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Results: 1 - 100 of 175
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 12:26 [p.2748]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister and my colleagues for their important words today. It is critical that we show solidarity and compassion in these dark times.
We have a thriving Lebanese community in Fredericton with roots that run deep. As I have been learning over the past few days, these roots indeed run across the country.
I would like to highlight our wonderful Atlantic Honorary Consulate to Lebanon, Consul Fares, who cares deeply about the connection to the homeland and Lebanese Canadians. My heart goes out to Consul Fares for his work in the months to come and to all of Lebanon as it confronts this unimaginable reality. We are with them as Canadians and as citizens of the globe. We send our deepest condolences. I call for justice for the families of victims, and for a peaceful and swift national recovery with adequate support from Canada.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2020-08-12 12:43 [p.2751]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader of the Bloc Québécois for his question.
I believe he pointed out an important fact, and that is that our government, the Prime Minister and the members of our cabinet have always been available to answer questions, whether it be in the House, in committee of the whole like today, or before the House committees. At the same time, as the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth pointed out, our government is focused on the economic issues that are of concern to Canadians and public health issues.
We will be very pleased to work with our opposition colleagues as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic in order to adapt programs to support Canadians, Canadian businesses and, above all, our provincial partners in order to deal with the health situation, which is still a major concern.
We are working hard. The ministers are working, and members are in their ridings across the country to support their constituents and develop policies that will meet the needs of Canadians. That is exactly what we will continue to do.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 14:04 [p.2765]
Mr. Chair, my first question to the Minister of Health is very simple.
Is it the responsibility of the minister's department to uphold the Canada Health Act in all jurisdictions in Canada?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 14:04 [p.2765]
Mr. Chair, will the government intervene then to save Clinic 554 and, by this, ensure access to reproductive health and essential services to the LGBTQ2S+ community in New Brunswick?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 14:05 [p.2765]
Mr. Chair, the Minister of Public Safety said that he heard calls from families, survivors and advocates when he made the important announcement that the federal government was launching a full public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shooting. Families will get answers, communities will be able to heal and recommendations will be made, ensuring that such a tragedy will never happen again.
Can the minister also hear the voices of the families of Rodney Levi, Chantel Moore and Brady Francis? Can he hear the calls from the New Brunswick and British Columbia chiefs, the indigenous leaders and advocates, and launch a comprehensive, open and fully transparent inquiry into how the legal and law-enforcement systems have failed indigenous people in New Brunswick?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 14:06 [p.2765]
Mr. Chair, the pandemic has shaken to the core the very way that we, not too long ago, thought how to do business: walking into a store, trying and touching various items and shaking hands once a transaction is finalized. Businesses had to adapt to new ways of doing things, and fast.
The Fredericton economic development agencies group, in its effort to respond and advocate on behalf of all businesses, highlighted the need for businesses to obtain support and information on transitioning to or expanding e-commerce options. Does the government have a plan to support businesses to make this transition?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 14:07 [p.2765]
Mr. Chair, the last time the Official Languages Act went through a complete overhaul was 1988. I am practically the same age as this legislation. Linguistic minority communities across the country, organizational representatives and specialists have worked hard to contribute to the study, and the report and its recommendations were submitted to the government over a year ago now. I know the minister cares deeply about the vitality of official languages, but the longer the government drags its feet, the more hope fades with each passing day that anything will come of this file.
Can the minister confirm that the legislation will indeed be modernized during her present term of office?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 14:09 [p.2765]
Mr. Chair, I read the report following the review of systemic racism and oppression at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It is telling of the problems present in our society and how pervasive systemic racism and homophobia are when an institution that was created to promote respect for others and encourage reflection and dialogue fails its own mission. The report provides avenues for reparation. Every action toward inclusivity has the potential to lead to significant improvements in the lives of Canadians. There are some recommendations specifically with respect to the language used in communications.
My question is for the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. Would the government be ready to adopt a gender-inclusive language, remove gender binaries and adopt an epicene style of writing in all of its internal and external communications, in English and in French?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 16:35 [p.2788]
Mr. Speaker, as a first-time MP, this has been quite the introduction into federal politics. I have received a quick schooling on what is truly important to the people in my riding, how things work in this government environment and the ways that I can contribute.
After the initial post-election excitement, the reality of setting up an office in Ottawa and the constituency set in. We got to work putting together a team to serve the people of Fredericton and represent Canadians.
We spent the five months following the election in a typical rhythm of Parliament before the pandemic took hold in our nation. We have now spent just as much time involved in the emergency public health, social and economic relief efforts associated with COVID-19.
As many members know, I am a teacher by trade. Teaching is not the traditional path to politics, but there is nothing traditional about this Parliament for me. I spent a decade teaching youth to have a critical lens, to stand up for what they believe in and to not accept injustice. I applied those lessons to my work here as an MP, and I am honoured to be able to share them with my colleagues in this venue.
Despite the change in career, I have kept my priorities and passions. I came here to create a better world for children and youth, and to create better communities for them to grow up in. In today's take-note debate, I want to talk about families, students, some of the realities of this pandemic experience and the ways we can keep moving forward to get through this together.
My family means everything to me, and they have been along for this intense journey. For us, the pandemic has meant months in intermittent isolation and a family bubble, days in the car to get here and back to New Brunswick, and only about eight hours, since March, that I have been without my two children, except for the hours I have spent sitting in this House. This is perhaps why I have one of the best attendance records.
If my colleagues did not catch the humour in that, they can rest assured that I love my children and they love me, but we are looking forward to our routines returning to normal. The point is, as a working mom, having no school or day care these past months has been like maternity leave without the leave. Full-time work while providing child supervision and care is simply not possible, especially with the added responsibilities of home schooling.
I have heard from many parents of the struggles and concerns of parenting in a pandemic. Parents in Canada need a break, especially parents of children with disabilities, autism or behavioural challenges who need educational assistance, resource teachers and guidance counsellors.
Children also need a break from their parents, especially the children who are perhaps experiencing neglect or abuse. Those children have been on my mind these past few months. Children need to hear from other adults, coaches and role models. Let us take this time to sincerely appreciate our early childhood education and public school systems and the people we rely on to make them work.
As a government, we must ensure that all parents, children, teachers and staff feel safe as they return to the classroom.
Families are stressed and apprehensive with a variety of tough choices ahead. I know there are innovative solutions and ideas out there, and I trust the government to assist provinces as they reopen schools with clear and cautious health advice.
I think also about the families separated by our border closure. Foreign national long-term partners and adult children remain unable to enter Canada to see their loved ones. These families have spent five months separated already. While enforcing two-week quarantines, we could lighten travel restrictions for students and immediate family, enabling them to return to their Canadian families and communities. These changes, coupled with the reminder that Canada is home to people from all over the world, would go a long way to combat the isolationism that has been known to breed contempt, which may already be being directed at the international students trickling into our country.
Fredericton is home to two university campuses and several colleges.
The international students who arrive in Fredericton each year are a critical component of our local communities. Having so few of them returning to us in person this year is a major loss. The universities in my home province have been announcing pandemic protocols for the coming semester. There are a lot of pressures on these institutions, but I cannot help but think of the impact on students.
On top of the anxieties the last five months have brought for all of us, they are facing the choice of continuing to take on personal student debt at a time when it is not clear what sort of economy they will graduate into. We will need the government, and likely the next government to come, to stand beside these students as they work to pay off the student debt incurred at this juncture in their lives.
Speaking of student debt, we are coming up on the end of the government's initiative to pause student loan repayment obligations for recent graduates. This will mean hundreds of dollars a month that these debt holders will need to begin paying again. This program should be extended for at least another six months, and we should start talking meaningfully about student debt forgiveness.
We need to support families, especially children, adolescents and young adults, during these uncertain times.
The public health emergency over the last months has been coupled with civil unrest and action. We have seen deaths in our streets, ongoing oppression and injustice. I think of the world that my children are inheriting, all children, the world that youth and students are inheriting across Canada. I look around, I watch the news and I read the comments on social media, which maybe I should not, because they lead me to shake my head. Our kids will have questions of all of this, and we had better have decent answers for them.
We must seize this opportunity and wield the responsibility we have as parliamentarians to address the prejudices that blind us: rampant systemic racism; hiding the many microaggressions and overt acts of racism present in our everyday lives; toxic masculinity that seeds silent acceptance of a rape culture, violence against women and girls and members of the LGBTQ2IA+ community; privilege that shrinks our world view, making invisible those living in poverty with insecure housing, with disabilities, fighting addictions and surviving trauma. We need to start seeing one another again and finding compassion for our neighbours.
Since being elected as a member of Parliament, I have been actively involved in calls for equality and systemic change. Recently, and in light of international and local tragedies, I have supported a call for a national Senate inquiry into wellness checks as a police response to mental health issues in Canada; I attended a healing walk for Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi; I made a public pledge to call out racism when I see it online or otherwise; I signed a petition calling for a review of systemic racism in police forces; I submitted a letter to you, Mr. Speaker, to address systemic racism in this institution; I have questioned the Minister of Health about actions on her mandate to address racism in the health care system; and I asked the Public Safety minister to declare his outrage and commit to protecting all black, indigenous and people of colour from racial injustice.
These are the promises I made to my youth, the ones that I worked with, my students. I taught them to be activists. If we see something is wrong, we do something about it. If someone's voice cannot be heard, we find ways to amplify it.
As I prepare to send my kids back to school, I have been reflecting on the immense responsibility our teachers will shoulder in this school year. They will balance public health protocols with school curricula and changing class composition. They too will face the questions of curious young minds about the world we live in. Their answers will be instrumental in shaping the minds of a coming generation of leaders.
Teachers need our support, our patience and our encouragement.
Just as our health care professionals have stepped up to respond to this pandemic, our teachers are being called to step up now to do the important work of helping to raise children, to educate them and to help them build resilience in the face of uncertainty. I thank them for their service, and I stand with Canadian families.
To the young thinkers and learners across this country, I am listening. Your leadership is essential as we face down our challenges, and we will get through this together. Please reach out at any time.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 16:45 [p.2790]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague so much for that very important question.
Absolutely, I have been hearing from my constituents on this same issue of parental and maternity benefits as a result of COVID.
There is a group that has gathered. There are parents across this country who are grappling with this question. When we had our daily or almost daily briefing calls with various government departments, I consistently asked that question day in and day out, and I was given that same response: “We're working on it. We're looking for the solution.”
For me, this delay is quite disappointing. These people have been waiting. Some have already had their children and need to receive this benefit, so I was pleased this morning to hear the minister talk about retroactive pay, but that does not get people what they need in the interim. I am very concerned with how long this has taken, but I am also encouraged that finally we might see some action on this.
Here we are five months into the pandemic, and these parents have been waiting. Let us get money into the hands of parents now. Certainly, the retroactive payment is good to hear, but it is an issue that went on for far too long.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 16:48 [p.2790]
Mr. Speaker, certainly as a Green Party member, the environment is top of mind. It is the lens I use with all policy and questions, including social justice. It is all connected. For me it is a critical component of our recovery plan moving forward. However, the youth are already fired up. They are already active and engaged. This is something that fuels me and gives me the energy I need to do my work in the House.
My advice for him is to keep this up, not to lose optimism and hope. The solutions are out there. We are the leaders of today, not the leaders of tomorrow. Those voices are so critical to the work we do to inspire us and guide us.
As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to be role models and to bring truth to the House, to not be divisive, to not get too bogged down in the weeds of what perhaps our personal ideologies may be, but be here to do the work we were sent here to do by our electorate.
I am going to talk about environmental issues, and it is not just because I am a Green. It is because I am a Canadian. It is because I am a mother and a teacher and those things are so important to me.
On the east coast, we have seen some different weather patterns. We have seen some changes. We have seen some of the hottest days on the record in our communities. People are very aware of these impacts. It is just a matter of empowering them to continue to do that work, to continue to be active and to continue to demonstrate or to do whatever they may feel is important. Social media is a great venue for that as well.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 16:51 [p.2791]
Mr. Speaker, as a former teacher, I feel that this is an incredibly important time. It is something we have never seen before, and I think initially teachers were looking for ways to engage. They wanted to be able to help more, but because of the restrictions and all of the measures to keep us safe they were not necessarily able to do that.
With the time that has passed, I think our teachers are really ready to get back into the classroom. We enjoy our summer breaks as best we can, but we always have that feeling in September when we cannot wait to get back to our students who mean so much to us. Teachers have been ready for months and months now, so I really feel they are going to take the bull by the horns on this. They will really take the initiative and do what needs to be done to keep our children safe, keep themselves safe, keep staff safe and also keep everyone's level of well-being in check.
What is really important to me about kids returning to school right now, outside of curriculum and the necessary things to move them through their grades, is that well-being: that social aspect of being with other people besides their family bubbles they have been stuck in for the last five months.
I believe teachers are well suited to do this and, as I have said, they have just been waiting to get involved and have their turn to serve citizens in this pandemic. I am so excited to see what they will do with this. When thrown a curveball, our education systems respond very well. I am so proud of the education system in New Brunswick in particular.
I note that we fared quite well in New Brunswick during the pandemic, and we do not face as much uncertainty as some of the other jurisdictions in Canada. I wish them well. I hope we go slow. I hope we are as cautious and as safe as we need to be, but I am so thankful for kids to go back to school. I hope I can support teachers within my riding to do that as safely and enjoyably as possible.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-08-12 16:53 [p.2791]
Mr. Speaker, I did not know my colleague had a teacher training background, but I should have guessed because we align on many things.
It is going to be different across jurisdictions, as I mentioned. I am a big fan of national standards. No matter where someone is in Canada, one should be able to receive the best practices we are seeing in other provinces or territories.
I have faith in our provincial systems and feel our job is to protect and support them, so I hope they are able to monitor and ensure they are reaching the same standards as other jurisdictions. We do not necessarily have those standards yet, so I would certainly be supportive of seeing those happen here in Canada.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-22 14:18 [p.2724]
Mr. Speaker, the member highlighted a lot of really critical pieces of how people have been dealing with COVID-19. You mentioned support for shelters, individuals, racialized minorities, mental health issues and you also mentioned federal-provincial-territorial collaboration. On that note, there was one thing I noticed that might have been missing from that discussion. I wonder if you could speak about whether or not you believe that safe, affordable housing is a right and whether you support a rent freeze as families and individuals navigate COVID-19.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-22 15:23 [p.2733]
Madam Chair, I very much enjoyed the speech from the member for Edmonton Strathcona. I always do, so I appreciate her work and her efforts. The member has been discussing a very important aspect, which is universal basic income, and how that could have come to the rescue of so many more Canadians.
Why does the member think the Liberal government is resistant to that idea?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-22 15:47 [p.2737]
Madam Chair, our chamber of commerce in Fredericton held a webinar with the Minister of Economic Development. She mentioned the process of dealing with COVID-19 as stopping the bleeding, sewing up the wound and then healing. I feel like we have done a pretty good job of stopping the bleeding. We have incredible programs in place now. We have made some tweaks and improvements, which is what I would call sewing up those wounds.
What does the member believe would be the best way to support this next stage of healing for which Canadians are looking?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-22 16:12 [p.2740]
Madam Chair, I have been reminded again and again of the kindness and creativity of people across this country these past four months, especially in our own civil service.
That historic weekend in mid-March when the pandemic took hold in Canada began a domino effect of businesses closing to the public, employees losing work and people flocking to government relief programs, fearing whether or not they would be able to pay their rent.
The huge number of applications submitted that have been processed by Service Canada and Canada Revenue Agency staff is incredible. More than six million applications were submitted by mid-April, just two weeks after Canadians started submitting their applications again.
More unsung heroes of this pandemic are the people employed at Global Affairs Canada and the CBSA, who began an incredible effort of repatriating Canadians from across the globe. During the first weeks of the pandemic, these civil servants moved mountains to schedule flights, to confirm travel eligibility, to work with consulates and foreign governments to get Canadian citizens and permanent residents back on Canadian soil. Their efforts were incredible. The minister responsible played a significant leadership role in guiding these efforts, and I wish to thank him as well.
Who can overlook the incredible work of the people involved in Canada's public health infrastructure? Dr. Tam and all of the other provincial health officers' daily updates and leadership and the support of the entire Public Health Agency and the public health departments across each province and territory, which pooled data, tracked cases and implemented protocols, have saved countless lives.
All of these efforts are to be commended, but the staff that dedicated their time to these emergency measures had to step away from their regular workloads, and ongoing cases at IRCC, Service Canada, CRA, Veterans Affairs, etc., have been stuck and languishing for months. What do people do when their federal systems are shutting down? They come to their MPs.
My team and I have been handling an incredible number of these case files and the people whose lives are on hold while their files stagnate in a backlog. Even as our government slowly works to address these files that are piling up on desks across departments, the traditional supporting documentation that people need to track down is not always available, and they cannot possibly complete the requests being made of them. We need these systems to empower workers to find alternative pathways for Canadians. This system collapse is having second- and third-order impacts on individuals and families across the country.
Let me tell members about a few of my constituents.
There is a gentleman in my riding who has been working in Canada for several years now and is applying for his permanent residency. He has submitted all of his documentation, but has been asked to submit one last piece of information: an FBI security check. It is not possible for him to get this document right now, as the FBI is not conducting these checks at this time. Relying on other countries to provide documentation is highly complex, given how hard it is to get documentation within our government. Will he need to leave Canada because we insisted on a document he could not get? How long will we leave this man and his loved ones in limbo? We need flexibility in the immigration system, and case workers who are empowered to identify alternative paths to residency and citizenship, or we risk losing our neighbours who have come to call Canada their home.
In another case, there is a couple in my riding who rely on their GIS cheques each month like so many other Canadians. They both submitted paper versions of their taxes at the same time in February. One of them had their taxes reviewed. One of them had their tax file lost. As a result, they have been denied their GIS payment until they can resubmit their taxes. They are being told that it must be done via e-file, but they have not been able to make that happen. We need flexibility within the CRA and employees in that department to be empowered to work with people and, in this case, to either track down the paper file or to work with this couple to facilitate the refiling of their taxes so they can receive their GIS payments.
In yet another case, there is a mother in my riding who lost her child tax benefit just before the pandemic shut down offices in March, because the father of her children claimed that he had custody when he did not. The CRA has placed the burden of proof on her shoulders to regain the benefit, which she needs to raise these children. One of the supporting documents required was a letter from a health care provider substantiating her claims. For months, doctors, dentists and other health professionals have not been providing these services. Getting these supporting documents has been incredibly difficult.
We need to implement flexible systems that enable federal employees to work more closely with people in these uncertain times.
I know that many of my colleagues in the House worked day and night in the first months of the pandemic to get support to constituents in crisis, and continue to do so. That workload has now shifted to support constituents in their backlogged cases. While my constituent assistants and I are continuing to advocate on behalf of the individual cases that come through my door, we need to fix this at a macro level.
I want to raise this today to articulate a question to my colleagues in government. What comes next? Can we initiate a major hiring push, just as Veterans Affairs Canada announced last month to handle its backlog?
So many Canadians remain underemployed and unemployed. This seems the perfect opportunity to get more hands on deck to start working across government departments.
Can we empower case workers with more flexibility and tools at their disposal to massage case files through the system, recognizing that the standard burden of documentation is not realistic now, and may not be for months to come?
I am but one opposition member of the House, and a rookie member, at that. I do not pretend to have all of the solutions, but I know that the solutions are out there, and I believe they lie in our civil service. The brilliant and compassionate minds that have worked tirelessly through March and April to get support into the hands of Canadians need to be equipped and empowered to put their brilliance to work to address these issues.
Communities across the country are changing. The government must adapt its services and embrace new technology.
There is so much about this virus that we cannot control, but we can control how we respond to it.
I wish to end on a positive note, a “thank you” to our civil service and a pledge to do all I can with my colleagues in the House to ensure that they have the tools and the respect they need to help Canadians in this time and in the future ahead.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-22 16:19 [p.2742]
Madam Chair, I am very supportive of the government's response to COVID-19. I mentioned yesterday just how proud I am to be a member of Parliament and to be a Canadian, at that, because we have fared quite well on the global stage, as far as COVID-19 goes.
The programs are not perfect, but we worked together to make them as applicable as we could to most Canadians. I do feel, however, that I must voice my support for a guaranteed livable income. That was something that, at the onset, would have supported so many more Canadians without the existing strict eligibility criteria. They would have had the support they needed to get through these months and the months ahead.
We are talking a bit about the healing and the recovery and what comes next, and I really hope the government is very open-minded with regard to the concept of a universal basic income or a guaranteed livable income, because I really feel that is the next step that we need to continue supporting Canadians with, as we have done throughout this COVID-19 crisis.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-22 16:21 [p.2742]
Madam Chair, I thank my hon. colleague for her work in the House. We certainly align on just about everything, so I am glad to be here with her in the 43rd Parliament.
I am very supportive, as well, of a universal child care system. I have two children of my own; many of my friends, families and Canadians know how important child care is to these next steps in our recovery in building back better for Canada, so we certainly need to put a lot of emphasis on that. We know how women have been disproportionately impacted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Certainly, I have felt some of those pressures as a woman, especially as a newly elected MP and what that brings into play, but I also recognize my privilege, so I cannot imagine those in a less privileged position having to deal with these last few months and then what is to come with all of the uncertainty.
There certainly need to be some changes. You mentioned some changes to the EI system; I really believe, again, that putting that patchwork of supports into a guaranteed basic income for all Canadians would really be the best step forward. It would alleviate a lot of the administrative costs and the stresses that we have experienced as parliamentarians in the rollout of these programs. That would be the direction that I would put my energy and my vote behind.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-22 16:23 [p.2742]
Madam Chair, I thank my colleague from Victoria for joining us virtually. That is a testament to how we have been doing our work here in Parliament.
In my speech, I gave a couple of examples of people struggling during this time. I think specifically about those who are waiting for their GIS cheques to come in. I think about those living on a limited income. I think about mothers who are struggling to find work or who want the option to stay with their children before they go on to their school-age classrooms.
For me, it would help countless individuals such as entrepreneurs, people wanting to take risks in their lives, artists and anyone in the gig economy. Specifically, I am thinking of many people in Atlantic Canada. I think about those with disabilities and those struggling with mental health issues. I feel this is the net we need to cast out into Canada, because it eliminates those holes we have been seeing glaringly throughout this COVID-19 crisis.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-21 13:41 [p.2683]
Madam Speaker, I am happy to be in the House with my colleagues. Once again, it was quite a journey to get here, especially on short notice, but I know there is important work to be done.
I have been supportive of the government as we navigate COVID-19. I also want to thank fellow opposition members for their hard work and for getting things done. I am honoured to be a member of the 43rd Parliament and am proud to be Canadian.
I do have one regret: partisan politics. Quite simply, it has made a mockery of our institution. It has allowed us to perpetuate systemic issues within the House and has pitted us against each another. It inflames hatred and fear, the type that one can read about in the manifestos of domestic terrorists.
I want to offer my sincere concern for our Prime Minister and his family, as well as the Governor General. I think we should all reflect very deeply on what has occurred at Rideau Hall and commit to doing a better job of teaching love in our communities.
Our system sees its members fighting for credit and recognition, and tearing each other down at every available opportunity. It is the people of this country who are suffering. I think of all the Canadians who are eagerly awaiting the one-time payment for persons with disabilities that was proposed in June. It was poor planning and political posturing that has left these Canadians an extra month without aid.
I too have been made to draw lines in the sand where I did not want to. There is no definitive wrong or right side. If we are truly here in the best interests of Canadians, the taxpayers who elected us, then I must ask us all, what are we doing? Why pour our energy and resources into one-upping each other?
This is in no way to say that we are not to disagree, seek clarification, challenge evidence or hold the government to account. On the contrary, what I am calling for is increased participation and collaboration. I am calling for respect. Call it decorum or call it human decency.
On that note, I would like to speak about some of the specifics of Bill C-20. The most important thing we can be doing right now and in the coming months is to ensure that Canadians have the resources they need to meet their needs. I applaud the move by the government to support wages for Canadians. I question the complexity of the system it has devised and I am particularly concerned that the ongoing lack of clarity about the details of this program will make business owners vulnerable to audits and investigations to come.
It is essential that one year from now, or seven years from now, we remember that these programs were evolving in real time and that Canadians who accessed the wage subsidy, the emergency response benefit, the emergency student benefit, etc., did so in good faith based on the information they had available to them at the time. Heavy-handed, retroactive penalties will be the wrong approach.
I am pleased to finally see the one-time payment for persons with disabilities being passed, hopefully. My own province has the highest rates of disability in Canada, and many of those with disabilities live in rural communities. The nature of New Brunswick as Canada's only bilingual province means that many francophones living with disabilities are also trying to find adequate resources in their mother tongue. This funding is a step forward, but it should never have taken this long.
I would like to read an excerpt from a letter to the minister responsible for disability inclusion from a newly formed group, the New Brunswick Coalition for People with Disabilities:
...day after day during his daily briefings, the Hon. [Prime Minister] hardly ever even mentioned people with disabilities. Then, when a promised payment of $600.00 failed to get approved at the House of Commons, we told ourselves maybe we should "let the adults hash it out". But then, we said no. No, we will not sit quietly anymore. This is what has been expected of people with disabilities for too long.... Let's be honest here. [The Prime Minister] said that Covid19 had exposed some "uncomfortable truths" about how we look after our seniors. The truth of the matter is, should we not also be embarrassed of the way we have been treating people with disabilities in this country? Here we have a group of people who live below the poverty line month after month, year after year. With no chance of EVER going back to work.... And we sit in the sidelines, watching as the Prime Minister of our beloved country decides that $2000 per month is the amount needed to get by in this country. And yet... We are asking people with disabilities to get by on so much less. And then, in a time of crisis, we tell them—by not saying anything at all—that we will deal with them last. And when we do decide to help them with a one-time payment of $600.00, well...it doesn't go through. The only financial aid during this whole Covid nightmare that does not go through.
It is the responsibility of those with power to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are receiving the support they need. Many Canadians were already struggling to make ends meet, particularly because they could not access employment before COVID. For those relying on provincial social assistance programs, CPP or the disability benefit, their regular activities have been terribly interrupted by COVID.
The precariousness of housing, loss of community kitchens, closure of public spaces and limitations on public transit have all had financial consequences for people who are already living on the edge. These citizens should have been among the first to receive aid. Instead, most of them have still received nothing and those living with disabilities have waited five months for a one-time benefit. It is not good enough. There are two weeks before the House is scheduled to sit again and I encourage my colleagues in cabinet to come back to us in two weeks' time with a meaningful pitch to support all Canadians who are the most financially vulnerable.
I am also encouraged to see that the Canada-China relations committee will be able to continue its work. My hope is that we will be brave enough to be outspoken about China's occupation of Tibet and its treatment of religious minorities, including the Uighur concentration camps, and about the recent security law in Hong Kong.
I am also pleased to see the commencement of virtual meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We have incredibly important work to do as parliamentarians, and the more we enable this activity virtually, the better served each of our constituents will be.
I look forward to seeing how we address the question of virtual voting, especially as we expect a second wave of the pandemic to occur this fall. It would be irresponsible of us to become vectors of transmission in our communities. However, there is no question that we must get on with the regular business of the House to debate and pass important legislation.
This brings me back to my opening comments about partisan bickering hurting Canada. I encourage all members of the House across party lines to consider how we can work together to ensure that the needs of our constituents are best met, rather than the various partisan interests we represent. We have all been experiencing the pandemic as parliamentarians and as individuals. I wish my colleagues well. I hope they are all doing okay.
I know how this experience has affected my family and friends, my staff and their families. There is a collective struggle occurring across Canada and the globe. In this time of crisis, we need to tear down the barriers inherent to our ideologies and find ways that we can align. We need each other. We cannot get through the next phase of this virus without supporting each another as Canadians. We are stronger united. We must be able to have discussions, to challenge norms and stigmatization, but let our example of human decency in the House set the tone for the respect, kindness and compassion we want to see in communities across this country.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-21 13:50 [p.2684]
Madam Speaker, I just think it shows so much about our society today, about how we prioritize, how we have completely lost the idea of eldership and how important seniors are in our communities. We are all going to be there, and we should definitely be trying to improve our quality of life at all stages, but particularly as we face our senior years.
To me, we need to do far more to protect those in our communities who are most vulnerable and who have years and years of experience being Canadian, who have gone through so many things, other difficult times and experiences similar to this. There is so much to learn from them. To support them with a one-time $300 payment is symbolic of how much we value them, and we should do so much more.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-21 13:52 [p.2684]
Madam Speaker, to be honest, I have to disagree with the first part of my hon. colleague's question. I feel, especially as a Green Party member, that I have actually been given more opportunities to participate in debate. I particularly enjoy the virtual participation when we have the five-minute question slots, with the back-and-forth that occurs. We are getting our questions to Canadians. We are getting messages from the ministers responsible.
We are having adequate conversations and discussion, but I would love to see virtual voting, because that is the missing piece here. We can do the work we need to do in the House. We need to adapt to the changes that have been thrown our way during this pandemic, and the way to do that is through virtual voting.
I cannot see this room—
An hon. member: If you do not want to come to work, resign.
Mrs. Jenica Atwin: I am at work right now, thanks very much. I am still speaking, so if you could respect the decorum—
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-21 13:53 [p.2685]
Madam Speaker, we cannot fill this room with 338 MPs. It is already quite filled at the moment. Each of us has our own lives, families and communities to return to, and it would be very irresponsible of us to have everyone return. Without virtual voting, without giving members the equal opportunity to represent their constituencies, this is the way it has to be, and I am very supportive of that.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-07-21 15:03 [p.2698]
Mr. Speaker, the pandemic is forcing us to rethink the world we live in, from food security to our workspaces to the impacts of systemic racism. As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis, we must not forget that the climate crisis is also a health crisis, an economic crisis and a social crisis. They are intricately connected, and a response requires that we build resilient communities that will be ready to adapt.
Could the Minister of Environment and Climate Change explain how exactly the undeniable impact of the climate crisis will be taken into account in the upcoming budget and within the long-term post-pandemic recovery plan?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-26 11:01 [p.2407]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for splitting his time with me today.
It is absolutely a pleasure, as it always is, to be here with all of you. I am delighted to see some members for the first time in months and I really did miss everyone. Once again, it was not easy getting here. I packed up my family and we drove here from New Brunswick. They are with me for the long haul. We will be here as long as we need to be to do the work of Parliament that is very critical and essential during this time.
I do think of all the MPs who are not here today, and it is not because they do not want to be here or that they are not working. As I look at this chamber, at the 30 or so of us spread out with several seats between us, I am reminded that each empty chair represents roughly 100,000 Canadians. Their voices will not be heard here today.
Certain members of this House believe that perhaps a responsible representation of MPs by party status is adequate for decision-making and questioning the government. However, let us not forget that our jobs are first and foremost to our constituents and not to our parties.
I am delighted to be here on behalf of the riding of Fredericton and raising the issues that are important to my constituents. Just like the member for Foothills said, this is also the thrill of my lifetime to be an elected member of this House and to stand here in this historic place, a symbol of our freedom and democracy. It is a place of honour and respect, yet there have been some disrespectful comments made, such as insinuations that our fellow members are not showing up to work because they cannot be here in person.
We have heard wartime anecdotes and quotes from Winston Churchill, among others, all suggesting that COVID-19 in the year 2020 is somehow the same as World War II or the influenza outbreak. Of course, we know this is not the case.
The word “unprecedented” has been used an unprecedented number of times to describe the situation that faces us. We are not seeing the forces of the world clashing under tyrannical regimes. We do not have bombs bursting overhead. We are facing an invisible enemy. It is an enemy that does not discriminate, that infects its host at a rate we have never seen before and that has left our communities vulnerable.
We most certainly have an essential role to play as parliamentarians, but it looks different than it has at any other time in our history. The motion before us asks us to be creative, collaborative and accommodating to our members of Parliament. I believe it is meant to allow the fulsome participation of all elected members of this House from all ridings across this great country.
Few other MPs from Atlantic Canada are able to be here today. That is concerning to me. The issues facing my home region are urgent and unique. Right now, our region of Canada is facing challenges with the lobster season, quotas for fishers and processors unable to recruit enough workers. Temporary foreign workers were only allowed in New Brunswick as of last Friday, meaning a delayed season with major implications for the economy and the agricultural yields.
There are also calls for a public inquiry into the handling of the Portapique tragedy. There is the broader conversation it has started about support for mental health initiatives and our collective response to domestic violence, especially in rural areas.
Cities, towns and villages in Atlantic Canada are much smaller than the major urban centres of other provinces, meaning that some of the federal funding earmarked for New Brunswick, P.E.I. and even Nova Scotia cannot be implemented by the municipalities that need it most.
Let us not forget New Brunswick's unique role as a bilingual province and the challenges faced by Canada's minority francophone population to receive accurate, current information about the virus. We also see that New Brunswick is one of the most enviable jurisdictions in the world in terms of its total number of cases and zero deaths. Finally, it pays to be a New Brunswicker.
Canada should be watching closely as my home province continues to open up elements of its economy as a test case for which businesses will flourish post-COVID-19, and which will need continued support. These issues are regionally specific and deserve to be voiced. Most of the MPs representing those voices cannot be here due to restrictions on interprovincial travel, limited domestic flights and the requirement for pared-down numbers in Parliament.
I also note that it is not safe for other members of this House, those who are from isolated communities or those who will put their or their communities' health at a greater risk of COVID-19 by travelling to Ottawa. How can we ask those who cannot be here today to risk becoming vectors of transmission? At the same time, how can we hope to make decisions and represent Canada without a single voice from these vulnerable regions?
It remains my opinion that until we can have a full integration of virtual participation with in-person meetings of the chamber or special committee, we are doing a disservice to rural, northern, Atlantic and west coast Canadians. As we stand here today, we are not ensuring equal representation for Canada, which is one of our most fundamental principles. Having said that, I see the effort the government is making with this motion to integrate virtual participation with the in-person sittings.
I also recognize that the day-to-day sittings would be in the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic rather than full sittings in the House of Commons, which would be more ideal.
With these elements considered, I will be supporting the motion because I believe it is in the best interests of democracy at this time.
When we have figured out how the whole virtual integration of MPs will work, we will need to see the House reconvene to table some pressing legislation, such as on medical assistance in dying. In February, the Minister of Justice asked the Supreme Court for a four-month extension to the ruling in order to avoid the creation of separate MAID frameworks in Quebec and the rest of Canada. We have already taken advantage of an extension. Difficult issues still need to be addressed and Canadians who wish to receive MAID depend on us to pass that legislation.
In March, the government introduced legislation to criminalize the cruel practice of conversion therapy. We need to commit to ban that practice without further delay. We also need to see the specifics of the firearms legislation meant to accompany the regulatory changes made on May 1. Canadians need to see the full details of this plan to end the suppositions on this issue that are polarizing Canadians.
Figuring out the integration of virtual MPs with those of us here in person will enable us to lead the way for Canada as the world of work shifts permanently through this period of history. Some Canadians will need to continue working from home for some time to come. Some will want to continue working from home. Some will need to work partially from their homes and partially from their offices. We are being creative. We will see less travel by plane. We will see less commuter traffic in general. Let us set the example for workplaces across the nation by enabling MPs to make the best decisions for their constituents and to engage fully in the debate and decision-making that occurs in the House.
My hope is that all Canadians will know how hard we are working for them every day. Whether in our living rooms with our kids hanging off us in front of a Zoom screen, or here on the floor of the House of Commons, our commitment and our efforts are unwavering.
My mind is constantly on those I know are still slipping through the cracks of our COVID relief initiatives: the not-for-profits, charities and church groups, which for one reason or another find themselves ineligible for the wage subsidy program despite the critical services they provide in our communities; the cleaners and cashiers who have been left out of the essential workers wage top-up in New Brunswick; the dentists who are concerned about their practices moving forward and are finding barriers to pursuing PPE; the international students who still do not qualify for the student benefits and who have nowhere to go and no support; the pregnant women who still do not have adequate answers about their parental leave benefits in the weeks to come, and so many others.
My colleagues and I work for them. I know that we can continue to do this work in a way that protects the health and safety of our home communities.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-26 11:10 [p.2408]
Mr. Speaker, the member is right that it would not protect our parliamentary privilege. We have the right to be here and to voice our concern on every issue that is put before the House. Being from a small party, I am responsible for many files as critic, so I have broader interests and responsibilities than perhaps other members do, so I want to participate in everything that goes on.
I really feel that this shows our ability to collaborate. We are being creative. We are being accommodating. This needs to move forward and it is something we can be excited about. This is a very neat initiative. Canadians will be excited to see how this works, and other jurisdictions are already doing it, so it is time that we give it a shot and a good effort. Our attitudes need to shift a bit.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-26 11:12 [p.2409]
Mr. Speaker, the member is right. Yesterday when he was speaking about private members' bills, I found myself nodding my head quite a bit. They are a critical component of what we do here in the House, and it is an unfortunate aspect of this new motion that they would not be included. I was not lucky enough to win the lottery; my number is quite a bit further down the line. That is perhaps why I am more willing to support this, but it is not fair to my other colleagues who do have private members' bills they would like to put forward.
The member is right. This is not perfect. It is not the ideal situation, but we have to do what is best for the health of our communities and, unfortunately, private members' bills will not fit into what is being proposed here today.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-26 11:13 [p.2409]
Mr. Speaker, as allies of women on the issue of domestic violence, we are certainly doing all that we can. It is difficult across jurisdictions. We need to be very regionally specific because there are lots of cultural things to take into consideration around this issue. That is one of the important things that we want to discuss here in the House, but also to allow all of our colleagues across Canada to join us through a virtual Parliament as well. I am open to any idea that allows the fulsome participation of all voices to address very serious issues like domestic violence in Canada.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-26 11:14 [p.2409]
Mr. Speaker, schools and day cares are closed. My children are with me. It has presented many challenges along the way. That has perhaps been the biggest barrier. It is the work-home life balance. As I said, in Zoom conferences my children often appear on the screen, but that has added an element of humanity to our work as well.
Absolutely, there have been increased costs associated with day cares reopening. We need consider its affordability for Canadians across this country. If we want our economy to get back to work, we need day cares to be there for people and to be affordable.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-26 15:09 [p.2446]
Mr. Speaker, Canada has incredible destinations, from spectacular mountain scenery to World Heritage sites, the highest tides in the world and vibrant cultural diversity. We can be proud of everything our beautiful country has to offer.
Tourism is indeed a vital part of the Canadian economy. Before the pandemic, it represented more than $20 billion in revenue, millions of jobs and 3% of the GDP. However, now this sector and the people who make hospitality their career need our support more than ever.
Could the minister detail the plan to support the workers of this industry? Will they be able to count the hours they worked in the previous year when applying for employment insurance, as has been a concession for other seasonal workers?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-25 11:59 [p.2329]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the very passionate speech of the member opposite. My questions are in follow-up to the previous member's question. How is it decided which members are able to participate? How was it decided what members from her caucus would be here today?
I am very curious as to what the deliberations look like.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-25 14:01 [p.2346]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the essential workers who have kept us safe and who are continuing to do so: the nurses, the long-term care home workers, the paramedics, doctors, social workers, the people who work in grocery stores, the people who clean, the waste collectors and so many others.
Too often their work is in the shadows and some of them are not receiving the financial compensation they deserve. By working to keep us safe, they are making tremendous sacrifices, and for that we are grateful. If this pandemic is teaching us one thing, it is the true meaning of what is essential: our families, our health, our friends and the well-being of our planet.
We are getting through this by taking care of each other, and essential workers embody the hope and confidence we need to build a better tomorrow for all. We thank them for their courage, tenacity and persistence. I invite all members to join me in expressing our sincere gratitude.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-05-25 15:08 [p.2359]
Mr. Speaker, municipalities are the decision-making level that is closest to the people that we serve. They are key to maintaining safe communities and ensuring essential services for one's quality of life. However, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities sounded the alarm more than a month ago. The pandemic is pushing municipalities to the brink of financial crisis. Critical services are at risk.
Could the minister confirm if and when municipalities across this country will receive emergency federal support to face the impact of this pandemic? When will they be given the means to recover and rebuild?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the Bluenose province, like my home in neighbouring New Brunswick, is a place where small rural communities share a special bond. Our communities are an extension of our families, and when tragedy strikes one community, it is felt by us all.
I do not have the words to properly express how the shooting rampage in Portapique and its surroundings has shaken our nation, as has the death of Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year RCMP veteran and mother of two.
It is with deep gratitude that I pay tribute to those who answered the call to protect our communities.
As to the families and colleagues who lost loved ones, we share their anguish. We will work together to get through this. They are not alone. Our nation, our country, stands with them.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, as Canada moves from self-isolation and closures to a gradual reopening of communities and businesses, a high level of testing for COVID-19 will be needed, especially in areas that experience a second wave, yet concerns are increasing that the federal government has not adequately ramped up the availability of tests, as was successfully done in Taiwan and South Korea.
What is the government's plan to initiate large-scale testing to coincide with a lifting of self-isolation, and how many test kits are needed to begin?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Chair, on April 11, I asked the government in the chamber when a plan would be forthcoming for Canada's decimated international seafood market. The deputy prime minister responded that the minister was working on such a plan.
The minister of fisheries issued a statement on April 17, six days later, saying that she was still working on it and proceeded to go through some of the benefits under the emergency response plan that provide help to out-of-work Canadians. The minister has not yet surfaced. We have not heard details of that plan.
When is that plan forthcoming?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Chair, I will come back to the fisheries. How does that sound? We will give the minister another couple of days.
On the emergency response benefit, we have had some direction. It now applies to individuals who earn $1,000 more a month, but what about incorporated businesses? I am thinking now of a fishing boat, for example, or a small farm where these incorporated businesses are bringing in revenue, but they are losing money. Their expenses are higher than their revenues and the individuals who work for these incorporated businesses, the owners, are not taking an income. The income is zero but they have revenue coming in.
Would these businesses qualify for the CERB benefit?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Chair, I want to be very clear on this because we are getting calls from not only these businesses but also accountants who are unclear how to proceed.
I think I heard the minister say that if they have no income, zero income with a revenue stream, but they are underwater and operating in the red, that they would qualify for the CERB. They would be able to qualify for this while they are working, bringing in revenue, but their expenses are higher.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Chair, are there other parameters on these incorporated businesses? Do they, for example, have to show a loss for the year?
I ask this because a business could be in a short-term situation where there is no income coming in. Is there a requirement that an incorporated business would have to show a loss for the year?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, when we last met here on March 24, the employment minister left the House with the distinct impression and belief that workers who are currently on unemployment insurance, whose claims will soon expire, would qualify for the emergency benefit program, yet over the last two weeks the Q and A on regulations that is sent to members of Parliament changed. I know that members of Parliament across this country have been telling workers that they would qualify. It now appears they do not.
Do these workers qualify for the emergency benefit program when their claims expire in the coming weeks?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, will that change require a legislative change, or a regulatory change that the minister is able to make from her desk or with cabinet?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, this question is for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. Small businesses with payrolls of $50,000 or more have access to zero- or low-interest loans, but for small businesses below that threshold or sole proprietorships, these businesses are wondering if low-interest or zero-interest loans may be made available to them as well.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, we do look forward to hearing more about that.
Turning to the emergency relief benefit program, the challenge, of course, is around precarious workers. The government policy today is one of lights on, lights off. Small businesses that have seen a collapse in income yet are still struggling to keep their business lights on have a choice to make: keep going with no income, no revenue and no help from the emergency relief benefit, or turn the lights off and receive help. This is not the way we are going to recover. This needs to be changed.
Will the minister commit today to changing it?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, I ask that the minister lower his sights. I am talking about what I will call the “micro” small businesses, the coffee shops that have laid off the employees but are serving meals to try to keep some income coming in. I am talking about the businesses that do not have employees anymore because they have no revenue but still have a choice to make as to whether to keep operating as a sole proprietorship, effectively. A team of one, or perhaps a couple, does not qualify for any of these programs but it has a choice to make: lights on or lights off.
How are they going to keep those lights on in these businesses?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, the problem is that Service Canada is not there for us. It is not there for Canadians if they do not have high-speed Internet and if they cannot get through on a phone line, which most Canadians cannot.
With millions of Canadians out of work, why did the government think it was acceptable to close down Service Canada offices while grocery stores across the country have refitted themselves to serve Canadians? Why could those measures not have been taken in Service Canada offices so they could continue to serve the public?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, this question is for the Minister of Finance.
Regarding what we are debating and will debate for the rest of the afternoon, can a company that qualifies for the wage subsidy just pay that 75% subsidy? In other words, can an employer cut an employee's salary by 25% and just pay what the federal government is offering or is there a requirement to pay 100%, so employers do pay 25% and the feds pay 75%?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the clarity.
Canada's international seafood trade markets have been decimated. Throughout Atlantic Canada, there are numerous small and medium-sized lobster buyers who have faced serious and significant financial losses. They purchased lobster in the fall for $10 a pound and they have been unloading it for $2 to $4. They are taking huge losses. This is not stock they can keep in tanks. It has to be sold.
What kind of help will the government be able to provide these lobster buyers throughout Atlantic Canada? My question is for the Minister of Finance.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Chair, my question is for the government House leader. Why does he say Parliament cannot meet daily when it is acceptable for ministers to do so?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, to my colleague, from one end of the country to another, let me perhaps provide some help. I too have ferries in New Brunswick Southwest. Last Sunday the federal government extended the Quarantine Act. It is now actually a federal regulation that gives ferry owner-operators the ability to restrict people who take the ferries to get across this country; that power is already there.
On that note, a concern I have about the Emergencies Act is that already municipal workers, ferry workers and provincial workers have power that the federal government has granted. I do not believe we should rush to enact the Emergencies Act when powers already exist and they just are not being utilized, perhaps because they are not known. There is the ability to restrict people travelling on ferries today, thanks to the work the federal government has done.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Chair, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
My question is for either the Minister of Employment or the Minister of Finance. Can small business owners collect the emergency support benefit at the same time they need to run a business? Must they not be working to get the benefit or can they work to rescue their business while collecting the benefit?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Chair, interest rates on BDC loans are too high. What is the plan to bring them down so that Ottawa does not cripple small businesses?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Chair, unfortunately, rates as high as 17% are just too high when you add in that variable. Large businesses can see relief in this package, and individuals can as well. What about small businesses? How are we going to help small businesses, micro-businesses and mom-and-pop operations bridge this economic shock beyond the unemployment measures and other similar measures? What are we doing to help small businesses?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:32 [p.2088]
Mr. Speaker, my first question was about guaranteed livable income or a universal basic income, so I thank the member for responding to that. I am happy to see support in the House, and perhaps we could have further discussions about what that could look like in Canada moving forward.
I have a question about equality across regions and provinces in accessing materials and supplies for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. There are concerns in New Brunswick that we do not have the public purse to acquire supplies directly at some of the high costs for things we are going to need moving forward.
Can the member comment on reassurances for some of the smaller provinces that are dealing with this issue as well?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:34 [p.2089]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to speak here today on this important issue.
We certainly are in unprecedented times. It is remarkable for me to be here today representing my own riding while also carrying the weight of those living in the ridings of my Green Party colleagues, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I have also been asked to share these comments on behalf of the independent member for Vancouver Granville.
I would first like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. It is essential that we remember the historical and ongoing implications of those words and the responsibilities we bear toward indigenous communities across the nation, especially as we face this unprecedented crisis.
I know I am not alone in having made this bizarre trek to Ottawa to be present here for these proceedings. I made the 10-hour trip by car with my husband and two boys.
We stopped only to get gas and take a break. We followed all the recommended hygiene measures.
Of course, we did our best to entertain a toddler and a seven-year-old for 10 hours in the car. I think of the many families and households across the nation who are answering difficult questions from their children and trying to keep them entertained. I feel that too. I want to let the children of Canada know we love them and we are here for them too. We know this is a difficult time.
I would like to take this opportunity to also humbly thank many, many people: the front-line workers staffing our hospitals, stocking our grocery stores and keeping our communities safe; the businesses and educational institutions that are answering the call and mobilizing in a warlike effort to provide and manufacture and supply that we need; Dr. Tam and her team for coordinating our public health response, as well as Dr. Bonnie Henry of B.C. for her incredible work; the tireless efforts of our cabinet ministers and their staff to coordinate a response to COVID-19 across government departments; and my colleagues here in this House and those practising social distancing at home for proving that in the face of a national crisis, we can and will work together for the people of this country.
We gather in these extraordinary times to pass extraordinary legislation. It will allow the federal government to reach out and help Canadians directly with their personal finances. It will allow help to reach the self-employed, small and medium-sized businesses and large corporations. I am very relieved that a compromise was found that allows us to pass this legislation today, albeit a bit later than we had hoped.
It is a fundamental principle of Westminster parliamentary democracy that Parliament controls the public purse. We cannot, even in a public health emergency, convey unprecedented powers without any oversight and without any criteria limiting those powers to any government, no matter how well-intentioned.
This is a defining moment for our country. I am prouder than ever before to be Canadian and to see the expedited response to this crisis. I am also so proud to be from New Brunswick. I commend Premier Higgs and chief medical officer Jennifer Russell for declaring a state of emergency. To the decision-makers of the neighbouring Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland, I commend them all for making the difficult decision to close provincial borders to further protect citizens. I thank them for their leadership.
We have now seen more than a week of social distancing, of closures and restrictions. It is now the time for all Canadians to comply and do our part to get us through this together. Effective suppression would mean fewer cases of coronavirus, a fighting chance for our health care system and the humans who run it, a reduction in the number of total fatalities and a reduction in collateral damage. As well, it would give us the time for infected, isolated and quarantined health care workers to get better and return to work.
Canada has been quick to respond so far. Inevitably there are lessons to be learned to ensure that we are better prepared for this type of disaster in the future.
I am here to work collaboratively with my colleagues in government, but I must also point out the ways we need to improve so that we can get this right for Canadians.
I am sure we are all in the same boat when it comes to the level of correspondence with our constituents over the past few weeks. We have been hearing a lot of concern. One thing the situation has made clear is the inequalities within our society. COVID-19 has amplified the challenges people are already facing.
I am thinking of the Canadians who are living in poverty, especially those who are homeless.
Working Canadians have been laid off or are facing reduced work hours, particularly at a time when they feel financially insecure. Older Canadians living on a fixed income are worried about their pensions and investments. Indigenous peoples are facing heightened challenges in their communities.
It is not easy for Canadians living in rural areas to access health care services.
Permanent residents and other newcomers worrying about family abroad are trying to get home amidst travel cancellations. Our charities and not-for-profit organizations are losing their donor base right now and really need our support. We must also stay vigilant against those who want to profit from this crisis, and they are out there.
We are facing this giant together, but from very different vantage points. Almost a million people have applied for employment insurance. Our Green Party has been proposing a guaranteed livable income for Canadians for years, and if we had a GLI in place now, we would easily be able to ramp up payments to people facing layoffs and reduced hours without clogging the phone lines of Service Canada and scaring people who are afraid in their unique situations, leaving them without support. The government measures announced are now taking time to roll out because we lack the infrastructure to quickly disseminate direct payments to Canadians. We need to have a closer look at this issue.
It is also clear to me that if we had already made much-needed improvements to our health care system in areas that have been advocated by professionals, such as improved infrastructure, preventive health care and pharmacare, we would be much better situated to address the needs of Canadians in this COVID-19 crisis.
Best estimates of what lies ahead vary widely. We can all agree that the more we are able to maintain social distancing among those who are asymptomatic and maintain isolation for those who have symptoms, the greater our chances are of getting through COVID-19 without overwhelming the system. The extent to which individual Canadians and businesses can follow the advice provided depends on the extent of their financial ability to do so. People have to be in a financially secure position in order to take the public health advice.
When we talk about the economic impacts, it seems we have left some things out.
We have discussed a few of them here today. Renters, both residential and commercial, need measures to protect them from landlords who are not passing along the goodwill of the banks or who do not have the goodwill of their bank. New Brunswick and a few other provinces have made it illegal to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent. These measures are good, but they need to be standardized across the country.
We must do more for the small and medium-sized businesses that keep our economy moving.
As Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says of the wage subsidies, “It's the right measure, but it's the wrong amount.”
Our assistance measures for businesses are being dwarfed by steps taken or being contemplated elsewhere. For example, in Denmark the government is offering up to 75% of wages, with the maximum payout per employee 10 times higher than the current offering in Canada. As well, there seems to be nothing for unincorporated businesses that have employees. This is a big concern.
New Brunswick is allowing small businesses to defer WorkSafe New Brunswick premiums for three months. The federal government could do the same for EI, CPP and HST.
These are trying times, but we do see examples of hope all across the country. I have seen jingle-dress dancers standing out in their yards dancing for all of our collective healing. I know that we have seen churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship adapting to a new reality and being steadfast in their support of spirituality and faith, which we need now more than ever.
These are emotional times for citizens as well, and we also must consider their mental health. We should get outside if we can, but we must maintain our social distancing. We can go for the online museum tours. Online zoo tours are happening. I have seen people making badminton nets out of tape. We can play Hide the Potato.
I have also seen people making Portugese-style or Quebec-style tortillas.
We are finding really creative examples to deal with this crisis. Let us keep it up. I urge us all to call neighbours, check in, do FaceTime with grandparents. We all have a responsibility here. Let us stay connected. Isolation can be a really difficult thing for each of us to face.
Many of us are setting an example by operating from home as well, and we can continue to play a leadership role here by exploring digital options for the work we do here in the House. Let us continue to have that conversation.
Today means passing this motion to ensure Canadians have the financial resources they need to make ends meet while we rigorously follow the advice of public health experts. We will get through this if we stick together, even if that means standing apart.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:44 [p.2091]
Mr. Speaker, I come from rural New Brunswick, where we have faced issues with high-speed Internet access for quite some time. I know that people are trying to work from home or trying to do Zoom conferencing and find ways to communicate in this new reality that we are facing, and it is creating difficulties. We have not been able to communicate through phone calls with our staff members or other colleagues in Parliament. We need to look at what these services can provide to our rural communities as well as all of Canada with this new reality that we face.
The bandwidth just cannot handle what we are currently seeing. There is a surge of people binge-watching Netflix or whatever for entertainment purposes, and then there is certainly our work at home that we will need to be doing for who knows how long. We also need to ensure that everyone has access to those crucial connections to the people they love. I hope that we will continue to have these conversations in the House.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:46 [p.2091]
Mr. Speaker, as a mom of a seven-year-old, I have seen that the seven-year-old understands more than the two-year-old about what is happening. He chats with his friends on his headset when he is playing video games to entertain himself during this time, and I have heard him ask his friends if they are worried about the coronavirus and if they are scared. I wait to hear what the response is and how he might handle that question, and I hear him reassuring his friends and saying that it is okay, that we are going to get through this and that there are people trying to help.
That would be my message. It is that even the kids know how hard everyone is working toward this common goal of fighting COVID-19 as a nation. That is what it is going to take to get us over that peak: staying together, understanding how important it is to heed the warnings of public health and ensuring that we do stay connected.
My other message would be to change the narrative a bit about the social distancing. Let us focus on the physical distancing with social connection, because that is so crucial right now. We really need to protect that.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:48 [p.2091]
Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.
I have been asked by the media and some of my constituents about some of the comments that are floating around about perhaps bailing out the oil and gas industry or other corporations that are involved in different sectors.
My response is that we should first look after the individual Canadians, the workers. They certainly do need jobs to go back to. We just need to be really careful about the future that we are planning.
My hon. colleague from the Bloc mentioned that an economic crisis sets the stage for what is to come, so this is the time for us to make really bold changes to what we want to see in our future here in Canada. I think those bold changes include looking at expanding other sectors.
Of course, I am very supportive of things like renewable energy and other ways that we can maximize our energy output and still have Canadians feel that we have a great role to play on the global stage, but I feel we need to be careful about where we place our investments, understand how the markets are fluctuating and understand what that looks like moving forward in response to COVID-19.
We need to be cautious, but we need to focus first and foremost on the workers and the individual Canadians who need money in their pockets now.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-12 10:27 [p.1979]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for the privilege of speaking today. I would like to thank the minister for her words and powerful statement and my colleagues for their words.
Ladies, life-givers, we make miracles and we are miracles. Today we celebrate sisterhood, the matriarchs, the clan mothers. We all have our own journeys. For me, I felt the most connected to my womanhood when I became a mother. I am a mom of two little boys, who see their mom working hard for Canada and giving a lot of time and attention to our citizens.
From the moment I announced my candidacy to taking my seat here in the House of Commons, the number one question I was asked is how I do it. What is it like balancing the demands of parliamentary life with the responsibilities of motherhood? The answer, as one might expect, is that it is difficult.
I know that seeing strong women in important positions makes them stronger, more balanced individuals with respect for all people of all genders. Even in saying this, I know it will not be that easy for us to set an example every day to be consistent and innovative in our approach to supporting women and creating opportunities for them all over the world.
While we celebrate women who are in decision-making positions and we acknowledge that a lot of progress has been made in reducing the wage gap, the fact remains that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Despite women's increased participation in the workforce, they continue to spend much of their time doing unpaid labour. On average, women continue to be the predominant providers of care to children and to family members with mental or physical limitations related to age or chronic health conditions. This mostly invisible unpaid labour means that working Canadian women spend an additional 3.9 hours per day performing household chores and caring for children, among other things.
While women are fighting against inequality in the workplace, they are also dealing with social expectations surrounding gender.
On top of it all, feeling like imperfect mothers and imperfect workers, women blame themselves for not being able to manage it all. Mom guilt is real. However, we sitting in the House know that good public policy and structural supports play an important role in shaping the experience of working mothers. We in the House need to pay particular attention to how achieving this balance becomes all the more difficult for low-income women, trans women, women struggling with mental illness, women with disabilities and women of colour.
When we invest in social services like long-term care, health care, pharmacare, mental health care, universal affordable child care and in protecting reproductive rights, we also invest in women. We normalize women's issues and interests, we level the playing field and we bring women closer to gender parity. I see the women of Canada, and they are spectacular.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-03-12 15:03 [p.2022]
Mr. Speaker, a Montreal man found guilty of sexually assaulting a four-year-old in 2015 was charged recently with making and distributing child pornography during the period he was having court-ordered supervised visits with the child he abused. This man was sentenced to a mere 22 months in prison for abusing this child.
The minister has stated that he will look to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences to give even more discretion in sentencing. Does the minister really think that justice is being served in a case like this?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-12 15:08 [p.2024]
Mr. Speaker, experts testified last month at the Veterans Affairs committee that treatments for family members of a former soldier were cut off or not approved and that there is a backlog of 18,330 cases.
The average wait time for applications is 32 weeks.
They also testified that there is a longer than average turnaround time for women and francophones.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs was tasked to ensure that the government lives up to its sacred obligation to our veterans and their families. I want to know when and how the government will start acting concretely on that commitment.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-12 17:38 [p.2046]
Madam Speaker, I wish to thank my NDP colleagues for giving me the opportunity to speak. I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Strathcona.
One third of working Canadians do not have employer-funded drug coverage. One in five households reported a family member who had not taken a prescribed medicine in the past year due to its cost.
Every year, nearly three million Canadians say they cannot afford to fill one or more of their prescriptions.
In the 2019 election, I heard these statistics echoed at doors and across party lines. I am excited by the idea of national pharmacare and the support I know we have from members of the House to improve the lives of Canadians. I am also excited by how much work has already been done to understand what our national pharmacare plan needs to look like.
Last June, the well-known published final report of the advisory council on implementation of national pharmacare, also known as the Hoskins report, advised that it had received questionnaires from more than 15,000 people and organizations, received more 14,000 petitions or letters, reviewed more than 150 written submissions, investigated global best practices and hosted town halls and round tables. It uncovered significant gaps in drug coverage.
Of the nearly three million Canadians who said they were not able to afford their prescriptions, 38% had access to private insurance coverage and 21% had public coverage. However, with co-pays and exemptions, they still did not have the resources to afford their medications. Almost one million Canadians were forced to cut back on food or home heating to pay for their medication.
Nearly one million Canadians have had to borrow money to pay for their prescription drugs.
This highlights the crushing poverty weighing on Canadians. It has many causes but with pharmacare, we can take one worry away. We can alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty in their lives.
In the Hoskins report, the advisory council laid out several recommendations to address these gaps, and I will reiterate them.
Its first and foremost recommendation was that the federal government work with provincial and territorial governments to establish a universal, single-payer, public system of prescription drug coverage in Canada. A two-tiered system would create further inequity, leaving low-income and unemployed Canadians at risk. The administration of such a program would be cost-ineffective. A privately administered system would create profit incentives where public interest must be the first priority.
The council also recommended that national pharmacare benefits be portable across provinces and territories. This reinforces the need for federal leadership to come alongside provincial health departments to ensure the system is truly national in scope.
Another recommendation was to make everyone in Canada eligible for a pharmacare program to ensure that everyone can get the drugs they need to maintain their physical and mental health.
It also recommended a national formulary be developed to list which prescription drugs and related products should be covered to ensure all Canadians would have access equally to the medicines they needed to maintain or improve their health, no matter where they were living in Canada.
Clearly this is a big job. We are going to need leadership from our Prime Minister and his cabinet, and we are going to need significant financial investment from the federal government to make this happen.
It is remarkable that Canada is the only developed country that has a universal health care program that does not include universal coverage for prescription medication, especially when we know there are real costs associated with people who need to skip doses or avoid filling prescriptions because they cannot afford to buy them. These decisions put strain on our health care system.
People are struggling to stay healthy their whole lives, which leads to complications and chronic illnesses later in life.
Individuals end up in urgent health care situations, needing to return to hospital emergency rooms and taking up hospital beds, because they cannot afford to properly manage their conditions and illnesses at home.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has already indicated that this will save federal, provincial and territorial governments billions of dollars, and that does not even consider the quality of life for Canadians who require prescription medicines.
A recent study by St. Michael's Hospital's MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions found that providing free medicine resulted in a 44% increase in people taking their essential medications and led to a 160% increase in the likelihood of participants being able to make ends meet.
Ensuring people have access to the medications they need throughout their life will have real, positive impacts, such as poverty reduction, as people become able to direct their money toward food, rent, home heating or child care. When a chronic condition is well managed with medications, individuals can better access the workforce and participate in their communities.
People with rare diseases should not have to go bankrupt because of their diagnosis.
Those living on fixed incomes, such as seniors, are not stuck with increasing pharmaceutical costs. For people in immediate mental health crisis, the extra financial anxiety of a new medication does not have to weigh on them.
I am struck as well by the consensus that exists around this issue.
The majority of MPs in the House are members of parties that made this issue a priority in the last election.
Polls show that 90% of Canadians support equal access to prescription drugs, regardless of income. When I saw national pharmacare reference in the mandate letters of four ministers, I was hopeful that we would actually see this happen in the 43rd Parliament, but I am a little concerned that nothing seems to be moving on this front yet, and I am so thankful for this motion from my NDP colleagues.
Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised when the budget is tabled, but I fear that the government may be losing its courage, perhaps because of the lobbying that is being carried out by pharmaceutical and insurance companies. I hope the government is being vigilant against letting entities with deep pockets and full-time Ottawa-based lobbyists buy influence on our policy development process.
I have spent time with representatives from community organizations and health care professionals and their unions. They said that we need universal public pharmacare. These groups include the Heart and Stroke Foundation, National Nurses United, the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Labour Congress, and I could go on. These organizations represent average Canadians, workers in the health field and those who are living with, or caring for, people with chronic or acute disease. These are the people we work for.
The Canadian Medical Association shared stories of doctors fighting for national pharmacare. Dr. Nav Persaud had this to say: "Why did I spend all those years training to become a doctor if at the end of it, when I give someone a diagnosis, they don't fully benefit because they can't afford the treatment?"
The advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare left us with the way forward: "It will take time, significant federal investment and close collaboration among all health system partners to turn Canada's patchwork of prescription drug insurance plans into a national public pharmacare program.”
But it is possible. Thanks to the work of the council, the path forward is clear. The data are incontestable, Canadians are on board and parliamentarians in the House are mostly on board. We are here to represent the people, and this is what the people want.
My final reflection is this: What are we waiting for?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-12 17:47 [p.2048]
Madam Speaker, I think back to the election process and knocking on countless doors, visiting every long-term care facility and senior care facilities in my riding to discuss these issues of health care and high costs. I have a very high demographic of seniors in my riding as well, and this was something that they acknowledged would help them.
They talked about the times they had to make the decision between heating or food and medication. We have heard that line so many times, but it is because it needs to be repeated. That should not be happening in Canada. There were nurses and doctors as well. We had so many meetings with these organizations over the past few months, and it was unanimous. It seemed to be a no-brainer, and I really hope that we can make this happen for them.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-12 17:49 [p.2049]
Madam Speaker, I am happy to be here as well, instead of my predecessor. I also want to thank the hon. member for his advocacy for rare diseases. We also care deeply about that issue. We know we need to work harder.
To address the issue, maybe we should deal with the regulatory system as it is first, but I do not think we have time to wait. I think we can do these alongside of one another. It certainly should be part of the considerations for national pharmacare, but I do not think it has to mean we are leaving those patients behind.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-12 17:51 [p.2049]
Madam Speaker, that is a challenge. It is going to take all provinces on board for this to be cost-effective and so it is really important that we have these debates in the House, that it goes to committee and we make sure that the interests of Quebec are looked after.
I look at all the statistics, the support and organizations, and I have a hard time understanding why someone would not want that program. We have also advocated for increases in health transfers. It seems like it would be the best thing for Quebec, as well as Canada. I would like to know more about why.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-11 15:26 [p.1940]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to present a petition that calls upon the House of Commons to adopt a notional poverty elimination strategy, thereby assuring Canadians of a suitable quality of life and opportunity to succeed.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-11 15:26 [p.1940]
Mr. Speaker, I have a second petition. It is similar to other petitions presented today. It calls on the government to uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action by immediately halting existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet'suwet'en territory; asking the RCMP to dismantle its exclusion zone and stand down; scheduling nation-to-nation talks with the Wet'suwet'en, which has happened; and prioritizing the real implementation of UNDRIP.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-11 18:30 [p.1968]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today as a follow-up to my question on funding for a national framework for mental health. I would like to start today by sharing how mental health has impacted my journey here.
I began my career as an educator. One day, a 14-year-old student got into some trouble in class and was sent down to see me. As we talked, it became clear there was a lot going on. I was aware of some social struggles in the friend group and I knew a bit of family history.
Suddenly and unforgettably, this student for whom I cared deeply, said the words, “I do not want to live anymore.” The student had the means and the motivation to escape this painful experience. The weight of the suffering hung thick in the air. I did what any human would do under the circumstances. I did my best to stumble through the rest of the conversation with empathy, but I recognized very acutely that my colleagues and I were not equipped to navigate the complexities of these conversations with the youth who trusted us the most. I would spend many hours and resources finding the tools to tackle this crisis, and I wish many other Canadians would also have that opportunity.
I am acutely aware of the pain of suicide, as many of us are. We have all lost someone, a cousin, the child of a teammate, a co-worker, a friend, a grandmother. Research shows that approximately 90% of people who die by suicide suffer from mental illness or addiction. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24. Rates of suicide are three times higher for members of first nations communities than they are for non-indigenous people. Risk factors are directly linked to socio-economic characteristics, including household income, employment status, level of education and family support.
I have shared a story. I have shared the data. I would now like to look to the solution.
Canadian provinces and territories need financial support from the federal government to ensure they can address the mental health crisis impacting families and communities across the nation.
We need to invest in training for professionals across sectors, educators and everyday Canadians to access resources and learning opportunities to support those suffering from mental illness.
We need to invest in a timely diagnosis process. Service providers and families need access to early diagnosis to ensure early intervention.
We need to invest in a national pharmacare system. Canadians should never have the financial anxiety of needing to choose between buying groceries or life-saving medications.
We need to invest in support for sexual assault survivors. This is a massive missing link in this conversation.
We need to invest in support for elders, like intergenerational housing, to avoid isolation and loneliness.
That is why on February 26, I asked the Minister of Finance if the budget would include funding for a national framework on mental health so the provinces and territories could work together to find solutions to address this crisis. I look forward to hearing the response from the hon. member as to how we might come together to restore hope for Canadians across the country.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-11 18:37 [p.1970]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for that really wonderful response. There are lots of great initiatives taking place in Canada. I feel we have come a very long way.
I do want to highlight that there are still some missing pieces. Mental health has long been recognized as a fundamental aspect of one's health; however, under our current health regime, the majority of mental health services do not meet the eligibility requirement of “medically necessary”.
I feel we need to have another look at this, and that is why I am asking for a national legislation framework. There is a patchwork of provincial and regional initiatives, but I feel we need a more unified approach. I am thinking of a story of a constituent who is searching for their son across provincial lines and is having a lot of difficulty because there is not a lot of collaboration and communication that occurs.
I am asking for a national strategy to be looked at and funded by the government.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Speaker, as the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, I have had the privilege of interacting with many members of the LGBTQ2 community, yet nothing, and I stress nothing, has been more shocking to me than hearing accounts of anyone trying to change the core being of another person so that they cannot be their true self.
The evidence is clear: Conversion therapy is harmful and disruptive.
Could the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth tell the House what we are doing to finally ban conversion therapy?
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-03-10 15:19 [p.1892]
moved:
That the matter of the premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
He said: Mr. Speaker, thank you for your finding that a breach of our privileges did exist in this case in the leaking of the contents of Bill C-7 to the media before members of the House could see the bill.
There is a reason we have rules in this place to protect the rights and the privileges of members of Parliament in this place on all sides of the House, so that we are able to do the job that we were elected to do, which is to represent our constituents, to pass legislation and to debate. Those are the things that we have been given the ability to do by our constituents. When we have government departments, government members that do not abide by the rules of the House, it undermines not just those members in the opposition; it undermines all of us.
It is well-established practice in the House that when a bill is on notice for introduction, the House has the first right to the contents of the bill. Everyone in the House knows this. We know that the House is paramount when it comes to the introduction of the legislation, but if there is any one department in the whole of government that we would expect would know the rules around the laws and procedures in the House, that department would be the justice department, the department tasked with making laws that impact the lives of all Canadians. That department knows better. That is a department filled with hundreds if not thousands of lawyers and legal minds that know better.
Let us say they did not know better. Just like with any one of our children, sometimes if they make a mistake, we correct them. Maybe if they make a second mistake, we will correct them again. By the third time around, we expect that they know the rules.
This is the fourth time there has been found a breach of our privileges in the House that was made by the Department of Justice. In fact, the last ruling on this matter was also on the previous legislation around medical assistance in dying. It was even the same legislation.
The article that was put forward within The Canadian Press had very detailed and specific information contained in the bill. That is why this breach of privilege has been found.
The reporters and those who were leaking know that contempt has occurred by revealing later in the article that, "The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details of the bill prior to its tabling in the House of Commons this afternoon."
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that those who were leaking this information from the Department of Justice or some other arm of government knew exactly what they were doing when they did it. What they thought about this place is not much, because we have rules, and they thumbed their nose at the rules that we have.
After the sources indicated to the reporter that they were aware of their guilty actions, they boldly and defiantly continued their affront to Parliament by providing even more detail of the bill. Quoting again from that article, “Sources say today's bill will not deal with broader issues that were excluded in the new law and that must be considered as part of a parliamentary review of the law that is to begin this summer.” Again, bang on with what was in the bill.
We saw the news articles and we thought we knew what had happened, another leak from the Department of Justice, another affront to this Parliament, another breach of all of our collective privileges, but again we had to read the bill to find out whether in fact that was the case.
We carefully reviewed the contents of Bill C-7 following its introduction in the House. When I and other members of Parliament got to see the bill for the first time, others in the media had seen the bill in its entirety for hours before.
The details reported by The Canadian Press hours earlier were indeed contained in Bill C-7. Ironically, over and over, the first precedent that I had quoted earlier was from the last Parliament, brought to the Speaker's attention on April 14, 2016, and in regard to Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts (medical assistance in dying).
The department in question is being absolutely recidivist. It is not taking seriously the consequences and the rulings of Speakers. The Speaker in 2016 found that there was, in fact, a prima facie case of privilege regarding Bill C-14 and said:
As honourable members know, one of my most important responsibilities as Speaker is to safeguard the rights and privileges of members, individually and collectively. Central to the matter before us today is the fact that, due to its pre-eminent role in the legislative process, the House cannot allow precise legislative information to be distributed to others before it has been made accessible to all members. Previous Speakers have regularly upheld not only this fundamental right, but also expectation, of the House.
The Speaker's concluding remarks in 2016 were as follows:
In this instance, the chair must conclude that the House's right of first access to legislative information was not respected. The chair appreciates the chief government whip's assertion that no one in the government was authorized to publicly release the specific details of the bill before its introduction. Still, it did happen, and these kinds of incidents cause grave concern among hon. members. I believe it is a good reason why extra care should be taken to ensure that matters that ought properly to be brought to the House first do not in any way get out in the public domain prematurely.
On October 4, 2010, on page 4711 of the House of Commons Debates, Speaker Milliken noted:
It is indisputable that it is a well-established practice and accepted convention that this House has the right of first access to the text of bills that it will consider.
This all goes back to my point about the Department of Justice not taking seriously the rules of this House. The one department that ought to know best about the rules of this House is now a four-time offender, with breaches of privileges found by successive Speakers over the last several years, sometimes over the same bill subject matters. The House, and the rules of the House, are being completely ignored.
The Speaker found another case of contempt on October 15, 2001, after, and members are not going to believe this, the Department of Justice briefed the media on the contents of a bill prior to the legislation being introduced in the House.
Maybe, in this minority House, members can finally take this department and this Minister of Justice's office to account and to task for their continuous disrespect of the privileges and the rights of this place, and the rights of all Canadians who send us as members of Parliament to do good work on their behalf.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Madam Speaker, giving the opposition more government time to debate their motions will negatively affect the government's legislative agenda.
Let me remind the House that this motion will delay several important bills, such as Bill C-4, the bill to implement the historic trade agreement between our great country, the United States and Mexico. Let us remember that the United States, Mexico and all premiers want this bill to be passed, and passed quickly.
Will the member comment on how this will delay very important legislation before the House at this time?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Speaker, the national revenue minister brought in changes to the disability tax credit in 2017. The government said this was to improve accessibility.
Three years later, constituents from my riding with lifelong mental disabilities are still waiting for access. They are still denied eligibility even after providing legitimate medical documentation. One family was even forced to go to tax court before the government conceded that mental health issues are eligible.
When will the government stop discriminating against Canadians with mental health disabilities so they can receive this tax credit?
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Madam Speaker, when our government was elected in 2015, we committed to one of the boldest and most ambitious federal initiatives in the history of Canada: reducing poverty among Canadians by 50%. I am very proud of the progress made to date.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development in charge of housing give the House an update on the various initiatives in New Brunswick and across Canada?
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her comments.
I think Canadians sent us a very strong message in 2019 when they elected us to lead a minority government. They want all parties to work closely together to make life easier for Canadians.
As I am sure my colleague knows, the parliamentary calendar provides enough time for all parties to be able to debate their priorities. The priorities people talk to me about in my home region are things like NAFTA and job creation. I doubt that today's motion is the most important issue of the day for her constituents.
Once again, does my colleague not think we should be debating legislation that would improve the lives of Canadians?
View Serge Cormier Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Serge Cormier Profile
2020-02-27 14:49 [p.1689]
Mr. Speaker, fishers in my riding will soon be heading out to sea for the snow crab and lobster season. We hope their season is safe and successful for them and for everyone involved in this industry.
Can the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard update this House on what our government is doing to ensure our harvesters have access to markets while also continuing to protect the North Atlantic right whale?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-02-27 15:09 [p.1693]
Mr. Speaker, one in five Canadians suffers from a mental health problem or illness in any given year. Mental illness-related costs in Canada are over $50 billion annually.
Social costs are high. People with serious mental illness are at greater risk of living in poverty.
The Minister of Finance has been tasked with setting national standards for access to mental health services.
Could the minister confirm that the upcoming budget will include funding for a national framework that will allow Canadians to access a variety of mental health professionals, including counsellors, and will empower provinces and territories to work together for action on this important issue?
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-27 16:54 [p.1709]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned that he did not want to waste the time of the House, yet he went on, when we are debating medical assistance in dying, on a question of privilege about a private member's bill. I would point him back to earlier this week when the entire contents of Bill C-7, medical assistance in dying, was in a CP story the morning before the bill was introduced. This is just for his reference.
View Richard Bragdon Profile
CPC (NB)
View Richard Bragdon Profile
2020-02-26 15:37 [p.1615]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-228, an act to establish a federal framework to reduce recidivism.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today on behalf of the people and organizations I have deliberated with to introduce a bill that would improve the lives of thousands of Canadians. The bill would aim to shut the revolving door that plagues our prison system.
Thousands of lives and hundreds of communities across Canada are negatively impacted by the revolving door within the prison system. Nearly one in four people leaving the prison system will reoffend and find themselves back in prison within two years. That number is higher for indigenous and black Canadians.
An act to establish a federal framework is about calling on the Minister of Public Safety to establish effective partnerships across multiple sectors to develop a through-the-gate support structure. I believe that the establishment of effective partnerships with provinces, indigenous groups and NGOs as well as non-profit, faith-based and community organizations, is the crucible and centre for lasting societal change. This approach has been successful in reducing recidivism in other countries such as the U.K., the United States and other jurisdictions.
As the former lieutenant governor, the first of indigenous Maliseet descent, and as a retired provincial court judge, the hon. Graydon Nicholas has said that this bill is a step toward helping the walking wounded in our society. It is time for a creative initiative to tackle the devastating and persistent harms that are both the cause and the effect of recidivism.
I hope the members from all parties recognize the importance of this bill and that we will begin working together to ensure people leaving the prison system become contributing members of our society.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-02-26 15:57 [p.1618]
Madam Speaker, the petitioners call on the House of Commons to recognize that violence against women remains a critical problem in Canada and disproportionately impacts indigenous women. They also note that striving for pay equity and equal participation for women in leadership roles must be political priorities for all members of Parliament and that shifting cultural attitudes toward women and gender minorities in our society requires structural changes to education and socialization.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-26 16:29 [p.1623]
Madam Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to split my time with the hon. member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-26 16:29 [p.1623]
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure today to rise as the shadow minister of justice for the official opposition to speak to the government's Bill C-7. As I rise to speak on this bill, I do so with concern over some of the contents within it and even over the way it was presented to the House this week when, unfortunately, many of us read about the contents of the bill in the media, rather than seeing it first in this House.
The bill was intended to be a response to the Quebec Superior Court decision that was made on September 11, 2019. The decision stated that the law as it stood was too restrictive around the requirement for death to be reasonably foreseeable. The official opposition called on the government at the time to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada in order for Parliament to receive clarity about the parameters in which we would legislate, but the bill was introduced without that clarity.
Not only was the bill introduced without that clarity, but it goes far beyond what was required to meet the Quebec Superior Court's decision. I believe that is an affront to this Parliament, because when the previous bill, Bill C-14, was passed in the 42nd Parliament, the wisdom of this Parliament required that there be a statutory review of our assisted dying regime in Canada. That statutory review was and is to take place in June of this year.
It is in that review period that parliamentarians would be able to go more into depth on how the government's legislation has worked over the past several years and on how best to proceed. Rather than wait for that review, as it should have done, the government has decided to start making amendments to the legislation now, avoiding the in-depth review that is to take place shortly.
The reality is that when we are talking about this legislation, we are literally talking about the matter of life and death. This is an incredibly sensitive issue. Members on all sides of the house have diverse opinions on it, and it is because of this diversity of opinions and because of the sensitivity of this issue that the Quebec Superior Court decision should have been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada for further clarity. However, as the government has now opened this legislation up, it is upon us as legislators to now highlight other matters that should be addressed and included.
My office has heard plenty from concerned Canadians about the lack of protection for conscience rights for health care professionals. This is particularly important now that the government is broadening medical assistance in dying to include individuals whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. Expanding medical assistance in dying to more patients could in fact diminish the number of medical professionals willing to take part in the process. The fact is that this expanded access could result in a heavy emotional burden on those health care providers.
None of us here can fully appreciate the burden put on those health care providers currently working in the system and providing medical assistance in dying. The fact is that there is nothing about ensuring proper support to health care professionals who provide this service and there continue to be no penalties for pressuring a medical professional into providing medical assistance in dying, nor are there penalties for punishing or penalizing a medical professional who does not participate in medical assistance in dying. This means there continues to be no real protection for conscience rights for health care professionals.
The issue of advance directives, now rebranded as a “waiver of final consent” by this government, is a complex one that poses questions of ethics and safety and issues with oversight. The fact that the legislation legalizing this is half a page of a bill shows a lack of care given to this issue. This issue rightly should have been discussed as part of the parliamentary review to take place this summer.
The process for the creation and execution of this agreement remains ambiguous. Further, there is a lack of clarity on the process for proceeding with an advance directive agreement upon the date selected. The process will only be stopped if a patient expresses a form of resistance, but we do not know what that looks like. What if they are simply confused or groggy at the time? Under the legislation, unless they resist, the process will still proceed.
The bill also removes the 10-day waiting requirement when a person's death is reasonably foreseeable. When I read in media reports before the bill was tabled that this would be included, I, like many of my colleagues and parliamentarians, questioned as to what prompted its removal. I still remain incredibly concerned as to why this was included. This is particularly true because there was already the ability to remove the 10-day waiting period if a person's death or loss of capacity to consent was imminent, so why proceed with the removal of a safeguard that Parliament saw fit to include in the previous legislation?
It is also confusing that Bill C-7 requires a 90-day waiting period when a patient's death is not reasonably foreseeable. Why add an extended wait period for one, but remove the wait period entirely for the other?
On the issue of whether a death is reasonably foreseeable or not reasonably foreseeable, there is no clarification or guidance for health care professionals. As a result, it is not up to them to make the determination as to what category to put a patient under. That determination will decide whether a patient can access medical assistance in dying immediately or if they will require a 90-day waiting period. This is an extraordinary amount of pressure that the government is putting on health care professionals across this country.
The changing of witness requirements under this legislation has also been mentioned. The law requires only one independent witness, which is down from two.
All of these changes lead to an expansion of the law in Canada far beyond what was addressed in the Quebec court decision, an expansion that should have required deeper reflection through the study that is to take place this summer.
For a moment, let us speak to a point that seems to be lost in this conversation: palliative care services in this country.
The reality is if the choice is between a lack of quality palliative care and medically assisted dying, that really is no choice at all. Unfortunately, over the past number of years there have been instances of patients feeling they were forced to choose death because of a lack of palliative care.
The story of Archie Rolland comes to mind. Archie was a Montreal landscape architect who chose to end his life rather than continue suffering at a long-term care facility that was failing to provide him adequate care.
He had ALS and had his life upended when he was forced to move from a Montreal hospital that specialized in treating patients with severe respiratory ailments to a long-term care facility for geriatric patients. Mr. Rolland did not want to go, but he was transferred against his wishes. He called the system “inhuman”. He felt he was not getting adequate care, so he chose death.
I do not think that this is any real choice at all. We must have the discussion in this country about palliative care because people must not feel forced into a decision on medically assisted death. Mr. Rolland's story makes it clear that there was a failure of the system to provide him with adequate care. We risk medically assisted death being seen as some sort of bureaucratic solution for people who require an extra level of care. In a country like Canada, that is simply not acceptable. The government risks expanding a culture of not valuing life, and we should all agree in this place that we must place value on human life.
In closing, the bill disrespects Parliament and the parliamentary process. With Bill C-14, parliamentarians did a significant amount of work in the House and committee in an attempt to build consensus. The work was challenged by the Quebec Superior Court, but rather than defending the will of elected representatives in court, the Liberals immediately backed down.
Now the Liberals are responding not just to that decision but are also undoing the work of the joint committee on Bill C-14 by adding new measures.
Many of these issues should be dealt with in the summer when we have our scheduled parliamentary review. This is a complex matter that requires proper scrutiny and debate.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-26 16:40 [p.1625]
Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his question. He covered a lot of ground.
If the government agreed with the decision, and that is the basis for not appealing it, then why was that not in the original legislation to begin with?
All too often we see on the other side of the House a willingness to let the courts do the work that is rightly the work of Parliament, and we are seeing that again here. One court decision is made in one province, and then the government will hide behind that decision rather than appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada as it should.
Now the government has brought in legislation that goes far beyond what this court was dealing with, which is reasonable foreseeability of death. That again should have been dealt with in the review that is coming up this summer, when all parliamentarians can get input from their constituents and from experts on this issue.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-26 16:42 [p.1625]
Madam Speaker, in Bill C-14 from the previous Parliament, the decision was made not to include advance directives, meaning that someone would have to give consent at the time of medically assisted death. That is why, in the previous legislation, someone would have to consent and then give a further consent at the time of medically assisted death.
The bill before us would change that. This is a major expansion of Canada's laws on assisted dying. It was done under the premise of a response to an unrelated court decision in Quebec.
There is a reason parliamentarians and the House put in place a statutory review of this regime: so that we can consider new measures and look at what is working and see what is not working. This is why the whole discussion on this aspect of consent should have been done in the course of the statutory review.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-26 18:11 [p.1637]
Mr. Speaker, specifically on the 10-day cooling off period, does the parliamentary secretary acknowledge that under the current legislation, if necessary, those 10 days could be waived? That was a safeguard put in place by this Parliament and has been taken out in haste.
I would like the parliamentary secretary to comment on a couple of facts that deal with this Parliament. First, a two-week online consultation is not a parliamentary review. Bill C-14 called for a parliamentary review that was to take place this summer before we expand our regime in Canada around medically assisted dying. The Liberal government has jumped ahead with a vast expansion of the legislation without the benefit of that review.
Does the parliamentary secretary see a two-week online consultation having some equivalency with a parliamentary review?
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Pat Finnigan Profile
2020-02-26 18:30 [p.1640]
Mr. Speaker, I have had many calls regarding MAID, and many of my constituents are in favour of it. Some are concerned that this could be risky for people who might be vulnerable in their hours of pain. What safeguards would the member say we have in place that guarantee, whether for religious beliefs or other reasons, people are not coerced or pushed into making a decision they may not be in the right state to make?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-02-25 14:00 [p.1504]
Madam Speaker, in light of the recent tensions in this House, I wish to call attention to a bright patch in the Canadian record, something we can all be proud of. Today, I want to honour and congratulate the Translation Bureau.
The Translation Bureau's staff support the Government of Canada in its efforts to serve Canadians by communicating in both official languages, but their efforts go far above and beyond that mandate. I was touched to learn how incredibly inclusive, respectful and committed their work is.
A fine example of their efforts is the new gender and sexual diversity glossary, a free glossary that lists the English and French equivalents of 193 concepts on gender and sexual diversity.
The Bureau also offers translation for international languages, sign language and five indigenous languages and counting, including recent work to include Wolastoqey latuwewakon, a language with only a few hundred speakers in my home riding.
[Member spoke in Wolastoqey and provided the following text:]
Wolasuweltomuwakon, Nuhkomossok naka nmuhsumsok, Woliwon ciw latuwewakon, Kisi monuwehkiyeq ‘ciw nilun, nilun oc tokec nuleyutomonen, ciw weckuwapasihtit. Nit leyic.
[Member provided the following translation:]
Maliseet language honour code, grandmothers and grandfathers, thank you for our language that you have saved for us. It is now our turn to save it for the ones who are not born yet, may that be the truth.
View Richard Bragdon Profile
CPC (NB)
View Richard Bragdon Profile
2020-02-25 14:11 [p.1507]
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize the immense contribution of black Canadians as part of our month-long celebration of Black History Month.
The great riding of Tobique—Mactaquac is home to the northernmost route of the underground railway. Brave men and women fleeing slavery found their way to Fort Fairfield, Maine, where they were given refuge in places such as Friends Church.
Once they were able to make their final journey to freedom, they would set out through the woods until they reached Tomlinson Lake in Carlingford, New Brunswick. Once there, they knew they were safe and began their new lives in Canada as free people. They overcame many challenges and contributed immensely to a better Canada.
Passionate and tireless volunteers have worked to preserve these stories and valuable parts of our history. They hold an annual hike in the fall where families can walk the trails and learn the stories. I would encourage all members to learn more about this part of Canadian history at tomlinsonlakehiketofreedom.ca.
Although freedom was reached at Tomlinson Lake, the journey to true equality and recognition continues.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-25 15:10 [p.1518]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege today concerning the premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying, introduced yesterday.
As you know, it is a well-established practice in the House that, when a bill is on notice for introduction, the House has the first right to the contents of that legislation.
In a report circulated prior to question period, and hours before Bill C-7 was read a first time in the House, the Canadian Press published an article that detailed specific information contained in Bill C-7.
In the article it states:
The bill [would] scrap a provision in the law that allows only those already near death to receive medical assistance in dying—as ordered by a Quebec court last fall....
Sources say it will drop the requirement that a person must wait 10 days after being approved for an assisted death before receiving the procedure. And it will drop the requirement that a person must be able to give consent a second time immediately prior to receiving the procedure.
The reporter gives credence to the fact that contempt has occurred by revealing later in the article:
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details of the bill prior to its tabling in the House of Commons this afternoon.
After the sources indicated to the reporter that they were aware of their guilty actions, they boldly and defiantly continued their affront to Parliament by providing even more detail of the bill.
I quote again from the article, which states:
Sources say today's bill will not deal with broader issues that were excluded in the new law and that must be considered as part of a parliamentary review of the law that is to begin this summer.
Those issues include whether mature minors and those suffering only from mental [illness] should be eligible and whether people who fear losing mental capacity due to conditions like dementia should be able to make advance requests for medical assistance in dying.
It will, however, propose a measure intended to deal with a situation in which a person is given consent and who has been approved for an assisted death loses the mental capacity to give consent a second time immediately prior to receiving the procedure.
After carefully reviewing the contents of Bill C-7 following its introduction in the House, when I and other members of Parliament got to see the bill for the very first time, the details reported by the Canadian Press hours earlier were indeed contained in Bill C-7.
Ironically, my first precedent to present to you is from the last Parliament, brought to the Speaker's attention on April 14, 2016. It was with respect to Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts regarding medical assistance in dying.
It would appear that the Liberal justice team just has not learned any lessons as it was pointed out on April 14, 2016, as I am pointing out today on Bill C-7, that specific and detailed information contained in Bill C-14 was reported in a newspaper article and elsewhere in the media before the bill had been introduced in the House.
On April 19, 2016, the Speaker found that there was in fact a prima facie case of privilege regarding Bill C-14. He stated:
As honourable members know, one of my most important responsibilities as Speaker is to safeguard the rights and privileges of members, individually and collectively. Central to the matter before us today is the fact that, due to its pre-eminent role in the legislative process, the House cannot allow precise legislative information to be distributed to others before it has been made accessible to all members. Previous Speakers have regularly upheld not only this fundamental right, but also expectation, of the House.
The Speaker's concluding remark on April 19, 2016, was as follows:
In this instance, the chair must conclude that the House's right of first access to legislative information was not respected. The chair appreciates the chief government whip's assertion that no one in the government was authorized to publicly release the specific details of the bill before its introduction. Still, it did happen, and these kinds of incidents cause grave concern among hon. members. I believe it is a good reason why extra care should be taken to ensure that matters that ought properly to be brought to the House first do not in any way get out in the public domain prematurely.
On October 4, 2010, on page 4711 of the House of Commons Debates, Speaker Milliken noted:
It is indisputable that it is a well-established practice and accepted convention that this House has the right of first access to the text of bills that it will consider.
Getting back to my point about the Liberal justice team not learning any lessons, there was a similar case from March 19, 2001, regarding the Department of Justice briefing the media on a bill before members of Parliament. In that reading, Speaker Milliken said, at page 1840 of the House of Commons Debates:
In preparing legislation, the government may wish to hold extensive consultations and such consultations may be held entirely at the government's discretion. However, with respect to material to be placed before parliament, the House must take precedence. Once a bill has been placed on notice, whether it has been presented in a different form to a different session of parliament has no bearing and the bill is considered a new matter. The convention of the confidentiality of bills on notice is necessary, not only so that members themselves [will] be well informed, but also because of the pre-eminent [role] which the House plays and must play in the legislative affairs of the nation.
The Speaker found another case of contempt on October 15, 2001, after the Department of Justice again briefed the media on the contents of a bill prior to the legislation being introduced in the House.
Maybe, in this minority House, members can finally take these characters in the Minister of Justice's office to task for their continuous disrespect of this Parliament. Given the facts presented and the clear precedents on this matter, I believe, Mr. Speaker, you should have no trouble in finding a prima facie case of privilege. In that event, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his very thoughtful comments today and also for his tremendous work as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.
My colleague comes from Atlantic Canada. When knocking on doors last summer, one of the number one items I heard at the door, and I am assuming he did as well, was access to health care services in Atlantic Canada and how we can improve health care services within our region and all across the country.
I wonder if my colleague could elaborate on the importance of the investment of $11 billion that we have made when it comes to home care and mental health services, and how that has really benefited Canadians across the country.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her questions. I always appreciate her comments.
I do not agree with one of the statements that she has made, indicating that our government has punted pharmacare down the road. If I look back over the past four years, our government has done extensive work to move this file forward. We have taken steps, including making changes to the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical review board. We have also joined provinces and territories to make sure that we can bulk-purchase medications together. Furthermore, in budget 2019, we invested $35 million for the creation of the Canadian drug agency. Work is under way.
I have a specific question for my colleague. Does she agree that putting together a national pharmacare program, and also a dental care program, is going to require the collaboration of the provinces and territories? If we want to move forward with this, we absolutely have to work with all levels of government. I would like to hear the member's comments about that.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Speaker, earlier tonight we heard a Liberal member of Parliament tell this chamber that the government's goal in Canada is to produce the cleanest oil in the world. However, this is not true. We know what the Prime Minister told Canadians some years ago: The goal is actually to “phase out” the industry.
I can say this with some certainty because Canada is already an environmental leader when it comes to refining and producing its petroleum products. It is one of the cleanest producers in the world. If that is the goal, the government could say it is mission accomplished. It could get on with creating jobs and opportunity in Canada and exporting this technology and our clean ethical products around the world.
We know the decision that came down from Teck is a result of a market failure, which is produced by policy uncertainty. The result is fewer jobs, higher energy prices and less of Canada's ethical oil being consumed at home and around the world.
Teck's decision is a blow to Canada. It is devastating to Alberta's economy. It is also problematic and hurtful and is raising questions in Alberta about its place in Confederation in Canada. Jobs have been lost, opportunities have left, tax dollars are evaporating, and we now hear voices in western Canada wondering what Alberta's place is in the federation. This is a realistic question we hear, as people who look to Ottawa see a government trying to turn off this industry.
This is not the first time we have seen these actions from a federal government that is focused elsewhere. In my home province, energy east was killed. The government tried to say this too was a market decision, but energy east was following all the rules that were laid out by the Government of Canada. Those rules were changed midstream, something we never see. The company engaged in good faith in the Canadian regulatory process. It spent $1 billion trying to go through that process. Then the government changed the rules. The Prime Minister was not willing to spend a nickel of his political capital in Quebec, so the company walked away. It was another lost opportunity for Canada, an opportunity to bring the real eastern Canada, Atlantic Canada, into this nation building.
We look west and to central Canada and see jobs, growth and opportunity. We say in New Brunswick that we would like a piece of that. Instead of sending our best and brightest to work in this industry, this vital Canadian industry, we would like to see a piece of that in Atlantic Canada. However, the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party have other ideas. They want to shut it down. They wanted to shut it down in the east and now want to shut it down in western Canada.
Tonight I had the good fortune of hosting Preston Manning here on the Hill. Mr. Manning was in town promoting his new book about political involvement and engagement, entitled Do Something! I have known Preston Manning for 25 years now. When he sat in the House, his mantra was “the west wants in”. Thirty years ago he was championing western Canadians to come to Ottawa, roll up their sleeves and work with fellow Canadians.
Teck abandoned its project, not because of the market but because of policy failure and policy uncertainty, just like TransCanada did on energy east, just like Kinder Morgan did by bailing out of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which was purchased by the federal government, because things were falling apart so quickly, because of policy and regulatory uncertainty. Today what do we hear in western Canada? Not that the west wants in, but maybe, just maybe, that the west wants out. This is deeply concerning and should raise alarm bells at the highest level of the federal government. We do not want to see this happening.
Our country is strong because of western Canada. It is strong because of all parts of this country. If we have a region or province that feels shut out of the corridors of power and feels its concerns are being ignored, this is a problem, almost a crisis. I hope the government will reconsider its position.
Some say this decision by Teck was made because of a downturn in prices or they say that Teck is just hitting the pause button and will return. Some are even saying that in a way Alberta deserves this because it is not saving enough of its resource. However, there is no downturn in the industry. It is a made-in-Canada problem, a made-in-Canada downturn.
One only needs to look at the United States of America. It is booming. It is being called a blue-collar jobs boom. Jobs are being created, wealth is being created and opportunities are being created. At the same time, America last year, under President Donald Trump, believe or not, was the world's largest net CO2 reducer in the world. America has figured out that one can be prosperous, can cut CO2 and can create jobs.
To the idea that Teck will return, Teck is not going to return as long as the current government is in office under these policies. In fact, dare I say this is probably the last large-scale project we are going to see come to our shores. Why would a company come here? Project after project after project has been either cancelled, abandoned or killed by the government.
As for the notion that Alberta deserves this because it is just not saving enough compared to some European countries, those countries are not part of grand federations. Alberta has shared its wealth. It has shared the wealth with this federal government and it shares its wealth every single year with provinces across this country.
My province of New Brunswick receives a third of its budget every year from transfers from the federal government, generous transfers I know Albertans and other western Canadians are proud to pitch in to help. In the past, they have been allowed to do what they do best, which is to create jobs and opportunity and to share that wealth. They have grown mightily and we have seen a population boom in western Canada.
To my western friends, when the Liberals come to them and say not to worry and they will help with more transfers and EI, I say to run to the hills. We have that in Atlantic Canada. Life is pretty good, but that is not how one creates a growing economy that is going to see families grow, people move in and economies prosper. We are fortunate and thankful to have those transfers, but that is not the road a country follows to grow itself.
Today Canada is poorer because of this decision that is a direct result of the federal government. Indigenous communities that had agreed to it and were looking to participate are poorer. The provinces are going to be poorer over the long run as well. The government is destroying reliable energy, affordable energy and Canada's ethical energy industry. For that I say shame, because increasingly we are finding energy is cheaper outside of this country than good old made-in-Canada energy, and I decry that.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Speaker, we heard the same arguments when the energy east pipeline was cancelled. We were told it was a market-related decision. Clearly, the federal government is responsible for this decision in Alberta, just as it was responsible for the energy east decision. The Liberals did nothing. They created obstacles and then said it was not their fault. It is their fault.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Madam Speaker, I decry where we find ourselves. I am worried about it because I think it is going to be the issue we will be dealing with between now and the next federal election.
We do not have to make things up or be mischievous to realize that Albertans might soon realize the only way they can move forward to get these projects done or to ship their product outside the country is not with a federal government like the one we have. The conclusions they draw after that will be difficult ones.
I have spent part of my career looking at politics in this country. Albertans are not stupid. They will see where this problem originates from and try to find solutions. I hope and trust they will do so within the country. I understand how the winds of change might blow and people will propose dramatic actions that I do not agree with, that this side of the House does not agree with, but that are being fuelled by the Government of Canada, unfortunately.
View Serge Cormier Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Serge Cormier Profile
2020-02-24 14:02 [p.1424]
Madam Speaker, Rufin Gionet was a well-known and very respected constituent of mine. On January 17, 2020, at the age of 99 years and seven months, he passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family.
Mr. Gionet was one of the last surviving veterans of World War II. After his military service, Mr. Gionet made a name for himself throughout New Brunswick with his passion for the shipbuilding industry. He was a co-founder of the Bas-Caraquet shipyard, Fundy Shipbuilding and Caraquet Marine Ltée.
He also owned a small business and sat on many boards of directors, such as the boards of Caraquet Hospital and of Caisses populaires acadiennes.
Mr. Gionet was also a Bas-Caraquet municipal councillor and founding member of our only French-language newspaper, the Acadie Nouvelle.
We will be forever grateful for his service to Canada and our community. In our riding, he will be remembered as a modern and courageous man.
I would like to extend my condolences to his children, René and Huguette, and to his family and friends.
Rest in peace, Mr. Gionet.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Pat Finnigan Profile
2020-02-24 14:04 [p.1424]
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today with a heavy heart to pay my respects to the late Charles Hubbard, who passed away on February 12. He was a friend and colleague to many of us here in this House.
Charlie was the member of Parliament for Miramichi from 1993 to 2008 and served the people of the riding with great pride. He was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport during the government of Paul Martin.
Before entering politics, Charlie served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and in 1963 began his illustrious teaching career. He later went on to become the first principal of Miramichi Valley High School and was also deeply involved with many community organizations over the years.
Charlie had a love for the outdoors that included farming and fishing.
I would like to extend my condolences to his wife Pat, their children and their grandchildren. Charlie was a good friend and mentor to me, and a true champion of the Miramichi region. He will be missed.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During today's question period, the member for Lakeland asked a question. She was reprimanded by you for charged language. It is not clear, on this side at least, why she was. Was it for using the word “crock”? Was it for saying that Alberta is bleeding? Was it for highlighting the dramatic spike in suicides?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-02-24 16:13 [p.1446]
Madam Speaker, I feel like we are missing the mark a bit. We are missing the idea about sovereignty and self-determination. What we are really discussing is advancing the rights of indigenous peoples in the country.
I heard many times in the member's statement the words “our indigenous communities”. We do not own these communities. They are sovereign in their own right. I ask the member whether he thinks it is a bit pandering itself, a bit token, and a bit patronizing to use that kind of terminology?
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-02-24 17:44 [p.1458]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this House to speak and to represent the people of Fredericton.
Today we debate Bill C-6, a bill to amend the citizenship oath. I wish to provide context for my words today with some of my background. Before being elected in this House, I was a teacher and an advocate for indigenous youth in our public schools. I worked to remove barriers in the New Brunswick education system for indigenous children. I worked to educate the broader population on the true history of Canada and the implications for ignoring it. I remember learning about residential schools on my own time and not as part of my formal education. It took two years to comb through testimonials, letters, documents and photo evidence. It was a roller coaster of emotions as I confronted my identity as a non-indigenous person, and my role and responsibility in repairing the damage that had been done. Understanding that responsibility led to my passion for teaching and it led me into this House where I stand today.
The 94 calls to action that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada were designed to be a road map to reconciliation, covering a variety of aspects of life, including business, education, health, youth, women, justice and more. Canadians might be asking where this road has gotten us, and how many calls to action have been completed. In the Prime Minister's words, he made a commitment, in partnership with indigenous communities, the provinces, territories and other vital partners, to fully implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That was in 2015.
CBC's Ian Mosby has been tracking the TRC's progress. He commented, “One thing that the calls to action that have been completed have in common, is that they are very simple to complete, or they are calls for things that were already happening to continue.”
Dr. Cindy Blackstock said, “In 2020, it is time to stop feeding the government’s insatiable appetite to be thanked for its inadequate measures and to demand a complete end to the inequality”.
Particularly poignant are the observations of the Yellowhead Institute on assessing progress. It writes:
We have also operated from the assumption that completing any particular Call to Action cannot be solely determined by gestures of process, budgetary promises, or otherwise “recognition of concerns” on the part of Crown-Indigenous Relations (CIR). Rather, we have judged their status based on whether or not specific actions have been taken that are capable of producing the kinds of clear, meaningful, structural changes necessary to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples throughout Canada.
Let us review the scorecard. Out of the 52 broader reconciliation recommendations, seven have been completed; under justice, one out of 18; language and culture, one out of five; health, zero; education, zero; child welfare, zero. Five were completed in the first year, and just four since 2016. At the current rate, it will take approximately 38 more years before all of the calls to action are implemented. We will see reconciliation in the year 2057, just in time for zero emissions.
In the 2019 mandate letters, the Prime Minister reiterated, “No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous People”. I think it is time to call in the marriage counsellor. Take, for example, Canada's ongoing legal challenges to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's September 2019 ruling that “the Federal government was wilfully and recklessly discriminating against First Nation children in ways that contributed to child deaths and a multitude of unnecessary family separations.” For a government so concerned with appearances, this does not look good.
With no reminder needed, let us look to the current and ongoing Wet'suwet'en crisis in Canada, testing the Prime Minister and his government's commitment to this mandate of reconciliation, as well as the public interest. This could have been a slam dunk, setting the tone for positive, peaceful relationships for years to come. However, due to what I believe to be a catastrophic mishandling of the situation, we are seeing effects like the explicit, overt racism breeding in online comment sections and spilling into the streets and schoolyards.
This is the true barrier to the calls to action, to reconciliation and to the hope of a better tomorrow for indigenous peoples in Canada. We have heard a lot of rhetoric over the last couple of weeks. We had the opposition leader attempt to educate us on privilege. Mind you, he is a white, affluent man who was standing in front of the grand doors of the House of Commons. He should know privilege well, yet somehow he missed the mark.
We have heard a lot of platitudes, punch lines and patriarchy. We have heard promises made and, three days later, promises broken as well as a gross overstating of the role of dialogue.
The exhaustive TRC, the previous Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry were the hard work of dialogue and set a course of action for Canada to take. Dialogue is a conversation among parties, but Canada does not seem to be listening.
In closing, I will change my tone. I will of course support this effort to fulfill one of the 94 recommendations, but I wish to note the timing of this effort as well as question the actual impact in today's Canadian political climate.
Things have changed. We have failed in the bridge building, in the healing that is required of this work, which is embedded in each of the 94 recommendations. Today we address one call to action, the 94th, with 84 incomplete before it. We will potentially move this request to committee stage and in time perhaps we will see our newcomers repeat an oath that acknowledges something the majority of settler Canadians have not.
Having said all this, this change will have a positive impact on the immigration experience in Canada, despite falling flat as a call to action for indigenous peoples so long after it was originally recorded.
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