to more benefits than the sick people themselves. That makes no sense. We must adapt these new realities to today's life. Clearly, the pandemic added another layer, and the reality is that these types of events primarily affect women.
I believe that we must absolutely support my colleague's bill, and I invite the Liberals to also support it.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today to discuss this very important matter for thousands of people in Quebec and Canada. We have a duty and a collective responsibility to foster social progress and programs that truly meet people’s needs.
I would like to thank my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît for introducing this bill. It is similar to motions that have been moved in the past by the Bloc Québécois and to bills introduced by the NDP over the past ten years. I would like to thank my colleague because this issue is important to us at the NDP, as a progressive labour party.
People and employees find themselves in extremely difficult and painful situations because they are either ill, seriously injured or have cancer. They are fighting for their lives, sometimes under extreme financial pressure. If they do not have private insurance, a collective agreement or a labour contract that provides for recovery leave, they hit the employment insurance wall and its 15 weeks of sickness benefits, which is totally inadequate.
We consider this issue so important that we want action. We want the people in our society who have no other recourse, help or support to have up to 50 weeks of sickness benefits. We do not want to let these people fall through the cracks. Émilie Sansfaçon’s story and her plea for help touched us all, and we must remember that. There were also all those people rallying behind Marie-Hélène Dubé, who collected more than 618,000 signatures on her petition. Having met Ms. Dubé several times in recent years, I know that she is still on the case.
I therefore think that all of us, as members of parliament, should at least be able to agree on the matter. Our party wants this issue to be successfully resolved so badly that it does not care which party proposes the solution, as long as it leads to the right outcome. To be frank, I must admit that I do not understand how the Bloc Québécois managed to fall short on this file.
Last March, at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona tabled an amendment to government Bill C-24 that would have extended employment insurance benefits from 15 to 50 weeks.
I do not understand why the Bloc member for Thérèse-De Blainville voted against this amendment, agreeing with the committee chair’s opinion that the amendment was inadmissible because it required a royal recommendation. The opposition parties held the majority on the committee and could have challenged the chair’s interpretation. If the three opposition parties, including the Bloc Québécois, had voted in favour of the amendment proposed by my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona, the committee would have brought to the House a bill offering Canadians 50 weeks of EI sickness benefits. Since the amendment was part of a government bill, it would not have required a royal recommendation.
I am disappointed that the Bloc Québécois voted against the NDP’s amendment because it wanted to table its own bill on the same issue a month later. In April, it was decided that Bill C-265 also required a royal recommendation. If the Liberals, unwilling to act in solidarity to help vulnerable and sick workers, refuse the bill, we will be up against a wall. We will once again be left in the lurch, and all of our efforts will have been in vain.
I understand that my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît is pleading with the Liberals to join the rest of us in supporting sick workers in order to resolve the EI issue once and for all. However, we missed a really good opportunity in committee. I think that the Bloc Québécois fell short because of a misinterpretation. I wanted to say that, because I find it extremely unfortunate for the people who are suffering and who have been waiting years for changes to the employment insurance program.
As I was saying earlier, this is not a question of offering everyone 50 weeks of benefits in the case of injury or serious illness, such as cancer. It is a question of offering them the possibility of receiving up to 50 weeks of benefits. If the doctor believes that the person is unable to work and must take more time off to heal before returning to work in good health, as my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé pointed out, we should allow the worker and the doctor to make the best decision possible and provide for more than the current 15 weeks of benefits.
The minister says that they will provide 26 weeks for purposes of consistency. Caregivers are entitled to 26 weeks, while sick people only get 15 weeks. That makes absolutely no sense. Perhaps the government wants to extend the benefits to 26 weeks to avoid being called out on that inconsistency, but that makes no sense because, once again, it is only a half-measure.
As my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît pointed out, the average remission or recovery time for many serious illnesses is 41 weeks. It can be 36 or 37 weeks in some cases, and 45 or 46 weeks in others. All that means is that 26 weeks is not enough.
Stopping at 26 weeks is unrealistic, given what science and medicine are telling us. That is why we will not agree to 26 weeks.
When the Liberals were in the opposition, they voted for 50 weeks. That was a few years ago, and they may not remember, but we do. I think that we can all agree today or in a future vote to support the most vulnerable workers so as to give them hope and the option of taking the time they need to heal properly.
Marie-Hélène Dubé said she was shocked at the government's chronic inaction on this issue despite all of its promises, and at its lack of respect for sick Canadians who, after having paid into the EI program their entire life, receive 15 weeks of benefits when they fall ill even though it takes on average almost 50 weeks to heal.
Shawn Chirrey of the Canadian Cancer Society gave a very specific example: The average treatment and recovery time for breast cancer is 25 to 36 weeks, compared with 37 weeks for colon cancer.
We know, then, that 15 weeks is not enough for cancer patients. We can also see, by the average treatment and recovery times for colon and breast cancer, that 26 weeks is still not enough. The science is clear.
I would ask that everyone make an effort to adopt this common sense measure that, as my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party have pointed out, is eminently affordable. Remember that it costs 6¢ extra per $100 in salary, according to a study by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. There are really no better reasons than human compassion, the scientific approach and affordability to justify this contribution on the part of workers and businesses.
I believe that the the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities should have accepted the amendment to Bill C-24. It would have been a much easier and more efficient way of giving Canadians 50 weeks.
We have another opportunity here with Bill C-265. However, this time we need help from the government, and the Liberals will have to get on board. Otherwise, I do not know how they will be able to explain it to sick Canadians who want to have the time they need to recover and need financial support. I hope we will be able to agree on a permanent, comprehensive reform of this important social program.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that our social security net is full of holes, that there are major problems with access to employment insurance. For years, under the Conservatives and the Liberals, the majority of workers who contributed to EI did not have access to benefits. Only about 38% of workers who lost their jobs were eligible to receive EI benefits.
The current crisis prompted the government to put certain measures in place. However, the four programs are temporary and will expire this summer or fall. We need to make permanent the changes that were made to improve access to EI. That is absolutely crucial, particularly for self-employed workers, freelancers, contract workers, people working in the arts and culture industry and translators, who have not had access to EI cheques or benefits for years.
The NDP made CERB available for self-employed workers and freelancers. However, we need a real employment insurance reform so that no one slips through the cracks and we are able to take care of everyone who needs it.
View Louise Chabot Profile
View Louise Chabot Profile
2021-04-19 11:53 [p.5780]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the important Bill C-265, the Émilie Sansfaçon act. This is a great opportunity to achieve the goal of permanently extending EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50.
Today is the first hour of debate on this bill at second reading. However, like my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, I feel like compelled to say that our bill may be for nothing if there is a surprise in the budget that is coming in a few hours.
Yesterday I was watching a public affairs program on TV and saw the President of the Treasury Board say that the goal of the next budget is to go farther and aim higher. The government has a golden opportunity to do just that by supporting our bill.
The bill we are debating has three goals. First, it seeks to correct an unjustifiable inequity and shocking injustice that has gone on for 50 years and must not continue one more day. Second, it seeks to recognize and support people with serious illnesses such as cancer and serious chronic and episodic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis. Lastly, it seeks to help people get better and to support them for as long as their doctor says is medically necessary.
This bill, which would extend the special EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 and permanently fix the Employment Insurance Act, is not the first such bill to be tabled in the House, as my colleagues have pointed out. In the past 10 years, seven bills have been introduced, but none of them got anywhere, and none of them were endorsed by Parliament, despite a broad consensus that still exists today. Why have successive governments failed to act all these years?
This must not become another missed opportunity. We must seize this opportunity and act. As I mentioned in the House last week, this is not a request, but a heartfelt plea. We want to make this amendment to the act to ensure that workers have a social safety net.
A study initiated by the Bloc Québécois is under way at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. It involves a comprehensive reform of the EI system. The aim is to strengthen the system and to fix the gaps and flaws that the pandemic has highlighted.
One of those flaws is the fact that special sickness benefits last 15 weeks. That is so outdated. Many groups submitted briefs and many witnesses appeared to speak in support of this initiative, with good reason. They include major Canadian and Quebec unions and the Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal. Even here in the House, the NDP, the Conservatives and the opposition parties all support this change, as do 88% of Canadians. I myself surveyed 2,000 residents of my riding, and 85% of them were in favour. What more will it take?
As mentioned, the PBO says it would cost $1.1 billion if everyone took the 50 weeks, but we know that will not be the case. This is therefore feasible and possible.
What would not be feasible, however, would be to do nothing. Not supporting them adequately during their care would leave thousands of sick people at risk of losing their jobs and being more distressed by their financial insecurity than by their health. That was what happened to Émilie Sansfaçon, who sadly died too young from cancer. She shared her heart-wrenching story with us, explaining how her financial situation was causing her more anguish than her own health needs were. This was her struggle, the same struggle thousands of people face. There are people like Émilie Sansfaçon everywhere. We need to continue this fight and, above all, fix the problem. We can no longer neglect these workers, because this is a social, moral and human issue.
We already know that our EI system is far from being a gold mine, even for people who have paid into it their entire lives. If we look at sickness benefits under the regular EI system, individuals have to work 600 hours to be eligible. Even if they are eligible, however, workers are entitled to just 55% of their earnings for a maximum of 15 weeks, which will not be counted in the calculation of insurable hours to qualify for other benefits.
Canada is one of the worst G7 countries in terms of providing a social safety net for workers, just behind the United States. The U.S. provides 12 weeks, Canada 15, France 156, Germany 78, Japan 72 and Italy 52. I have three words to describe the current situation: shameful, embarrassing and stingy. The time has come to be among the best.
The government promised to extend the benefit period to 26 weeks, but it never did. However, that would not be enough. It is not about negotiating or trading a short 15-week period for a half-measure because that would not solve the problem. Instead it is about treating sick workers fairly by providing them with 50 weeks, the same maximum number of weeks that workers are entitled to when they lose their job. We can no longer discriminate against sick workers. We have no choice but to help them because the 50-week period is economically sustainable and socially imperative. All we need is the political will and a vision where our social programs and our social safety net for workers do not leave anyone behind or allow anyone to slip through the cracks.
Do we want to be seen as a society that abandons the most vulnerable, or as a fairer and more equitable society, one that provides support and comfort and is compassionate and humanitarian towards workers and the sick? It is with the latter image in mind that I ask for the unanimous support of the House for this bill to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks. Not only is it a question of fairness, but it will allow people to take care of themselves with dignity.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:03 [p.5781]
Is the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent rising on a point of order?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2021-04-19 12:03 [p.5781]
Mr. Speaker, I am certain that you will find unanimous consent for the motion that, notwithstanding any standing or special order or usual practice, at 3:59 p.m. today or when no member rises to speak, whichever comes first, Bill C-11, an act to enact the Consumer Privacy Protection Act and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts, be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:04 [p.5781]
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties and I hope you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practices of the House, at 3:59 p.m. today, or when no member rises to speak, whichever comes earlier, Bill C-11, an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act and the personal information and data protection tribunal act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts, be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:05 [p.5781]
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to a point of order raised by the member for Don Valley West, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, with regard to a question placed by the member for Cloverdale—Langley City in the debate on Friday on Bill C-6, conversion therapy.
This is not the first time I have had to respond to these kinds of statements in the House of Commons, unfortunately. What the member for Cloverdale—Langley City did was to hide behind biblical quotations to cast dispersions on gay members of the House of Commons. This is a very serious matter for me. I believe it is, in fact, a question of privilege. It makes it difficult for members of Parliament to do their jobs when they are subject to these kinds of accusations. It also makes it very difficult to encourage other Canadians to run for public office when these kinds of slurs are allowed in the House of Commons.
As I said, this is not the first time I have had to deal with this, unfortunately. On September 29, 2011, the previous member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, Russ Hiebert, made a statement in S.O. 31s where he implied that because of my position on certain legislation, I was a friend of pedophiles. At that time, I stood in the House and objected to that statement, first, because as an adult survivor of child abuse, I took very strong offence to that kind of statement; and second, because once again it made it difficult for me to do my job as an MP when subjected to those kinds of accusations. The same excuse was used by the previous member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale in 2011, which is being used again, “Oh, I didn't really mean that. Someone has misunderstood because I didn't say word for word what I clearly implied in my statement.”
This does affect me as a serving member of the House. This affects all members of my community across the country when these statements are allowed to stand without apology or removal. I would ask the Speaker take this into very serious consideration and take appropriate action to ensure that this does not happen again in the House of Commons. That can only happen when a member is sanctioned for doing so.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:08 [p.5782]
I thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for his additional comments on the matter. As he may have heard, the Speaker has taken this matter under advisement and has indicated that he will get back to the House in due course.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:08 [p.5782]
Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour for me to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport. I am speaking in support of Bill C-11, an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act and the personal information and data protection tribunal act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts. It is also known as the digital charter implementation act.
From the earliest days of my first run for office, the residents of Davenport have approached me to tell me how concerned they are about the security of their personal information. They are literally running after me in the streets to say that this is an issue of great importance to them. I can assure members that it is not just Davenport residents who are concerned. The Privacy Commissioner published a survey in 2019 that found that 92% of all Canadians were concerned about their privacy, with 37% of Canadians being extremely concerned. This means that nine out of 10 Canadians are worried about their privacy.
I know that the third wave of this pandemic is the most pressing issue for all of us right now, and rightly so, but it has not made our privacy concerns go away. Indeed, this pandemic has had the opposite effect, given that most, if not all, our lives have moved online, from work to worship to shopping to social gatherings. This is a front and centre issue.
Davenport residents are not comfortable entrusting all their data into the black hole of the Internet, managed mainly by big multinational tech giants. These companies have been operating with outdated regulations and limited transparency. As Canadians right now, we have no choice. We are all used to downloading apps or signing up for things online that come with long privacy policies and consents requests. I do not know about everyone else, but most of us do not have time to read all the online terms and conditions that are often in legalise and not easy to understand. That is why I am happy that Bill C-11 would require plain-language consent requests.
We are also too used to being peppered with targeted ads and content based on the websites we visit, with no consent or even knowledge about algorithms that track our actions. It is impossible to keep track of how our personal data and how our online actions are being used or abused, whether it is to misinform others or even more nefarious purposes like identity theft.
That is will I am glad that Bill C-11 is before the House. It marks a huge leap forward in our privacy laws. Canada must do all it can to protect the data of all our residents, and Canadians should know exactly how their data is used with maximum transparency. We should have the right to manage what data is kept online and what is deleted.
Canada must also keep up with the rapid growth of the digital economy, as hundreds of companies and organizations are now handling our personal data. Other countries have already acted on this. The E.U. passed the General Data Protection Regulations in 2018. Its rules require that other countries meet its standards to do business, to exchange data across borders. This means that if we want Canadian businesses to continue to have an edge in European markets, we have to modernize our privacy rules. It is imperative that we move now, as aggressively as possible, and for all these reasons, we must pass the digital charter implementation act.
What would the bill actually do? First, the bill introduces the new consumer privacy protection act that updates the old PIPEDA act, which was first passed in 2001. Second, the bill introduces the personal information and data protection tribunal act to create an oversight and enforcement body for the new privacy rules. Third, it would retain the measures of part 2 of PIPEDA under the new electronic documents act. The measures in the bill are built upon three key goals: consumer control, responsible innovation and strong enforcement and oversight.
Let me just touch very briefly on how the measures in the bill would meet each of these goals.
First, how do we give consumers more control? Bill C-11 would modernize consent rules and would require companies to ask for consent in plain language, which is great. The bill would also give Canadians the right to data mobility. That means they could direct one organization to share certain data with another for a specific reason. For example, they could direct their banks to share financial information with another bank.
Next, it would give Canadians the right to withdraw their consent for the use of their data. It would allow people to direct a company to delete whatever personal information it has about them, including on social media platforms, which would give control of personal data back to Canadians. The bill also clarifies that even information that has been de-identified is still personal information. Even if a company removes people's names from its data, this bill would ensure that the data still belongs to those people. It has to be protected, and companies need their consent to use it.
Finally, the bill requires transparency for use of algorithms and AI. It would give every Canadian the right to request an explanation of how and why an automated system made a choice or prediction about the individual. I am hoping that at some point, we are allowed to relay what companies can and cannot do with that information.
The second goal is enabling responsible innovation. We want our country to stay globally competitive, support innovation and unlock the potential of data to create incredible value and improve our lives, but we need to support that innovation in a way that guarantees the right to privacy. The bill would simplify consent rules so that companies are not burdened by seeking consent for every use of information, even when consumers reasonably expect it. This is good for business and also helps Canadians make meaningful choices. Rather that being bombarded by consent requests full of legal jargon, consumers will see plain language requests when it really matters.
Bill C-11 would also allow Canadians the choice to contribute their data for the common good. It would allow businesses to share de-identified data with certain public institutions to power social benefits like public health and infrastructure. Lastly, the bill would allow businesses to submit their codes of practice to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure they comply with the law. This kind of transparency and streamlined regulation is both good for businesses and good for Canadians.
The third goal is strong enforcement and oversight. With any new regulations, we absolutely need stronger enforcement and oversight. Indeed, I know that is something the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has long requested. What would this bill do? It would give the commissioner that power, including forcing an organization to comply with privacy laws and ordering a company to stop collecting data for personal information. It would also create the personal information and data protection tribunal, and the Privacy Commissioner could also ask the tribunal to impose fines. We would have the stiffest penalties in the G7. For small transactions, the fine would be 3% of global revenue or $10 million, whichever is greater, and for more serious violations, the penalty is up to 5% of global revenue or $25 million, whichever is greater.
I mentioned earlier that Davenport residents have been raising this as a concern to me for five years now. I have received a number of letters, so I want to pay tribute to all those who have written to me through the years to indicate that this continues to be an issue. I know they will be very happy to hear that we are moving forward on this legislation.
This bill is the first of many steps our federal government will take to protect Canadians' privacy and harness our country's potential in the digital age. Our current privacy laws were passed in 2001, and in 20 years the pace of change has left those laws badly out of date. We will need to keep doing more to stay on top of rapid changes, looking at both the threats and the opportunities. Davenport residents and, indeed, all Canadians demand that we continue to do all we can to keep our privacy and data security laws updated in a way that protects them, while still enabling data to be used for innovation and economic growth.
In 2019, we set out a vision for the Internet in the digital charter. That vision is of an Internet that serves the public good and guarantees certain rights, like the right to control and consent, the right to transparency and portability, the use of data for the common good and the need for strong enforcement and accountability.
I am proud that our government has introduced this bill to implement the digital charter and guarantee these rights to Canadians. We have seen big new challenges, and we have stepped up with real solutions. I ask all of my colleagues for the speedy passage of this bill.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-04-19 12:18 [p.5784]
Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that we are trying to update the legislation to reflect our digital reality.
The member commented on the Privacy Commissioner and the additional powers that would be given. We have seen quite a number of privacy data breaches from the federal government, especially from the Canada Revenue Agency. Would the Privacy Commissioner have the ability under this legislation to fine the government or order the government to stop collecting private information because it is not adequately protected?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:19 [p.5784]
Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that it does not matter whether it is the federal government or any level of government; we are all really concerned about any type of these breaches. The honest answer to her question is that I actually do not know if the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is able to. I will ask about it.
My sense is that it is what we are trying to do, so I would hope it would also incorporate the federal government and the different levels of government. I do not know the answer. I hope it would be the case, but I know it does have the power to order businesses to do that. I will look into it and get back to the hon. member.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2021-04-19 12:20 [p.5784]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.
What our Conservative colleague said is true. This bill does not seem to apply to the government.
I have another question. There is another flaw with respect to the identification of individuals. There is nothing in the bill to force banks, for example, to institute a strict policy for the identification of individuals, nor is there any kind of fine system that would compel them to do so.
Is the government open to a series of amendments on this issue?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:20 [p.5784]
Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons I am eager to move forward with this legislation is that it is good to have these types of discussions in committee. If there are improvements to be had and ways we could even strengthen what is already an excellent bill, there is always an opportunity to do so at committee.
View Gord Johns Profile
View Gord Johns Profile
2021-04-19 12:21 [p.5784]
Mr. Speaker, as we know, big corporate data privacy breaches are becoming more common every year, and Canadians are concerned about how the big tech giants like Facebook are collecting and using information. Privacy is now a household issue that really affects everyone.
My concerns are around the private rights of action, which would allow individuals and groups of consumers to seek compensation in court. This has been effectively used in the United States to remedy violations. However, it is unnecessarily so burdensome in Bill C-11 that it effectively makes it unusable. For example, if the Privacy Commissioner does not investigate and rule on a complaint, an individual has no right of action. If the Privacy Commissioner does investigate and rule on a complaint but the tribunal does not uphold it, the individual has no right of action. Additionally, if a two-year timeline is exceeded for whatever reason, individuals lose their right of action, basically making it a right only in theory but not in practice.
Does my colleague agree that the bill needs to be amended to fix this?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:22 [p.5784]
Mr. Speaker, believe me, I am very concerned about data and ensuring that Canadians have complete control over the data they are sharing: who uses their personal data and for what purposes. A fundamental objective of this bill is to give control and consent, to ensure transparency, portability and interoperability, and to have strong enforcement and real accountability. If there are some additional measures the hon. member thinks should be considered, I would suggest that it be brought up in committee.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2021-04-19 12:23 [p.5785]
Mr. Speaker, I would put to the hon. member this quote from Jim Balsillie, from an article in the National Post in March: “The algorithms that push this content are addictive by design and exploit negative emotions—or, as Facebook insiders say, 'Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.'”
This bill would not address that problem. Is the government open to amendments in committee to deal with this aspect of the dark web?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:23 [p.5785]
Mr. Speaker, the point the member brought up is something I personally worry about as well. It really bothers me that my actions online are fed into some sort of an algorithm or AI system and translated in specific ways I have no control over. I would like to believe, and do believe, that all these types of amendments would be very open to consideration within committee.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to Bill C-11 and data privacy.
Many in Parliament know of the previous work that has been done by the access to information, privacy and ethics committee. We dealt with this in 2018 around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. We came together in London for the first meeting of the International Grand Committee, which represented nine nations and close to half a billion people. We have all seen how data manipulation can be misused by big tech, and our efforts in the International Grand Committee were really to set the stage for what we can do together to push back on some of big tech's practices and hopefully reform those practices. As chair of that committee, I was especially pleased with the efforts of all the parties in the room. In their speeches, the member for Beaches—East York, the member for Timmins—James Bay, my own colleague from Thornhill and many others took this on, as we care about all Canadians' data and privacy.
It is laudable that Bill C-11 attempts to combat some of the concerns that we have and crack down on some of those practices that have been concerning for many years. It deals with things like algorithm accountability, which has been mentioned by some colleagues today, personal access to data, de-identification of information, and certification programs for big tech so that there is a certain set of standards to be followed. Some of these moves have already been taken up by some in big tech who are doing this on their own to some extent. Stiffer penalties are recognized in Bill C-11, as well as private right of action.
However, there are many other things I am concerned about that are simply not in the bill, or there are huge exemptions that a freight train could run through, which would neutralize the bill in many respects.
First, privacy as a human right is the number one thing that I do not see in the bill. Many have said, from our efforts, that privacy as a human right needs to be foundational to any legislation. Conservatives recently passed a policy that deals with this exact principle:
The CPC believes digital data privacy is a fundamental right that urgently requires strengthened legislation, protections, and enforcement. Canadians must have the right to access and control collection, use, monitoring, retention, and disclosure of their personal data. International violations should receive enforcement assistance from the Canadian Government.
Clearly, this is a concern of many. We have heard from countless witnesses and experts. Jim Balsillie, who has been mentioned already this morning, warned us of what can happen if we do not take this seriously.
I will talk about the exemptions in the bill that concern me, and my copy of the bill is very well highlighted for some of the errors that are in it.
There is “Exceptions to Requirement for Consent.” A meaningful consent is another principle that we really need to address in the bill, and it has been mentioned already. If children have an app they like to play games on, all that has to be done to basically hand over their data is just a little check box in order to play the game, and we call that “meaningful consent”. Bill C-11 says that it attempts to fix that, but I will go over the exemptions.
“Exceptions to Requirement for Consent” states:
An organization may collect or use an individual’s personal information without their knowledge or consent if the collection or use is made for a business activity described in subsection (2)
This is the list of activities in subsection (2) that are exempt from meaningful consent:
(a) an activity that is necessary to provide or deliver a product or service that the individual has requested from the organization;
(b) an activity that is carried out in the exercise of due diligence to prevent or reduce the organization’s commercial risk;
(c) an activity that is necessary for the organization’s information, system or network security;
(d) an activity that is necessary for the safety of a product or service that the organization provides or delivers;
(e) an activity in the course of which obtaining the individual’s consent would be impracticable because the organization does not have a direct relationship with the individual; and
This is the big one:
(f) any other prescribed activity.
I appreciate the Liberal members stating that this bill is an effort to get us to a better place around data privacy in Canada, but exemptions like that in the legislation need to be addressed. That is why our party talked about getting Bill C-11 to the industry committee to have a fulsome discussion of its good parts and of what needs to be fixed and strengthened. Sadly, the current government has decided to send it to the ethics committee instead of where it should go. Some of the audience today might understand why. Because of the government's many ethical lapses and failures, it would like to use up all of the time it possibly can with other legislation, such as Bill C-11. Only ethics violations should really be discussed at the ethics committee. It is unfortunate that this is going to be pushed to the ethics committee. My hope for legitimate changes to the legislation may be muted by a rush to get through it, and it may not be given due diligence, as many Canadians are expecting it should.
I want to thank the Canadians who have come to me over the years to talk about their concerns around the way our data is collected. Many years ago I coined the phrase that our online data is essentially our digital DNA. It is who we are online, and we need to do all we can to protect the information and data of Canadians. In this new era of social media being in the public square, we need to do our due diligence as legislators to make sure that it is protected as much as possible. Unfortunately, although the effort is laudable, this legislation simply falls short. That is why, from our perspective, we want to see it go to committee and hopefully changes can be made there.
There is an old saying: “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I do not think we can call this legislation good quite yet.
I wanted to thank some of the guests we had before us. There has been some discussion that not enough has been heard regarding privacy and digital issues online, but we had countless experts from Canada and heard from experts around the world. We heard from Shoshana Zuboff and many witnesses at our International Grand Committee who really set the blueprint for what can be done with digital and data privacy. We have a way to make it better.
Our Privacy Commissioner made many suggestions. We see some of those in this legislation regarding increased fines and stiffer penalties for big tech if they misuse people's data or have lapses with that. However, the legislation still falls short. My hope is that it gets to committee so the committee can get a really good eye on it and have the chance to propose some fixes to those exemptions and other holes in the legislation.
I look forward to any questions.
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