Hansard
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
Results: 1 - 60 of 2241
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-21 10:17 [p.2653]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vimy, who will be giving her maiden speech in this venerable House.
It is an honour for me to be in the House today and to speak on behalf of the residents of Davenport.
It is also an honour to join my colleagues to participate in this important debate on Bill C-20, which includes three key parts. The first part makes a number of adjustments that will expand the eligibility criteria around the Canada emergency wage. Part two covers a number of changes that must occur in order for us to provide a one-time payment to persons with disabilities for reasons related to COVID-19. In part three are a number of appropriate changes to certain acts that will provide some flexibility to certain time limits that were difficult or impossible to meet as a result of the exceptional circumstances produced by COVID-19. I will be talking to part two.
This bill would allow information sharing among several federal departments and agencies and Employment and Social Development Canada, so that a one-time payment can be made to support persons with disabilities during this pandemic. We have to allow for information to be shared among several departments in order to deliver this one-time payment as soon as we possibly can.
This one-time payment of $600 will help approximately 1.7 million Canadians with disabilities who are recipients of the disability tax credit certificate, CPP disability or QPP disability benefits and/or disability supports provided by Veterans Affairs Canada.
Bill C-20 is just one part of a much larger plan that our government has dedicated to supporting Canadians with disabilities. Today I want to talk about the evolution of our plan, the actions we have undertaken and our government's next steps toward creating an inclusive and barrier-free Canada.
In 2015, our government named the first-ever cabinet minister responsible for persons with disabilities and promised Canadians that we would pass legislation aimed at removing barriers to inclusion. This signalled our commitment to doing things differently in order to ensure that all Canadians have an equal chance at success.
One of the key milestones on this journey was the National Disability Summit that we held in May 2019, in the days prior to COVID. The summit provided an opportunity for participants to exchange best practices and to create and build on partnerships. It allowed us to understand the next steps to truly realize an inclusive and accessible Canada.
At the same time as the summit was taking place, the federal government's landmark legislation for the Accessible Canada Act was being finalized, following the most comprehensive consultations with the disability community in our country's history. More than 6,000 Canadians and 100 disability organizations shared their views and ideas about an accessible Canada. As we know, the act received royal assent on June 21, 2019 and came into force in July of that year.
The legislation builds upon existing mechanisms and ensures compliance and accountability. The Accessible Canada Act takes a proactive and systemic approach to identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility in key areas within federal jurisdiction. The goal was to ensure that the act was based on safeguarding human rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The act also created new entities such as Accessibility Standards Canada, which creates and reviews accessibility standards for federally regulated organizations.
I am proud of this legislation because it sends a clear message to Canadians that persons with disabilities will no longer be treated as an afterthought. From the start, systems will be designed to be inclusive for all Canadians. This is because it is our systems, our policies, our practices and our laws that need to be fixed, not our people.
I also want to point out that in the mandate letter of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, a number of important additional measures will continue to ensure that we promote disability inclusion. These include, among other measures, undertaking initiatives to improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities, targeting barriers to full participation in the labour force including discrimination and stigma, raising public awareness, and working with employers and businesses in a coordinated way.
As the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion has said, we move from “Nothing about us, without us” to “Nothing without us”, because everything in society touches the lives of Canadians with disabilities.
The Government of Canada is leading the way in ensuring communities and workplaces are accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities. It is the largest federal employer. It is also the single-largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, and provides vital programs and services to Canadians. As such, we have committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years in the federal public service. We are also committed to applying an accessibility lens to government procurement and project planning.
Over the last five years, our government has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities. I wish to share some of the highlights over our two mandates, which began in 2015.
Our government applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs such as the Canada child benefit, the national housing strategy and the infrastructure program. The result is that families of children with disabilities receive an additional amount under the CCB. For example, from 2017 to 2018, 1.75 million children benefited from the disability supplement.
Under the national housing strategy, there is a commitment to promote universal design and visitability. This includes a requirement that public and shared spaces meet accessibility standards, and that at least 2,400 new affordable housing units for persons with developmental disabilities are created.
In the area of infrastructure we have approved nearly 800 accessibility projects, including almost 500 new para-transit buses and improvements to 81 existing transit facilities to make them more accessible to Canadians. This was made possible by ensuring that accessibility was an eligible expense in public transit projects. In just one year, almost $800 million was invested into our public transit systems to make them more accessible.
We have also increased our investments in existing programs such as the enabling accessibility fund, the social development partnerships program and the opportunities fund. All three of these programs were significantly enhanced, allowing people to keep doing the good work they are doing to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities.
Current COVID-19 supports have been amply covered by my colleagues over the last 24 hours, but I want to bring them to mind briefly. Since the pandemic was declared, our government has taken a disability-inclusive response to the pandemic. This included adhering to the principle of “Nothing without us”, from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the creation of the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group to bring the lived experience of persons with disabilities to our government's response to the pandemic.
We provided additional support to students with permanent disabilities and the one-time payment that is part of the debate today. We invested in mental health for the Wellness Together portal. We launched calls for proposals under two components of the enabling accessibility fund, and created a national workplace accessibility stream of the opportunities fund to help people with disabilities find jobs right now. Finally, we added funding to the social development partnerships program to enhance accessibility communications during this crisis, and invested $1.18 million in five new projects across the country through the accessible technology program to help develop dynamic and affordable technology.
In conclusion, from the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know Canadians with disabilities are underemployed compared with the general population, a situation made worse by this pandemic. As the economy opens up again, this represents an opportunity for a vast and largely untapped pool of talent: people who are available to work, who want to join the workforce and who are ready to apply their innovative ideas to our new normal.
In the meantime, I call upon my colleagues to quickly pass the legislation before us so we can get support out to the people who urgently and immediately need it.
I am now ready to take questions.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
2020-07-21 10:27 [p.2654]
Mr. Speaker, what is the number of disability payment recipients in Canada now?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-21 10:27 [p.2654]
Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. I actually do not have the answer to that question.
I do know that the changes we are about to make would, we believe, benefit 1.7 million Canadians. The other thing to point out is that the changes we want to make would make it more inclusive. We want as many people as possible, who have disabilities and need emergency support, to be able to access it. That is the reason we are proposing these changes in the legislation today.
View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2020-07-21 10:28 [p.2654]
Mr. Speaker, the disability tax credit application is quite arduous. I am not sure if the member has had a chance to go through that with some of her constituents, but it is a very heavy bureaucratic process and does take time.
I am wondering if she is aware of that process, the challenges that many Canadians have in applying for that credit and the fact that those who are either in the midst of applying or do not qualify are being left behind by aspects of this legislation.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-21 10:28 [p.2655]
Mr. Speaker, I was listening very intently to the minister yesterday. She spoke about the system behind the benefits available to persons with disabilities in Canada, and basically said that the system needs to be changed. It has to be simplified as it is not easy to navigate. She has made a commitment to do everything in her power to simplify the system and make it easier for us to get benefits directly to those who need them immediately.
View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-07-21 10:30 [p.2655]
Mr. Speaker, when I heard my colleague mention social housing, it occurred to me that if we wanted to make life easier for people living with disabilities, maybe we should fund the health care system properly. Health care is still underfunded. As for social housing, Quebec is still waiting for the transfers from the federal government.
Would my colleague agree that it is urgent to transfer that money if we want to truly support people living with disabilities?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-21 10:30 [p.2655]
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, I read a number of the elements of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion's mandate letter and we are going to take a number of additional steps to try to be more helpful to our disability community.
In terms of health care, my understanding is that we have health agreements with every single province, except Quebec, and we are very happy to step up to the plate and continue those discussions with Quebec to ensure that persons with disabilities, as well as all Quebeckers, will have access to better health.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that members of the opposition would question how long it takes for these disability tax credits given that we would be two months further ahead had they not been playing politics with this issue a couple of months ago.
The member talked about the lower employment levels of people with disabilities. I know first-hand that my cousin Aidan, who has Down syndrome, has all the supports he needs to get through his education, but after that there is a real lack of opportunity for employment. What this bill seeks to do, in particular, is create the economic environment for people with disabilities to prosper to their fullest potential. The federal government is looking to employ 5,000 more people with disabilities.
I am wondering if the member can comment on how she sees this impacting people in her own community of Davenport.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2020-07-21 10:32 [p.2655]
Mr. Speaker, I would have also liked to see this legislation pass two months ago. One of the positive aspects of waiting, turning lemons into lemonade, is that this time we expanded on who can apply and access this one-time emergency funding.
We are providing a number of avenues for more people to apply for the disability tax credit. If more people apply for the disability tax credit, more of them will be able to access the one-time emergency support. I know that is going to benefit many more people in my riding of Davenport.
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
2020-07-21 10:32 [p.2655]
Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the pandemic, our government has followed the guidance of public health officials. Governments across Canada put lockdown measures in place to slow the spread of the virus and ensure that our health care systems were well prepared.
The lockdown measures that governments put in place to control the outbreak meant that many Canadians lost their jobs or a significant portion of their incomes. Without question, the nature of this crisis is completely unprecedented. We are confronting a public health and economic crisis. Canadians have managed to control the virus, and gradually and safely, our economy is restarting across the country.
Canadians have made great sacrifices to get here. Businesses of all sizes closed their doors during the emergency phase and are still facing uncertainty.
Our government acted quickly in March, when we launched the first measures of our COVID-19 economic response plan. Through rapid and broad support, the government has been able to protect millions of jobs, provide emergency income support to families and help keep businesses afloat during the worst of the storm. This support is helping Canadians get back on their feet and has prevented serious, long-term damage to our economy.
With the Canada emergency response benefit, we are providing temporary income support to Canadians across the country who have stopped working because of COVID-19. More than eight million Canadians have applied for the CERB.
We provided a special, one-time $300 top-up to the Canada child benefit for the month of May, delivering almost $2 billion in additional support to families who needed it. The government also provided a special top-up payment in April through the goods and services tax credit for low- and modest-income individuals and families, giving on average a single adult almost $400 more and couples almost $600 more.
We have worked to support our most vulnerable as well, providing support for the food banks, charities and non-profits that provide services to those in need. We have also provided $158 million to support Canadians experiencing homelessness, ensuring that the shelters they rely on have the equipment they need to prevent outbreaks.
We know that during the lockdown, home was not always a safe place to be. We provided funding that has helped over 500 organizations that support women and children experiencing violence. We want to work to keep our communities safe and vibrant.
We know that preserving the small businesses that give our neighbourhoods life is key to keeping our community strong. The Canada emergency business account, or CEBA, has helped over 690,000 small businesses. Through this support, small businesses and non-profit organizations can receive an interest-free loan of up to $40,000, 25% of which is forgivable if paid back by the end of 2022. We recently expanded the CEBA so that more small businesses can access it. The CEBA is making a real difference in addressing the cash-flow challenges we see businesses facing as a result of COVID.
We know making rent can be a challenge for our hardest hit businesses. That is why we launched the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance, or CECRA, which provides eligible small-business tenants with a rent reduction of 50%. We recently announced that we are extending the program to cover eligible small-business rents for July. The program provides support by offering forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners, whether they have a mortgage on their property or not.
The CECRA also offers another key support to help businesses through the current challenges. Overall, since the beginning of the COVID-19 global outbreak, the Government of Canada has taken swift and significant action to support Canadians and protect jobs. The Canada emergency wage subsidy is one of the cornerstones of the government's economic response plan.
That is why with this week's legislation we are proposing to extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy until November 21, 2020. Furthermore, the government is announcing its intent to provide further support through the wage subsidy, up to December 19, 2020. The bill would make the program accessible to a broader range of employers and would help protect more jobs and promote growth as the economy continues to reopen.
To ensure strong subsidy support for those who need it, effective July 5, 2020, the Canada emergency wage subsidy would consist of two parts: a base subsidy available to all eligible employers experiencing a decline in revenues with a varying subsidy amount depending on the scale of revenue decline, and a top-up subsidy of up to an additional 25% for employers that have been most adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. If businesses are experiencing a revenue drop of 50% or more, they would receive the maximum base subsidy rate. If they are experiencing a decline between 49% and zero, their base subsidy rate would gradually decline in accordance with their revenue decrease. By removing the 30% revenue decline threshold, these adjustments would make the Canada emergency wage subsidy accessible to a broader range of employers. The introduction of a gradually declining base subsidy would allow the program to be extended to more employers and continue to support recovering businesses.
As well, the top-up subsidy rate of up to 25% would be available to employers that were the most adversely affected during the pandemic, which is to say those having experienced an average revenue drop of more than 50% over the preceding three months. This would be particularly helpful to employers and sectors that are recovering more slowly.
We will also make sure eligible employers that were making plans for the next two CEWS periods based on the existing design would be entitled to an amount of subsidy not less than the amount they would be entitled to under the wage subsidy rules that were in place before that period. This would provide a safe harbour so employers that already made business decisions for the period between July 5 and August 29 would not receive a subsidy rate lower than they would have under the previous rules.
By helping more workers return to work and supporting businesses as they recover, these changes would make businesses more competitive and would ensure that our economy returns to growth.
In conclusion, with this legislation the government is addressing the challenges employers are facing and is providing the support they need to participate in the restart. Therefore, I strongly recommend that all members of the House support the bill so that together we deliver on our collective commitment to be there for Canadians and help them bridge through to better times.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-07-21 10:40 [p.2656]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments and agree with the fact it has been two months since this was first presented. However, significantly more people with disabilities are included now because of the time that was invested in making the bill better.
One area the bill improves is support for veterans. They are included in this payment. Over 50,000 of them are without funding. I have a concern regarding what the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion said when she presented this in the House and referred to veterans. She said, “this is going to be super complicated at the back end”.
Does the member have any idea of the process that has been put in place to do this in an expeditious manner for veterans so that they do not lose hope again and this isn't another situation where the government is not providing them something they have been promised?
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
2020-07-21 10:42 [p.2656]
Mr. Speaker, our government is listening actively and working with various partners to make sure that no one is left behind. Certainly, we should not forget our veterans.
As we all know, this is the first time we are dealing with this. The disability act should have been debated and changed two months ago. We lost precious time, but I am sure, and can assure the House, that the minister, her team and the great people of our public service are going to find the solutions we need to make sure our veterans have the support they need.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-07-21 10:42 [p.2657]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the speech from my colleague, who sits on the Standing Committee on Finance.
I am going to ask her a somewhat technical question. I should probably ask the government, but I will see if she can answer. It is about support for people living with disabilities as drafted in Bill C-20.
In his announcement on June 1, the Prime Minister mentioned a refundable tax credit. However, Bill C-20 calls it a payment out of the consolidated revenue fund. On closer scrutiny, it seems like the payment could be considered taxable income for the taxpayer.
Does my colleague know whether this tax credit is taxable?
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
2020-07-21 10:43 [p.2657]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague from the Standing Committee on Finance for his question. I honestly do not know the details. I do not know if it is taxable or not, but I will find out and get back to him.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-07-21 10:44 [p.2657]
Mr. Speaker, as we talk about the recovery of the economy, obviously a huge part of it is child care. Workplaces have continually expressed the need for a national public system of affordable child care.
The government has put forward an economic recovery plan, but the $625 million that has been allocated to child care is simply not enough. Some are calling for $2.5 billion.
I am wondering what the member across the way has to say about the huge difference in realities and the need to do a lot more on child care.
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
2020-07-21 10:44 [p.2657]
Mr. Speaker, I am part of the finance committee, and we have heard time and time again through our witnesses that there will be no recovery unless we have affordable and proper child care. Our government is committed to that. I know that our various ministers have been working very closely with partners in various provinces. It is not an easy fix, but I know the discussions are going on. Our goal is to make sure that affordable child care is in place as our economy starts to recover.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite on her maiden speech. I recently had to do one and I appreciate the stress that comes with it.
I have a quick question on the CEWS legislation. In the backgrounder that is produced by the Department of Finance, there is an example that talks about businesses that now qualify because of the reduction in the 30% limit. In that example there is no reference, and in fact this is quite clear, to a retroactive application of this legislation for some very significant businesses that would qualify now but have been waiting for over 100 days for help in this legislation.
I am curious if the member believes that there should have been a retroactive component to the CEWS legislation for businesses that now qualify for the benefit but only on a go-forward basis.
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Annie Koutrakis Profile
2020-07-21 10:46 [p.2657]
Mr. Speaker, I know that the CEWS has supported over three million employees by helping them stay in their workforces or return to work. I am not certain whether at this moment we are looking to see whether we are able to give retroactive payments or not, but I am certain this government will do everything possible to listen. We are flexible. We were not looking for perfection. We do not want to allow perfection to stand in the way of the good. I can safely say, in my opinion, that if there is a way to give retroactive payments, I am sure this government is willing to listen to that.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-07-21 10:47 [p.2657]
Mr. Speaker, first I want to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Manicouagan. I would like to take this opportunity to invite all members of the House to visit that magnificent region this summer. It might be far, but it is worth the trip.
Bill C-20 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It is the embodiment of everything I most abhor about this federation. It is a reminder that my people, my nation, is still controlled by the nation next door. I am sure my colleagues will have understood by now that I am referring to the Bill C-20 that was passed just over 20 years ago, the clarity act, which set out the majority threshold and was tabled by Stéphane Dion. This bill reminded Quebeckers that Quebec would be ruled by the will of the Canadian majority to the very end. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons applauding that. That is just pathetic.
Twenty years ago, this Parliament came out and said that Quebec is not the master of its own house, so much so that its neighbour decided to give itself a say and even veto power not just over the next referendum, but also over the very definition of a majority, since it felt 50% + 1 was not enough for a majority anymore. So much for a people's right to self-determination. Quebec does not know what is good for it. There are echoes of Lord Durham's lamentable report here. This gets applause to this day.
As for Bill C-20, which is being debated today, the Bloc Québécois will obviously support it. Our logic is straightforward. Quite simply, since the bill is good for Quebec, the Bloc Québécois will support it. However, I would like to address the manner in which the bill was introduced and will likely be passed.
Over the past four months, the pandemic has shaped our daily lives. That is true for all of society and also for this Parliament. Its usual operations were suspended because of health guidelines. For four months, this Parliament and its legislators have no longer carried out their roles as they should. That is also true for the study of this bill. We will pass it with a sham procedure, ramming it through without being able to study it properly. I completely understand that it is urgent that we help those paying the economic price of health measures, namely our workers, businesses and people with disabilities. However, after four months, I feel that it is time to strike a balance and to put an end to this travesty of democracy, I would even say, this quasi-dictatorial government.
I will explain. Here is how it works. The government presents its bill to each party under embargo and then, just a day or two later, it introduces the bill in the House and insists that it be passed as is. In so doing, the government is short-circuiting the usual analysis and study process. We do not have time to examine the bill in detail, but, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. What worries me the most about this flippant approach is that, for the past four months, we have been passing bills without even giving members the opportunity to hear from the individuals and groups that are affected by those bills. The current process is too rushed. It does not make any sense.
I would like to give an example to illustrate this problem, that of Bill C-17. There was a section in Bill C-17 that sought to provide support to people living with disabilities. That support was intended for people who applied for the disability tax credit. However, since this was a non-refundable tax credit, many low-income people did not apply for it because they do not pay taxes. They were not going to fill out all the paperwork for something that did not apply to them. We know that far too many people with disabilities are living in extreme poverty. As written, Bill C-17 excluded the poorest people from the support program. Those who needed help the most were excluded, which was outrageous. This type of problem is usually fixed during the legislative process when committees have time to hear from the groups concerned and provide recommendations on how to improve bills.
In fact, it was groups like those who contacted us to complain about that aspect of Bill C-17. The bill affected their members. They are in the best position to analyze it, and they must be given time to take a close look at it and analyze it so that the government can hear what they have to say and make changes accordingly. As I have said before, the whole process that is crucial to passing good laws has been on hold for four months. That has to change. We need to get back to a democratic process. Let me just remind everyone that the government was unequivocal: Bill C-17 had to be passed as it was, and there was no room for improvement.
Even though it is in a minority situation, the government is behaving like a dictator. That is unacceptable. We said that we were in favour of Bill C-17, but that we needed time to study and analyze it. The government refused, saying that there would be no changes, and it chose to withdraw the bill and pout.
Fortunately for Canadians living with disabilities, just over a month later, Bill C-20 corrects the mistakes of Bill C-17 by adding three flexible elements.
First, individuals receiving a disability pension from the Quebec pension plan, Canada pension plan or Veterans Affairs will be entitled to the payment, even if they have not applied for the disability tax credit. However, this does not include those who receive a disability pension from the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec following an automobile accident, or the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail following a workplace accident. That could be improved.
Finally, individuals who apply for the disability tax credit within 60 days will be entitled to the payment, even if they did not previously claim it. This flexibility was not found in Bill C-17.
I would also like to talk about another point concerning the assistance for people with disabilities, which my colleague was asked about earlier. In his announcement on June 1, the Prime Minister talked about a refundable tax credit. However, Bill C-20 talks about a payment paid out of the consolidated revenue fund. It is not inconceivable that this could mean the payment is considered taxable income for taxpayers. I would like the government to clarify this.
Mr. Speaker, I want to appeal to you and to my colleagues from all parties here, in the House. We need to change how bills get passed. This chamber, its elected officials, its legislators and its committees must be able to actually do their jobs. We need to find a way that complies with health guidelines, but it is possible.
The government is comfortable governing without Parliament, but that infringes on our democracy. This has been going on for four months, which is far too long, and it needs to change.
View Stéphane Lauzon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his speech.
I find it a bit ridiculous to hear members say that there was an opportunity to vote for a bill to help people living with disabilities last month, but today, a month later, they are justifying having voted against it.
Today, we have the opportunity to vote in favour of the bill. Once again, it is easy to say that the bill is not perfect. Could my colleague opposite tell us whether it would have been better to vote in favour the first time, thereby avoiding all the political games?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-07-21 10:55 [p.2658]
Mr. Speaker, this is our first opportunity to vote on support for persons with disabilities. In fact, Bill C-17 was not even introduced in the House. We were not able to vote on that bill. The government chose to sulk by not introducing it.
Everyone in the House said that support for people living with disabilities was important. We just had to ensure that it was done right. My speech mainly focused on the fact that it was badly done and rushed. That is also the opinion of groups representing persons with disabilities.
Now, Bill C-20 is properly drafted. It is everything we asked for. The government must stop acting like a dictator and saying take it or leave it, and if we do not take it as it is, it does not work.
We have to return to a process that lets all elected members of every party to participate fully as legislators.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-07-21 10:56 [p.2659]
Mr. Speaker, the member has not responded to my colleague in a fully accurate way.
The Bloc, the New Democrats and the Conservatives were provided an opportunity not that long ago to give their unanimous consent. Unanimous consent is often given for a wide variety of bills, not only with this administration, but also previous administrations, so it is not as though it is unprecedented. There was an opportunity for us to see this legislation, or a form of it, pass.
It was not necessarily the Bloc as much as the Conservatives, but to try to imply that the government did not attempt to bring forward legislation that would have seen money in the pockets of individuals with a disability gives the wrong impression.
Would the member not acknowledge that there was a genuine attempt to make that happen?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-07-21 10:57 [p.2659]
Mr. Speaker, the government chose to introduce Bill C-17 as one bill made up of four different parts that could not be amended.
The part regarding support payments for people living with disabilities had the unanimous consent of the House. Had the government chosen to seek unanimous consent to pass that part of Bill C-17, it would have immediately gotten that consent. Every party publicly expressed its support for that part of the bill, so there would not have been any problem with that.
The government said no. The parties had to take the whole bill or leave it. That is the problem that we are once again seeing in this catastrophic approach to urgently passing bills imposed by the government. The part of Bill C-17 that helps people living with disabilities would have excluded the poorest members of that group because it was poorly written. The government is short-circuiting the usual process for passing bills in the House. That is what I have a problem with.
I hope I have made that clear to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. This way of doing things needs to change. We have been doing things this way for four months and that is too long.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I really liked what he had to say.
I think Bill C-20 would have been a good opportunity for the government to simplify to some degree the fairly complex measures introduced in Bill C-17. It is still complex. It is written in very complex jargon. We are afraid it might prevent some businesses and individuals from getting the help they need, which is what happened with the emergency commercial rent assistance. We realized that applying for it was so complicated, people just gave up.
Does my colleague think Bill C-20 would have been a good opportunity for the government to simplify the process?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-07-21 10:59 [p.2659]
Mr. Speaker, the Income Tax Act is such incomprehensible gobbledygook that a physicist or a mechanical or electrical engineer would struggle to do the math. The equations are full of variables. There are more letters than numbers. There are cross references. It is endless. It is impossible to understand.
During the technical briefing on this bill provided by officials, we were assured that the government would be able to present the extension of the wage subsidy and all its various forms in a comprehensible way. That is a huge but necessary challenge. As my colleague said, that was not the case at all for the commercial rent assistance.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-07-21 11:00 [p.2659]
Mr. Speaker, members bring their personal experiences to the House of Commons. I am here to represent the people of Quebec and my riding. I am also the critic for families, children and social development.
I want to talk a bit about my experience. There is a lot of talk about what is being proposed in Bill C-20, and it is clear that the matter of accessibility is a sticking point. I am a mother of three children, one of whom has a disability.
For several weeks now, I have heard people talking about the bill that was tabled and that would make certain things possible. I, of course, see the bill from a parliamentary perspective, but also from a personal perspective, as I think about people who are living with a disability and who are vulnerable. The government is implying that everything is easy and available and that these people were taken into account, but all along it has been dragging its feet and taking its time.
Today, listening to the questions being asked in the House, it is unclear how the assistance for people with disabilities will be provided. The government is unable to tell us whether the $600 they get will be taxable. In my opinion, we are far from a comprehensive, clear proposal and from providing assistance for those who need it most.
I wanted to mention that, not only is this measure long overdue, but there is still the matter of accessibility. That is why debates and committees are an important part of the process of perfecting bills, as my hon. colleague from Joliette mentioned earlier. Of course, for the Bloc Québécois, the goal is to help the most vulnerable.
I mentioned that it is too late and that it is unclear, and I feel the same way about the Canada emergency wage subsidy. I have spoken to a number of people and entrepreneurs in my riding who did not have access to the CEWS. Now the government is trying to improve it, apparently so that more people can have access to it.
I went to Gaspé, where I spoke to entrepreneurs. Applying for the wage subsidy is a burden for companies large and small. It is not an easy task. Some were ineligible, and now the government has made some adjustments based on other criteria that are so convoluted as to be almost incomprehensible. Once again, my concern is that the subsidy will not be accessible to people who cannot apply themselves or who cannot do so properly, since the program is so convoluted, as I was saying. We need to clarify and simplify things if we want people to benefit, and the same goes for the $600.
Are we really providing assistance if people are unable to apply for it? In the case of the disability benefit, will people with disabilities be able to receive the whole amount, or will we only be sending them half? Once again, it is too late.
I would like to know if businesses that were not entitled to it may be entitled and may qualify. This could be good for those who were unable to before. The reason it is being adjusted is that we know there were problems with the emergency wage subsidy. Will businesses have retroactive access? Those are my suggestions for this bill.
There are other problems the government could have fixed. Members were talking about vulnerable people earlier. That brings to mind employment insurance sickness benefits. People who are sick now, people with cancer, for example, need money to keep fighting. My colleague from Salaberry—Suroît actually introduced a bill to extend the benefit period for these people, who really need it.
I had hoped that we would be able to add this element. That was what happened with Bill C-17, which included several elements. There are three elements here as well. This is something the government could very easily have done, and that people would have applauded, because they have been waiting a long time.
I will come back to the stories of other vulnerable people in my riding, in particular in seasonal industries where people are still waiting. We are halfway through summer, and we have not yet begun addressing their situation. They are wondering what is going to happen to them in the fall. The emergency wage subsidy is all well and good, but it does not apply to seasonal industries when people are not working.
We need to find something for them. We are being told that something is coming. However, when a seasonal worker knows that he is going to lose his job in the forestry or fishing industries, or in tourism, which has been struggling in many areas back home, he needs to know if he will be able to feed his family in the fall, that he will be able to keep working in his field and supporting his community, and that he will be going back to work in 2021.
We want our communities to retain their vitality and to bounce back from COVID-19. These people truly need help. I want to see this happen fast; I do not want to wait for summer to be over. Once again, we are falling behind on getting assistance to the people who are most vulnerable and who bear the brunt of COVID-19.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-07-21 11:06 [p.2660]
Mr. Speaker, this is a substantial piece of legislation that would bring in new support for individuals with disabilities. It makes significant changes to the wage subsidy program, a program that has, I would argue, saved millions of jobs. It has allowed employers to continue to employ their employees.
One of the concerns I have is the misinformation that has been put on the record in regard to the legislation itself. We have already had a couple of people speak about the disability aspect of the legislation, saying that it is taxable when, in fact, it is not taxable. The Bloc should be aware of that. If the members believe that it is taxable, they need to show me precisely what it is in the legislation that is giving them the impression that it is taxable. Not only is it not taxable, but it is also not reportable.
This is a direct benefit for individuals with disabilities, and this is something that we have previously attempted to get through the House of Commons. It is some members of the opposition who have caused the delay. This government has been aggressively trying to get it done as quickly as possible.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-07-21 11:08 [p.2660]
Mr. Speaker, the opposition has the right to disagree with the government. I think that is one of our freedoms, however modest it may be.
I have here an excerpt from the June 1 announcement, in which the Prime Minister mentioned a refundable tax credit. However, Bill C-20 talks about the payment being paid out of the consolidated revenue fund, which indicates just a possibility. It it not stated explicitly, but it is also not ruled out. If I do not see something explicitly stated in a contract, I want to clarify it and have it stipulated. If that is truly what the government intended to do, why did it not just write it down?
I do not want to mislead people. I am simply being a responsible member of Parliament and I am asking questions that, I think, are of interest to my constituents and to the people of Quebec and Canada.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-07-21 11:09 [p.2661]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated listening to what the member had to say. Today we had the opportunity to walk up the hill together and get to know each other a bit. We have a lot in common in our two ridings, and our concerns are very similar as well.
I do appreciate the Bloc members who have made the wise decision to tell the government that they are not happy with what it has done, with the help of the NDP, to our rights and privileges as the opposition on this side of the floor.
Would the member be interested in encouraging the rest of her caucus to fully support petition e-2629, which calls on the government to do the right thing and return, in full, to the House in September? We need to return so that we can carry on in the role we have to hold the government to account; bring forward our own supply day motions, which, as we have worked together, have been very successful; and have private member's bills.
All the roles we should have on this side of the floor have been hijacked by the government. We need to stand together, not just us parliamentarians in the House, but also every person in each of our ridings, and call on the Liberals to do what they should do and re-engage Parliament, rather than meeting virtually. We are no longer provided with opportunities to hold them accountable, other than through virtual means, or the Prime Minister stepping out of his door.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-07-21 11:10 [p.2661]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her question. In fact, I have not read the petition she mentioned.
However, I believe that members have heard me make a request in the House on several occasions. I find that the Wednesday sittings are committee meetings and not real sittings of the House of Commons.
The ten or twenty hours my colleague and I must spend each week to get here will not prevent us from working in the House to hold the government to account. That is what we are doing today, even though it does not really want to answer our questions and seems to believe that we are biased. We need answers and we need to be responsible, which is something I truly appreciate. I believe it is the duty of every parliamentarian.
The Bloc Québécois caucus wants to do its job of course. We, the members, want to do our job as parliamentarians as it is usually understood in the House, with concern for our safety and that of all Canadians.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-07-21 11:11 [p.2661]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to discuss, in particular, part 3 of Bill C-20 that would enact an act respecting the suspension or extension of time limits and the extension of other periods as part of the response to the coronavirus disease 2019.
As members are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges on several fronts, not only for individual Canadians and businesses, but also for the operations of federal and provincial governments. Governments are working hard to respond to the pandemic and protect the well-being and safety of Canadians. Today, I would like to speak about one particular set of challenges that we are proposing to address with this legislation.
This issue has important implications on the rule of law, as well as significant practical implications not only for our justice system but also for the federally regulated sphere in which individuals are governed and businesses operate. I am referring to the issue of fixed statutory deadlines.
Members may wonder what these deadlines are. Canadians normally rely on the certainty of knowing that, if they have a decision from a court, there is a limited time to bring an appeal. They want to know that if they are in a process of trying to comply with a requirement, such as working with creditors, they will not be in default and subject to serious consequences, through no fault of their own, if they continue to follow the steps set out in the law.
Overnight, the certainty offered by fixed time limits became an obstacle rather than a comfort. If an act provides no discretion to extend time limits, there could be serious consequences for Canadians.
Let us take the example of someone who wants to challenge the terms of a divorce settlement ordered by a judge. Suppose this person has lost their job and is caring for the children at home. If the current situation prevents the person from filing an appeal within 30 days as required by the Divorce Act, that person is out of options.
Let us also consider employees under federal jurisdiction who work in essential sectors like transportation and need valid certification. The pandemic could be making it hard or even impossible for them to renew their certification. Can we expect businesses to continue to operate without that certification, potentially putting themselves at risk?
The measures in this bill will provide a level of certainty that will enable individuals, businesses and the government to focus on maintaining or resuming operations in the context of the pandemic.
I am therefore pleased to present a series of measures grouped in one act, an act respecting the suspension or extension of time limits and the extension of other periods as part of the response to the coronavirus disease 2019. The short title of this act is the time limits and other periods act with regard to COVID-19.
The act would apply to two categories of problematic time limits that require immediate attention: first, time limits in civil proceedings, and second, legislative time limits and periods set out in federal acts and regulations.
With respect to civil litigation, should deadlines not be extended, it would risk forcing people to choose between ignoring public health advice and protecting their legal interests for preparing for or attending court. This risk is highest for self-represented litigants, who many not know where to go or what to do to secure their legal rights in the current circumstances. Chief justices have done as much as they can within their powers and have asked for a more complete solution from the federal government. Other stakeholders, such as the bar associations, have also called for the federal government to act quickly.
A number of federal laws include deadlines, and failure to meet these deadlines could have serious and irreversible consequences for Canadians and for Canada as a whole. Even government activities have been affected by the pandemic. A large amount of resources is being allocated to the fight against COVID-19, which prevents us from supporting other activities and meeting certain deadlines.
Under the Food and Drug Regulations, the sale of drugs intended for clinical trials is authorized by default unless Canada sends a notice of refusal before the specified deadline. If we cannot meet these deadlines, Canadians' safety could be at risk. In addition, many companies and organizations will now have more time to hold their annual meetings, without having to ask the courts for an extension.
These are only a few examples. There are many others. If Parliament does not take action and find solutions, Canadians will soon feel the real-life consequences. It is important to point out that several provinces have recognized the need to extend legal and regulatory deadlines and have acted accordingly.
British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have taken measures to suspend or extend time limits in proceedings under their emergency legislation. In some cases, these provinces have also extended deadlines not related to proceedings. Of course, no provincial measures can resolve the issue of time limits in federal legislation. Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba have also passed legislation giving them similar powers.
Our government also received feedback from various stakeholders and parliamentarians on this legislative proposal and considered their comments, as members will see from changes to the bill resulting from those considerations.
The purpose of the bill is clearly set out. It is to temporarily suspend certain time limits and to temporarily authorize the suspension and extension of certain other time limits in order to prevent any exceptional circumstances from making it difficult or impossible to meet those timelines and time limits. It also aims to temporarily authorize the extension of other periods, for instance the validity of licences, in order to prevent unfair or undesirable effects that may result from their expiry in the current circumstances.
It is clearly stated at the outset that the bill is to be interpreted and to provide certainty in legal proceedings and ensure respect for the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I want to emphasize that the bill would not apply in respect of the investigation of an offence or in respect of a proceeding respecting an offence, nor does it apply in respect of a time limit or other period that is established by or under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The bill is divided into two substantive parts, one dealing with civil litigation and one dealing with a limited number of regulatory deadlines. For civil litigation, the new act would provide for the suspension of civil limitation periods established in federal legislation. These include time limits for commencing a civil proceeding before a court, for doing something in the course of proceedings, or for making an application for leave to commence a proceeding, or to do something in relation to a proceeding. These provisions would apply to any court referred to in federal legislation.
The suspension is for a maximum period of six months, which starts on March 13 of this year and ends on September 13 of this year, or an earlier day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. Even though the suspension of limitation periods will be automatic, the legislation is flexible in nature. Courts will be empowered to vary the length of a suspension when they feel it is necessary, as long as the commencement date of the suspension remains the same and the duration of the suspension does not exceed six months. They will also have the power to make orders to remedy a failure to meet a time limit that is later suspended. In addition, to deal with the possibility of unintended consequences, the Governor in Council may lift a suspension in specified circumstances.
Once again, the duration of the suspensions or extensions cannot exceed a maximum of six months. It is important to point that out. This also includes renewals. The orders do not apply in respect of a time limit or other period that ends on December 31, 2020, nor can they be used to extend a time limit beyond December 31, 2020. What is more, the suspension provided for by an order cannot allow a time limit to continue after December 31, 2020.
However, ministerial orders can be retroactive to March 13, 2020, and can include provisions respecting the effects of a failure to meet the time limit or of the expiry of a period that was then suspended or extended. In order to provide some flexibility, orders may provide that a suspension or extension applies only with the consent of the decision-maker in question or that the decision-maker can refuse to apply the order or make changes regarding its application.
We recognize the unique nature of this legislation. As such, numerous safeguards have been built into the bill right from the beginning. First and foremost, the bill clearly indicates that the powers to make orders cannot be used after September 30, 2020. It also ensures that no order can remain in effect after December 31, 2020. The bill would also give the Governor in Council the power to make regulations restricting or imposing conditions on the power of ministers to make orders regarding time limits and other periods.
What is more, in order to ensure full transparency and ensure that Canadians are being kept informed of what is being done, the new law will require that a ministerial order or order in council regarding suspensions or extensions, together with the reason for making them, be published on a Government of Canada website no later than five days after the day on which it is made for a period of at least six months. It must also be published in the Canada Gazette within 14 days after the day on which it is made.
That is very important. It is a way of ensuring that all parties and all stakeholders are made aware of the extension or suspension of the provisions of this act.
As is clear from this overview, our proposed legislation is targeted, flexible and transparent. It provides the certainty that all Canadians deserve when dealing the legal system, while promoting the rule of law and giving needed flexibility in key regulatory areas. At the same time, it ensures that needed protections are in place and it recognizes the key role that Parliament plays in holding government to account.
For these reasons, I hope we will find support, not only from this side of the House but from the other side of the House, to make sure that we provide the needed flexibility that Canadians deserve during the pandemic, and to also make sure that they get that information to understand why we would need to prolong or suspend the measures that are applicable in this law.
I look forward to questions from hon. members.
View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-07-21 11:27 [p.2663]
Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed my colleague's speech. He showed us how important it is to extend deadlines during a crisis like this one.
That reminds me of the answer we got yesterday from his colleague, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who said the Liberal Party, as an organization, was struggling. The Prime Minister refused to confirm that when my party asked him about it.
I wonder if the Liberal Party will continue to struggle until November 21 or, as the Prime Minister said, until December 31. Does my colleague have a sense of just how badly the Liberal Party is struggling?
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-07-21 11:27 [p.2663]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question, although he is fully aware that that is not what this bill is about. This is a bill specifically about suspending legislative provisions that include a time limit. Rather than making a connection, I would prefer to stick to the framework of the bill. It is not that I do not want to say anything, but I fail to see any logical connection between the two things my colleague is trying to conflate in his question.
What I can tell him is that this bill is very important for reassuring Canadians that the law will continue to apply to them despite the usual time limits if they are doing what is required by law. That is why we added this flexibility, so we could make sure that certain provisions could be suspended and others could be extended for up to six months, as well as those that go to the end of this year, that is, December 31, 2020.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very detailed and precise speech.
I would like to ask a question about direct assistance for people with disabilities. The number or percentage of people with disabilities who are eligible for this additional $600 has increased compared with the previous Bill C-17. However, the bill still falls short of covering all people with disabilities. I know there are differences between how the federal and provincial governments consider these data.
Could my colleague make a commitment, as a member of the Liberal Party, to do whatever is necessary to increase this assistance so that all people with disabilities can be helped, as called for by the NDP?
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-07-21 11:30 [p.2663]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his question.
As I said to our Bloc Québécois colleague, I would prefer to limit the debate to the provisions and framework of this bill.
As I said, the bill addresses two categories of problematic time limits that need immediate attention. The first is time limits in civil litigation. The second is regulatory deadlines in federal acts and regulations. Again, I cannot connect this to any other situation. That particular situation does not fall within the context of civil litigation. This is specifically about regulations where Canadians might find themselves in a situation that violates the usual time limits set out in other legislation. The bill we just introduced allows certain aspects to be suspended for up to six months or extended in order to ensure that Canadians who are trying to do the right thing can comply with the law. We will ensure that by following the regulations, they are not breaking any laws.
How they would find themselves outside of the positions of respecting the timelines that are already contained in previous legislation.
View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I always learn something when the member for Hull—Aylmer addresses the House. It struck me that we are thinking of deadlines and time limits and legal technicalities that would be not normally the subject here in the House during this confinement because of the coronavirus, which is already a terrible and difficult time for people. Imagine if someone were also going through a divorce or a court hearing and the outcomes were in jeopardy.
I am glad to hear there is flexibility and discretion being given to the courts, but I want to understand more about the safeguards so that we do not see abuse either from this flexibility, but certainly that the aims of justice are served.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-07-21 11:33 [p.2664]
Mr. Speaker, I am always happy to answer questions from my hon. colleague from Châteauguay—Lacolle, who is doing an outstanding job of representing her constituents here in the House of Commons, especially in a serious situation like this pandemic.
She is perfectly right, and this matter is extremely important to all Canadians, especially those going through a divorce, for instance. They have certain time limits they need to meet, but the pandemic is getting in the way. We are introducing a housekeeping bill to give Canadians some degree of flexibility so they can do what they have to do in certain situations, such as divorce proceedings, which are not easy. We will make sure they are able to meet the stated time limits thanks to the flexibility that this bill provides.
This is a great way to reassure Canadians that even though they are in this pandemic, which is stressful enough, and whatever situation they are in, such as in the case of a divorce, for example, which is extremely upsetting and difficult for those parties, that we have created the flexibility in the legislation to allow them to continue with two tough things, making sure they are not sacrificing their rights or the opportunity to seek out justice or reparations.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, earlier today, I raised the issue of how complex this bill is. Many questions are left unanswered. For instance, Bill C-20 expands access to include seasonal businesses, businesses that were not eligible for assistance before.
There are several questions in my mind. Will the assistance be retroactive? Will it also apply retroactively for those who have been receiving it for months or for new businesses? This could change a lot of things for a business, helping it survive. Being able to get retroactive financial support could be good for a business. I am wondering if that will be on offer.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-07-21 11:36 [p.2664]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
The bill provides individuals and businesses with the certainty that if they take legal or regulatory steps, they will now have the flexibility to ensure that they can deal with matters during the pandemic.
If, because of the pandemic, they cannot meet certain time limits set out in the bill, this legislation gives them some flexibility. This will allow them to continue their activities and meet the time limits stipulated in the bill or any deadlines they may have to meet in their particular situation.
The bill introduces a certain flexibility. This gives Canadians, businesses and individuals, the certainty that they can continue their activities and meet all the established time limits.
View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2020-07-21 11:37 [p.2664]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour once again to rise in the House and enter into debate. It is good to be back in Parliament, regardless of the time of year. Even though summer is not normally a time Parliament sits, we have important business to do, so it is good to be back.
In my 10-minute speech, I hope to cover a whole range of subjects, but I want to bring up something that constituents talk to me on a regular basis about, and that is the deterioration in trust that has taken place between Canadians and their government.
On October 21, Canadians sent a minority Liberal government to Ottawa and a strong Conservative opposition and two other parties. Throughout the last number of months, we have not seen an attitude from the Liberal government that it has clearly had its hand slapped by Canadians for a series of ethical failings, among other things. Rather, we have seen a government that clearly seems to want to maintain an aura of not just majority rule, but one in which the current Prime Minister also feels he has a divine right to rule this country in whatever regard he feels according to the whim of the day.
That has caused a deterioration in trust. What I hear from constituents time and again every day, whether by email or phone or when stopped in a grocery store, is that there has been a deterioration in trust between Canadians and the institutions of government. That trust is a sacred thing. It builds the very foundation of what our democratic process is all about.
We have seen a number of ethical violations. In fact, the current Prime Minister is the only prime minister to have been found guilty of ethics violations not once, not twice, but now one that would seem to be well on his way to a third violation. Yet we have seen investigations stymied and documents not being released and cabinet confidences not being waived, although I note that the parliamentary secretary to the House leader made an impassioned defence of why the Prime Minister did not mislead the House earlier, saying instead that they took unprecedented action to release everything.
The facts simply speak for themselves. There is so much more to the story than what we are learning. We find ourselves in the midst of the WE scandal. We find once again that the Prime Minister does not know the line. He seems to wander back and forth between politics and government, and even seeing his family and friends benefit from the power entrusted to the government to govern the country. That is causing an erosion of the sacred trust that exists between the institution of government, including the House, and Canadians.
It is increasingly clear, and I certainly hear about it on a daily basis, that trust has been lost. In fact, in question period yesterday, I asked the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth if she knew about the Prime Minister's conflict of interest. It was not an hour after question period that an article came out revealing that she had met with WE only a few days prior to this announcement. That deterioration of trust is having a significant impact.
I have the honour of sitting on the ethics committee, where we saw something truly unprecedented. There was a quite simple motion to say that we should shine the light on this scandal and get the information we need, yet we saw government members of that committee filibuster and try to shut down the proceedings. Canadians expect better from their government. I wrote down a number of quotes and checked the minutes of the meeting afterward, and a lot of the things the government members said show a stunning level of hypocrisy.
I will be splitting my time with one of my hon. colleagues from Quebec, and I will not try to pronounce his riding's name out of respect for the French language. I appreciate the reminder to say that.
We have a government that is being rocked by another ethics scandal.
With respect to the bill we are debating today, I have heard a number of the members opposite say that it is all the fault of the Conservatives. In fact, it is probably Stephen Harper. That seems to be the thing they say most regularly. I see the parliamentary secretary to the House leader is probably preparing a question right now. When we were faced with a pandemic that changed the way all of us, all Canadians, and pretty much everybody around the world, lived our daily lives, instead of rising to the challenge regarding where we were as a parliament, we saw a shutting down of Parliament.
The members opposite have said very clearly that we have asked more questions now than we ever have, and it is probably Stephen Harper's fault again. What is very clear is that the government emphasizes style over substance. We admit there were a lot of questions, and we were happy to work within the context of ensuring there was democratic accountability. However, we saw a shutdown of all other aspects of Parliament, including committees. In fact, it was only a few days ago that we saw the opening up of a few other committees.
The ethics committee only met for the first time this past Friday, after a break of a number of months. When I tell my constituents that I am on the ethics committee, their first comment is that it must be really busy or they ask if the Prime Minister actually allows it to do anything. It is unfortunate. I will note that shortly after the ethics committee was struck in this new Parliament, we attempted to have the Ethics Commissioner come to committee to have an honest dialogue about what was found to be a second violation of the Prime Minister with respect to ethics rules and the Liberal members voted against it.
There are so many aspects of the ethical failings of the government. My constituents have continually referred to them as the “cottage chronicles”. Quite often the Prime Minister would make an announcement, with few details and clarification on those details later in the day. A whole host of questions would remain on any of the programs that had been announced and in some cases there would be months of delay before seeing those programs implemented.
Regarding the bill at hand, specifically with respect to the disability portion of this, the Conservatives support ensuring that those who need support get it. The members opposite have said that these delays are the Conservatives fault. Let the record state very clearly that the Conservatives made it clear that we were happy to deal with the legislation and that Parliament should be the body to do so. However, the Liberals played politics with that and shut it down.
There are three main aspects to the bill. We have the wage subsidy, for which a lot of businesses are applying. Some are benefiting, but when I speak to small and medium-sized businesses specifically, they talk about how complicated some of these applications are. When I read through the portions of the bill that deal with the wage subsidy, we see further complications. For a large firm with a corporate office in a large city, that is okay, because it has accounting and legal departments. The accounting and legal departments of the small and medium-sized enterprises, especially in a rural constituency such as mine, is often one person, or a part-time role, or a hired accountant or they simply do the books themselves. Therefore, the unnecessarily complicated nature and aspects of the bill make it more difficult for people to apply.
I have a brief comment on the justice elements of the bill. Certainly, with the times we find ourselves in, it is necessary to have a look at these, but I would note that deterioration of trust, which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. When I read the aspects of the justice portion of the bill, the thought in the back of my mind was whether the Liberals were trying to sneak something into this that would have that negative impact on Canadians?
I look forward to answering questions on this and trying to dive into many aspects of this important debate today.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-07-21 11:48 [p.2666]
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about substance versus style, I am afraid you would not provide me the amount of time that would be required for me to address the member's statement, especially if we want to compare this government to the previous government. The substance has been plenty on this side since we have been in government, and I sat in opposition benches when it was all style. It was called it the Harper bubble.
Having said that, the member makes reference to the legislation, trying to give the impression that when it comes to the issue of disabilities, maybe we could have done it earlier. The member needs to be a bit more forthright with members and those who are following the debate. The Conservative Party did have the opportunity to support the passage, as did other political parties in the chamber. We could have had support for people with disabilities weeks ago had it not been for the tactics of the Conservatives.
View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2020-07-21 11:49 [p.2666]
Mr. Speaker, the member is right in as far as it could have been passed. However, because the Liberals have shut down Parliament and refused to allow Parliament to do its job, it was not.
When it comes to playing politics, it is a shame really that the Liberals would play politics with an institution like this, that they would use this very House of Commons, which is the pinnacle of Canadian democracy, as a bargaining chip in political discourse in the country. It is the only body where we can be assured that it is not a small group of reporters where the state broadcaster gets a disproportionate number of the questions, but it is truly members who represent every corner of our great country.
The member suggests that somehow the Conservatives tried to shut it down or would not allow it. It is shameful that the Liberals are not allowing Parliament to do its function, not only with respect to its constitutional function but also with respect to the ability for Parliament to do the job that Canadians expected it to do: the essential service of ensuring for my constituents, like the constituents of every member within every corner of the country, that I am doing the job they sent me here to do. It is unfortunate that this continues to be the attitude represented from the other side.
View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-07-21 11:50 [p.2666]
Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for raising a fundamental aspect of democracy, namely trust.
My colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean and I often say that we must never forget who we work for. We work for our constituents. My colleague aptly and rightly pointed that out.
My colleague talked about the erosion of our constituents' trust in us. I liked his comment that some people are saying that the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics must be really busy. That speaks to the cynicism that we see in society.
Many ethics issues have been raised, and the Prime Minister's ethics violations have been brought up. Something just sprang to mind. If we want to keep our constituents' trust and prevent that trust from deteriorating, maybe we should not personally benefit from the measures we are talking about. I am referring to the emergency wage subsidy.
Does my colleague agree that if a political party is benefiting from the emergency wage subsidy, it is contributing to the erosion of the public's trust in us and feeding public cynicism?
View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2020-07-21 11:52 [p.2666]
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the decisions made within the party to which he has referred, it was a party decision in which MPs had no involvement. I will leave it to the party to answer those questions.
However, he does talk about trust. During the ethics committee last week, the hon. member who spoke before me, the member for Hull—Aylmer, made the comment that democracy was fragile.
I see one of the other committee members sitting across the way, whose constituency I fail to remember. She made a number of comments around the stereotype of politicians, and she is right. There is this negative stereotype around politicians. When we see a prime minister's family benefiting $300,000 from an organization with close ties to the Liberal government, a $900-million sole-sourced contract that would have resulted in $42 million in fees and a whole host of questions surrounding that, the stereotype, unfortunately, of politicians and pork barrel politics is true. It causes a deterioration of that trust, that fundamental and sacred trust that exists between Parliament, its members and Canadians. It is a trust that is difficult to earn and unfortunately it is being eroded.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2020-07-21 11:53 [p.2666]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-20, which seeks to provide new support for Canadians in need, and to make my voice and that of my Conservative colleagues heard. We have repeatedly asked the government to make changes to the tax programs and support programs for the forgotten members of our society.
Before I begin my speech, I would like to extend my condolences to anyone who has tragically lost a loved one, or loved ones, to COVID-19. I would also like to thank all of the essential front-line workers and those who are still working to help anyone who is vulnerable and sick because of this terrible virus that has left us all powerless.
Summer is here, but unfortunately, the time for resiliency is not over. We are still facing a lot of uncertainty as a result of new pandemic-related setbacks. Canadians old and young have had their lives, their health and their well-being upended as they face an uncertain future. While I support the measures set out in the bill before us today, I am still outraged. I would be remiss if I failed to mention my indignation against the Liberal government, which was slow to close our borders even though we pushed for it to do so at the first sign of the virus.
We also had to demand a mandatory quarantine for foreign nationals arriving in Canada. That was non-negotiable for our own protection. The Conservative members were the first to support increasing the wage subsidy from 10% to 75%. The Conservative members were also the first to say that the CERB should be opened up to include volunteer firefighters and other low-income earners who were slipping between the cracks. The Conservative members were also the first to say that the agricultural sector should be designated as essential infrastructure.
Members will remember that the previous economic crisis in 2008 happened under a Conservative government, which, I would point out, succeeded in balancing Canada's budget while stimulating economic growth and bouncing back from a crisis that hit Canada harder than any other G7 country.
Faced with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, many of my constituents are so worried about what lies ahead for themselves, their children and future generations that they do not know where to turn. I certainly understand how they feel.
This minority Liberal government has been on a spending spree since 2015, although we were in good shape at the time. We have therefore had to work hard and work together to reach a consensus and expose any possible fraud or potential risks in the various programs being announced. We demanded that any infrastructure projects that were ready to go in Quebec get started right away to help with the economic recovery.
We pressured the government to support local media. We also advocated for high-speed Internet access throughout the regions, which the Liberals have been promising for five years now. We are keeping a close eye on the public purse, and always will, for we can no longer afford Liberal extravagances that are unjustified or reserved for their close friends and donors.
The Conservative members of the official opposition are paying close attention to both the reasonable measures that need to be implemented and the unthinkable ones. We are involved in policy development via video conference. We are taking part in many virtual advisory committees and sharing the concerns of Canada's small businesses, which are struggling to survive. As one might expect, a good many sectors have been overlooked.
We are all rising to the challenge of doing things differently and changing the way we live and protect ourselves. For many of us, not being able to go to work every day has shown us how proud we are, how independent we are, and how much our daily work plays into our sense of identity. Bolstered by our values, we are going back to work, in solidarity, to help create wealth and economic prosperity.
The Liberal government's economic and fiscal snapshot showed a massive $343-billion deficit, and total federal debt this year will hit more than $1 trillion. That will be a deep hole to climb out of.
Canada has never fallen so far. It has the highest unemployment rate in the G7. It is the only G7 country that has lost its AAA credit rating. Worse yet, it is the only G7 country without a recovery plan.
While we plan on supporting this assistance, we are well aware that we cannot trust this Prime Minister to lead Canada's recovery.
The government’s excessive taxes, wasteful spending and massive deficits put Canada in an incredibly weak and precarious position even before the pandemic started.
Conservative members want to help Canadians who need assistance. We proposed the back-to-work bonus, a plan to make the Canada emergency response benefit more flexible and more generous, so that workers could earn more as businesses gradually reopened. We are on the road to economic recovery. The Conservative official opposition is responsible for the financial future of my grandchildren and all future generations of Canadians and it is focused on finding concrete, effective solutions for our industries that create jobs, our workers who pay taxes and the growth sectors that generate revenue for Canada. We all know that the Conservative Party is the only party that can replace the current government, but this is not the time for such decisions, because we are convinced that we can continue to work together to face the critical months of the second wave of the virus.
I have the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. The pandemic has obviously not affected the Prime Minister’s overwhelming desire to flout the law and the rules of ethics and transparency.
I can tell you that on Friday, July 17, 2020, I would not have wanted to be a Liberal member of Parliament. My pride would have been seriously wounded, having to deal with the Prime Minister’s third major instance of wrongdoing and the Liberal members’ filibustering. The Liberals had a lot to say before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. They systematically obstructed the committee's work, preventing Canadians with serious questions about the close ties between the Prime Minister and WE from finding out what is really going on. It is Canadians’ democratic right to know the full truth about this new Liberal scandal. Transparency is important in the deliberations of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Although I seriously doubt it, will the Prime Minister waive cabinet confidence this time and finally tell us the truth? Media reports indicate that three members of the Prime Minister’s family were paid $300,000 to attend WE Charity events, some of which took place during the Prime Minister’s first term. Since 2016, the Prime Minister’s mother has spoken at approximately 28 events and received $250,000. The Prime Minister’s brother spoke at eight events and received about $32,000. The media also reported that the current Finance Minister did not recuse himself from the Liberal cabinet review of the WE contract despite the involvement of two members of his immediate family in the charitable organization, one of them as a paid contract worker.
We should also note that the Minister of Natural Resources and the Prime Minister's chief of staff apparently also helped raise $400,000 for the charitable organization in 2010 and 2011, before the Liberals took office.
During a pandemic, we need to implement exceptional measures. We are certainly not going to let this Prime Minister, his family and friends receive or give preferential treatment to take advantage of the situation and profit from it. This Prime Minister, like a spoiled child who only apologizes when he gets caught red-handed, will be watched very closely and continually to make him accountable, and will have to continue to work with us to plan our country's economic recovery. He sometimes seems to forget that he has a minority government.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, my colleague spoke about ethics. There was the private island, SNC-Lavalin and now WE Charity. This is the third strike, as my colleague from La Prairie mentioned yesterday. He also said the the Prime Minister should perhaps get a direct line to the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. The Bloc Québécois proposed that the Prime Minister step aside until we shed light on this whole affair.
What does my colleague think of that?
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2020-07-21 12:03 [p.2668]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
Ideally, perhaps the Prime Minister would step down, but given how Parliament works, I would be really surprised if he did. Still, I would like to thank the Bloc Québécois for being willing to stand with us at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics over the next few days.
We think the committee will meet tomorrow, and we expect obstruction. We hope the Bloc Québécois will stay and vote with us so we can finally shed some light on this and get the full truth on the Prime Minister's ethics.
View Soraya Martinez Ferrada Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Soraya Martinez Ferrada Profile
2020-07-21 12:04 [p.2668]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the opposition for his comments today.
A few weeks ago, the opposition had an opportunity to support legislation that would have helped people with disabilities who are struggling.
My question is very straightforward. Is the official opposition going to support the government on this provision, which is very clear and seeks to support people with disabilities and increase the emergency wage subsidy? Are the Conservatives going to support the government, yes or no?
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2020-07-21 12:05 [p.2668]
Madam Speaker, I indicated in my speech that we were in favour of this provision, which is more in line with the help that is needed now that an adjustment has been made.
We always agreed with supporting persons with disabilities. The last time, it was presented with other provisions that we did not agree with. Today we will move forward.
View Richard Lehoux Profile
CPC (QC)
View Richard Lehoux Profile
2020-07-21 12:05 [p.2668]
Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech.
Often people say that this side of the House does not offer any proposals. However, the Conservatives proposed that a change be made to the CERB, that it be regressive in order to make it more accessible to people who would want to go back to work. The emergency wage subsidy is interesting, but it could also be paired with the Canada emergency response benefit to better coordinate both programs.
I would like to have a few more details on this proposal.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2020-07-21 12:06 [p.2668]
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Beauce. He is very active in his riding and works for the people of Beauce. I want to congratulate him personally.
Whenever the government needs to act—in collaboration with the opposition parties, because this is a minority government after all—we need to ensure that the focus is on investing in the economy.
Canadian companies, small and medium-sized businesses and their millions of employees are the ones who will support the Canadian economy. We must ensure that those jobs are not lost this year, next year or in the years to come. This money should go to the businesses and those who are maintaining jobs, to help them overcome this massive, global challenge. Canada's main challenge will be to maintain jobs, and we need to work with Canadian companies on this. All federal assistance must go towards helping businesses keep people employed.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-07-21 12:07 [p.2668]
Madam Speaker, the government has, in fact, been investing in Canada's small businesses, whether it is through working with financial institutions for loans or through the wage subsidy program. The legislation that we are debating today would assist in making some of the changes to modify the program so that, again, even more businesses will benefit from it.
Would the member, as a general thought, agree that the government is in fact putting the right amount of resources into supporting Canada's small businesses and our communities through the CERB program?
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2020-07-21 12:07 [p.2668]
Madam Speaker, my colleague raised an important point.
In the beginning, the government's earliest initiatives were only for individuals. Members on this side of the House put a lot of pressure on the government to make sure businesses were not forgotten. We asked the government to make changes so that Canadian businesses could keep their employees in the short term and through the coming months. If businesses lose their employees, we will lose our businesses, which make up the economic fabric of this country. Businesses drive our economy, and the future depends on helping them.
View Gary Anandasangaree Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am absolutely delighted to be here this afternoon to talk about Bill C-20 and the government's response to COVID-19. I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional lands of the Algonquin people.
Before I go on, I want to take a moment. Usually we never meet in July, and this is a very important week for me personally, and the entire Tamil community, so I want to just take a moment to acknowledge the horrific events of Black July, which started on the evening of July 22, 1983. Mobs armed with an electoral list of Tamil homes went door to door in Colombo, Sri Lanka, beat and killed over 3,000 Tamils, and looted their homes and businesses.
This period, known as Black July, sparked an armed conflict and the mass exodus of Tamils out of Sri Lanka. The anti-Tamil pogroms forced many, including my family, to seek refuge in Canada. The government of Pierre Trudeau at that time enacted a special measures program to assist over 1,800 Tamils to settle in Canada. Today, this community is over 300,000 strong, and I am so very proud to be part of this community from coast to coast to coast.
With that, I want to take a moment to reflect on the most vulnerable in our society, particularly as a result of COVID-19. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the refugees who are in many camps around the world, struggling in cramped conditions in UNHCR tents or displaced altogether. There are over 80 million displaced people around the world and over 30 million refugees. I want to recognize them and all those who support refugees, both abroad and in Canada, and particularly those who are vulnerable in Canada, who have come in search of freedom but are unfortunately struggling with COVID-19, as are all of us across the globe.
This pandemic has had a very profound effect on all of us, but none more than our seniors. I want to talk about long-term care homes in my province of Ontario, and also locally at the Altamont Care Community in Scarborough—Rouge Park. We lost 52 residents and one staff member to COVID-19, so we have lost 53 people as a result of COVID-19. This is just in one home. There are four other homes: Orchard Villa in Pickering—Uxbridge, Holland Christian Grace Manor in Brampton South, Hawthorne Place Care Centre in Humber River—Black Creek, and Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke Centre. All five MPs who correspond to these homes have written to Premier Doug Ford, as well as the Prime Minister.
We are asking the premier to initiate a public inquiry, similar to that of Ipperwash, to make sure that we do not make the mistakes that we made in long-term care homes. Some 80% of deaths associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are a result of people living in long-term care homes. These are our seniors, and it is a national shame. I would say that we have failed our seniors, those who are in long-term care homes, and I am saddened to stand here today to even talk about it. The report from the Canadian Armed Forces, who were deployed to these five care homes, really does shed light on what we need to do, and I want to emphasize and ask the Premier of Ontario to make sure that we do right and get to the bottom of this.
Equally, the five colleagues, including myself, wrote to the Prime Minister seeking national standards for long-term care homes. I realize that there are challenges, in terms of jurisdiction. As a federal government, we are not directly responsible for long-term care homes. Nevertheless, as a government that is responsible for Canadians and to Canadians, it would be incumbent upon us to take some leadership and make sure that we have national standards of care for all those who are in long-term care homes. As a government, we regulate everything from plastic bags to toothpaste and all kinds of consumer products, and, for the life of me, it is hard to imagine why we cannot have some form of minimum standards set for long-term care homes.
I think it is long overdue, and that conversation needs to take place. I look forward to working with the government, as well as our friends across the aisle, to ensure that this does not happen again.
I also want to note that the government recently announced $19 billion toward a safe restart program. This is part of our government's response to COVID-19. This $19 billion will go, in part, toward supporting long-term care homes, especially the deficiencies that are outlined in the report by the Canadian Armed Forces. We are hopeful that the immediate response, in case there is a second or third wave, will be mitigated by the additional financial support that our government is giving to the provinces and, in turn, that should filter in toward long-term care homes.
I also want to address another issue that has been quite troubling to me, and that is the issue of systemic racism. I have spoken about this many, many times in this House and with many of my colleagues, including colleagues from across the aisle. I want to acknowledge that a couple of weeks ago many of us got together and wrote a letter that was signed by many members, led by the member for Hull—Aylmer and of course supported by people like my friend from Hamilton Centre, where we highlighted the need for the government to address the issues of systemic racism.
One thing that COVID-19 has shown us is that it has an impact on racialized people. Whether it is people working on the front lines as workers at hospitals, working as cashiers or working in the restaurant industry, for example, there is a significant impact of COVID-19 on racialized people.
In places like the United States and England, we have specific numbers that speak to this racial divide, but in Canada we do not keep those kinds of statistics. I believe that one of the things we really need to do is gather that information and make sure that we connect the dots between race, poverty and health services. I hope that this is an opportunity for us to learn and, again, mitigate in terms of a second wave.
With respect to overall systemic racism, it is very clear that racism affects many people and it affects them differently. Anti-black racism is profound in our history. It continues. The social results are very obvious. The numbers kind of speak for themselves. Whether it is with respect to the social determinants of health, issues of incarceration or issues of education streaming, there is a profound impact on Canada's black community, as well as indigenous peoples, who, since Confederation, have been rendered to be second-class citizens in all aspects.
This conversation was sparked by the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, but of course in Canada we have seen our share of these tragedies, including the brutal attack on Chief Allan Adam at the hands of the RCMP, and the death of Chantel Moore.
We have seen calls for governments at all levels to reimagine what policing looks like, to reimagine how interaction between police and individuals is, especially those who may have mental health issues and those in racialized communities. I think the moment is now for us to seize and make sure we address the systemic issues that have led to these devastating results. I hope that we will be able to work collaboratively to advance these issues in the months to come.
Support for Canadians with disabilities is something our government has been trying to do from the beginning. There have been a number of measures we have put in to support all Canadians, and I will speak to that at the end. However, with respect to this legislation, it will directly assist people with disabilities with a non-reportable payment of $600 to all eligible individuals who receive the disability tax credit.
We have worked hard since the start of this pandemic to provide support for vulnerable Canadians and to ensure that the response plan leaves no one behind. We need to make sure that Canadians with disabilities who are facing additional costs related to the pandemic get the support they need. This payment would also flow to those who are eligible for other disability benefits or supports, such as the Canada pension plan disability benefits, the Quebec pension plan disability benefits or one of the disability supports provided by Veterans Affairs Canada. This would benefit approximately 1.7 million Canadians with disabilities who are facing additional expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the 2017 Canadian survey on disability, 22% of Canadians aged 15 and over identify as having a disability. The rate goes up with age, with 38% of Canadians over 65 and 47% of Canadians over 75. We know that among working-age Canadians with disabilities, more than 1.5 million, or 41%, are unemployed or out of the labour market entirely. Among those with severe disabilities, the rate increases to over 60%.
These Canadians face challenges each and every day, and they do it with determination. They deserve the support of their government. Our government has worked closely with the disability community during this time of crisis, including the COVID-19 disability advisory group, which is advising the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. The group has shared details about the lived experiences of persons with disabilities during the pandemic, along with disability-specific issues, systemic gaps and potential responses. Our government will continue to work hard to increase accessibility and remove barriers, and it remains committed to a disability-inclusive pandemic response and recovery.
I want to take a minute to acknowledge some of the incredible organizations in Scarborough that have been working to address and support people with disabilities during this pandemic. I want to start by thanking the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre, which does magnificent work with young people with autism who are on the spectrum. The Wellspring Centre, which I was able to visit last week, is a respite care facility that just reopened. I was able to meet with its team and some of its clients. It is a relatively new organization, but one that is very promising and that will really support a lot of people with disabilities.
Community Living is another one. Many of us in Parliament have very important Community Living locations in our ridings. There are several in my riding, and I am always awed by the work they do and the level of commitment their staff and volunteers have in supporting those with disabilities. TAIBU Community Health Centre is located in Scarborough North, adjacent to my riding. It is the only black-focused community health centre in North America. They do some great work, especially supporting those with sickle cell disease and other issues related to the black community, and I want to thank them for their work.
The next aspect of my discussion today is about broadening the Canada emergency wage subsidy. It is now one of the pillars of the government's COVID-19 economic response plan. The Canada emergency wage subsidy was introduced to prevent further job losses, encourage employers to quickly rehire workers previously laid off because of COVID-19, and help better position the Canadian economy as we transition into the post-pandemic recovery.
The Canada emergency wage subsidy can continue to protect jobs by helping businesses keep employees on the payroll and encouraging employers to rehire workers previously laid off. We are already seeing lower unemployment numbers because people are being rehired. It offers more flexibility to employers so that a large number of them can benefit from this subsidy. Employers of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy may be eligible.
Since we launched this program this spring, about three million Canadian employees have had their jobs supported through the Canada emergency wage subsidy, and that number continues to grow. To help support these Canadians, our bill would redesign the Canada emergency wage subsidy and tailor it to the needs of more businesses. This bill would extend the program to the end of 2020, with the intent of providing further support until the end of the year.
The wage subsidy would be made more accessible by making the base subsidy available to all eligible employees who are experiencing any decline in revenues. This would allow businesses, small and large, that have been struggling throughout this pandemic to get access to the support for the first time and help more Canadian workers get support as a result. This would remove any barriers to growth for firms currently using the Canada emergency wage subsidy program. By removing the threshold for support, they will know that they have support as they work to grow, invest and re-hire workers.
Our government is also proposing to introduce a top-up subsidy for eligible employers that have been most adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The redesigned wage subsidy would help position employers and workers for a strong rebound in the post-pandemic recovery.
I want to talk about this program in relation to my experience in the 2008 financial crisis. At that time, I had opened a law firm a couple of years earlier. I had about a dozen staff, and one of the toughest things I had to do at that time, because the economy was contracting, was to lay off staff. I lost a couple of really good people whom I was never able to get back.
From my experience, making sure that companies are supported in keeping their staffing levels is critical to the long-term viability of our economy. It is so important that Canadians be able to continue to work and receive a paycheque, because, ultimately, that is the best form of support any government could give. I am very pleased to say that this program has helped dozens of organizations in my riding and, I am sure, across many of my colleagues' ridings as well.
This is just part of our overall response to COVID-19. Here I want to say a thing or two about the restart program. I know that the city councillor in ward 25, Dr. Jennifer McKelvie, John Tory, the mayor of the City of Toronto, and others have been speaking to us over the last several weeks about their challenges with the city budget and that the $19 billion the federal government is giving to the provinces will inevitably support them with their restart. I really want to thank them for their advocacy.
The other programs we have, as we know, are the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency student benefit, the GST rebate back in April, the OAS and GIS top-ups, as well as the Canada emergency business account. These are all supports that we have given individual Canadians to make sure they can sustain the financial challenges they have incurred over the past four months.
I want to conclude by thanking all of those who have been working on the front lines, who have been heroic in their efforts. They never set out to be heroes, but they are our Canadian heroes. I want to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for the work they did in my riding, the front-line workers at the hospitals and in all of the different areas, including trucking, cashiers at grocery stores and, of course, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the medical officer of health for the City of Toronto, for her tremendous leadership.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
2020-07-21 12:28 [p.2671]
Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned that the wage subsidy is very important for small businesses to survive. There is no doubt about that, but with the new bill, it seems there are a lot of complications. People probably need master's degrees in mathematics to understand it, plus a few accountants, if they can afford to hire them.
I will give an example to the parliamentary secretary. If a business experienced an average revenue drop of more than 50% over the last three months, it can get a top-up to its wage subsidy benefit to reach a final top-up number. If we add into the calculations the base wage subsidy, which is if it had lost under 49% of its revenue, it is up for another set of calculations.
So my question for the parliamentary secretary is this: If a business loses 60% of its revenue, what would be the wage subsidy percentage that it would receive in order to survive?
View Gary Anandasangaree Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I know that my friend from Edmonton Manning and many others in the House are big advocates of small business.
The fact is that all of these supports are not meant to help each and every one who may be affected. They are supposed to help as many as possible, with the widest net possible in giving that support.
There was a lot of criticism of the existing wage subsidy program. I had a lot of employers who came up to me and said they did not meet the threshold. What this would do is open it up and allow more flexibility in the program, and hopefully will widen the net so that more employers can continue to keep Canadians employed.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2020-07-21 12:30 [p.2671]
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech, particularly since he talked about seniors, a matter that prompted me to come to the House on a regular basis during the pandemic so that I could take a stand to improve their situation.
I agree with him that we cannot continue to leave seniors out in the cold. However, we have different opinions on how to remedy that problem. I do not think that the solution is to set a standard for the health care systems of Quebec and the provinces.
The government has been making cuts to our health care system and failing to increase health transfers for years. Does he not think that now is the time to remedy that? Quebec and the provinces are unanimously calling for such action.
What is more, right now, our seniors are receiving just a single cheque for $300. Does my colleague not think that the government should commit to keeping its election promise and improve long-term support for seniors by increasing the old age security benefit and the guaranteed income supplement?
View Gary Anandasangaree Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
I do agree that we all need to do more for seniors. The $19 billion the federal government has agreed to give the provinces will ensure that seniors, particularly those in long-term care facilities, are supported during this pandemic, and it allows long-term care facilities as well as the provinces to restart.
I believe that to the extent there are ideological differences about how we fund health care, it is important that we have a national conversation and that the conversation include how provinces are currently supporting seniors and long-term care facilities, but also to have national standards that will ensure that all Canadians across the country who are living in long-term care facilities are able to have the same security.
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
View Matthew Green Profile
2020-07-21 12:32 [p.2672]
Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Scarborough—Rouge Park for providing a very comprehensive outlook on the response to COVID, even going beyond the bill that is here today. He raised very important points about the experiences of people around the world, quite frankly, including in refugee camps. He spoke about anti-racism. He spoke about people with disabilities and, of course, the economy.
One of the things that has been missing is the impacts of COVID on families who are trying to work their way through immigration. We know that currently there are people who have been waiting not 12 months, not 18 months, but close to two years. This situation happened well before COVID, but now during COVID, its impact on the families who have been separated throughout this crisis in this critical time is becoming much more apparent.
What are the hon. member and his government doing to help prioritize family reunification in this time of crisis?
View Gary Anandasangaree Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate that very important question by my friend from Hamilton Centre.
I had a chance to speak to the Minister of Immigration just this afternoon on a number of issues relating to refugees in particular. I know the commitment is there to ensure there is a level of focus on family reunification. Just before the pandemic hit, family reunification in Canada took just about 12 months. I believe that time might have increased because of COVID-19, and I know the minister is committed to ensuring that those numbers are sustained.
One of the concerns I continue to have is the number of refugee cases being prolonged because of this. It is something that really does put people in limbo, and I am hopeful that the government and the IRB, an independent body of the government, will move toward ensuring that cases are fast-tracked and decisions are rendered sooner than later.
This is an overall disruption to many elements of our justice system, and I think the bill before us does help us in advancing some of those issues within the criminal justice system.
Results: 1 - 60 of 2241 | Page: 1 of 38

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>|
Export As: XML CSV RSS

For more data options, please see Open Data