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View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Chair, the chinook salmon are in serious decline. We are taking measures to make sure that we are going to protect the stocks. It is a critically important piece of the work that we are doing. Fisheries management issues are something that are always difficult when people are impacted, but it is something that we know we have to do, along with habitat restoration and addressing climate change. All of these things are impacting the stocks. We are going to make sure we do everything we can to protect the chinook salmon.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-26 14:20 [p.2437]
Mr. Speaker, this week is the first time that I have returned to the House of Commons since March, and I am pleased to see that we are all healthy and slowly returning to a new normal.
For the past several weeks, the entire Canadian population has been going through a difficult time due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, many people have lost their lives.
In addition to the health crisis hitting the world, at home in Nova Scotia we have faced other terrible tragedies. On April 22, 22 innocent victims lost their lives in the worst slaughter that Canada has ever known. On April 30, we lost six soldiers attached to HMCS Fredericton during a crash of their helicopter off the coast of Greece. Two of them were Nova Scotians. On Sunday, May 17, we lost Captain Jennifer Casey in the Snowbird crash in B.C.
Since the current crisis prevents us from coming together, it is very difficult for all the families of the victims to overcome these tragic moments on their own. I want to thank all my colleagues, my constituents of West Nova and all Canadians for reaching out to friends and family in Nova Scotia with their messages of support during this difficult time.
My family, my staff and I want to offer our deepest condolences to all the families, loved ones and friends of those who have been lost. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Nova Scotia will remain strong.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-26 15:05 [p.2446]
Mr. Speaker, we understand that the Nova Scotia massacre investigation is complex due to the number of lives lost and of course the crime scenes that it has. The only information the families and the public are getting are through the media from heavily-redacted RCMP documents and it looks like they are hiding something, leading to the Premier of Nova Scotia saying that it was up to the Prime Minister and the government to call for an independent inquiry.
The gunman is dead. The families deserve answers. Will the minister of public safety ask his partners to break from the secrecy and provide information as it becomes available?
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-26 15:34 [p.2450]
Mr. Speaker, I expected this closure to happen earlier this morning, but here we are today. My question has to do with convention and precedents of the House. It seems that once we do something it becomes a rule of the House, which means that in the future we can go forward and continue to do it.
When September rolls around, when things get back to whatever the normal is going to be, is this going to be continued because it has now become a convention? We all know, and have been told that from a political standpoint, there are no votes for us in Ottawa. We should stay in our constituencies and meet with our folks.
We should be able to come back here. Will this be continued in September?
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-25 14:57 [p.2357]
Mr. Speaker, the role of the Auditor General is very important to Canadians. An auditor general provides information based on facts and expert advice on government programs and activities. Never before has an auditor general said that his or her budget was insufficient because of the increased workload caused by the additional audits required to review the Liberal government's out-of-control spending.
When will the minister fully fund the Auditor General's budget?
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-25 14:58 [p.2357]
Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, the answer says, “We are going to look at it, but we are not necessarily going to do it.”
No auditor general has ever had to cut audits under any prime minister until now. The government should be ashamed of that. We know that Liberals are not fans of auditors general. Who could forget when Sheila Fraser blew the whistle on the Liberal sponsorship scandal?
It is clear that the work of the Auditor General is critical to the functioning of our democracy. When will the government give the Office of the Auditor General the money it needs to audit Liberal spending?
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to stand today to address the motion from the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. I congratulate him on his speech and I thank him for his work on the health committee.
The government is committed to implementing a national universal pharmacare program that ensures that all Canadians have access to the prescription drugs that they need. This is our goal, as clearly stated in the 43rd Speech from the Throne. It is a goal that we have been working towards for some time. While we are now closer than ever, it is important that we continue our measured, considered approach to implementation. We need to get this right.
This morning I will explain the steps the government is taking to make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable for Canadians. I will also explain why these actions are key to the implementation of a national pharmacare program.
Canadians should not have to choose between buying groceries and paying for medication, but for many people, paying for prescription drugs is a heavy burden and for others it is completely out of reach. Surveys show that more than seven million Canadians are either entirely uninsured or under-insured.
This means that many of these Canadians cannot afford to fill their prescriptions. They simply do without the medication they need. If their health absolutely depends on taking these drugs, they may forgo necessities, such as food and heat, so that they can pay for their prescriptions. We can no longer afford to do nothing. We cannot afford to wait.
That is why we asked Dr. Eric Hoskins and a panel of eminent Canadians to provide the government with a blueprint for a national pharmacare program. After hearing from many thousands of Canadians, the council found a consensus of opinion that everyone in Canada should have access to prescription drugs based on their need and not on their ability to pay.
The government shares this view. With national pharmacare on the horizon, addressing the affordability of drugs is imperative.
How do we do that? The first step is to update specific parts of our regulatory regime and bring them into line with the rest of the world.
Let me begin with a few words about the evolving use of pharmaceuticals in Canada and the associated increasing costs, costs that impact everyone.
Pharmaceuticals are important to the health of Canadians and a vital part of Canada's health care system. Drugs help cure or manage previously debilitating or fatal diseases, allowing Canadians to live longer and healthier lives. Diseases that were deadly 100 years ago, such as tetanus, diphtheria, polio and many others, can now be prevented by vaccination. An HIV diagnosis was a death sentence at one time. New drugs offer innovative treatments for diseases like arthritis, hepatitis C and many types of cancer.
All this innovation comes at a cost. It is part of the reason that Canadians are paying higher prices for prescription drugs than they should. Patented drug prices in Canada are the third-highest in the world, behind only the United States and Switzerland. Canadian prices are, on average, almost 25% more than the OECD median for the same patented drugs. As a result, the private and public drug plans that cover the majority of Canadians are rapidly becoming unsustainable.
Let me give an example. Diabetes affects an estimated 3.4 million Canadians and is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Canada spends nearly $600 million annually on new oral anti-diabetic drugs. The two top-selling oral anti-diabetic drugs cost Canadian public drug plans close to $1,000 per year per patient, twice as much as in France. Imagine the savings if Canada paid France's prices for these drugs. That is a lot of money. It is money that could be used to cover the cost of drugs for people with limited or no insurance coverage.
A second example is a drug used to treat a rare soft-bone disease. This disease used to be almost always fatal, but this drug changed the prognosis. However, it is one of the most expensive drugs in Canada, costing more than $1 million per year per patient, depending on the required dosage. Unfortunately, this high price resulted in difficult decisions and delayed access to the drug for many Canadians.
If Canada paid lower prices for all drugs, there would be more money available in drug plans to provide better coverage or to provide coverage to those without insurance.
Even outside the area of rare diseases, pharmaceutical costs keep going up. Drugs are now the second-largest category of spending in health care, and biologics and other specialty drugs account for an increasing share of these total drug costs. This rate of growth in drug costs is unsustainable, and it is hurting Canadians every single day.
As a trend toward higher-cost specialty drugs continues, we cannot continue to pay higher-than-average prices for drugs. What could we do? The answer is not to spend more. We already spend more per capita on pharmaceuticals than nearly every country in the world. We need a solution to bring fair prices and sustainable drug costs for Canada.
Part of the problem was that Canada's approach to patented drug price regulations was outdated. Our previous pricing regulations were established in the 1980s. We have more than 100 different public drug plans and thousands of private drug plans, which means that drug coverage is provided by a patchwork of payers.
It was well past time to bring these regulations into the 21st century. Canada needed a modernized approach to regulating patented drug prices, one that would provide long-term sustainability and protect Canadians from excessive prices. That is why last summer the government modernized the patented medicines regulations to provide the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, or PMPRB, with the tools and information it needs to protect Canadians from excessive prices for patented medicines.
I want everyone to remember that Canada pays the third-highest costs in the world. As a comparison, we pay double what France pays on some drugs.
We will now benchmark prices against countries that are similar to Canada economically and similar from a consumer protection standpoint. Previously, the price ceilings for patented drugs in Canada were set by comparing our prices against prices in seven predetermined countries: France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The list of countries has now been updated by removing the United States and Switzerland and adding Australia, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, for a total of 11 countries as comparables.
We then wanted the PMPRB to see the actual prices being paid in Canada, not just the list prices being published by pharmaceutical companies. When the PMPRB was created, the market prices of drugs matched the list prices. Over time, as a result of the significant confidential discounts and rebates negotiated by third party payers, actual prices paid in the market became significantly lower than list prices. Without access to this information, the PMPRB was left to regulate domestic price ceilings based on inflated list prices.
With the modernized regulations, patentees will be required to report Canadian price information as the net of all adjustments, such as rebates and discounts, so that the PMPRB is informed of the actual market prices being paid in Canada.
Finally, we wanted to consider the value that a drug offers and its overall affordability. Most other countries with national pharmacare programs already do this. When setting a price, we need to consider three things. First is the value for money: Does the drug offer a therapeutic benefit that justifies its cost? Next is the size of the market: How many people will benefit from the drug? Last is to consider Canada's GDP and GDP per capita: Can we afford to pay for the drug?
These changes will provide the PMPRB with the tools it needs to protect Canadians from excessive drug prices and bring us in line with the policies and practices of most other developed countries. This was a critical step toward improving the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs. Taken together, we anticipate that these regulatory changes will save roughly $13 billion over the next 10 years. That is a significant saving for Canadians.
From those savings, public and private drug plans will have greater capacity to improve benefits for plan members or to consider new therapies not currently covered. All Canadians, including those with drug plans and those paying out of pocket, will benefit from lower prices for prescription drugs.
Modernizing pricing regulations complements the work already under way at Health Canada to streamline the regulatory review process for drugs by enabling priority drugs to reach the market more quickly. It supports the work already taking place under the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. As a member of this alliance, the Government of Canada is able to combine its buying power with that of the public plans in the provinces and territories.
It is estimated that the alliance saves public drug plans more than $2 billion a year. Successful negotiations result in more affordable prescription drug prices for public plans and lower generic drug prices for all players.
Before we can implement a national pharmacare program in Canada, we have to address the rising cost of drugs in the country by taking the steps I have outlined. Doing so will improve the viability of a national pharmacare program. National pharmacare, in and of itself, would be another step that could help us control drug prices.
I am confident that this government is on the right path. We are now exploring options as we move forward with a national pharmacare plan, and we are making significant investments.
Budget 2019 earmarked $1 billion over two years beginning in 2022, with up to $500 million ongoing to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need. This is very important. This is an investment that must be made.
Budget 2019 also proposed $35 million over four years to support the creation of the Canadian drug agency, an important step toward a national pharmacare program. We have pledged to work with provinces, territories and stakeholders on the creation of the Canada drug agency. This agency could use its negotiating power to achieve better prescription drug prices on behalf of Canadians. Negotiating better prices could help lower the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians by up to $3 billion over the long term.
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss some of the important work we are doing to prepare for the implementation of a national pharmacare program. Part of this effort involves addressing the affordability of prescription drugs, an essential building block for pharmacare. To do that, we have brought our regulatory approach to pharmaceutical pricing in line with approaches that are used in the rest of the world. The actions we have taken to improve the system will help to bring down the prices of prescription drugs.
I would very much like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his motion. I am pleased to say that we are moving forward steadily. Each of the actions I have described today is helping to pave the way for an effective pharmacare program.
From bringing down prescription prices to improving the management of these drugs in our health care system, we are taking the time necessary to get this right, keeping in mind that the provinces and territories will have a key role to play in determining how pharmacare will take shape.
Pharmaceuticals are an important part of Canada's health care system. That is why federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health have made affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of prescription drugs a shared responsibility.
The updates we have made to the patented medicines regulations, when taken together with the Patent Act, will provide the PMPRB with the tools to protect Canadians consumers from excessive patented drug prices.
All of these measures are important steps in our plan to prepare for the implementation of a national pharmacare program. It is critical that the government work closely with the provinces and territories, as they play a key role in the development of a drug agency, the strategy for high-cost drugs and for rare diseases. Together we are making progress toward a more efficient and effective system.
Based on these initiatives and others I have outlined today, it is clear that we are in fact moving forward with the recommendations from the Hoskins report. I am pleased to support today's motion and urge other hon. members in the House to do so as well.
We must continue to collaborate with the provinces and territories. Our government looks forward to continuing these discussions while taking the critical next step to implement national universal pharmacare.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, a lot of work has already happened in the last couple of years. A lot of collaboration has already begun and there are a lot of positive steps.
As we move forward on implementing national pharmacare, we have to continue to collaborate with the provinces and territories. I believe there is a meeting very soon, this spring in fact. Our government looks forward to continuing these discussions while taking critical next steps to implement national pharmacare.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue. We need to do some serious work on a rare diseases strategy for Canadians. It is very important. As it pertains specifically to Trikafta, the company has not submitted an application to market this product in Canada.
However, working toward the rare diseases strategy, budget 2019 put forward a billion dollars over two years and $500 million each year ongoing to come up with a way to solve this issue so Canadians have access and affordability.
I spoke about the fact that we paid the third-highest prices. Why is Canada paying the third-highest prices for pharmaceuticals in the world? Why is it twice as much as some countries? Why are we paying 25% more than OECD countries on average? We need to find a balance between affordability and accessibility so all Canadians can be safe and healthy.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
I want to congratulate Quebec on doing a great job with moving toward national pharmacare. Quebec has one of the models for our country.
As the member said, Canadians do pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, the third-highest behind the United States. We already have done more than any government in a generation to lower drug prices. We have new rules on patented drugs that will save Canadians over $13 billion. We joined the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance. Now we are taking the next critical steps to implement national pharmacare. We will not rest until Canadians can get and afford the medications they need.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I would not want to presuppose an outcome or what may or may not come to be when so much of the responsibility, so much of partnership with the federal government will be the provinces and territories. It is so important to not try to foist upon provinces and territories what the federal government wants, but to work closely with the provinces and territories to determine what is best for them and for Canadians to ensure access and affordability for all Canadians.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, this is a very sensitive and serious issue in Canada. We spoke earlier about Trikafta and how there had been no application for its approval in Canada yet. I know there are other issues.
For serious or life-threatening conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, there is the special access program. It does work and it has worked. However, we would not necessarily put specifics on what the $1 billion looks like until we form a partnership with the provinces and territories in order to move forward.
The $1 billion over two years and the $500 million ongoing each year is to ensure we can solve these problems the member has spoken about in the House before, which, frankly, are very serious and affect me personally.
I appreciate the comments of the member and the questions he has asked. We know we have to work on a rare diseases strategy. We have put the money in budget 2019 and in future budgets. We will continue to do the absolute most we can for Canadians.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:04 [p.2002]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity.
Today's motion is about pharmacare. Perhaps I will lead with my conclusion. I will be supporting this motion. I will be supporting it because quite frankly I am sick of knocking on the doors of seniors who tell me they have to split their medication because they cannot afford it, not only putting themselves in a difficult financial position but reducing the effectiveness of the medicine they have been prescribed.
Most of the people I talk to at home, and I dare say most Canadians, are happy with their own coverage right now. However, the golden thread that runs through the social fabric of Canada is that as Canadians, we care as much about our neighbours as we do about ourselves. It is incredibly frustrating for me to know that one in five Canadian households report that a family member is not taking his or her medication because he or she cannot afford it. I am sure that the 36 million Canadians who do not suffer from this problem are disappointed to know that one million Canadians cut back on their food or home heating because they cannot afford the cost of their pills. When my neighbours cannot afford the cost of their medication, it decreases the quality of my life to know I live in a society that does not adequately take care of its vulnerable.
One of the greatest frustrations I have as a federal member of Parliament is that the number one issue for my constituents is their health care system, whether that is access to a family doctor, the quality of mental health services, in-home care for their aging parents or a lack of access to quality medications. They sometimes end up at my office, despite the fact that health care is primarily a provincial responsibility under our Constitution. It is cold comfort for the people who bring these kinds of concerns to my office for me to say that I have to wash my hands of it because it is a provincial responsibility. What they are looking for is help in often desperate circumstances.
Despite the fact that there is this constitutional division of power, there are concrete things the federal government can do, such as transfer more money to the provincial health care systems, invest in research, invest to ensure we can do something to combat the family doctor shortage, or, yes, implement a national pharmacare program to ensure people have access to the medications they have been prescribed so they can be healthy, regardless of the financial circumstances they may have been born into through no fault of their own.
There are two categories of problems I see with the lack of access to an adequate national pharmacare system.
First is the lack of access to medication because of issues surrounding affordability. I find this to be a real problem. It discriminates against our seniors on the basis of their age, because they do have increased health care concerns as they get older. It discriminates against people who are living in poverty, because they cannot afford to access drugs.
It is heartbreaking to knock on a door that is answered by a child who has not had enough to eat that day and then to sit down with his or her parents, who explain the child has been prescribed medication to which they do not have access. It also discriminates against people who have an underlying health condition that may not be the subject of coverage through private or public insurance plans. In fact, of the people who report they cannot afford their medication, 38% have access to a private insurance plan and 21% have access to public coverage that does not cover their needs.
Second, in addition to the lack of access is an issue around the lack of systemic savings that we are not benefiting from because we have not been moving forward.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, a colleague of mine from Nova Scotia, quite eloquently has described the fact that Canada is the third most expensive country in the world when it comes to the costs of medication, ranking only behind the United States and Switzerland.
We are so proud of our public health care system and the universality of it. No matter where people come from or who their parents are, they will be taken care of when they fall ill. The same is not true, and a lot of Canadians do not appreciate this, when it comes to access to the medications they need, which are often to sustain life or remain healthy.
Part of the reason this is the case in Canada is that we have a very serious patchwork of provincial and territorial programs and over 100,000 private sector health care plans in Canada. We do not necessarily benefit from the opportunity that presents itself when we can negotiate bulk purchases of medications. Some efforts have yielded success by partnering with various provinces. However, if we adopt the Costco model and buy in greater volume, we can reduce the price per unit and extend access to people who currently cannot afford their medication.
I have seen estimates in excess of $4 billion of systemic savings that come not only from a reduced cost in the price of medication, but also fewer visits to emergency rooms, fewer hospitalizations and more seniors being taken care of in their homes because they can afford access to the medication they need to be well.
We all can appreciate that there is a problem with access to medication in Canada. Over the past few years we have been working toward solving this problem.
Just a few years ago, we appointed an advisory committee, led by Dr. Eric Hoskins, the former minister of health for the Province of Ontario. That effort led to a report that identified the path forward to a national pharmacare program. The committee flagged that it would not happen overnight, but there were certain things that needed to happen to bring down the cost of drugs so we could benefit from the systemic savings that would accrue once we implemented those steps.
One of the very first steps we thankfully moved forward with in the last federal budget, with a $35-million investment, was the creation of the Canada drug agency. This body would be able to assess the effectiveness of drugs that could be proposed to enter into the Canadian system. It would provide an opportunity to negotiate better prices because of the purchase of increased volume that could be administered through the provincial public health care systems. The creation of a national formulary would allow us to ensure we would have consistent coverage, regardless of which community of province in Canada one may live.
In addition to the creation of the Canada drug agency, we have created a national strategy for high-cost drugs and rare diseases. This is important. Quite a few Canadians live with a condition that, despite the fact they may have coverage, do not have access to the medication because of its exorbitant cost or their insurance policy may not provide coverage for their particular condition or its required medication. We have earmarked $500 million annually for this approach.
It is simply not fair that the circumstances of people's birth means they would not be entitled to benefit from the medication that could keep them alive. There are still problems in Canada. Tragic cases pop up in every corner of our country each week. However, by moving forward with this rare disease strategy, we will be able to help some of the most vulnerable Canadians.
In addition to the creation of a drug agency and rare disease strategy, we have also moved forward with changes to patented medicine regulations, changes that will save billions of dollars to our health care system. One of these changes adds additional factors that need to be considered so the cost of drugs reflect the benefits to public health care system in which they can enter. Some of the regulations will require better reporting to ensure our regulations reflect the actual cost of medication.
Perhaps most important, from my perspective, is we have changed the comparator basket of countries we look at to set drug prices for Canada by removing the United States and Switzerland, the two most expensive countries in the world, and added other comparator countries with similar economies, such as the Netherlands and Japan, which will lead to a systemic reduction in the cost of medication in our country and, most important, for Canadians who need that help.
Health care is front of mind for people back home, whether it is access to a family doctor, the fact that their parents cannot find a place in a long-term care facility or the underserved mental health services in their communities. I hear about these things non-stop because people recognize there are problems. Whether they live with those problems or not, they are equally concerned for the people who live in their communities who do not have access to life-saving services and, importantly, life-saving medication.
There is something we can do. We can implement a national pharmacare program to ensure that no matter where people live, no matter where they were born or their parents' economic situation, they will not be denied access to medication because of their financial circumstances.
It is Canada in the 21st century. Canadians expect that they and their neighbours will have access to the medications they need to be well. By implementing a national pharmacare program, we can turn that dream into a reality for the millions of Canadians who go without the medicines they so desperately need.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:14 [p.2004]
Madam Speaker, there is a lot to unpack in that question, but I will do my best to address it.
In addition to my frustrations with the shortcomings of the provincial health care system, there are other issues squarely within the federal purview that I care deeply about, notably the fight against climate change and solving income inequality in Canada, which in turn will actually have benefits for our provincial health care systems.
That being said, there are items within the federal purview that allow us to demonstrate leadership and assist the provinces in delivering the quality of care our citizens so desperately need.
In terms of the question regarding the increases to the quality of the financial transfers, I will note that we actually did land on a 10-year health accord that has seen the federal transfer go up. On top of that, we have created additional investments. My province of Nova Scotia has $288 million additional dollars for in-home care for seniors and to improve mental health services.
I would be happy to go over the role I see for the federal government to improve health care services with the hon. member at his leisure.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:16 [p.2004]
Madam Speaker, to reiterate my opening comment, when I said I would lead with my conclusion, I will be supporting this motion. I speak not for the government, but for myself. I hope my colleagues will do the same.
The fact is that we have a time-limited opportunity in this minority Parliament to make a real difference that will extend access to medication to some of Canada's most vulnerable. I will never forgive myself if I do not take the opportunity to do everything within my power to ensure the most vulnerable Canadians have access to the medication they so desperately need.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:18 [p.2004]
Madam Speaker, very quickly, we started by launching a nationwide consultation through the advisory council led by Dr. Hoskins. We followed that up with the creation of the Canada drug agency, which will ensure we can benefit from both purchasing and guarantee the effectiveness of drugs that enter the system.
Since then, we have made changes to certain medications to ensure we can bring the cost down and have some consistency in coverage. We have advanced a rare disease strategy, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars, to ensure the most vulnerable have access. These are the first steps in the process. We will get there and achieve universal coverage for drugs for Canadians.
View Jaime Battiste Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Jaime Battiste Profile
2020-03-12 14:01 [p.2011]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to commend and congratulate a Cape Breton teacher and musician. Mr. Carter Chiasson, a teacher at Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni, was awarded the 2020 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award. This award recognizes inspirational and passionate Canadian music educators' impact on students.
We all remember that teacher who went above and beyond the call, who did more than instruct but inspired. Carter's dedication and talent has helped students reach their amazing musical potential over many years. Recently, Carter's rendition of The Beatles' Blackbird sung in the Mi'kmaq language by Emma Stevens has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and was nominated for a Nova Scotia music award for best music video. When Sir Paul McCartney himself praises someone's video publicly, the person knows he or she has reached greatness.
I congratulate Carter on this well-deserved honour.
View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-12 14:17 [p.2014]
Mr. Speaker, I have said it before in the House and it bears repeating: Acadia University is a key institution in my riding of Kings—Hants, and of course the entire Annapolis Valley.
Acadia is not only an excellent institution for higher learning and education, creating important relationships around the globe for Nova Scotia, the university also has a rich sporting tradition. Acadia's sporting tradition will add another chapter this weekend as Acadia plays host to the University Cup, a hockey tournament that brings together the top varsity programs from across the country, which is fitting given that Windsor, in Kings—Hants, is the birthplace of hockey.
This weekend, eight teams will vie for the title of national champion at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. Acadia begins the tournament with a quarter-final matchup tomorrow evening against the University of Ottawa. As I stand proudly in the House wearing the Acadia Axemen jersey, I would like to wish all teams and players an enjoyable experience in Nova Scotia. Particularly, to the members of the host team, I say we are in their corner and go, Acadia, go.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2020-03-12 14:48 [p.2020]
Mr. Speaker, since 2008, an organization in Halifax, Hope Blooms, has been making a difference. It has had a measurable impact on food security and social inclusion. It actively engages youth to grow food in its 4,000 square feet of organic garden. Through hard work, its members are improving social inclusion and food security. They even appeared on Dragon's Den, where they secured $40,000 to build a new greenhouse.
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food was in Halifax last week to meet with them. Could she inform the House on how the government is supporting this kind of project?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 14:52 [p.2020]
Mr. Speaker, the government will always stand for Canadian workers and Canadian interests.
In response to the unjustified U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, we provided targeted relief to begin countermeasures for Canadian manufacturers. As we have always said, all money collected through the retaliatory tariffs will go back to support the industry.
With the unjustified tariffs removed, we are going to continue to work with the industry, and expect that additional compensation could be provided over the next two years. More than $1.3 billion to date of support has been delivered to defend and protect the interests of Canadian workers, and additional support remains available for those who need it.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 14:54 [p.2021]
Mr. Speaker, I note that the question is nearly identical to the one I just provided an answer for, so I apologize in advance if I sound like a broken record.
We have provided $1.3 billion to date in support for the steel and aluminum sectors in response to these retaliatory tariffs. In response to the unjustified tariffs, the case remains that every dollar collected will go back to support the industry. With the unjustified tariffs now being removed, we are going to continue to work with the industry, and expect that additional compensation will flow over the next two years.
We are going to ensure that we are there for the industry as the need may arise.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 14:57 [p.2021]
Mr. Speaker, if the member is interested in counting zeroes, I would direct him to the one million Canadians, that is one with six zeroes, who are no longer living in poverty.
The reality is that foreign direct investment is up 18% year over year. Because of the investments we have been making in the economy, more than 1.2 million Canadians are working today who did not have a job. The kinds of investments that we are putting into the economy are putting people to work, raising kids out of poverty, and I hope the Conservatives would agree that that is a good thing.
View Andy Fillmore Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Andy Fillmore Profile
2020-03-12 15:00 [p.2022]
Mr. Speaker, I can assure this House that we take security very seriously, as well as the need to keep equipment from getting lost or damaged. Department audits are routine and helpful, and we make them public to ensure accountability.
In this case, a total of seven computers, not 200, were not properly recorded in a new inventory system. We are engaged in efforts to ensure that we have a complete inventory to include those missing seven computers.
Has the hon. member read the report or just the headline? If he read the report, which is available online right now, he would see for himself that the headline is indeed overblown.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-03-12 15:05 [p.2023]
Mr. Speaker, my question is addressed to the Minister of Innovation.
This afternoon, the Standing Committee on Official Languages will hear from Statistics Canada about important issues related to the enumeration of rights holders in Canada for the 2021 census.
Time is tight. We need to know why we have not received confirmation of the approved questions that will be on the next short form census.
When will the government confirm that these important questions will be on the 2021 short form census?
View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, last spring, we announced the single largest investment ever made to renew the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, including six new icebreakers.
I am thrilled to say that I was able to announce a $12-million contract to the Shelburne Ship Repair for crucial work to one of the workhorses of our fleet. This investment will support up to 55 jobs and extend the life of this vessel, which is critical to maintaining service in this country.
The women and men of the Canadian Coast Guard deserve the best that we can give them, and that is why we are making sure they have the tools that they need.
View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-12 15:10 [p.2024]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Although I am a new member to this House, I understand that we have rules that we are intended to follow. We had very important discussions in this House over the last two weeks on the advance payments program, which is a loans program to support farmers, and I appreciate any member in this House bringing it forward.
The member for Foothills said, and I quote from Hansard, “We have asked for extensions on the advance payments program loans, to waive interest fees and to give agriculture some sort of assistance”—
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:03 [p.2032]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation.
I would first like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I am pleased to rise to participate in this important discussion on implementing a national pharmacare program in Canada.
Our government is committed to strengthening health care systems across this country and supporting the health of all Canadians. We know that Canadians are proud of our publicly funded health care system, which is based on need and not the ability to pay, yet we know that at least one in 10 Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need. At a time when we are facing the crisis of a coronavirus pandemic, one only has to look at what is happening south of the border to see what happens in a country that does not have a public health care system. I am so glad I live in Canada where we are looked after by our government, and I think it is very important to carry this on into pharmacare as well.
When medicare was first introduced, Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare, said at the time that he did not introduce it in Saskatchewan for 18 years because he wanted to make sure that his province could actually afford it. When he did introduce it, a lot of the push-back came from doctors, who felt they would not be making as much money. I am very pleased that when he was part of the Government of Canada after that, he talked with his colleagues opposite and together they passed medicare in Canada.
When medicare was first introduced, prescription drugs played a much more limited role in health care. Drugs used outside of the hospital were primarily inexpensive medicines used to treat common conditions such as high blood pressure. Now, with pharmaceutical advances, drugs play a vital role in health care and are helping to cure or manage previously debilitating or fatal diseases such as cancer, although we know that many of these drugs are still extremely expensive and unaffordable for some people.
With the rising rates of chronic disease and the growing number of conditions that can be treated by medications, Canadians are taking more prescription drugs each year. Globally, the drug landscape is also evolving rapidly. Specialty drugs to treat complex, serious conditions such as rare diseases are being developed at accelerated rates. These drugs are offering hope and improved health to many Canadians. However, many of these drugs are still not affordable, and Canada continues to rely on an incomplete patchwork of public and private drug plans offered by various provinces to provide this core part of health care, which, as I mentioned, is leaving a growing number of Canadians behind. That is why our government and I feel that the time for pharmacare has come.
Today, more than seven million Canadians lack adequate drug coverage, and many are unable to take their medications due to the cost. Every year, almost one million Canadians give up food and heat to afford medicines, and they often tend to be lower-income, working-age Canadians. Even individuals who have prescription drug coverage can face significant and prohibitive out-of-pocket expenses, often in the thousands of dollars, in the form of deductibles, copayments and costs that exceed their annual or lifetime coverage limits.
When Canadians cannot afford their drugs, their health often worsens, putting an even greater strain on our health care system. Roughly 25% of Canadians who report being unable to take their medications due to cost also report using a health service they otherwise would not have needed. This includes visits to doctors and emergency rooms, which place a huge strain on the system.
No Canadian should have to choose between paying for prescription drug and putting food on the table. However, we know that many are still forced to make this impossible decision.
In addition, Canadians face some of the highest prescription drug prices in the world. The average annual cost of the top-10 selling patented drugs in Canada grew from $2,200 in 2006 to more than $18,000 in 2017. Prices for drugs to treat rare diseases can start at $100,000 and go upwards of $2 million per patient per year, often over a lifetime. The result is that both the public and private drug plans that many Canadians rely on are feeling the strain.
Drug spending in Canada is high, reaching more than an estimated $40 billion in 2019. Drugs are now the second-largest category of spending in health care. This is unsustainable, and it is hurting Canadians every single day. The unaffordability of many medications leads to Canadians being less healthy and creates higher health care costs for us all.
That is why the Government of Canada is committed to implementing a national universal pharmacare system. This program would save Canadians $13 billion in drug prices over the next 10 years. However, it will not be easy. We need to work closely with provinces, territories and stakeholders to improve drug coverage so Canadians, including those suffering from rare diseases, can have access to the drugs they need.
I was pleased to be part of a government in Nova Scotia that went toe to toe with the pharmaceutical companies. We lowered our drug prices from 85% down to 35%, which was a huge help for Nova Scotia. This is the sort of thing we need to do across the country, even though we know there will be a big push-back from the pharmaceutical companies. We are already feeling it now. Certain companies are already trying to get the government to back down on pharmacare. Companies are getting the families of certain people with rare diseases to try to convince the government to back off, and this is not okay. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies are using a very bad situation, with desperate and vulnerable people, to try to lobby government on their behalf so that they will have more money in their pockets.
To help us chart our course forward, in 2018 the government created the advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare. Chaired by Dr. Eric Hoskins, the council's mandate was to provide independent advice on how best to implement national pharmacare so it would be affordable for Canadians and their families, employers and governments.
After leading an extensive national dialogue, in its June 2019 report the council recommended that the federal government work with provincial and territorial governments to establish a universal single-payer public system of prescription drug coverage in Canada. Given the scope of the transformation required to achieve this, the council suggested that it would be practical to adopt a phased approach to implementation.
Guided by the council's recommendations, budget 2019 outlined three foundational elements to help Canada move forward on implementing national pharmacare: one, establishing a Canadian drug agency; two, developing a strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases; and three, working toward a national formulary.
A Canadian drug agency would talk a coordinated approach to assessing effectiveness and negotiating prescription drug prices on behalf of all Canadians. The development of a national formulary, a comprehensive evidence-based list of prescribed drugs, would promote more consistent coverage and patient access across the country. Both of these initiatives must be done in close collaboration with provinces and territories. To make pharmacare sustainable, we also need to continue to look for opportunities to improve pharmaceutical management in partnership with our provinces and territories.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his motion on national universal pharmacare. I think we can all agree that it is critical for the government to work closely with provinces, territories and our political colleagues to determine how best to move forward on this important issue. The government looks forward to productive discussions this spring, and together we will continue to make the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs a shared priority.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:15 [p.2034]
Mr. Speaker, I have always believed in universal medicare and universal pharmacare. I also believe we need to introduce dental care as well. Our mouths are part of our health, and I believe this is the only way forward for any civilized nation.
I look at our folks south of the border and I feel sorry for them at this moment in time. They are going through such a terrible time with the coronavirus, and they do not have a public health care system. In fact, in the United States they call it the health care industry, which speaks volumes to the difference in the way they look at things and the way we do here in Canada.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:17 [p.2034]
Mr. Speaker, I never mentioned anything about families coming to Parliament Hill.
An hon. member: Yes, you did.
Ms. Lenore Zann: No, I did not. What I said was that I find there are some pharmaceutical companies, especially American ones, that have not even applied for their drugs to be sold or accepted in Canada yet. They are using the families of sick children to lobby the government to come up with a lower price when the time comes for them to negotiate with the government. I find that a shameful practice.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:18 [p.2034]
Mr. Speaker, I did not really hear a question in that, but I would say to the member opposite that I agree that the provinces do need help, especially right now with COVID-19. They are going to be getting extra help to look after all our Canadian citizens. It is very important.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2020-03-11 15:11 [p.1937]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations concerning a motion adopted on Monday, March 9.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-11 15:23 [p.1939]
Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table an e-petition from my riding of Cumberland—Colchester that has been signed by 4,248 people.
The petitioners note that whereas the RCMP and Treasury Board are now planning in May 2020 to move almost 4000 civilian members of the RCMP from a working pay system onto an incomprehensible failure of a pay system called Phoenix; and whereas the Public Service Pay Centre said that Phoenix was not stable on March 18, 2019, saying “Stabilizing the ... current pay system (Phoenix) remains a top priority”, and further stated in an update on April 3, 2019, “The pay issues currently being experienced by public servants are unacceptable, and we are working tirelessly at all levels to resolve them”; therefore, the petitioners call upon the president of the Treasury Board to honour the Treasury Board's commitment to civilian RCMP members and delay the transfer of almost 4000 sworn civilian members onto the Phoenix payroll system until the problems with it have been fixed or until there is a reliable and stable replacement.
I have affixed my signature.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for this great opportunity to share some wisdom on this very important bill, Bill C-4, on CUSMA, which is the Canada-U.S.-Mexico agreement.
However, before I get into the bill, I will speak about the economy. Trade deals are linked to the economy, and the economy here in Canada after five years of Liberal government is very strong compared to what it was when we took office.
Let us look at what has happened. What has changed in the last five years?
We have seen 1.2 million jobs created by Canadians. We have seen over one million people lifted out of poverty, with 353,000 of those being children, which is over 20% of the poverty rate in Canada, and 75,000 being seniors, mostly women. These are big and important numbers.
As well, we are seeing the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years. These are the factors that are clearly stating how strong this economy is and how strong our government is, which has been focused on tax cuts and helping the middle class and those who want to join it.
Trade deals are extremely important to Canadians, and every province and territory is very happy with this trade deal. We had a trade deal before, but this one is new and improved.
We also have the CETA trade deal, which encompasses half a billion people. In that trade deal we have seen 98% of the tariffs removed, whereas in the past it was 25%. Members can imagine how the business community feels about that trade deal today. I know what the business community has to say about it my constituency.
As well, there is the CPTPP, the trans-Pacific trade deal, which, again, encompasses half a billion people. Between the three trade deals, we have a market of 1.5 billion people. In the Asia-Pacific deal most of the tariffs have been removed and 100% of the seafood tariffs are gone. Members can imagine that in my region of Atlantic Canada and in Nova Scotia this is a great opportunity to increase our exports, and it is extremely important.
How important is CUSMA, the Canada-U.S.-Mexico deal? It is $2 billion per day, which is an enormous sum, and 80% of Canadian exports go to these countries.
Who is supporting this trade deal? It is not just us. The premiers are saying they are behind this trade deal, which is important, and I will talk more about it, but we know that Premier Moe, Premier Kenney and company, as well as Brian Mulroney, do. The business community is happy. The unions are happy.
However, they say Trump is a good negotiator. Let us look at the three things he wanted.
First, he wanted a sunset clause at five years when we would have to renegotiate or the deal would be dead. However, that is not in there. We took that out and it is now 16 years.
Second, he wanted the end of supply management. We are the party that introduced supply management, and we are the party that is promoting supply management. We will continue to support supply management because it is important to Canadians.
Third, Trump wanted a dispute resolution tribunal where there would be American judges and courts. Do members think we would have agreed to that? Maybe a Conservative would have, but we did not agree to that. We then added another important piece where the Americans could not stop and must participate in tribunal panels, where in the past they could say no.
These are three key areas where our government has been very successful in negotiating with the Americans.
Let us bring it back to Nova Scotia. What does this trade deal represent to Nova Scotia? It is extremely important because $3.7 billion is spent by Americans in Nova Scotia. That is an extremely important investment yearly, as my colleagues can imagine. That is 68% of all our trade products leaving Nova Scotia and going to the States.
That means there are 18,000 jobs directly related to this trade deal for Nova Scotians. That is 18,000 directly related jobs; I forgot to mention the 7,000 indirect jobs. Colleagues can imagine how we feel in Nova Scotia. The premier, Mr. McNeil, said that this is a great deal for Canada and a great deal for Nova Scotia. That is a very clear message.
I want to talk about a company in my riding just down the street from me, Marid Industries. It is a steel industry and today it knows that with this deal it will be able to be competitive and move their products to the States and Mexico without tariffs. That is extremely important. That is making sure that it can move forward. These are great-paying jobs for the people who work in that industry.
Catherine Cobden from the Canadian Steel Producers Association said:
CUSMA is critical to strengthening the competitiveness of Canadian and North American steel industries and ensuring market access in the face of persistent global trade challenges and uncertainty.
That shows good, strong support from the steel industry.
Of course, we are seeing the strongest amendments in this trade deal when it come to labour and environment, two major areas that Canada is pushing forward. We are making sure that we have some criteria around strengthening labour standards as well as enforcement and inspection standards. That means that wages being paid will create a level playing field. It also affects work hours and conditions. Those are essential pieces to ensure that the playing field is level which is extremely important.
In the environment, as colleagues know, we have added some obligations in the fight against marine pollution. The other piece of it is air quality.
I must also mention pharmacare because in the last amendments we were able to remove the 10-year restriction on generic drugs, which is extremely important.
We have added new chapters protecting women's rights, minority rights and indigenous rights and that provide protection against discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. These are all important chapters that are in this trade deal and are so essential.
As well, there are cultural exemptions, which help all Canadians, including those in Quebec. That is very important.
We have work to do. We know that in a trade deal there is a bit of trade here or there. The poultry and egg industries have opened up a small percentage, 2%. We are compensating them not only for loss, but also supporting them so that they can purchase better and more up-to-date equipment. The products will then be better able to be traded internationally, opening up that potential market as well.
This is a very important deal. I am extremely proud to support this. The people in my constituency are just waiting for this to be ratified as soon as possible.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, as members know, tariffs have been removed from aluminum and steel. We have also added in this deal that the amount of steel used in cars would be 70% between the three countries. In the past it was zero, so that is a big victory.
I want to share with my colleague some of the things his colleagues have said. Jason Kenney said he was “relieved”. I imagine it takes a lot to relieve him, but he is “relieved that a renewed North American Trade Agreement has been concluded”. Wow, he is relieved.
Let us talk about Brian Mulroney, a former prime minister of the country and chief negotiator. He said that Canada got what it wanted and that we got a great deal.
I know I have sat in this House for a couple of years and listened to the Conservatives saying to sign, sign, sign and not worry about negotiating because it is $2 billion a day. We have a much better deal today than we would have had if we had listened to the Conservatives. In the last 10 years before we took power, we know what we got.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
I realize, as my colleague should also realize, that you have to give a little to get a little in any negotiation.
One thing is certain: We were able to preserve supply management, which the U.S. President wanted to eliminate, as I explained in my speech. In Canada, we all know, as does my colleague, that supply management is extremely important. It is too bad that our former colleague Maxime Bernier is not here, because he opposed supply management and he certainly would have something to say.
Under this agreement, Quebec will receive $57 billion as a result of exports to the United States. This is definitely a very important agreement for Quebec, too.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, there is no question that when there are provisions, it creates more discussion as we move forward. The door is not closed right now. What is important is that we have the strongest chapters on labour and environment that we have ever had in any trade deal, and we have the protection of women and indigenous people included in there. Those are key points.
These have never been in there before so, now that they are there, the members are saying they are not perfect. No, they are not perfect, but we are starting to build a strong foundation so that Canada can continue to prosper as we move forward.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, it has been really difficult to follow the Conservatives the last three or four days on this deal. Just a couple of hours ago, I heard them saying this was the deal that they negotiated. They said the Liberals were passing the deal they negotiated. Then the member says this is the worst deal that has been done. We have to get our facts straight. The Conservatives in caucus have a responsibility to shape up their argument. It would be nice if they could do that, because it was not very clear for me.
Let us look at this a couple of ways. Would my colleague not agree that going from zero aluminum and steel to 70% is much better? Would he not agree that the labour and the environment clauses and chapters we put in are an improvement? Would he not agree that the Americans cannot block the arbitration panel? Even his colleague said we won more sugar. It is a much better deal with the sugar. These are very positive things for our country.
I would like the member to share his thoughts with me, and give me some sugar in his answer.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:31 [p.1884]
Mr. Speaker, the selective use of memory is simply astounding. If I look back to the Harper government's record, I will note that it added $150 billion to the national debt and had the slowest rate of economic growth since the Great Depression.
Over the past four and a half years—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:31 [p.1884]
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to continue.
When we took office four and a half years ago, we started making the kinds of investments that would trigger economic growth.
What have the results been? About 1.2 million jobs were added to the Canadian economy, including more than 30,000 just in the past month. We have also made sure that the benefits of the growth that we are seeing actually land on the kitchen tables of families. More than one million Canadians are not living in poverty today who were four and a half years ago.
This is the kind of growth that we should trigger, growth that works for everyone.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:32 [p.1884]
Mr. Speaker, the feigned sanctimony coming from the Conservatives on these issues is simply difficult to accept. The facts that they rely upon are not facts at all.
Canada does not have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the G7. In fact, the unemployment rate in Canada today is lower not only than at any point during the Conservatives' term in office, but at any point in the past 40 years, since we started keeping track of those statistics.
If the Conservatives were operating in an echo chamber and actually looked to the facts, science and evidence, they would realize that the economy has been growing at a rate that would make the Conservatives jealous.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:34 [p.1885]
Mr. Speaker, with respect, the fiscal health of Canada remains very strong today. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is, in fact, the strongest of any G7 economy. This is the case because we are making the kinds of investments that allow us to experience economic growth. Our debt is shrinking as a function of our economy. We are one of only two countries in the G7 that has a AAA credit rating from all the major credit agencies.
We have been able to make the kinds of investments that allow us to experience economic growth, add more than 1.2 million jobs to the economy and protect our fiscal position to make sure that we have the room to respond to the kinds of challenges that are now emerging as a result of global circumstances.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:37 [p.1885]
Mr. Speaker, this narrative coming from the Conservatives has absolutely no basis in reality. I will read a quote from economist Kevin Milligan, from the University of British Columbia, who said, “Any notion that the ‘fiscal cupboard is bare’ is irrefutably, absolutely, 100%, 180 degrees wrong.”
If we want to talk about cupboards being bare, let us talk about the cupboards of one million Canadians who were living in poverty with bare cupboards a few years ago. Let us talk about the cupboards that were bare of 300,000 Canadian children who were living in poverty a few years ago. Let us talk about the cupboards that were bare of 1.2 million Canadians who did not have jobs a few years ago and are working today.
The measures we are putting in place are growing the economy, creating jobs and making sure that Canadians who need help are receiving the help they need.
View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge that conservation measures, as well as COVID-19, have had significant negative impacts on our economy as well as on harvesters, including the recreational sector.
We are continuing to work with our partners and stakeholders to consider actions that help minimize the impacts while achieving conservation efforts. We will continue to work with those groups to make sure that we meet these needs.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-10 16:25 [p.1902]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to have the opportunity to speak to the new NAFTA for the second time in this House. I would like to discuss the benefits of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement for all Canadians. Guided by Canada's inclusive approach to trade, we have worked very hard from the beginning of negotiations to secure outcomes that would advance the interests of the Canadian middle class, small and medium-sized enterprises, women, indigenous peoples, and also to protect our most vulnerable residents.
Historically, Canada has always been a trading nation. Canadian exports account for nearly one-third of our GDP. Imports help meet the needs of both Canadian businesses and consumers, providing both variety in consumer products and important inputs for industry. Canada has productive trading relationships with much of the world. Our government is working hard to support trade diversification and to have new and expanding markets.
However, the United States is still our closest and largest trading partner, and the vast majority of goods that cross our common border do so tariff-free. Every day, $2.7 billion in trade and roughly 385,000 people cross the border between Canada and the United States. This exchange of goods, services and investments supports Canadian jobs, businesses and communities. Our close relationship underpins the prosperity of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Our focus from the outset of negotiations was to preserve middle-class jobs and foster economic growth. Small and medium-sized businesses, or SMEs, are the backbone of the Canadian economy, employing nearly 10.7 million Canadians in 2018. This represents about 90% of the private sector labour force.
Among Canadian firms that exported goods to the United States, 96.2% were small and medium-sized businesses, which together accounted for over $145 billion in exports. Among those that exported goods to Mexico the same year, just over 88% were small and medium-sized firms, which accounted for a total value of $2.6 billion in exports.
The new NAFTA would preserve Canada's tariff-free access to our most important market. This is vital for our SMEs that rely on North America's integrated supply chains and its almost 490 million customers. By preserving this important tariff-free access, the agreement provides predictability and stability for those nearly 10.7 million Canadians employed by SMEs that depend on trade. This enables SMEs to continue to strive and to contribute to the Canadian economy in communities right across this country.
The agreement also preserves the NAFTA binational panel dispute settlement mechanism, retaining our access to an independent and impartial process to challenge anti-dumping and countervailing duties. This has been particularly important to Canadian companies producing softwood lumber products for export to the United States and the 187,000 workers in the forestry sector. As somebody who is from the northern region of Nova Scotia, I see the effects of this in my riding.
While softwood lumber continues to benefit from duty-free treatment under the new NAFTA, we recognize there is a long history of the U.S. industry bringing forward anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations against Canadian softwood lumber products. Our success in maintaining the dispute settlement mechanism means that Canada could continue to bring challenges against any unwarranted or unfair duties in order to seek their removal and the reimbursement to Canadian exporters of duties that have been paid.
I am very glad to also see this new agreement preserves the general exception for our cultural industries, which employ over 665,000 people across the country.
Our creative economy is so important. Going forward with the green economy and the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, it helps us to create content that will be seen all around the world and really show off our country. Our success in maintaining the dispute settlement mechanism means that we can continue to challenge any of these unwarranted examples and challenges to our cultural industries as well. They are integral to our linguistic and cultural identity and they ensure our capacity as Canadians to be able to tell our own stories.
One of Canada's goals is to better reflect the trade interests of indigenous peoples in trade negotiations. To that end, the Government of Canada undertook extensive engagement with indigenous leaders, representatives, proprietors of indigenous-owned businesses and policy experts to better understand their trade interests and to seek input on priorities for the negotiations.
We have also retained policy flexibility to provide preferential treatment for indigenous peoples and indigenous-owned businesses, including in the areas of services, investment, government procurement, environment and state-owned enterprises. This means that Canada will maintain its ability to create procurement programs that support small and minority-owned businesses, including indigenous-owned businesses.
The new agreement will support all Canadian businesses, including SMEs, by ensuring continued access to the U.S. and Mexican markets. It will update the rules of trade within North America, making it easier for Canadian companies to do business, including through streamlined customs and origin procedures and greater transparency in government regulations in a wide range of sectors. For instance, new customs and trade facilitation measures will make it easier for companies to move goods across the border, including reducing paper processes and providing a single portal to submit import documentation electronically.
SMEs stand to benefit to a greater extent from such measures, as they may not have the same resources as larger firms and they have to address challenges when operating across borders. Improvements made on dispute settlement, including labour rights, will also be very important for our SMEs, as it will help ensure effective implementation of the agreement and a more level playing field. This way, SMEs may find themselves to be more competitive and have market opportunities that were not accessible to them under NAFTA.
The new NAFTA also includes a chapter on SMEs that will foster co-operation among the parties in order to increase trade and investment opportunities. This includes capacity building and promotion activities to support SMEs owned by under-represented groups. The agreement recognizes that these groups may benefit from strengthened collaboration on SME promotion activities designed to increase their participation in international trade.
The agreement includes requirements to make information available for SMEs that is specifically tailored for their interests, including information on entrepreneurship, education programs for youth and under-represented groups, as well as information on obligations in the agreement that are particularly relevant to SMEs.
The agreement establishes an annual trilateral dialogue, which provides SMEs with an opportunity to collaborate in addressing any issue that could impact them in the future. The dialogue enables participation of representatives from private sector employees, non-government organizations, unions and other experts, thus ensuring diverse perspectives, which is so important on issues related to the agreement that are relevant to SMEs. By doing so, the new NAFTA will give a voice to Canadian SMEs and facilitate discussions on issues that matter to them.
Let me conclude by highlighting once again that we have worked very hard to ensure that this new agreement will be of benefit to all Canadians, including middle-class workers, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as traditionally under-represented groups such as women and indigenous peoples.
I am proud to say that we have achieved our objective. We have made important progress toward elevating standards and benefits for all Canadians, and for that I am grateful.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-10 16:37 [p.1904]
Madam Speaker, I would say to the member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge that I feel his pain regarding mills closing. In Nova Scotia several mills have also closed over the last 10 years for various reasons. It is never easy and it is very difficult for workers and union workers. However, I do not believe that it necessarily has anything to do with this particular deal. It has to do with the changing times and with businesses, oftentimes American businesses operating in Canada, going out of business.
One of the things I would say to the member is that I believe that this government did the very best it could under trying circumstances, and being forced into having to do a new NAFTA in the first place. I have to take my hat off to our Deputy Prime Minister for her hard work on this file.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-10 16:39 [p.1904]
Madam Speaker, as a former New Democrat, I know what it is like to be at the negotiating table.
We have to do the best we can do, no matter what we have or what is being offered. Of course we are going to say it is the best deal we can get. I mean, that is part of the trading deals that we do.
However, I have to remind people that pulp mills have been closing for the past 10 years. On one day, the day that Jack Layton died, two pulp mills closed in Nova Scotia. It was one of the most difficult days for our New Democrat government. We had to deal with Jack Layton's death and the closure of two pulp mills, and that was several years ago, long before this trade deal was ever a twinkling in Donald Trump's eye.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 18:44 [p.1922]
Mr. Speaker, as always, I appreciate the question and commentary from my colleague, who I know cares deeply not just about this project but about the environment more broadly.
As has been canvassed in this House many times, the Trans Mountain project matters to Canada. There are a number of reasons for that, but if we acknowledge that the oil and gas sector is a part of the Canadian economy that cannot be shut off overnight, we should do what we can to maximize the economic return while our energy producers are continuing to take part in employing Canadians and growing the economy. That said, we have to recognize that we are in the midst of a massive transition toward a low-carbon economy, and there cannot be a higher priority for the government.
With respect to the project, despite some of the issues that were raised by my colleague, we are confident that the project remains commercially viable. There is going to be a serious economic return from this project, although it was sort of dismissed. The fact remains that because we sell primarily to customers in one country, the United States, diversifying the markets these products could be sold into, whether they end up in the United States or in Asian markets, will create a competition in the marketplace that will increase the price, which will not only create economic returns on this specific project but will pay off across the energy sector more broadly. That does not even touch on the fact that thousands of Canadians in a part of the country that is deeply concerned about its local economy will now be working on this project.
I know there was some criticism on the basis that this was treated as some sort of a subsidy. The original question giving rise to the remarks this evening referred to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I just came back from a finance committee meeting where the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that in fact this is the purchase of an asset, not a subsidy.
The costs have changed over time, but that is because this project is different from what it was in 2017. We have put in place higher standards for environmental protection. We have engaged in a meaningful way with indigenous communities, and there are going to be more union jobs on this project as a result of some of the changes. If those come at a cost, the arm's-length Trans Mountain Corporation will need to recognize that it needs to meet the standard that the Federal Court has recognized is appropriate for this case.
To summarize, this project is proceeding in the right way. With regard to indigenous communities in particular, there are now 58 agreements with indigenous communities that represent over $500 million in benefits. When the project is complete, the contract awards will exceed $1 billion. Importantly, every dollar of profit, whether from the operation or the eventual sale of this project, is going to go to the transition toward a green economy.
The original question was critical, asking why we would do this when we could be doing that. It ignores the fact that we have invested about $70 billion toward the clean transition and have advanced Canada's first-ever national plan to combat climate change. It includes, of course, putting a price on pollution, investing in energy efficiency that will see 90% of our electricity generated from non-emitting sources by the end of the decade, massive investments in the transition toward electric vehicles, the single largest investment to protect nature in the history of Canada, new investments in research and innovation, and a phase-out of coal by the year 2030, to name but a few of the items that we are pursuing.
The fact is that the project remains in the national interest. We know it will put Canadians to work, but importantly, we have not taken our eye off the ball of the need to transition to a low-carbon economy. That remains at the top of our priority list as a government.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 18:49 [p.1922]
Mr. Speaker, with respect, we maintain that the project remains economically viable, and we intend to eventually divest this project into the private sector. I expect the very likely outcome that it will actually do better than break even and will turn a profit. Based on the economics, despite the recent short-term change to the price per barrel of oil, which is having a serious economic impact on the world economy, this particular project does remain viable.
The hon. member finished his commentary by saying there is a need to take action on climate change. I could not agree more. The fact is we have invested more than any government in the history of Canada toward measures that will actually fight climate change and protect our environment. I could list a few of them.
I look forward to sharing the measures that will be contained in the upcoming federal budget and that hopefully will be implemented in this Parliament. They will position Canada as a world leader in the fight against climate change. Anything less would, quite rightly, fall short of the expectations that Canadians have of our government.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, my colleague touched on many topics of importance, some of which I agree with, and one is when he talked about lowering taxes for Canadians. When we came into government in 2015-16, the first priority in that new Parliament was to lower taxes. Therefore, he is right when he talks about the importance of lowering taxes.
I disagree with my colleague, however, when he talked about spending money. We have not been spending money. We have been building a strong Canada by investing in Canadians. We added a million jobs, which is important, and we lowered the unemployment to the lowest in 40 years, which is very important to note.
There is a big difference between spending money and investing in Canadians. We have been investing in Canadians now for five years. The economy has been very strong and we are well prepared to weather any storm we face as we move forward.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:31 [p.1773]
Madam Speaker, I take issue with a number of the different points my hon. colleague has made, but I will focus my question on one. In a very brief way, he passed over his objection to the improvements we have made to the Canada pension plan. When I talk to constituents in the communities I represent, one of the top things I hear from the seniors who live in these communities is that they have real trouble affording the increasing cost of living. Did I hear correctly that the plan of the Conservative Party of Canada is to undo improvements, which will result in fewer dollars going to seniors in retirement? If that is the case, why does he want to cut benefits for seniors in order to pay for whatever the Conservative plan is shaping up to be?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:36 [p.1773]
Madam Speaker, as always it is a pleasure to rise in the chamber and, in this instance, to contribute to the debate that largely revolves around the fiscal and economic health of our nation in uncertain and challenging times globally.
The sponsor of the motion went to great lengths to talk down the Canadian economy in an effort to score political points. I disagree with the vast majority of the points that he raised during his debate, so it is somewhat ironic that I plan on supporting the motion because the documents that may exist are not documents that we have any interest in keeping from the opposition nor the Canadian public.
Over the course of my remarks there are a few key themes that I hope to touch on, in order to provide an overview of the current economic and fiscal context in which we find ourselves; to highlight some of the emerging challenges that face the Canadian economy; and to introduce some of the measures that we have put forward in the past few years, which have yielded results far beyond what I thought possible when I was a candidate in the 2015 federal election campaign.
By way of background, it would be helpful to describe the context within which we find ourselves.
Canada is in a very healthy fiscal position compared to other developed economies in the global community. We are well positioned to respond to the kinds of challenges that are now making themselves present.
The narrative that somehow overspending has put us in a position where we cannot afford to deal with the challenges we are now facing is based on false pretenses. I honestly believe that it is designed purely to score political points based on misinformation, rather than making substantive points that contribute to the health of our democratic discourse in Canada.
The fundamentals of our economy are strong. We have seen extraordinary job growth in the past few years. We have seen, as importantly, that growth translate into benefits for middle-class and low-income Canadians. We have seen certain measures improve the competitiveness of our nation's economy and we have seen an overall improvement to the fiscal health of our economy.
Responsible management of the economy is at the forefront of our government. The mandate letter to the finance minister from the Prime Minister specifically mandates him to continue to see our national debt shrink as a function of our economy and to ensure that we preserve enough economic firepower to respond, in the event that an economic downturn does come to pass.
We have been planning to invest in Canadians to create growth but also making sure that we have enough fiscal room to operate, should the circumstances demand any kind of a change in course. Sometimes, the fiscally prudent thing to do is to take advantage of opportunities to invest that may exist.
If I look at the status of Canada's economy right now, what I see is a debt-to-GDP ratio that has actually been shrinking and is projected to continue to go down. What I see is the healthiest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G7 economy. Canada is one of only two countries within the G7 to have a AAA credit rating, the highest possible rating with all of the major credit agencies. Canada is one of only about 10 countries on the planet today that have a credit rating of this strength.
In addition, in our federal budgets that we table, we prepare for contingencies to deal with events that we may not have been able to foresee at the time of their crafting, specifically to deal with challenges that may present themselves that may not be apparent on the day a budget is tabled. Having that contingency in place is precisely the kind of thing we do to deal with emerging challenges, and I will deal with a few of them now.
Of course, the spread of COVID-19, or as most Canadian households would refer to it, coronavirus, in recent weeks may not have been something that could have been apparent months ago. When we became aware that this was an issue that needed to be dealt with, we responded professionally every step of the way.
When it comes to something like the coronavirus, I want to make clear that while it is also an economic issue, our number one priority is protecting the health of Canadians. I have been blown away by the leadership of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the level of co-operation with our international partners, whether it is the G7 or IMF on the economic side, or the World Health Organization on the public health side. I have also been blown away with the level of coordination between federal departments through the government operations centre, which was triggered by public safety in recent weeks, as well as the Public Health Agency's coordination of the efforts between the provinces and territories with federal measures that have been put in place.
To those front-line workers who are diligently protecting the health of Canadians, so that my family and I can sleep soundly knowing that we are in good hands, I want to thank them for their professionalism and excellence throughout.
I want to recognize that despite the fact that it is primarily a public health issue, there are also economic challenges that obviously arise when we see threats of this nature. We do not have to have a crystal ball to see that there is an impact on commodity prices when a particular region of the world has such a dramatic drop in demand that it suddenly has an impact on the countries that produce those commodities. This is having a particular impact on the metals and oil and gas sectors that Canada's economy has depended on for a very long time.
We also see that the travel and tourism sectors can be significantly impacted whenever there are affected regions of the world that have travel advisories. It also can have an economic impact at home. My home province of Nova Scotia was set to host the international women's hockey championship in the coming months. Unfortunately, out of concern of public health and safety, that event had to be cancelled. That will have an unfortunate economic impact on the communities that were so looking forward to hosting that tournament.
There is also an economic impact on global supply chains. Canadian businesses that may not be able to secure the products they rely on for the manufacturing process, for example, may not be able to provide their products to their typical end customers or they may have to pay a higher price. It is not lost on us that the events that are global in nature can have a very serious impact on us at home and they can also impact the general business and consumer sentiments. They can cause them to change course in the spending decisions they otherwise would have made.
One of the things we are doing to monitor the economic impact of this outbreak is to make sure that we have the resources in place so that Canada can maintain a world-class public health response. We also want to continue to monitor the impact on businesses and workers and ensure the measures that we are putting in place are going to serve the interests of keeping the Canadian economy operating at capacity.
We have a plan to increase our risk adjustment in the upcoming federal budget to make sure that we are planning for the potential impact that this illness could have on our nation's economy. We can look recently at the blockades that were canvassed in a number of debates in the House in response to the protests tied to the land rights issue in the Wet'suwet'en territory in western Canada.
We have also taken measures to address the economic impacts of the rail blockades. If there is a lesson to be learned from the past few weeks, it is that there is no straight path to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Reconciliation requires dedication and hard work, and we have to recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done. This is a healing process that will involve good days and not-so-good days. We need to continue to show our determination.
Canada is a trading nation and we ship a lot of our goods to world markets by rail. Although it is too early to know the full impact of the blockades, we know that they were extremely challenging and frustrating for businesses and individuals. We have to keep in mind that many Canadians rely on rail transit networks to obtain basic necessities like food, to commute to and from work every day and to earn a living.
Thousands of workers were laid off, and many are still having problems. The situation is having real and immediate effects. Our government is working 24 hours a day to mitigate the economic risks of the rail blockades and to find a lasting solution.
From day one, we knew that we could not take shortcuts and that, no matter how difficult, dialogue was the best approach. Many people have criticized our approach, but it is working. For the most part, trains are running again. The people who were laid off are being rehired. Most of the blockades have been dismantled. In my opinion, the Prime Minister took the right approach even though other politicians proposed simple solutions to a very complex problem.
There is another emerging challenge for the Canadian economy. I do not know if I can even call it that, we have known about it for so long. I would be remiss if I did not raise the threat posed by climate change not only to our environment, but to our nation's economy.
The fact that we still have debates over whether human industrial activity is the primary driver of climate change is beyond me, and the fact that in the Canadian political context we still have debates on whether Canada can play a meaningful role in the fight against climate change is something that, as a representative who cares about this, I simply cannot accept. We cannot address challenges to our economy if we do not deal with the threats posed by climate change.
Canadians are feeling the effects today. We have seen storm surges in Nova Scotia, floods in New Brunswick, heat waves in Quebec and Ontario, droughts in the prairies, forest fires in the west and a glacial melt in the north. They are having a real impact on the traditional way of life of Canadians and on our economies.
Of course, there is also a direct economic impact. When representatives of the Insurance Bureau of Canada testified before the finance committee as part of our pre-budget consultations, they highlighted that in 1990, the losses associated with severe weather events was in the ballpark of $100 million. That number last year was in the ballpark of $2 billion, a twentyfold increase. I do not doubt that their motivations are pure, but I think they are motivated not only by the desire to do social good for our planet and environment, but also, as they represent the insurance industry, by the bottom line. If we follow the money, we can see that it costs more because life on planet earth has changed. We can address these challenges. They also testified that for every dollar in insured losses, three dollars in uninsured losses were being picked up by taxpayers today, whether municipal, provincial or federal. It is the same group of people who are now out of pocket far too much to deal with climate inaction over decades.
It is not just the cost of mitigating disasters or responding to floods that we need to deal with. There are also missed economic opportunities. When we look a the forest fires out west, we see that the impact they had on production, even in the energy sector, was immense.
Something that I am deeply concerned about, as I represent Nova Scotia, is what happened to the lobster fishery in Maine a few years ago because of high ocean temperatures. I fear that a similar kind of consequence will befall the lobster harvesters in Nova Scotia if we do not take action soon. I hope it is not already too late.
We also need to turn our mind to other things, not just the challenge facing our economy when we are dealing with climate change. There is a massive economic opportunity, according to Marc Carney, who is the former governor of the Bank of Canada and current governor of the Bank of England. He said there is a $26-trillion global opportunity.
The world is changing and we have to decide whether we want to change with it. If we choose to change and be a part of this transition, we will be at the front of a wave of economic growth that we perhaps cannot contemplate now.
In fact, we are seeing it already today. In my own community, the Trinity group of companies is helping with energy efficiency initiatives. It grew from a shop of about two people to dozens and dozens of employees. It helps homeowners reduce their power bills and emissions at the same time.
We are seeing investments in green infrastructure that are able to create jobs, put people to work and prevent the worst consequences of climate change for future generations. We are also seeing investments in research at St. Francis Xavier University, a university in my own backyard, to the Flux Lab, where Dr. David Risk has helped to discover a new gas leak detection technology that is helping energy companies reduce their emissions. It has put people to work not just in his lab, but at some of Canada's largest energy producers, which have now adopted this technology.
We have put forward the first national climate action plan, and we have introduced more than 50 measures. We expect to see growth in the green economy as a result.
However, while it is one thing to experience economic growth, it is another thing to make sure that it actually benefits everyday, ordinary Canadians. To grow the economy, we have made investments in infrastructure, which put people to work and strengthen communities, and in innovation through our universities, as I just cited. We have also triggered private sector investment.
We have changed rules around immigration to ensure that employers are not missing out on growth opportunities because they cannot find people in their communities to do the work. We have invested in trade to help grow the economy and are now the only G7 economy with free trade access to every other G7 economy.
We have cut the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%, making it the lowest rate of small business tax in the G7. We have also put new rules forward to accelerate the capital cost allowance right now for companies that are investing in ways to increase their production and put more people to work.
What is the result of these investments? There are more than 1.2 million new jobs in our nation's economy, including more than 30,000 last month. We are seeing record low unemployment, with more Canadians working now than at more or less any other point in our nation's history since we started keeping track of those statistics. However, it is cold comfort for someone living in poverty or who cannot afford the cost of raising a family to hear that there are a number of new jobs across Canada or that our GDP has, in fact, gone up.
That is why we have introduced policies like the Canada child benefit, which ended the practice of sending child care cheques to millionaires and puts more money directly into the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families. It is why the first thing we did when we came here after 2015 was advance a tax cut for nine million middle-class Canadians and raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of income earners. It is why the first thing we did when we got here in 2019 was put forward a measure to reduce taxes for 20 million Canadians and eliminate federal income tax altogether for more than one million low-income Canadians. It is why we have advanced OAS benefits, reducing the age of eligibility for old age security from 67 to 65. It is why we have increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10% for low-income single seniors. It is why we made enhancements to the Canada pension plan, which I am learning the Conservative party now opposes, to ensure our seniors can have a more dignified and secure retirement. It is why we are tackling the cost of education by improving the Canada student grants program, changing the timeline under which students have to repay debt they may have built up while studying, and why we doubled the Canada summer jobs program to put more young people to work.
What we are actually seeing, despite the clever use of statistics by some of the members opposite, is that the typical Canadian household, when we consider the totality of our body of work, is about $2,000 better off today than it was before we took office. More importantly, as we have seen recently, is that more than one million Canadians have been lifted out of poverty in the past few years. We have achieved the single greatest reduction in poverty over a three-year period in the history of Canada. About 334,000 of the people no longer living in poverty, who were living in poverty just four and a half years ago, are Canadian children. This is the kind of policy development that we should be shouting from the rooftops and sharing with the world to demonstrate how to successfully manage the benefits of economic growth to support Canadians.
The Conservatives' attack on the Canadian economy is not, in and of itself, an economic plan. What we have, when we look at the facts, is a rate of job growth that most would not have thought possible when the Liberals were coming into power at the end of 2015. More importantly, we have seen that Canadians writ large are sharing in the benefit of that growth, rather than it being concentrated among the wealthiest 1% of income earners. We have also seen more Canadians lifted out of poverty than almost any member of the House could have imagined four and a half years ago.
All of this has taken place while we have maintained a healthy fiscal framework that allows us to respond to the changing dynamics of the global economy. If members do not want to accept my word on this, I would invite them to read the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who confirmed this to be the case just a few short weeks ago.
Yes, the world is changing and yes, there are challenges. However, Canada is up to them now and will be as long as the we remain in government.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:56 [p.1777]
Madam Speaker, I accept that the member feels embarrassed in asking his question, but it is not because of the comments coming from this side of the aisle.
What we are seeing is the Conservatives coming to the very boundary of accusing the Prime Minister of causing a global drop in oil prices. Are they next going to blame him for the spread of the coronavirus in Iran or Wuhan? It is becoming a fool's errand to even engage, but I will do my best.
We recognize that there are structural challenges facing the global oil and gas sector. I actually spent five years working in Alberta, oftentimes in the oil and gas sector. This is not something that has come lately to my attention. It is something that the federal and provincial governments should have been preparing for a very long time ago.
What we are doing is investing in the Canadian economy. That is going to allow us to achieve growth not just in one sector of strategic importance, but across the board. At the same time, we are trying to help position Canadians so they can weather the storm and are preserving a fiscal economic framework that allows us to respond to these challenges.
Right now the balance sheet of Canada is the envy of the G7. We have come down to about 31% of our debt-to-GDP ratio. We were more than double that in our nation's fairly recent history. If there is a developed economy in the world that is prepared to respond to the challenges raised in the global marketplace, it is Canada's.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:59 [p.1777]
Madam Speaker, first off, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and for giving me French lessons at meetings of the Standing Committee on Finance.
I hope he will not mind if I answer in English.
The fact of the matter is that we are in the midst of Canada's very first national action on climate change. With respect, we recognize that the energy sector is still very much a part of the Canadian economy, and we are not going to flip the switch and shut down this industry of strategic importance overnight.
What does the transition look like to me? It looks like making sure we have a price on pollution so that those in the conventional oil and gas sector are not necessarily able to operate without dealing with the costs of the externalities that have been borne by the rest of Canadians. It looks like creating a market for the next generation of fuels by developing a clean fuel standard. It looks like investments in energy efficiency, including the $56 million for my home province of Nova Scotia, to help homeowners make their homes more efficient. It looks like subsidies in electrical vehicles, which have received a level of uptake that we frankly did not contemplate, with 50% of the three-year subsidy eaten away in just the first eight months.
It also looks like investments in protecting nature that will put people to work in restoring some of the most important critical habitat to fight the biodiversity crisis we are facing and protect our carbon sinks. Recognizing as a social fact that the energy sector is still of strategic importance to Canada does not exclude the idea that we can be investing in the transition.
Canada has never seen a government put so much effort into the transition toward a green economy. I would be happy to continue the conversation with my friend, who I know is a big supporter of the transition. If we work together, I feel we can help Canada lead the rest of the world as we transition to a net-zero future.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 12:02 [p.1778]
Madam Speaker, it will take me a moment to unpack some of the different angles of that question.
With respect to COVID-19, yes, it requires a serious response, given the nature of the public health emergency we are dealing with. Respectfully, we have engaged the Government Operations Centre to make sure that all government departments coordinate their efforts. The Public Health Agency of Canada has coordinated efforts with all of the provincial and territorial health authorities to ensure that front-line care is meeting the quality of service that they would expect. We are coordinating our efforts with the World Health Organization.
We also recognize that there is an economic impact and, with respect, there will be details shared soon about support for those who have to deal with self-isolation to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
The member mentioned the significant drop in global oil prices as a result of the disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia in recent days. The fact is that we have been working on a transition and diversification of the economy for four and a half years. It is not the case that we suddenly need to respond because an emergency has popped up, though the situation does also require an acute response. The fact is that we have been diversifying the economy by investing in infrastructure and changing rules around immigration to bring a more talented labour force to Canada to fill needs when employers cannot meet the needs locally.
We have been investing in innovation to boost research, which is now paying dividends through the commercialization of new technologies that have been developed right here in Canada. We have been engaging in investment and trade to have new markets come to our country. We have been making the investments the member is now calling for during the past four and a half years and we are going to continue to make those kinds of investments because they are good for the Canadian economy and good for Canadians.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 12:04 [p.1778]
Madam Speaker, I am glad to take this question.
The Conservatives often talk about the great recession, which was a real challenge and a global financial crisis, and how the Canadian economy was the first to emerge from that very challenging economic time, but what they never tell people is that we were the only G7 country to find ourselves, a few years later, in another recession that was driven by the Conservatives' failed economic policies of anti-growth.
With respect, the Conservatives racked up $150 billion of debt and had the slowest rate of economic growth of any government, and get this, since the Great Depression.
Over the past few years, what our government has done to preserve our fiscal health is make investments that grow the economy and have the benefits of that economic growth go to Canadians, all while monitoring a downward-trending debt-to-GDP ratio. This is sound economic policy, and I am happy to defend it any day of the week.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-09 14:00 [p.1794]
Mr. Speaker, in a province that once experienced the biggest explosion on Canadian soil, the Halifax explosion, residents of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, just recently were rocked by a 2.6 magnitude earthquake that shook homes and sounded like an explosion or a cannon being fired. Thankfully, there were no injuries.
The number one continuity safety issue for emergency preparedness is geographic separation and redundancy in communications. The recent earthquake is a prime example of why it is not wise to put all of our eggs in one basket, which is what the RCMP is proposing to do by moving the 911 call centre from Truro to Dartmouth. The rationale for this move seems less about safety and more about the fact that the RCMP moved into a headquarters that is too big for its needs.
I would urge the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to reconsider this action and protect the 100-kilometre geographic separation of these facilities for the safety and protection of all Nova Scotians.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 14:30 [p.1800]
Mr. Speaker, my grandfather always warned me to never let anything as petty as the cold, hard facts get in the way of a good story, and it sounds like the hon. member has been speaking to my grandfather.
When I look at the argument he makes, it rests on false pretenses. Over the past few years, we have made investments in the Canadian economy that have seen 1.2 million jobs added, including more than 30,000 in the past month alone. We have also seen more than a million people lifted out of poverty.
If he does not want to take my word for it, I would direct him to the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who confirmed that we have enough space in our budget to respond with the firepower we need in the event of a downturn. These things do not happen by accident. They happen because we have been putting measures in place to grow the economy and support Canadians.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 14:32 [p.1800]
Mr. Speaker, I find it fascinating that the hon. member has a new-found interest in debt and economic growth. If we look at the record, while he was sitting around the cabinet table in the previous government, it added $150 billion to our nation's debt and had the lowest rate of economic growth since the Great Depression. I could not make this stuff up.
Through the measures that we put in place, we have seen more than 1.2 million jobs added to the Canadian economy, more than a million people lifted out of poverty, including 300,000 kids, and we now have the healthiest balance sheet in the G7. This is what success looks like. I would invite the hon. member to take a look and enjoy.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 14:34 [p.1800]
Mr. Speaker, my grandfather turns 99 in May, and he is one of the few people I know who personally witnessed a government with a slower rate of economic growth than the Conservatives under Stephen Harper.
The fact remains that we have the healthiest balance sheet of any G7 economy. This is because we have been investing in measures that create economic growth and we have been putting in place policies that actually make sure ordinary Canadians benefit from that growth.
We are going to continue on a path to deal with the very serious challenges facing the Canadian economy, but we are going to work toward achieving economic growth, and growth that works for everyone.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 15:04 [p.1806]
Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the question is yes.
With respect to the coronavirus, I will let the hon. member know that our priority remains making sure that our public health system can provide world-class services and we will have support announced in the near future for those who have to self-isolate. I would invite the hon. member to take a look at the infrastructure plan that we have put forward, which is seeing hundreds of billions of dollars going toward projects that are actually going to create jobs in our communities and leave our communities strengthened as a result. I would be happy to carry on this conversation in more detail with the hon. member at her leisure.
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