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Results: 1 - 15 of 69
View Ben Lobb Profile
View Ben Lobb Profile
2020-06-17 18:47 [p.2525]
Madam Chair, at this point in the whole process I, like others, am frustrated by this. It has been going on for a long time. The fact is that I have asked three questions and got zero answers. I think I asked them in a polite manner. My colleague from Ottawa asked the minister a question in regard to the UN Security Council and did not get any answers.
All I can say is that if it is a good investment, they can tell us what it is. If it is $40 million to get a UN security seat, let us know. If we are putting money into Via Rail, let us know. How much is for new trains? How much is for maintenance? How much is for labour?
That is all we are trying to ask here. It is not that we are trying to slip anyone up or anything. It is just a respectful question to try to get a good answer, so if we are going to go through the process, how about we just get some real answers? I think we can handle them, and if they are good investments, let us support them.
View Navdeep Bains Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, I want to thank the hon. member for the way he presented his questions. He is absolutely correct. The investments we have made, particularly when it comes to vaccines and therapeutics, are designed to support Canadian solutions.
That is why we invested $175 million for AbCellera, a biotech company out of Vancouver that is working on identifying antibodies. Ultimately, it actually identified one antibody for a drug therapy.
That is the type of investment that we are making, which will benefit not only Canadians but many people outside of Canada as well.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-05-26 16:33 [p.2458]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time today with the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. Both of us are here from Saskatchewan. We made the trip. It worked well and it is very good to be back in the House.
I have a tendency to think in visuals. As I have been thinking through this today, I have been trying to think of how I could communicate in a way that Canadians would understand what is happening in the House today. I think part of the reason the Liberals moved closure is that they realized Canadians are figuring this out.
I ask members to imagine a mother who goes into her son’s room, which had been well organized but now it is just chaos. She tells him that he needs to clean it up, that it is time to clean it up. In this case, the mother would be Canadians. They have been watching throughout this pandemic. The government is dealing with different dynamics, and we are working with the government, but it gets to a point when it is time to move on. It is time to clean this up.
The government we are facing today is that child with the room that has been cleaned up. He calls his mom back into the room and she says it is beautiful. There is nothing but beautiful space in the room. However, the books are not back where they are supposed to be. Where are they? The toys and clothes are not put back where they are supposed to be. Where is everything? It is all jammed into a closet where it is no longer seen.
We have a government that wants to run a committee going forward, even now, when this place is ready to reconvene as a proper Parliament. The Prime Minister and the government are trying to convince Canadians by telling us that we will have all these opportunities to ask questions and hear their answers, to present S.O. 31s and petitions, and that somehow things will be so much better.
I would argue that if anything, that says something even deeper. It says that the government has no desire to return to a position where it is being held accountable for the decisions it has been making. It has also stuffed things away into a closet that do not belong there.
During the first sitting of the Liberal government as a majority government, one of the first things Liberals tried to do was take away our parliamentary tools on the opposition side of the floor. Our House leader worked very hard on our behalf to make sure that did not happen. Now we have a circumstance where tools are being stripped away, and all we have is the opportunity to ask questions or present a statement. That is not our role as members of Parliament in the House. Our responsibilities are to represent our constituents, to bring accountability to the government and to further decisions that are in the best interests of Canadians when we feel they are not being met.
One example of what is not being met by a committee of the whole, which is not a true sitting of Parliament, is that there is no opportunity to present opposition motions. We know how important those are because the Conservative Party, along with the other opposition parties on this side of the House, won three opposition motions that put the government on notice.
One of them was the Canada-China committee that was struck because of all of the issues going on with China that are impacting Canada. We have two men who have been held there improperly for so long. I pray for these people regularly. I pray that they maintain their courage, that they stay healthy and that our government does what it needs to do to find a way to get them home.
There are issues around agriculture and what China has done to our exports. There are all kinds of issues on which the government has chosen to sit back on its heels, including dealing with China and this pandemic. There is no question that to a large degree the pandemic is what created the chaos in the room.
Canadians are saying that we are doing better, that we have done what we needed to do, but what about what the government did? Why did Liberals say that the virus could not be transmitted human to human? Why did they not immediately close down flights from China until we could figure this out? Why did they not play defensively instead of offensively? What was in their minds? Why did they say that we do not need to wear masks in the general public? Why are there not enough for our front-line workers? They threw it all away and did not have it replaced.
There are all kinds of dynamics here that need to be dealt with, and they need to be dealt with properly.
There was the China-Canada committee. Then there was the Parliamentary Budget Officer saying that he could not find where all of this infrastructure funding was. Where was it? We formed a committee with the support of all of the members on this side of the floor that forced this minority government to allow the search for where those funds are. Financial accountability is absolutely crucial for this government at the best of times, let alone when we find ourselves in a circumstance where money is being spent at such a huge rate. Yes, a lot of it needs to be done. I am not questioning that, but when we are spending to the point where we are printing money to the tune of $5 billion a week, accountability needs to be there.
Then there is the issue of the Parole Board. When this government came into power, it fired everyone on the Parole Board and put its own people into place. The person in charge of that Parole Board wrote a report that said it was a crisis waiting to happen. Sure enough, an individual who was released on day parole and was told that for his sexual gratification he could hire someone to meet his sexual needs. Then, he turned around and killed that woman. There is no question that there are issues around that Parole Board, and we have the opportunity, because of agreement on this side of the floor, to force the government to deal with those questions.
There are no opposition motions. On legislation, why are those members not concerned about any legislation, which we have no opportunity to truly debate? Our committees are slowly coming back, but I can tell members that I know of veterans affairs issues going on that need to be brought to our committee. We called for an emergency opportunity to meet with the ombudsman. His report was so important that he has released it even though he is no longer the ombudsman.
Once again, we have a circumstance where someone has a responsibility to reveal issues with the government, and any government ends up having those circumstances. The Auditor General has challenged our party when it was in government, too. However, that person somehow disappears when there is something that needs to be said to this government.
Of course, there is the question of private members' bills. This is something that is very important to us as individual members of Parliament. It is the only time in the House when we get an opportunity to present something that is really important to our constituents, to Canada and to ourselves that is not led or directed by our leadership. It is a very special privilege, and significant things have been done through that. Again, this is something we are missing the opportunity to do.
It is not just that. It is also the efforts at a power grab when we met for the first time in good faith to deal with the COVID crisis, the introduction of the wage subsidy and whatnot. There is also the use of an order in council to determine a significant ban on firearms with absolutely no debate, no discussion and no consultation with, quite honestly, anyone other than who the government wanted to look at, because it was its own ideology that was driving it. It is not good, solid legislation for Canadians.
There are many more things I could say, but the point here is that Canadians are saying it is time for us to get back to work here. Yes, we are all working very hard, and I have to give a shout-out to my staff. It is unbelievable the work they have been doing on behalf of our constituents. There have been times when they were in tears because of the circumstances that they were dealing with trying to help Canadians who need that help and are not finding it.
It is a real privilege to serve Canadians, to serve Yorkton—Melville and to serve alongside my staff. The reason I cannot support this motion is that Canadians are tired of a committee running this country. It is time for Parliament to get back to work.
View James Cumming Profile
View James Cumming Profile
2020-05-26 18:36 [p.2475]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to follow that very impressive intervention.
I will be sharing my time today with the member for Thérèse-De Blainville.
It is a great honour for me to rise today and debate this motion on the floor with my colleagues, but I want to start by talking a bit about my staff that is serving the great constituents of Edmonton Centre. Edmonton Centre is an urban centre that has certainly been impacted by COVID, and the work that they have put forward is quite remarkable. Along with my responsibilities as shadow minister for small business and export promotion, I have the added burden of trying to work through the issues with small businesses and trying to help those small businesses that are struggling throughout the country.
I also want to talk about the people who have had to make adjustments in this very difficult time. I have a very personal story on that. I have a son, Garrett, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Garrett has been struggling through this difficult time with COVID, but he has managed to complete his masters in global security online. It proves to me that we can do remarkable things when we set our minds to it.
If Garrett were here today, he would tell members that I am his voice, and he believes I should be here debating legislation. He would tell me that is why I am here. That is what I should be doing: not serving on a committee, but debating legislation. That is important to him, and it is important to my constituents.
Conservatives have been calling for Parliament to get back in a full way to be able to debate legislation. Of course we want to do it in a healthy way, following all the particular guidelines.
This proposal by the Liberals is an improvement from what we heard before, but it still fails in that it does not allow us to debate legislation. With that, we miss other things. We miss opposition days. We miss emergency debates. We miss the opportunity to debate private members' bills, order publication of government documents and debate and vote on committee reports. We also do not have all the committees sitting, so it is not full Parliament: It is a committee.
On the notion of private members' bills, it is incredibly important for members here, and particularly for new members like me, to be able to put forward bills and have them be debated, which we have not been able to do. I happen to be one of the lucky people: I drew sixth in line.
The private member's bill that I put forward, if someone would like to look at it, is Bill C-229. It is a bill that we are really going to need as we come out of COVID, because we are going to have to generate enormous amounts of revenue in this country to try to get back on track. This bill repeals the restrictions on tankers off the coast of B.C. This is an incredibly important issue in my province and for the rest of Canada, because the resource industry in this country has helped to fuel a lot of the infrastructure, a lot of the things that we have come to enjoy and the lifestyle that we have come to enjoy.
There is another important private member's bill. It breaks my heart that we are not able to debate it and see it go through. It was from one of my colleagues who drew the number one spot. It is from the member for Calgary Confederation, on the establishment of a national organ and tissue donor registry in Canada. It is Bill C-210, and I am hoping my colleagues will support it, but we should be talking about it now.
We need tremendous oversight in these times, with what is going on with COVID. That oversight has to include watching the spending of the government. The Auditor General said he needs another $10 million to properly do his job, to make sure that he can audit and do performance audits on those things that are important to this country. We are not able to pass any legislation. The Auditor General should be doing his job, and that oversight is even more important now, because we have heard from the PBO suggesting that there could be $250-billion worth of debt.
In questioning the PBO at committee, the level of confidence on $250 billion is very low. I suspect it could be at a three or a four. It is not just about the money; it is about how the money is spent and being accountable to the taxpayers. That does not even talk about the increasing household debt. It does not talk about the increase in provincial debt and municipal debt.
We need to see a budget. We need to be able to debate a budget, given the stresses of the economy, with a budget that will give a go-forward plan. Currently we do not have a go-forward plan. We have a reaction to the issue, but we need a plan to be able to understand where we are going and how we are going to come out of this.
We need to be able to debate this economic recovery after this first wave of the pandemic. What will happen to investments in the country, both the investments that we have now and the investments that have gone out of the country.
We need to talk about the debt that people are taking on. Almost every program is debt, debt, deferral; debt, debt, deferral. It is hard for businesses. They are going to have a hard time recovering from this.
Small businesses, of which I have been hearing from thousands, are working hard just trying to keep the doors open. These programs for further debt and deferrals are going to hit hard in September. We should be debating these issues. We should be talking about legislation to help those businesses before that happens in the fall.
Another point that the Liberals have been quiet on includes the changes to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board regulations and especially for patients with cystic fibrosis. These changes incorporate new factors in determining whether a medicine is being or has been sold at excessive prices. The review board's changes would require patented drug manufacturers to significantly reduce their prices, a good thing, but making Canada a less attractive market to launch innovative therapies such as precision medicines that can alter the course of conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
The review board's changes affect private drug plans and patient access to new medicines for Canadians. These changes are currently on track to be implemented July 1. Already registration for new clinical trials have decreased by over 60%, from November 1, 2019 to February 29, 2020, because of these changes. These changes also affected the approval of new drugs, showing a drop of more than two-thirds.
One of the advocates to fight against these changes is Sandy. She lives in my riding. Her 14-year-old daughter, Laura, is battling cystic fibrosis. They, along with thousands of other Canadians, are fighting for access to a new drug called Trikafta, which has shown significant improvements in the lives of people suffering from cystic fibrosis by treating all cell levels and helping with lung performances. While other drugs in the past were treating symptoms, this actually improves lung performance and has been deemed the closest thing to a cure.
The parent company, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, has not yet applied to Health Canada because of the review board's regulatory changes, while it has been ready for approval in the U.S. market since last year. Canadians need access to this life-changing drug.
I want to acknowledge my colleague, the member for Parliament for Edmonton Riverbend, who has been working hard on this issue. These are the sorts of things we should be debating.
I ran for office and I came to this place to debate legislation. That is why I am here. That is what my constituents want me to do. They want me to serve them at home, but they also want me to serve them in this place and debate legislation. Let us get on with it. I know we can do it. I look forward to when we can actually debate legislation again.
View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-05-25 11:32 [p.2324]
Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise to speak to Motion No. 7. The hon. House leader gave a very impassioned speech about how we all worked together when this crisis first hit. We worked together immediately so that we would have a safe situation here in Ottawa, whereby the House was suspended on March 13 and we all went back to our ridings and began the hard work of dealing with this pandemic.
However, when the House was suspended at that time, I do not think any of us thought that the government would use that opportunity to circumvent democracy and shut Parliament down for this long a period of time. That was never what Conservatives wanted.
Motion No. 7 would continue the shutdown of democracy. It would continue the shutdown of Parliament. It would continue the shutdown of all members of Parliament who do the work that Canadians elected us to do. What Motion No. 7 would do is re-establish the special committee. Although the special committee is one in which questions can be asked, we certainly are not seeing questions answered. There are many things that the opposition can do when Parliament is actually sitting in order to try to get answers and hold the government to account. That is not going to be happening if this motion passes.
I want to remind Canadians that there are a number of things that we can do as opposition members, including opposition days where we can have full days to debate issues that members of the opposition parties feel are important. Private members' business is allowed to come forward when Parliament is sitting. Under this motion, no private members' business would come forward until probably the end of September. There are questions on the Order Paper that can be posed, whereby very specific and detailed questions are answered, and we have seen so much information come out over the years from questions on the Order Paper. The opposition is not going to be allowed to do that. There are debates and discussions around important committee reports that happen when Parliament is sitting. That will not be happening under this special committee.
Let us be very clear. For all Canadians, for everyone in the House, Parliament would not be resuming. A committee would be resuming and it would be resuming in this place, face to face. This begs the question: If we can resume here four days a week as a committee, why in the world can we not resume as parliamentarians and as a full Parliament?
We had a study done just recently by the PROC committee. It was a good study, but it was probably too short. The committee probably will need more time, and I think it will be getting more time, to do some work that it is doing. There was some fantastic testimony given on why Parliament is essential. Some might suggest this is just about people getting media coverage. What an insult that is to what every single one of us does every single day when Parliament has been sitting and has sat for the last 150 years. We are here to do a job, whether it is in government or in opposition; whether it is the main opposition party, the second opposition party or even that third opposition party over there. Those members are here to do a job as well, and I do not think any of us are going to insult the third party there, even though its numbers are reduced, by saying that the members are here just to get attention.
Let me quote Marc Bosc, former acting clerk of the House. He articulated Parliament's place. Here is what he said:
In too many countries around the world, dominant executive branches of government eclipse parliament. This makes parliaments weaker and less relevant. That imbalance needs to be addressed, especially in a time of crisis.
That is what we are in, Madam Speaker. He continued:
The House of Commons [not committee] needs to be functioning and needs to be seen by Canadians as functioning. I want to be clear. Parliament, particularly the House of Commons [not committee] is an essential service to the country, and members of Parliament are also essential workers.
These views are not just academic concerns. Veteran observers of Canadian politics have made similar points. John Ibbitson, for example, wrote:
Everything that is being debated on Twitter and Facebook and in the news media needs to be debated on the floor of the House [of Commons] and in Question Period.
Again, that is not a committee. He is talking about being in Parliament in the House of Commons and on the floor of the House of Commons. He continued:
Canada is a parliamentary democracy, health emergency or no health emergency....The opposition parties have every right to raise these issues, and the governing party has every right to defend its record. The place to do that is in Parliament, not just once a day in front of a microphone.
Who has been doing that every day in front of a microphone, getting out in front of his cottage, answering a few questions, smiling, telling everybody how he feels and that is it? That is not Parliament. That is not the way our democracy works.
Manon Cornellier, a Quebec journalist, said in Le Devoir, “The Conservatives…are right to require the government to be more accountable. Constant speeches and press conferences cannot replace the duty of ministers and the Prime Minister to be accountable before elected representatives. In a British type of Parliament, the existence of the government depends on the trust of the House”: not a committee but the House, Parliament. “Ultimately, the government must answer for its actions and decisions...”
A lot of academics and media ask this, but more importantly every day my constituents ask me why Parliament is not sitting. They say we are in a middle of a crisis and they have elected me to sit in Parliament. I have had to tell them that the government, together with the help of some of the other parties, has tied our hands behind our backs. We have still been able to do a lot of good work here in opposition. We have seen the work we have done. The government House leader has even acknowledged that pretty well every one of the programs that the government introduced, we as opposition made better, because we did not allow anyone to shut our voice down and we used every tool available.
That is why we want Parliament to sit. We want to deliver better results for Canadians. We know that in a democracy when the government is challenged, when it has to defend what it is doing and maybe improve it, when it has to listen to us on our opposition days and take a position, it is better for Canadians. That is the whole reason Conservatives want Parliament to sit.
That, then, comes to the question of why the government would not want Parliament to sit. Why would the Liberal government prefer to stand up every day, as the Prime Minister does in front of his cottage, answer a few questions and announce some programs for people, but not come back to Parliament? For a long time, the government was saying it was concerned about the health and safety of people in the precinct and members of Parliament. That wears very thin because its own motion calls us all back here four days a week.
Four days a week we are going to be here in the committee, face to face, practising physical distancing and being very responsible, which is what Conservatives have advocated for. However, the Prime Minister does not want Parliament. Therefore, the whole argument of safety is actually pretty thin. I would say it is a thin excuse and not a real reason.
I would suggest the real reason Liberals do not want Parliament to sit is because they do not want the full accountability, the full scrutiny and the full responsibility that will come when Parliament does sit. Make no mistake: We will sit again. Conservatives will stand ready any time to come back as Parliament and hold the government to account for its response to this pandemic, for its lack of response, for its lack of dealing with things in a timely way, for its lack of supporting and providing protection for Canadians.
Make no mistake: The day of reckoning will come for the Prime Minister. He may think he is going to escape Parliament now, but the day will come. Conservatives will hold the government to account. We will do our job. Conservatives stand ready, willing and able to do the job for Canadians that it seems nobody else in this place wants to do.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks today by expressing my heartfelt condolences on behalf of my entire caucus and our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Constable Heidi Stevenson and all those who lost their lives in the senseless attack over the weekend in Nova Scotia. As more and more details come out as to the scale of the tragedy, I know it is weighing heavily upon all Canadians at this time, and all members of Parliament. To those members of Parliament from Nova Scotia, I would particularly like to convey, through them to their constituents, our solidarity with them. I know the whole country is grieving with them for their loss as well. We are also praying for a speedy recovery for the RCMP officer who was injured in the line of duty. Each one of the victims leaves behind heartbroken family, friends and a community reeling from such an unthinkable act.
I wish to extend my sincere condolences the family and friends of Constable Heidi Stevenson and all those who lost their lives in this senseless attack in Nova Scotia on the weekend. I also wish a speedy recovery to the RCMP officer who was injured in the line of duty. Every victim leaves behind a family, friends and a community torn apart by this outrageous act.
It is made all the more difficult because, in this time, comfort will have to be offered at a distance, but as we, as a nation, mourn with those who mourn, I hope that the affected families and communities know that right across Canada we hold them closely in our hearts.
These are difficult times. There has been far too much sadness and grief in our nation over the last month. Over 1,600 Canadians have now died from COVID-19, and more than 36,000 Canadians have fallen sick. Canadians' lives and livelihoods literally depend on the government getting the response to this pandemic right. Given what is at stake, Conservatives would like to see more than the one accountability session per week that the other parties appear to have agreed to.
We also believe that virtual accountability sessions should be designed in the all-party forum that is already working on this issue.
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs held its first meeting last week, and it should be allowed to carry out the job it has been assigned. If the NDP and the Bloc have agreed with the Liberals to limit accountability, they will have to explain themselves to Canadians in the coming weeks.
Conservatives believe in oversight and accountability. Millions of Canadians are going to work every single day to help their neighbours get through this pandemic. Parliamentarians should be doing the same thing. Right here on Parliament Hill, construction workers are continuing to renovate Centre Block, a project that is expected to take at least 10 years. If they can safely renovate the building that houses our Parliament, then surely we can do our duty to uphold the bedrock of our democracy.
That is the issue: democracy. Canadians have the right to be represented by their government. Their concerns must be heard and their questions must be answered.
There have been so many questions raised throughout this pandemic, and Conservatives have been asking those questions. We have not always gotten answers, but we are going to continue to press for them. The need for these accountability sessions is made evident day after day.
Why can the Prime Minister not tell Canadians when new ventilators will arrive? It was in this chamber, on March 12, when I asked the Deputy Prime Minister what the government was doing to obtain new ventilators. She said at that time that the government was leading a national procurement strategy. Thirty days later, the Prime Minister, in this chamber, said that the first ventilators would be weeks away. That is unacceptable.
Why were millions of masks and protective equipment destroyed and not replaced? Why are government programs changing every single day? These are the kinds of questions that Canadians have, and they deserve answers from their government, because vulnerable Canadians do not have another month to wait around for help.
Canadians' lives and livelihoods literally depend on the government getting its response to this pandemic right.
The Prime Minister continues to warn that this process will be long and arduous, but so far that has not just meant dealing with this pandemic but also the decision-making process. We owe it to Canadians to work our absolute hardest to get this right.
Since this crisis first began to take shape, it has been the opposition that has often been leading the way on the useful, practical actions that have been taken to protect Canadians. We called for tighter restrictions on travel and at the border. We called for the wage subsidy to be raised from 10% to 75%. We called for seasonal workers and those with limited incomes to qualify for the emergency response benefit. The Prime Minister said that he wanted a team Canada approach, and we have given him one, putting forward constructive solutions every day to help Canadians affected by this crisis.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and his ministers have chosen to try to do this on their own, and the result is that virtually every day they are having to make changes to their policies. If we were working these policies out together, each side playing to its strength, every region of this country represented as it is supposed to be, the government would get things right the first time around more often.
The Conservative caucus is determined to do the job we were elected to do: represent the voices of Canadians from coast to coast to keep Canadians as healthy and safe as possible. We are here because we know that Canadians are depending on us, and in this Conservative caucus we will not stop working.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said that the government continues to reach out a hand of co-operation. I assure him that the same is true for the opposition.
The government House leader said that this is not about partisanship. I will remind him that it was his leader, his Prime Minister, who yesterday told something to Canadians that he knew was not true. He said that today there would be 338 MPs. I invite members to look around. We have done exactly what we told Canadians we would do: We would be here in a responsible manner, respecting public health guidelines while still representing Canadians.
For the Prime Minister to try to conjure up fears when he knew that was never going to be the case not only was disingenuous, but it undermines his credibility. At a time when Canadians are looking to him to be open and forthright, when he does things like that it shakes the confidence that Canadians have that he is being truthful on other matters. It was a shameful example of partisanship yesterday.
I have heard so many comments from members that, to me, indicate they are allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. It is clear that there are going to be challenges for in-person sittings. We could have spent the last two weeks talking about how best to deal with that, how best to limit the impact in the House of Commons and how best to ensure that representations from each caucus would be allowed to participate.
The default position is for Parliament to sit, and it is incumbent upon the government to explain why it should not in a time of crisis. We have already seen examples of the government using this crisis to its advantage. Do members remember the first time we were called here? I know the hon. House leader does, because we were both here until very early in the morning. When we were told to come to Ottawa to pass legislation to help get benefits into the hands of Canadians, the current government wrote itself massive new powers, giving itself broad powers, ignoring the role of Parliament in terms of taxation and spending. It was because Conservatives refused to go along with that that we were able to protect our democratic institutions.
The second time we came here, we were given a bill and we were told that it had to be passed by the end of the day on that Saturday. We rolled up our sleeves.
Other parties such as the Bloc Québécois gave the government carte blanche by stating that they would support the bill. However, our team did its job last weak. We identified weaknesses in the government's bill and our efforts improved it. Although the other parties do not want to do their job, we are ready to do the work that Canadians have asked us to do.
On behalf of the millions of Canadians whom we represent here, I move:
That the motion be amended, in paragraph (h),
(a) by replacing subparagraphs (iv) and (v) with the following: “(iv) during the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order, the committee shall meet in the chamber at noon every Tuesday and Wednesday, provided that the committee shall not meet on a day referred to in Standing Order 28(1),”;
(b) by deleting, in subparagraph (x), the words “or a Thursday”;
(c) by deleting, in subparagraph (xi), the words “and Thursdays”; and
(d) by replacing subparagraph (xviii) with the following: “(xviii) following the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs pursuant to its order of reference of Saturday, April 11, 2020, if that committee recommends the implementation of virtual sittings and if the Clerk of the House indicates that they are technologically feasible, the House leaders of all four recognized parties may indicate to the Speaker that there is an agreement among the parties to hold one additional meeting of the committee each week by videoconference, notwithstanding subparagraph (iv), with members participating by videoconference, and the Speaker shall give effect to that agreement;”.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I know that I speak for all parliamentarians when I say that those Canadians who are affected by the COVID-19 virus are in our thoughts and prayers at this time. I know that our actions, whether on the government side of the House or on opposition benches, must continue to be guided by our shared desire to protect the health and safety of all Canadians and to support them through the global pandemic.
These are unprecedented times, warranting an unprecedented response both from governments and the Canadian people.
We know that this crisis is affecting Canadians across the country.
Almost a million workers have already been laid off, stores and restaurants have been told to close their doors and Canadians have been asked to stay at home.
We also know that our economy is taking a hit in this crisis and that the coming months will be very difficult.
While we are all aware that more needs to be done, and we have all heard of isolated incidents of people not following public health advice, overwhelmingly Canadians have risen to the challenge and have shown the care and compassion for which we, as a country, are so well known.
In these trying times, now more than ever, we see the strength of our communities and appreciate our true Canadian heroes: truck drivers, farmers and factory workers keeping our supply chains running at all times; companies stepping up, ensuring workers get paid, even if their doors are closed; grocery stores, pharmacies and cleaning staff working to keep shelves full and doors open; and restaurants offering takeout and delivery to those who need a hot meal.
Perhaps most importantly as we consider the health crisis, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, public health officials and first responders working around the clock to keep us all healthy and safe.
I had an opportunity to speak with the president of the Ontario Medical Association last week about what doctors urgently need from the government in fighting this pandemic. Those needs must be met.
The president mentioned the need for greater information-sharing tools so that tracking of cases can be done more quickly, so that when someone has a positive test result, the medical and health agencies can work backward and find out who that person was in contact with and do it through a much faster response mechanism. He also spoke to the need for equipment that must be procured now, before the number of cases escalates. I hope the government takes those concerns very seriously.
Our researchers in the scientific community will also play an essential role in fighting this pandemic and ultimately developing a vaccine.
I also want to acknowledge the leadership shown by provincial and municipal elected officials across the country. While the federal government took its time, the provinces acted quickly, taking advantage of their constitutional powers on health and education, particularly through the police and local services. Each province has tackled its own challenges and proposed new, innovative approaches.
Canadians are worried. They are worried for their health and the health of their loved ones, for their jobs and for their futures, and they are looking to us for action.
Conservatives have been flexible in our approach, while also continuing to ensure government oversight. When we agreed to the extraordinary suspension of Parliament, Conservatives insisted that the government be subject to substantial accountability measures, including the condition that the Auditor General would audit any new spending and that parliamentary committees would be able to review all of that spending when Parliament resumes.
We also agreed to bring back the House of Commons this week with only a small number of members present. We were prepared to quickly pass the measures that the Prime Minister had announced to date.
What we were not prepared for was the government's attempted undemocratic power grab. The Liberals shamefully tried to use a public health crisis to give themselves the powers to raises taxes, debt and spending without parliamentary oversight. However, after hours of negotiation, the government now has backed down from that position, and Conservatives have secured the following concessions.
We demanded that the government remove the section that would have allowed it to raise taxes without parliamentary approval, and the Liberals have agreed.
We demanded that the government walk back its unlimited spending powers and that special warrants expire on June 23, 2020, instead of September 30, 2020. The Liberals agreed.
We demanded that the government include explicit reference to putting taxpayers' rights first, and the Liberals agreed.
We demanded that the government must put sunset clauses in its legislation, a point that only the Conservative Party raised.
We demanded a sunset clause to ensure that the new powers will not remain in place for several more years.
We demanded that the government be accountable to Parliament through regular reports to the House of Commons health and finance committees, and that the finance committee have the right to recall Parliament if we identify any abuses, and the Liberals agreed.
Our effective opposition has also gotten the government to reverse course on other policies.
Let us remember that it was just a short while ago in this House that Conservatives were calling for stronger action to protect our borders. We were the ones who were asking tough questions as to why flights coming into Canada from hot spots around the world were continuing to be allowed. We proposed the idea of restricting travel much earlier. The government's initial response was that closing borders and restricting travel was not an effective way to fight this virus. It turns out that this was exactly what the Liberals were forced to do, just a short while after making those statements.
We asked about the impact of the border closure on the temporary foreign worker and seasonal agricultural worker programs, and the government made exemptions.
We demanded that the government put an end to illegal border crossings, in particular Roxham Road, and it is only thanks to us that the government has listened.
We have also called on the federal government to increase support for small businesses and workers, and I remain hopeful that the government will implement our suggestions.
Conservatives are focused on putting forward constructive solutions to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. We will also continue to ask questions on behalf of Canadians and ensure that the government's response includes clear timelines so that Canadians know when they can expect to start receiving support.
Many of us are looking at models around the world, and we hope that the government can look to countries that had effective measures at the front end and were then able to relax some of their restrictions on the economy much more quickly. I know one of my hon. colleagues has already raised the examples that we can look to in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, where there were a large number of tests being done, as well as rapid information sharing and rapid tracking of individuals who had tested positive so that they could identify who in the community was exposed. Those are some of the measure that we needed to see implemented much more quickly so we could quickly get to the point where our economy can get back on its feet.
While the government is looking for ways to do exactly that, I again want to urge it to do everything that it can.
I know that the Minister of Finance said earlier that the Bank of Canada is independent of government. While that is true to many degrees, there are ways that the government can take steps to ensure that quantitative easing is not an option that the government is looking at. Every time that has been tried in the past, it has led to many negative consequences for years longer than the economic crisis that justified those moves. We know that there is a huge crunch right now in the credit markets and we know the government will be looking to ways to address that, but simply printing more money is not the way to do it. I hope the Liberals take that into account.
We are here to be co-operative as they look to provide support to individuals and to help people pay their mortgages, pay their rent, pay their utilities and put food on the table.
We will be there to help and to propose solutions to ensure that Canadians can keep their homes. We will work with the measures that provide direct assistance to the Canadians affected by this crisis.
I want to thank all my colleagues for being here throughout the day.
I again remind the government that the assistance part of this legislation could have been passed 12 hours ago, but we will acknowledge the progress that has been made and the spirit of co-operation that I see in the hon. government House leader. I want to thank him for all his efforts throughout the day. It has been a lot of hard work and there have been a lot of moving pieces in a lot of ways. Those of us who have been here since the start of the day are grateful that this assistance will be able to flow into the hands of Canadians.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:34 [p.2089]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to speak here today on this important issue.
We certainly are in unprecedented times. It is remarkable for me to be here today representing my own riding while also carrying the weight of those living in the ridings of my Green Party colleagues, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I have also been asked to share these comments on behalf of the independent member for Vancouver Granville.
I would first like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. It is essential that we remember the historical and ongoing implications of those words and the responsibilities we bear toward indigenous communities across the nation, especially as we face this unprecedented crisis.
I know I am not alone in having made this bizarre trek to Ottawa to be present here for these proceedings. I made the 10-hour trip by car with my husband and two boys.
We stopped only to get gas and take a break. We followed all the recommended hygiene measures.
Of course, we did our best to entertain a toddler and a seven-year-old for 10 hours in the car. I think of the many families and households across the nation who are answering difficult questions from their children and trying to keep them entertained. I feel that too. I want to let the children of Canada know we love them and we are here for them too. We know this is a difficult time.
I would like to take this opportunity to also humbly thank many, many people: the front-line workers staffing our hospitals, stocking our grocery stores and keeping our communities safe; the businesses and educational institutions that are answering the call and mobilizing in a warlike effort to provide and manufacture and supplies that we need; Dr. Tam and her team for coordinating our public health response, as well as Dr. Bonnie Henry of B.C. for her incredible work; the tireless efforts of our cabinet ministers and their staff to coordinate a response to COVID-19 across government departments; and my colleagues here in this House and those practising social distancing at home for proving that in the face of a national crisis, we can and will work together for the people of this country.
We gather in these extraordinary times to pass extraordinary legislation. It will allow the federal government to reach out and help Canadians directly with their personal finances. It will allow help to reach the self-employed, small and medium-sized businesses and large corporations. I am very relieved that a compromise was found that allows us to pass this legislation today, albeit a bit later than we had hoped.
It is a fundamental principle of Westminster parliamentary democracy that Parliament controls the public purse. We cannot, even in a public health emergency, convey unprecedented powers without any oversight and without any criteria limiting those powers to any government, no matter how well-intentioned.
This is a defining moment for our country. I am prouder than ever before to be Canadian and to see the expedited response to this crisis. I am also so proud to be from New Brunswick. I commend Premier Higgs and chief medical officer Jennifer Russell for declaring a state of emergency. To the decision-makers of the neighbouring Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland, I commend them all for making the difficult decision to close provincial borders to further protect citizens. I thank them for their leadership.
We have now seen more than a week of social distancing, of closures and restrictions. It is now the time for all Canadians to comply and do our part to get us through this together. Effective suppression would mean fewer cases of coronavirus, a fighting chance for our health care system and the humans who run it, a reduction in the number of total fatalities and a reduction in collateral damage. As well, it would give us the time for infected, isolated and quarantined health care workers to get better and return to work.
Canada has been quick to respond so far. Inevitably there are lessons to be learned to ensure that we are better prepared for this type of disaster in the future.
I am here to work collaboratively with my colleagues in government, but I must also point out the ways we need to improve so that we can get this right for Canadians.
I am sure we are all in the same boat when it comes to the level of correspondence with our constituents over the past few weeks. We have been hearing a lot of concern. One thing the situation has made clear is the inequalities within our society. COVID-19 has amplified the challenges people are already facing.
I am thinking of the Canadians who are living in poverty, especially those who are homeless.
Working Canadians have been laid off or are facing reduced work hours, particularly at a time when they feel financially insecure. Older Canadians living on a fixed income are worried about their pensions and investments. Indigenous peoples are facing heightened challenges in their communities.
It is not easy for Canadians living in rural areas to access health care services.
Permanent residents and other newcomers worrying about family abroad are trying to get home amidst travel cancellations. Our charities and not-for-profit organizations are losing their donor base right now and really need our support. We must also stay vigilant against those who want to profit from this crisis, and they are out there.
We are facing this giant together, but from very different vantage points. Almost a million people have applied for employment insurance. Our Green Party has been proposing a guaranteed livable income for Canadians for years, and if we had a GLI in place now, we would easily be able to ramp up payments to people facing layoffs and reduced hours without clogging the phone lines of Service Canada and scaring people who are afraid in their unique situations, leaving them without support. The government measures announced are now taking time to roll out because we lack the infrastructure to quickly disseminate direct payments to Canadians. We need to have a closer look at this issue.
It is also clear to me that if we had already made much-needed improvements to our health care system in areas that have been advocated by professionals, such as improved infrastructure, preventive health care and pharmacare, we would be much better situated to address the needs of Canadians in this COVID-19 crisis.
Best estimates of what lies ahead vary widely. We can all agree that the more we are able to maintain social distancing among those who are asymptomatic and maintain isolation for those who have symptoms, the greater our chances are of getting through COVID-19 without overwhelming the system. The extent to which individual Canadians and businesses can follow the advice provided depends on the extent of their financial ability to do so. People have to be in a financially secure position in order to take the public health advice.
When we talk about the economic impacts, it seems we have left some things out.
We have discussed a few of them here today. Renters, both residential and commercial, need measures to protect them from landlords who are not passing along the goodwill of the banks or who do not have the goodwill of their bank. New Brunswick and a few other provinces have made it illegal to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent. These measures are good, but they need to be standardized across the country.
We must do more for the small and medium-sized businesses that keep our economy moving.
As Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says of the wage subsidies, “It's the right measure, but it's the wrong amount.”
Our assistance measures for businesses are being dwarfed by steps taken or being contemplated elsewhere. For example, in Denmark the government is offering up to 75% of wages, with the maximum payout per employee 10 times higher than the current offering in Canada. As well, there seems to be nothing for unincorporated businesses that have employees. This is a big concern.
New Brunswick is allowing small businesses to defer WorkSafe New Brunswick premiums for three months. The federal government could do the same for EI, CPP and HST.
These are trying times, but we do see examples of hope all across the country. I have seen jingle-dress dancers standing out in their yards dancing for all of our collective healing. I know that we have seen churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship adapting to a new reality and being steadfast in their support of spirituality and faith, which we need now more than ever.
These are emotional times for citizens as well, and we also must consider their mental health. We should get outside if we can, but we must maintain our social distancing. We can go for the online museum tours. Online zoo tours are happening. I have seen people making badminton nets out of tape. We can play Hide the Potato.
I have also seen people making Portugese-style or Quebec-style tortillas.
We are finding really creative examples to deal with this crisis. Let us keep it up. I urge us all to call neighbours, check in, do FaceTime with grandparents. We all have a responsibility here. Let us stay connected. Isolation can be a really difficult thing for each of us to face.
Many of us are setting an example by operating from home as well, and we can continue to play a leadership role here by exploring digital options for the work we do here in the House. Let us continue to have that conversation.
Today means passing this motion to ensure Canadians have the financial resources they need to make ends meet while we rigorously follow the advice of public health experts. We will get through this if we stick together, even if that means standing apart.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2020-03-11 16:22 [p.1950]
Madam Speaker, my colleague from Yorkton—Melville mentioned the delays by the Liberal government in allowing Parliament and the opposition parties to study the bill. We asked for that in October and December.
Could she explain why the Liberal Party continually blocks Parliament from proper oversight of such an important deal?
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-03-11 16:23 [p.1950]
Madam Speaker, clearly there is a problem on the other side of the House.
Quite often we see the Liberals making announcements and then trying to figure out the implementation of them. In this case, the deal took so long and was so poorly constructed, that the Liberals, realizing they had conceded so much, tried to avoid any kind of scrutiny and simply tried to get it through the House.
View Colin Carrie Profile
View Colin Carrie Profile
2020-03-10 11:26 [p.1855]
Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech intently and I want to thank him for his work on the international trade committee. He mentioned how Canadians are going to be paying the price for the Prime Minister's weak leadership. He talked about the aluminum industry, the dairy sector and the softwood lumber sector, all of these lost opportunities.
One point he brought up that is incredibly important to Canadians is the lack of transparency. The original TPP that was negotiated five years ago by the government had a positive effect of $4.3 billion on our GDP. The new agreement, according to C.D. Howe and as we heard in committee, is a $14-billion hit to our economy. The economic impact studies, as the member so carefully pointed out, were not even available to us until one day before the end of the agreement.
The Liberal government told Canadians before the election that this was a win-win-win, if members remember. It was a great deal for Canadians. Then we found out their own numbers. In my own community of Oshawa we have had a $1.5-billion hit to the auto industy and a decrease of 1.7% for production.
The member said that he is a watchdog and he is going to be a good watchdog working together on committee. I see myself in that form as well. There is so much misleading information and a lack of transparency.
How important is the implementation of this trade agreement and the oversight for that implementation, given the support for the negatively affected sectors? Also, because of the government's weak leadership and tendency to secrecy, how important are that implementation and oversight going to be?
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
Madam Speaker, transparency is essential. Sadly, it has always been lacking in this type of agreement. It is imperative that we find a way to come up with institutional mechanisms. The committees are one. We will do our job and I invite the other opposition parties to do theirs.
The Bloc, the NDP and the Conservatives all agreed on the fact that this process was short on transparency. Generally speaking, these types of negotiations are held with very little consultation. This is true even at the preliminary stages, before anything is discussed with parliamentarians. Civil society groups are rarely consulted. In the end, they win some and they lose some. We must certainly find a way to monitor this, and I invite my colleagues to give that some thought.
Motions are moved in committee on specific aspects of the potential consequences of trade. We must ensure that we do our job effectively. Yes, negotiations are held behind closed doors, but this issue needs to be debated at the political level thereafter.
View Peter Julian Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed working with the member on a number of committees and always appreciate her input.
She and a number of other colleagues have talked about the lack of transparency in the current process around trade. The NDP has negotiated an agreement moving forward, not impacting this agreement, where the government will henceforth be looking to transparency in negotiating trade agreements, consulting with people up front and, particularly important and something that Canada really has not done, putting in place the economic evaluations of what a trade agreement could mean. This is so the trading negotiators actually have content in front of them as the trade agreement is negotiated.
I wanted to ask the member how she feels about that approach, with more transparency around trade. Does she feel, as I do, that ultimately that will lead to better trade agreements?
View Kelly Block Profile
Mr. Speaker, I too have appreciated working with my hon. colleague over the last number of years.
I think all of us would agree that accountability and transparency in everything that we do as elected representatives are goals and values that we should support and look to attain. I would like to refer back to the letter that was written by my colleagues to the Deputy Prime Minister. They voiced deep concern and disappointment with both the government's refusal to co-operate with the official opposition and other opposition parties and its inability to organize an effective legislative schedule, which delayed the work of the committee regarding the scrutiny of CUSMA. This is where we might be able to see some of that transparency and accountability when, as legislators, we are tasked with doing our due diligence in scrutinizing an agreement that we have to ratify in this place.
View Peter Julian Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
The NDP negotiated an agreement, to take effect with CUSMA, to allow for greater transparency so that the general public can understand free trade agreements. This agreement was to ensure that people would be consulted before instead of after and that the government would make sure the public understands the economic impact of the negotiations before they even begin. This has yet to happen. There was no credible process in the eyes of the public. Fortunately the Liberal government understood that the NDP's approach was better.
Does my colleague agree that it is better to provide more transparency so that the public understands the issues associated with each agreement negotiated?
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