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Results: 1 - 60 of 70
View Rachael Harder Profile
View Rachael Harder Profile
2020-07-21 14:10 [p.2688]
Mr. Speaker, a member of this place once said, “It's hard not to feel disappointment in one's government when every day there is a new scandal.” These are the words of the current Prime Minister, a sentiment that is shared now by many across the country.
We are standing at a precipice, a day of choosing. Will the Prime Minister choose to recommit to his 2014 goal of restoring trust in Canada's democracy, or will he continue to evade accountability, keep Parliament shut down and only answer questions if and when he deems them important?
Will the Prime Minister appear before the committee? Will he answer opposition questions, or will he choose to take personal days when it is inconvenient to face the music?
The Prime Minister can bury his head in the sand. He can ignore the public demand for transparency, or he can lead the way in openness and accountability by following his own advice to let the sun shine in. After all, we have been told that sunlight is in fact the best disinfectant.
What will he choose?
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?
View Patricia Lattanzio Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
First of all, we are committed to the principles of transparency, which are very important to us as elected officials. We have a duty to enforce these principles, and we do.
Furthermore, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs negotiated with the other parties to ensure that the entire process was transparent.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-10 17:50 [p.1914]
Mr. Speaker, as the NDP trade critic, I have been following the debate very closely.
Conservatives mentioned a couple of issues multiple times. One is the lack of an economic impact assessment, or the late delivery of that document, getting it only a day before the conclusion of the committee's study. A second concern, and I think a legitimate concern, is about having to give notice to the United States of negotiating an agreement with a non-market country, which really means China.
The NDP was successful in negotiating some policy changes with the government, namely that the government would be required by its own rules to table an economic impact assessment with the ratifying legislation, that it would be required to give three months' public notice, here in Parliament, of an intent to negotiate with any country, and that it would give notice of its negotiating objectives.
That is sound policy, and it helps in addressing some of the concerns about the process for this agreement by making public the notice that the U.S. would get anyway and by ensuring that economic impact assessments would be tabled with the ratifying legislation.
Would the member comment on those provisions?
View Martin Shields Profile
View Martin Shields Profile
2020-03-10 17:51 [p.1914]
Mr. Speaker, the member brings such depth to his questions and interest in this House. I always appreciate it when the member stands up to address the House.
The member talked about transparency, and transparency is the issue. We are dealing with the coronavirus. I am going to go a different way on this, but members will understand why in a second. We have had a party dealing with this, but it has been dealing with it in a very closed fashion.
When the Conservatives dealt with SARS, was it just the committee of the cabinet that was dealing with it? No. The leaders of all opposition parties were included at 10 o'clock every day. It was transparent and it was dealt with as a team, because those things need to be dealt with by a team.
This is the same as what the member was saying about dealing with a team. We are dealing with the coronavirus and we are out here having to ask questions about what is going on. If the Liberals would include the opposition, as Conservatives did with SARS, we would have transparency and much better information sharing. We would then be able to make better decisions.
View Gord Johns Profile
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-03-10 18:22 [p.1918]
Mr. Speaker, I sit on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans with my colleague, and I know he cares as much about shipping lobster as I do about shipping salmon and the other species where I live.
The member talked about governments doing things differently. Clearly, we are happy to see the government adopt our policy to change the policy on tabling treaties here in Parliament.
The Canadian government must act now. I really want to give a huge shout-out to my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for working with the government and bringing this forward.
However, to give 90 days' notice of Canada's intent to negotiate a trade deal, to table negotiation objectives 30 days before negotiations commence and to provide an economic impact assessment along with ratifying legislation are basics for openness and transparency. Does my colleague agree that for transparency and openness in this deal, these should have been done in the first place?
View Robert Morrissey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Robert Morrissey Profile
2020-03-10 18:23 [p.1918]
Mr. Speaker, let us cut right to the end of the discussion. The proof is in the final document. We have strong unanimity in this House for supporting this agreement, so obviously we arrived there in a transparent and open process.
View John Brassard Profile
View John Brassard Profile
2020-03-09 16:10 [p.1815]
Mr. Speaker, I know the member was not here in 2015. She was part of the Kathleen Wynne government in Ontario, so I will excuse her for not knowing this.
In the real plan the Prime Minister put out in 2015, he stated, “It is time to shine more light on government and ensure that it remains focused on the people it is meant to serve. Government and its information should be open by default...”
In fact, the mandate letters for all the ministers speaks to this directly from the Prime Minister. This motion is openness and transparency by default. Will she support the motion, yes or no?
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2020-03-09 16:11 [p.1816]
Mr. Speaker, at this point, I feel confident that our government has shown transparency and openness since 2015. We are probably one of the most transparent and we are here to show members this.
I would remind the hon. member that while I might not have been here in 2015, I do live in Orleans and Ottawa. One thing that was made very clear to me when I went door to door was the openness of our government to invest in what mattered to people. We have done that since 2015, such as bringing the unemployment rates to their lowest in 40 years.
View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-02-28 10:03 [p.1727]
That, notwithstanding Standing Order 81, for the supply period ending March 26, 2020, three additional allotted days shall be added for a total of 10, provided that one of the additional days is allotted to the Conservative Party, one of the additional day is allotted to the Bloc Québécois, and one of the additional days is allotted to the New Democratic Party, and, if necessary to accommodate these additional days, the supply period may be extended to April 2, 2020, and no allotted days shall fall on a Wednesday or a Friday.
She said: I am very happy to rise today in my capacity as the House leader for the official opposition to speak to the motion that we have put forward today.
I will be honest. I wish we were not talking about the Standing Orders today. I think there are a lot of issues gripping this country, including illegal blockades. We have seen individuals set fires and put up barricades on railroads, causing our economy to come to a halt. We have seen absolute weak leadership and no leadership from the government. Today would be a good day to talk about things like that.
We also have seen issues around investment leaving this country. As we have just seen this week, Teck has taken out its application for a very important project that we wish had been built in Alberta. It would have helped jobs right across the country. The Liberals and their policy are driving investment away. That is something we could be talking about today.
We also have the coronavirus, which is gripping world. We do not know if it is contained. Could it be a pandemic? That is an issue Canadians are thinking about.
However, today we are talking about changes to the Standing Orders. I will get to the fact that we only have four speakers today, but for now I will say that I am sharing my time with one of the next three speakers, the member for Perth—Wellington.
I will start by giving a little background and then will quickly let my colleagues know, as some may not be aware, how a minority Parliament operates. I want to give some context about opposition days and why they matter.
Throughout the run of a full year, the government must devote 22 days for the opposition parties to raise topics of their choosing. The rules spread those out over winter, spring and fall, and from there the opposition parties agree on how to carve them up. It is up to the government to decide which days are used for opposition motions, but on those days, the opposition gets to bring forward any topic it chooses as long as it falls within Parliament's jurisdiction. Today, the Liberals decided to give Conservatives a Friday as their opposition day.
On Fridays, as we all know, the House has a much shorter sitting period, because we all want to get back to our ridings for the important things going on in our constituencies. To be blunt and very clear, for all of us who have been here for a while and know this and for the newer MPs, giving an opposition party, any one of us, a Friday as an opposition day is a full-out slap. It is a full-out insult. It is a full-out, 100% punishment.
That is what the Prime Minister is doing right now. He is punishing Conservatives. Why? It is because we have been standing up to him, because we have been pointing out his weakness and calling out some of the ways the government has not recognized that it is in a minority, not a majority, Parliament.
We have seen a number of things that we are very concerned about. We have raised them with you, Madam Speaker. They include things like the government's leaking bills to the press before they have been brought to the House. We had to rise on a point of privilege. As we saw, the Minister of Natural Resources had to stand and apologize. We accept that apology, but it was pretty disrespectful to all of us in this place for the government to leak contents of a bill to the press before we saw it.
We have also seen the government give incomplete and inaccurate responses to Order Paper questions. Actually, this is what the Minister of Natural Resources had to apologize for. No one has apologized yet for the leaking of the bill.
In responses to the Order Paper questions, misleading answers have been given, and then even in defence of those misleading answers, we have seen misleading answers given again. It is totally unacceptable, and as Conservatives, we are going to call that out.
There are the two issues on which I have seen such a high level of disrespect. First is the new NAFTA agreement and how the Liberals have worked with us on that. As Conservatives, we are the party of free trade. We believe that many Canadians and many Canadian sectors need an agreement. It is not a great agreement, but we have been supporting it, while asking tough questions.
One of those questions has been about the economic impact to Canadians, and the Liberals have refused to give us that. Instead, they are getting up, as we saw when the Deputy Prime Minister stood in this place, to completely mislead and try to poke a stick in our eye, saying that we were somehow blocking the new NAFTA deal, which is completely misleading, completely disingenuous and insulting.
To add insult to injury, yesterday when I tried to expedite Bill C-4, to get it through in a much faster way, the Liberals opposed it. In fact, it was the member for Winnipeg North, a Manitoban, who said no.
The Liberals are sucking and blowing at the same time, and in doing that they are insulting us. They are not recognizing that we are in a minority Parliament.
The really insulting thing they did occurred last week, when the Prime Minister excluded our leader from a meeting of all opposition and government leaders on the topic of the rail blockades simply because our leader spoke the truth as to how to approach the illegal blockades. He was called names and excluded by the Prime Minister. Then three days later, the Prime Minister basically repeated verbatim what our leader had said. That was disrespectful and disingenuous, and not at all the way a minority Parliament should work.
Last Parliament, we said this often: The Prime Minister wanted an audience in this place; he did not want an opposition. I am afraid that has not changed. He did not get the voters' message in the election. He did not get the memo that his majority has been taken away. He needs to recognize quickly that Conservatives are going to stand up for the interests of the millions of Canadians who voted for us, who did not vote for the Liberals, and the growing number of Canadians who see a country and an economy paralyzed by the weak Liberal government.
Conservatives are not afraid to give voice to Canadians who disagree with the Liberals and the Prime Minister. Conservatives will demand that Liberals be open and transparent. They will be honest in this Parliament. Conservatives will hold the Liberal government to account.
In 1979, Joe Clark and his government fell after just 49 sitting days. It is often said it was because they could not count, but really it was because they had miscalculated badly. Today is just the 26th sitting day of this Parliament, and sadly the Liberals and their growing pattern of disrespect are hurtling us toward one unnecessary political disaster after another.
We are going to give the Liberals a chance to work collaboratively with opposition parties and work with Parliament by dedicating three additional days for each of the opposition parties. Members will notice that we are working collaboratively. Members will notice that we put the opposition parties in our motion. We are not looking just for our gain. We want to see all of us work together.
The motion would give three additional days for each of the parties to put forward an idea for debate and propose solutions for the many difficulties that Canadians face. We are giving the Liberals a chance to right their wrongs toward the opposition parties. We will give the Prime Minister a chance to correct his course. Today is a chance to press reset.
Recently I read an article in which the Liberal House leader, talking to a member of the press in the context of a minority Parliament, said, “Never take one day for granted. Anything can happen.” This may be a lesson for the Liberals and the Prime Minister: The things he does affect all of Parliament. This is also, with respect, a lesson for the Liberal House leader that he should never take one day for granted, because anything can happen.
Today, with the amount of time that we have, we will talk about giving additional days to the opposition. We are hoping this will result in a reset and that the Liberals will respect that we are in a minority Parliament, will tell us the truth, will not exclude people who disagree with them, will not mislead this Parliament and will be open, transparent and respectful. Then we can continue to work, as we should, as the official opposition and as opposition parties to hold the government to account and do the very best we can for this great country that we serve.
View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chris Bittle Profile
2020-02-28 10:37 [p.1732]
Madam Speaker, it seems we hit a nerve. It is clear the members of the opposition do not want to go forward on this important bill, a bill that is required, that businesses are crying out for, that farmers are crying out for, that people across the country want us to move forward on, but we are playing gotcha politics and we are playing petty politics on this particular day.
I would like to offer some comment on the importance of what we are debating today. This is not a motion that will likely attract the attention of many Canadians outside this chamber or outside the Ottawa bubble. It does not touch on the issues that are important to many of our constituents: the economy, jobs, affordability, climate change, health care, pensions, reconciliation with indigenous people, keeping our streets safe and securing Canada's place in the world.
These are, of course, the issues that are at the forefront of our government's agenda. These are the issues on which our government was elected to make changes. These are the issues on which our government has a mandate from Canadians.
This motion today does not call on the House to have a constructive debate on any of these matters. Make no mistake, the motion from the Conservative House leader has profound implications for Parliament and for the democratic system that we cherish. It is a motion that is reflective of the Conservatives themselves. While they were in government and during recent years in opposition, we have all seen their track record.
In government, under Stephen Harper, Conservatives showed disdain for Parliament and for all the members on the opposition benches. In opposition, under the current leader, who will be replaced in June, they have continued to show disdain for the traditions and decorum of this chamber. They heckle when I talk about decorum in this chamber, which is ironic.
Canadians have not forgotten the behaviour of the Conservatives in the 41st Parliament, as well as in the last one. It is the Conservatives who, all too often, held the House of Commons hostage with political tactics and manoeuvres, repeatedly obstructing MPs from debating important legislation. On more than one occasion, they forced the House to hold all-night marathon vote sessions. They voted against funding for infrastructure during that time, on national defence, veterans, police, security, VIA Rail services, Parks Canada, indigenous peoples and more.
This was a political stunt, and Liberal MPs stood proudly to vote in favour of those services that are important to Canadians. One of these voting marathons kept MPs in the chamber for 30 hours in the last Parliament. This came at a cost to Parliament's reputation and literally a cost to the taxpayers. Indeed, the Conservatives' current House leader said in a news release, when she was part of a previous Conservative government that was facing an NDP filibuster in 2011, that these tactics cost the House of Commons an additional $50,000 per hour to stay open. Where was that outrage in the last Parliament?
One of the Conservatives' most shameful episodes was when they tried to prevent the finance minister from reading his budget speech in the chamber by banging on their desks and shouting him down, like bullies in a schoolyard. It was an undignified spectacle.
These are the political stunts that the Conservatives like to call tools from their tool box. It is quite the tool box. This behaviour from the Conservative opposition has done nothing to restore Canadians' trust in Parliament. In fact, I fear what they have done has deepened the cynicism among all of our constituents.
Unfortunately, it has become clear that the Conservatives have not changed since the last Parliament. Last Thursday, they kept MPs in Ottawa for a vote on a opposition day, which never happened because once everyone had missed their flights home, they deferred the vote to the following Monday. MPs missed events in their riding, they missed spending time with their kids, husbands, wives and families. Why did they do this? For one reason: they could.
Simply a day later, on Friday, the Conservatives dipped into their bag of tricks again to obstruct the work of Parliament. On that day, members were debating Bill C-3, supported by all parties, including the Conservatives, that would bring great improvements to the accountability of the Canada Border Services Agency, and yet the Conservatives moved to literally shut down the business of the House that day.
They moved a motion to adjourn the House at 12:30 p.m., during their lunch hour. I know most Canadians do not move to end their work during their lunch hour, but the Conservatives did. They wanted to turn off the lights for the day. When that did not work, they attempted to adjourn debate again. When that failed, they attempted to shut down the House early, again.
These political stunts consumed over two hours of time in the House. The Conservatives' objective was clear: preventing the House from debating this important legislation. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. Without a doubt, the Conservatives have shown their true colours. They do not believe in Parliament.
Conservatives have shown this once again with the motion we are debating today, for at the heart of what the Conservative opposition members hope to achieve is tilting the balance from long-standing practices and procedures that have served the House well for many decades. This balance is simple in its design but crucial to its core.
The following is what makes our parliamentary system so successful. When an election happens, Canadians send their elected representatives to the House of Commons to act on their behalf. The government is elected with the responsibility to move forward on the agenda that Canadians have given it. That means introducing legislation, ensuring it receives vibrant debate from all sides and ultimately bringing legislation to a vote. There is limited time in the parliamentary calendar, and the government must always endeavour to schedule the time Parliament needs to examine and vote on its legislation.
Across the aisle, the opposition has the responsibility to hold the government to account and raise issues of public concern. Our system, under standing orders, allows for supply days to be scheduled. These days are also known as opposition days. On these days, government legislation is not debated. Instead, the opposition has the opportunity to bring forward a motion for debate and, ultimately, a vote.
This is the balance. Parliament needs time to debate legislation and to debate the supply days motion from the opposition. We believe Parliament can strike that balance.
Already we have come forward with important bills to ratify the new NAFTA, improve the CBSA, require training for judges on sexual assault, modernize the oath of citizenship and adjust the rules surrounding medical assistance in dying. These are just some of the parts of our platform to keep moving forward with policies that are both ambitious and achievable.
Our throne speech in December provided a road map for Parliament that outlines our agenda. We want to strengthen the middle class, make life more affordable for Canadians, protect the environment, fight climate change, improve the lives of indigenous people and secure Canada's place in the world.
Canadians sent us all a message in the recent election. They want us all to work together, and we agree. Indeed, we believe the House of Commons is a place where we can work on legislation to make important decisions for Canadians. Every day, we work hard in Parliament to find common ground on behalf of the Canadians who sent us all here.
While this happens, while we debate the merits of legislation and look to improve it, the opposition has many opportunities to bring issues to the forefront. This happens routinely in question period, and I would be remiss if I did not remind the House that it was our government that made fundamental changes to question period. It was our government that created the prime minister's question period on Wednesdays. Our Prime Minister answers every question during question period from all sides of the House.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Chris Bittle: Madam Speaker, again we hear heckling from the other side. It is something Stephen Harper would never do in his wildest dreams, but something that the Prime Minister put forward to make himself accountable to the opposition, to Parliament, so that Canadians can hear the government's agenda. This is true accountability.
In addition to this, there are supply days. Today is the 26th sitting of the session. In December, as the previous supply period ended, the Conservatives were allotted an opposition day in which they put forward their motions. In this supply period, which runs from December 11 to March 26, seven days are allotted for opposition days. These are the rules under the Standing Orders.
Today marks the sixth opposition day. The Conservatives had four of those opposition days, and the Bloc and NDP have each had one to present their motions to the House for debate and a vote. Under the rules, one more opposition day remains up to March 26. Once we get to the next supply period, from April to June, there will be eight more opposition days.
This is the balance I spoke of. It works, it is democratic, yet the Conservatives are proposing to turn their backs on the Standing Orders and tilt the balance by adding three more opposition days to this supply period.
There would be a consequence to this change. There would be three fewer days for members of the House to debate legislation that Canadians have elected the government to move forward with. The motives behind the Conservatives' political tactic are transparent. They do not believe Parliament is a democratic institution to achieve consensus and change for Canadians. When Conservatives do not like the rules, they simply bulldoze over them.
This is a stunning hypocrisy given that the Conservatives continually preach that any rule change needs to have the unanimous support of all parties, but this should surprise no one. When it suits their needs Conservatives are willing to do anything, even if they were against it before they were for it.
They have become politically isolated and are in the midst of a leadership race that is exposing their own divisions. They are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Their objective is to obstruct the government's agenda. We are committed to making that agenda a reality.
I would like to talk about some examples of what we want to accomplish. There is no greater challenge facing this country and the world than fighting climate change. We believe strongly in this government's pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. It is no surprise that Conservatives do not want to debate that because, for the last five years that I have been here, we have heard the language of denial, mistrust of scientists and doing nothing.
We are committed to building upon this plan to ensure Canadian businesses will seize on the immense economic opportunities that are involved in the transition to the clean economy of the 21st century. We will set a target to achieve net-zero by 2050. Our goal will be ambitious but necessary, as we protect the environment but grow the economy.
We will help make energy-efficient homes more affordable. We will make it easier for Canadians to buy zero-emissions vehicles. We will cut taxes for all Canadians except the wealthiest. This will provide more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians who need it the most.
To many Canadians who are unable to buy their first home, we will continue to take action with significant investments in affordable housing. We will introduce measures to make it easy for more people to purchase homes. It would be nice to see the Conservatives' provincial counterparts take action on that as well and work with us as partners to make affordable housing a reality in the provinces across the country.
Canadian workers, families and seniors are facing anxieties about making ends meet. We will assist parents with the time and money they need to raise their children. We will support students as they bear the cost of higher education and skills training. We will increase the federal minimum wage. We will reduce cellphone bills by 25%, and strengthen pensions for our seniors.
Four years ago, we promised to put Canada on a path forward toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We put the country on that path and we will keep Canada firmly on that path. The work toward reconciliation has not ended.
Once again, I hear heckling on that, but the leaders of their party talk about sending in the army. They call indigenous protesters terrorists, yet they are the ones heckling us on our record on reconciliation when the Harper government did absolutely nothing on the subject.
Canadians are worried about gun violence in our communities and we will crack down on this. We will also ban military-style assault rifles. We will work with provinces and territories to strengthen the health care system to get the service Canadians deserve. Once again, it is shocking that we are debating changes to the standing order, rather than talking about issues like climate change or health care.
Pharmacare, for example, has become one of the key missing pieces of universal health care in this country. Our government will take steps to introduce and implement a national pharmacare program so that Canadians have the drug coverage they need.
I cite these examples of where we intend to lead the country. We believe that parliamentarians must put the interests of Canadians first. Parliament is not a place only to debate our disagreements, but also a place to come together and find common ground. This is what can happen when we maintain the crucial balance about which I have spoken.
I would implore members to look at the legislation before this chamber, as well as the bills before us in the future, and work together on all of those bills. Parliament needs time to debate those bills, to scrutinize them and, when necessary, improve them. It is not time for political stunts and obstructions. This is the time for constructive debate, returning our attention to the legislation that can improve the lives of Canadians. It is the time to do the right thing for Parliament.
View Marilène Gill Profile
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-02-28 12:21 [p.1751]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Portage—Lisgar for the speech she gave earlier.
I would like to reiterate from the outset that the government has a minority, which means quite frankly, clearly and objectively that it does not have the support of the House that it might like to have. That should be reflected in the way it works with the opposition.
I would also invite the House to revisit the mandate letter of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. The first thing he is asked to do would seem like a priority. He is asked to:
Lead the House Leadership team to bring a collaborative and effective approach to the minority Parliament, placing a priority on transparency and communicating with Canadians on the work of their Parliament.
I would like to make a few remarks about what has been asked of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. To that end, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Saint-Jean.
The first requirement in the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is leadership. I remind members that leadership involves leading people. To lead people, you need a place, an objective and a destination. That is the first thing. Of course, a minority government's first step should be to collaborate, as was mentioned earlier.
Beyond having a place and an objective, beyond collaborating and listening, leadership involves inspiring those around you. You need to be a source of inspiration, an influence, and I would even say a model, an example. A leader is a positive person whom people trust and want to follow through the battle. Trust is also an important component of leadership.
Naturally, all of this remains an essential condition to what is referred to in the mandate letter as a collaborative approach. Collaboration cannot be done alone, of course. We collaborate with the people around us, which means opening a space or sharing a common space with others. For this to happen, you have to reach out to others. You cannot stay in your own corner of the House of Commons. You have to listen to others.
When we listen to what other people are telling us on, say, an opposition day, we can make connections. Connecting can mean taking risks, but taking those risks and listening to others is one of the only ways to build relationships with them and earn their trust. That is the only way collaboration can happen.
I am sure everyone expects me to talk about the effective approach. We want leadership, we want to collaborate, we want to be effective. Effectiveness requires respect above all, respect and walking the talk. On many occasions, I have read and heard, here in the House and elsewhere, that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons wants to collaborate and do every single thing in his mandate letter.
Why hold an opposition day on a Friday, then? I think that shows a lack of respect and a failure to walk the talk. In no way does it support collaboration or consistency. Trust, respect, collaboration and leadership have to be consistent too. People cannot say and do something one day and the opposite the next.
There are two things that are extremely important to me as a parliamentarian who answers to her constituents. The whole issue of transparency matters to me. I want my constituents to be able to know what is going on in the House. There are multiple discourses, from the government in power and from the opposition. The government cannot muzzle the House or claim that a single version of the facts is the only one that should be heard.
This is about transparency. We need to let the whole discourse unfold, because this is a debate. It is not an affirmation or a diktat. It is a debate. This is a space for ideological diversity, a space for establishing the various measures that must be put in place. That is why it is important for the whole discourse to be heard. It is not up to the government to decide what is going to happen.
A debate is a dialectical exchange. The goal is not to see who is right and make everyone else shut up. No, that is not the goal. Dialectics involves taking one idea and a contradictory or contrasting idea in order to arrive at something different. Naturally, the goal of every member of the House is to work for their constituents and find the best compromises. Compromises are also part of a debate.
As an MP, I said that I was concerned about transparency because I believe in our obligation to be accountable. I believe that we need to be accountable and that we are responsible for the decisions we make in the House. Canadians and Quebeckers need to be aware of what is happening in the House and they must have access to all speeches. That way they can make up their own minds and take action. Ultimately, we are working for them.
Communication is important to ensure that people are aware of what is happening in the House. The debates in the House reveal the hidden side of some subjects. We want to give voters all the information they need to make up their own minds and judge for themselves what to do. That is the very essence of democracy, the conditions necessary to exercising democracy. Opposition days are extremely valuable to voters and are part of this broad definition.
I will close by simply reminding members of the mandate letter of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, which reads as follows:
Lead the House Leadership team to bring a collaborative and effective approach to the minority Parliament, placing a priority on transparency and communicating with Canadians on the work of their Parliament.
I would like to ask the government House leader two rhetorical questions to give all members something to think about. By doing this, namely holding opposition days on Friday, does he think that he is fulfilling the responsibilities he was given in his mandate letter with respect to leadership, a collaborative and effective approach, transparency and communication? I have an answer for him. In my opinion, today, it is the opposition that acted as a House leader.
View Christine Normandin Profile
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-02-28 12:35 [p.1753]
Madam Speaker, I would like to set the tone for my speech by reading two quotes.
The first is something that the Prime Minister said on October 23, 2019, just after the election. He said, “Canadians have sent a clear message that they want their parliamentarians to work together, and I am committed to doing that”.
The second quote is a response the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier, the government House leader, gave to a statement in the House on December 6, 2019. He said, “...the government is under scrutiny. Well, all parliamentarians are under scrutiny by Canadians. On October 21, Canadians sent us a very clear message. They want us to work together and try to move forward together on matters of common interest.”
The Liberals have a minority government, and I think that they are losing sight of the fact that the term “political opponent” does not mean exactly the same thing as it does in a majority context. In a minority situation, today's opponents may be tomorrow's allies. From this perspective, I believe that the government did not really understand the message sent by Canadians. Canadians were saying that the government needs to work with us because progress will only be made if the entire House works together.
Opposition members, in contrast, truly understand the importance of working together and collaborating, as we have seen on opposition days. I would like to go over a few of the topics we have addressed on opposition days since this Parliament began, which was not that long ago. The House began its work in early December. Several things have emerged from opposition days.
On the first opposition day, the goal was to create a special committee on Canada-China Relations. The Conservatives' motion reminded us that it is important to review the government's conduct to ensure that the diplomatic crises we have experienced in recent months and years, some involving China, do not happen again.
That opposition day reminded the government that it is on notice, that the opposition will make sure the government conducts itself impeccably, that the House is accountable to the people and that all the government's actions must be transparent. We reminded the government that we are keeping a close eye on it, that we are ready to intervene and that we will make sure Canada has good diplomatic relations. That probably would not have happened if the government had a majority.
The second opposition day motion to be voted on called for an audit of the government's investing in Canada plan. It had come to parliamentarians' attention that the Parliamentary Budget Officer posted that budget 2018 provided an incomplete account of the changes to the government's $186.7-billion infrastructure spending plan.
Parliamentarians seized upon the opportunity provided by a Conservative proposal that would give the Parliamentary Budget Officer more powers, authorize him to immediately conduct an audit of spending under the government's investing in Canada plan and ask him to report to the House. Again, in this context, the opposition took a watchdog role, keeping an eye on what is happening in the House. The opposition fully understood its importance, and, above all, it understood the importance of collaboration, because the opposition voted as a bloc—no pun intended.
On the third opposition day, we debated a motion to instruct the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into the death of Marylène Levesque. Parliamentarians studied the question on a Conservative opposition day. The Conservatives highlighted the importance of reviewing certain procedures, including the provision of training to Parole Board officers.
As we mentioned then, although the Bloc did not fully agree with the proposed wording, it supported the motion nonetheless. The opposition used a full day of debate to clarify the nuances and important subtleties. Bloc members explained why it was important to support the Conservative motion, even though it was not perfect.
A full day of debate allowed us to leave no stone unturned so that everyone, both in the House and in our ridings when we return to speak with our constituents, clearly understood what was at play with that proposal.
The last proposal I want to talk about is the one from the Bloc Québécois; I would really be remiss if I let it go unmentioned. It dealt with the issue of special employment insurance sickness benefits. The opposition day served to shed light not only on an important issue, an issue of compassion that affects people in every riding, but also on the unfairness that exists between workers who are laid off when a business closes and those who stop working because of a serious illness. Together with the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP called on the government to increase the benefit period to 50 weeks to ensure fairness between the different categories of workers. Again, it was an opposition day that produced results and allowed the parties to collaborate well together.
Unfortunately, while the decision to set the Conservatives' opposition day for a Friday was clearly intended to punish that party first and foremost, the government does not seem to realize that it punishes the entire population. It deprives them of their right to share ideas from all walks of life, ideas that advance our society and days that give everyone the opportunity to understand the issues of the day.
On the other hand, it is never too late to do the right thing; I think this is what we must keep in mind this week. We saw this with the rail blockade crisis. It seems that the government has finally implemented what the Bloc has been proposing from day one, from the very beginning of the crisis. Apparently, we might finally be approaching a way out of this crisis. Similarly, I would suggest to the government that, once again, it is not too late to do the right thing.
At the beginning of the parliamentary session, there seemed to be a real desire to work together, to advance issues collaboratively. However, it feels like things are going sideways. Once again, it is not too late to change course, to get things back on track and make sure that parliamentarians work together.
If people are already having a hard time getting along, just a few months into this Parliament, and if people already have bad attitudes when we have just barely started our work, then I cannot even imagine what the future holds if we do not fix this situation.
We are being told that more opposition days would mean losing some time to debate other key issues. However, if we do not fix things right now, and if we get caught up in never-ending procedural arguments in the long term, then I fear that we will lose even more days of work. If we are arguing amongst ourselves, starting with little shots at each other and moving up to an eye for an eye, then will all end up blind. That is not what we want.
This is why the Bloc Québécois commends the Conservatives for moving this motion, which I believe is a levelheaded response to a slap in their face. This motion sends a message by creating the least amount of collateral damage possible. This motion serves as a reminder to the government that, although it has acknowledged it in the past, it does not seem to understand that it is a minority government.
View Jack Harris Profile
View Jack Harris Profile
2020-02-28 12:49 [p.1755]
Madam Speaker, I will say at the outset that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I am very happy to do so because I think he has a significant contribution to make to the debate, as has been noticed in the past.
I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in this debate because I think it is an important one. It is an opportunity to add three more opposition debate days to the calendar. That may be technical and require a change to the statutory rules, the instruments of the House, the Standing Orders. However, it is an addition that is very valid and welcome in this minority Parliament.
There is a special reason for that. I will not go into the reasons why the Conservatives were prompted to do this in this particular instance, but I will say that we are dealing with a government that is acting in a manner that is not in keeping with the expectations of Canadians to co-operate with other parties to deliver a good government. There are many examples of that.
I will go over some of the valid and excellent motions that were brought forward by our party on opposition days over the last number of years. These motions were extremely important to the future of the country and to the people of Canada. I hope that those listening will agree that in the last election no party was given a majority. We had had four years of a Liberal majority, and people said they did not want that. They wanted the parties to work together to deliver good government.
What we are getting from the government is that its agenda is the only agenda that matters. That is all it wants to do. The government wants to run the House as if it had a majority, and it is not really prepared to listen to what the opposition has to say.
Here is an opportunity for the Liberals to agree that we need to hear more from the opposition. We might ask the opposition to be more constructive sometimes, but the opposition is here to provide an alternative and to hold the government to account. We have tried over many years, including in this Parliament, to provide constructive opposition day motions.
The first example is the most recent, which occurred on February 26. It was a motion calling on the government to change its proposed tax cuts by targeting benefits to those families earning less than $90,000 a year. The savings could then be used to add a dental care program for those who do not have a dental program. That was an important debate. The government did not listen to it, but that is its prerogative.
Canadians were able to listen to the proposal to use part of the $6.85 billion per year that the government proposes to spend on a so-called middle-class tax cut, of which at least $1.6 billion is going to those who are making in excess of $90,000 a year, to create a dental plan.
The tax cut will give those who are making in excess of $90,000 a year a $340 break on their taxes, while people who make less than $15,000 will save $1. That is the middle-class tax cut for them.
We said take the top part of that, the $1.6 billion from those making more than $90,000 a year, and use a portion of it, not even all of it, to ensure that those who do not have dental care plans, like every member in the House has, would get an opportunity to have access to dental care.
That is a very important motion, a very important provision and a very important proposal to compromise with the government's stated aim to have what it calls a middle-class tax cut.
That is only one example, and examples are repeated time and again in a review of NDP motions in the past. In May 2019, there was a motion by our leader, the member for Burnaby South, for a declaration of an environment and climate emergency. We have had considerable motions over the last number of years on the importance of the climate and concerns about climate change.
We had a motion in February of last year addressing Canada's housing crisis, which is still a significant issue and one that the government is struggling to have credibility on. This keeps the issue on the table and it gives an opportunity to the government to see where to go if it wants co-operation in the House, which is what Canadians want.
In November of the previous year we had a motion on service standards for Canadian veterans. We have still not seen the results of that, but it was brought to the House by an opposition day motion. Members had a full day to debate the importance of veterans getting the services they need, getting the attention they need, and getting beyond this continuous and long-standing wait-list, which is depriving them of the services they need and are entitled to. It is still going on, regardless of the fact that this was brought in during a majority government. Maybe in a minority government with more opposition days these issues would actually get dealt with, because the government will be told by parliamentarians elected by all Canadians what the priorities are.
This is certainly a big priority for me, for our party and for the people of my province. Indeed, it is a big priority for the whole country, which has the important issue of support for veterans on their minds.
We have discussed other issues that are of world importance, such as our debate in June 2017 on nuclear disarmament. What could be more important, in terms of making the world a safer place for our children and the future, than moving forward on the motion of nuclear disarmament in a world that is getting a bit more uncertain as time goes on?
We introduced a bill on a universal pharmacare program. That was debated in the House in October 2017, thanks to the New Democratic Party, and we now have legislation before the House. It is a matter that at least has the attention of the Liberals, but I have not seen any sign that we are going to have a public system that Canadians want, similar to what is contained in the Canada Health Act.
Issues that keep coming back again and again were sometimes brought to the House by New Democrats, not necessarily for the first time, but in a forceful and positive way looking for solutions.
A motion on care for first nations children was brought forward by the member for Timmins—James Bay in November 2016.
I could go on but I will go back to one issue that comes up again and again, and I am talking about the motions brought forward by the New Democratic Party on climate change. We can go as far back as February 2007, with a motion on the Kyoto protocol, which the previous government got rid of.
In 2007, a climate change action plan was brought forward by former leader Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party. That was more than 12 years ago. Climate change action has been on the NDP agenda for more than a decade. Climate change has now reached a crisis point. We recognized that crisis many years ago. The government is now at least listening, but where are we in terms of enforceable standards? Where is the plan? Where are the timetables? Where is the reporting back to the House?
These issues are still there, but they were brought to the House in important opposition day motions.
I have one minute left and I am happy to devote it to a motion brought forward by my former colleague Romeo Saganash on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, also known as UNDRIP. This is an extremely important resolution from the United Nations supported by the Government of Canada but not yet brought into force. It was adopted by the Government of British Columbia. It is extremely important in terms of what we are dealing with these days with the Wet'suwet'en in British Columbia.
Opposition day motions are so important for Canadians and for this House of Parliament. We should have more of them.
View Corey Tochor Profile
View Corey Tochor Profile
2020-02-28 13:19 [p.1760]
Madam Speaker, Canada needs more democracy. Better yet, Canada needs better democracy.
The frustrations of the opposition over the government's decisions and its policies can be seen in the streets, on the rails and online, but the Prime Minister is not getting the message. Our country needs more debate and more opposition days if Canada is to be saved.
Our economy and large sectors of our job creators are on their knees. Canada is tearing itself apart. I love our country, but I do not think the Liberals love my province or my people. The Liberals should want to enter into more debate on how we can fix Canada. Our country is at a crossroads.
This week, we witnessed massive nation-building projects shut down. The government is ignoring the pleas for help and support from the 20 elected band chiefs who want the Coastal GasLink and the 14 reserves that support the Teck mine. These are projects that support good-paying jobs, are environmentally friendly and can help Canada grow and get us off our knees, but the government is ignoring them. Instead, the Liberal government is listening to the pollsters, the UN and the elites. The Liberals need to start listening to the majority of MPs who were sent here with an agenda that is different from theirs.
Before being elected federally by the good people of Saskatoon—University, I was honoured to serve two terms in the Saskatchewan legislative assembly. I was lucky enough that my colleagues elected me the 25th Speaker of our assembly. I know what it is like to work in consensus with government, the opposition and the NDP to find ways forward. I believe we can do that in this Parliament, and it is with this experience of reference that I enter the 43rd Parliament.
I have seen first-hand how an effective opposition can challenge a government for the betterment of all. I have sat in government, I have sat in the Speaker's chair, and now I sit in opposition. I bring a unique viewpoint on how our democracy does or does not work. It is not a zero-sum game, as some would have us believe. My experience is that when governments grant time and availability to opposition, ultimately it is democracy, the governing party and the people themselves who benefit.
I would say this to the Liberal members who are here today: When governments fight against transparency and scrutiny, it is their public support that hurts. We have seen in recent polling that the government is failing our country. I challenge the Liberals not to fight for less debate. Now more than ever, I believe debate is needed in Canada. Too many important issues are at stake. If the government truly values transparency, it will champion motions such as this one.
I am fearful that the Liberal government will desire to stay in the shadows and hide from debate. Some Liberals will want other opposition parties to join them, but I believe the human spirit and a desire to fulfill our honourable work as members of Parliament will overcome this darkness.
Our Westminster-based democracy works best only when we witness vigorous debate in this chamber. This chamber was set up for that reason, with the government to the right of the Speaker proposing an agenda, opposition parties across the aisle vigorously debating what is at stake, and independent media watching over the top. That is is how Westminster democracies properly work. This configuration has been our tradition for over 150 years in this country.
I believe everyone in this chamber is honourable and wants a better nation. We need more debate on the big issues we face today. Through these debates and honest dialogue, we will get the best solutions for Canadians.
I propose that liquefied natural gas exported from Canada will lower the use of coal and greenhouse gases around the world and provide jobs and wealth to Canada. I ask fellow parliamentarians to change my view if they disagree with that statement, and that is the debate we need to have.
This is the forum to have that debate. We should be encouraging more debates, not less. I might be new here, but I still believe my arguments can change the direction of the country. However, I have been here long enough to know that others can change my opinions. It is how democracy should work. It is how we should get the best decisions for all of Canada.
If the Liberal government is so sure that it is correct, then providing more opportunity to debate its policy should be welcomed. On October 21 of last year, the Liberal government was punished and lost its majority, because, in part, it could not defend its agenda.
This motion today would grant the Liberals this forum to defend their agenda. If the Liberals believe in their agenda, democracy and this country, I hope they will vote in favour of the motion.
For the other non-government members of the House, why were we sent here? We have the honour to sit in this chamber because the majority of people in our home ridings wanted a new and different direction for our country, a different direction than what the Liberals were proposing. We won the right to be called members of Parliament, because people wanted their voices in Ottawa, a voice different from the Liberals. Today, we have the opportunity to let that voices be heard. Granting more debate will result in more real democracy.
Another important part of the Westminster democracy that needs attention and could benefit from more debate is the press.
I find it shocking that during most question periods, we have a handful of press members watching the proceedings. I know other people watch electronically, but that is a sad state when we compare the press we had 10 to 20 years ago. That decline is seriously jeopardizing our democracy and needs to be addressed if we are going to be a successful country.
We only have a strong democracy if we have a strong independent press. I along with many in Canada are concerned with the direction of media in our nation. We should be welcoming new media platforms, new stories, new sources and new reporting of our debates. If this motion to increase debate in the House of Commons is successful, it could encourage more media coverage, more attention and itself help save independent press. The alternative is more taxpayer dollars subsidizing the slowing of the decline of media in Canada. We can change that.
If we are successful, more debates will happen, democracy will be enhanced and Canada can be saved. Opposition days for other parties will welcome new and different motions to be debated. Who would not want to hear different views and beliefs from different ridings across Canada? The Liberals believe only their views are to be heard and thought.
I cannot say that I will vote in favour of the motions of other parties in future days, but I do welcome that debate. We as Parliamentarians have the honour to be that voice in that debate.
If the solutions to the problems our country is facing are to be found, this motion needs to be passed.
All of us will be returning to our ridings next week. Many of us will be hearing directly from Canadians. We hopefully will hear about solutions, what real people are facing and hopefully exchange ideas on what we can do better in our great country. We need the ability to bring those new ideas forward. The motion would allow for that: more opposition days, more debate and more ideas to be shared. It is what well-functioning democracies should be like.
Motions such as this one highlight how a minority Parliament can and should work. Opposition members have shown Canadians how we can work. Let us continue this work.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-28 14:09 [p.1767]
Madam Speaker, why are we here today, talking about this motion? Let me read the motion one more time. It states:
That, notwithstanding Standing Order 81, for the supply period ending March 26, 2020, three additional allotted days shall be added for a total of 10, provided that one of the additional days is allotted to the Conservative Party, one of the additional day is allotted to the Bloc Québécois, and one of the additional days is allotted to the New Democratic Party, and, if necessary to accommodate these additional days, the supply period may be extended to April 2, 2020, and no allotted days shall fall on a Wednesday or a Friday.
The motion is clear in that we as opposition members feel that our voices have not been heard , but will be heard more clearly due to the dates we have put forward.
I have heard what the member for Winnipeg North and other Liberal MPs have said about this They do not know why we are doing this. How dare we bring up such a procedural issue in the House of Commons.
It really boils down to the fact that the Liberals do not understand it. They still have that tinge of arrogance that they had prior to the last election. They still feel they are completely in charge and that the opposition is just a bother. The Liberals do not want to deal with us. The Liberals say that they want to collaborate with us, that they want to work together, because that is the message they heard from Canadians. That is not real at all. They want to collaborate when it is good for their agenda, when it involves things they want to do. They expect us to say okay. They expect us to collaborate and do as we are told. That is not right. This is about not that. This is about true collaboration on the floor of the House.
Arrogance is one word that we can use, but quite honestly it is just a misunderstanding. Government members have not quite received the message yet. It is a very tough lesson to learn and one I hope today, with this motion going forward, they will learn and understand that we have needs for our communities as well. We have constituents who have issues that need to be brought forward in this Parliament and we need the opportunity to do that. We need to know that the government is listening and that our issues will be moved upon.
I spent 16 years in the Nova Scotia legislature, many of those years as the house leader for the official opposition. There is nothing harder to deal with than a Liberal government, even a provincial one. Provincially it is the same thing. It is hard to believe. It is like déjà vu from one house to this House. I am seeing the same kind of discord happening.
I am new. I expected things to work a little differently here, but we have the same problems. The Liberals think it is all us. They think the Conservatives are against everything the Liberals do. How dare we oppose this or say that. They do not understand, particularly when we do not get the answers we want or they produce written answers to our questions that are incorrect.
We sat here through the Prime Minister's day. What a benefit that was for all of us. What wonderful answers we received from the right hon. Prime Minister.
On Wednesday, when I asked him the question about Trikafta, I have never been more embarrassed for a family to hear the kind of answer I received. I heard the member for Winnipeg North say that the government gave us the opposition day, that the government gave us the Prime Minister's question period, where he would answer all the questions. My goodness, if he actually answered a question, we might have been happy with it. Instead, we get platitudes, non-answers and we get blamed.
The other part I find truly disheartening on the floor of the House of Commons is that the Liberals blame everyone but themselves. The Liberals have been government for five long, hard, dark years and the country continues to get behind. It continues to fail because of the inaction of the government.
Look at the blockades. Pick a topic of today: Canadians are unhappy with the way the government is putting things forward. The government is trying to manage an economy it does not understand and issues it does not want to understand, and it will continue to blame everyone else.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-02-20 15:09 [p.1332]
Mr. Speaker, trade deals affect every part of Canadians' lives, from jobs to drug prices to the environment.
After extensive negotiations with the government, we were able to deliver a meaningful step forward to make Canadian trade negotiations more open and transparent. We are bringing more decisions out of the back room and into the light. For future deals, the government will need to give 90 days notice of its intent to negotiate, table negotiation objectives 30 days before it begins and provide an economic impact assessment with the ratifying legislation.
Could the Deputy Prime Minister confirm the government's commitment to moving ahead with these improvements?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, we welcome the proposals from the member for Elmwood—Transcona, and we will be formally amending the government's policy on tabling treaties in Parliament in line with his excellent suggestions. It has been a pleasure to work with him.
I also appreciate his work to ensure an expeditious ratification of the new NAFTA. It is a shame that I cannot say the same of the Conservatives, who used to be the party of free trade. Unfortunately, thanks to their weak and feckless leadership, it is up to the NDP to do that job.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, answers tabled in response to a query from my colleague, the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, showed 38 government agencies reported a total of more than 5,000 incidents last year in which classified or otherwise protected documents were mishandled and stored in a manner that did not meet security requirements. In reality this number is likely much higher as Global Affairs Canada did not disclose any reported breaches, but we know in the past it has mishandled sensitive information many times.
It is disturbing that this ethical disregard for the privacy of Canadians is so widespread throughout the government. Across 38 departments, sensitive information was mishandled 20 times per working day. The ethical bar that has been set by the Prime Minister and his cabinet is so low that this should not come as a surprise.
Disregard for ethics is a top-down problem for the government, where the Prime Minister himself has twice been found to have breached ethics laws. That is a hallmark of the government. It breaks ethics laws, and then tries to cover it up. From illegal vacations on a billionaire's island, clam scam and forgotten French villas to, of course, the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the government's ethical record is abysmal.
When the Prime Minister politically interfered in the criminal prosecution of his friends at SNC-Lavalin, it became clear that the government and the Prime Minister had no intention of reforming their actions and had thrown any ethical considerations by the wayside, all in the name of re-election.
The Liberals' contempt for ethics has led the Prime Minister to mandate that his ministers hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. However, they carry on their disregard for ethics by continuing to block investigations and awarding sole-sourced contracts to former Liberal MPs. It has gotten to the point that it is almost laughable, but of course it is not. Canadians are losing their confidence in public institutions, and believe that there are now two sets of rules: one for the governing class and one for those it governs.
A government ought to operate at the intersection of responsibility and principle, being responsible for its actions and being a proper steward of the trust that Canadians give it to govern both rightly and justly. Further, when a government takes a principled approach to governance, being prudent and doing the right thing, it should have no problem working within the prescribed bounds of ethical law.
There is so much work to be done to restore the public's confidence in their institutions, but the government's negligence in cultivating that trust and its continued ethical apathy are not helping. Canadians deserve better.
Since I asked my initial question in this place, we have found out this week that personal information naming more than 69,000 victims of the government's failed Phoenix payroll system was shared across the government into dozens of departments. It was seen by hundreds of staff who had no business seeing it. More than 69,000 public servants' personal information was inappropriately handled.
This same week, we found out that the Prime Minister again failed to meet his obligations as set out under the conflict of interest code for members when he failed to file his disclosures.
We continue to see examples of failures or an unwillingness to follow ethical rules, and Canadians expect more of the government. They deserve more of the government.
I would like to ask, when will the government start to treat Canadians with respect?
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-02-20 18:41 [p.1365]
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to follow up on the response that I provided to my hon. colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
The government takes protecting Canadians' privacy very seriously. This protection is part of every aspect of our decision-making process. As Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and to the Minister of Digital Government, I have seen how hard public servants work every day to protect Canadians' privacy. Many of them process and study thousands of sensitive government documents, the vast majority of the time without issue, while meeting appropriate security standards.
This is because the public servants who deal with sensitive information are required to undergo security screening and security training. This is a fundamental exercise. It establishes and maintains a foundation of trust within government, between government and Canadians and between Canada and other countries.
Allow me to provide a bit of background for the hon. member and all Canadians participating in this debate.
All public servants who handle government documents undergo a level of security screening that is proportionate to the responsibilities of their positions. For positions that deal with more sensitive information, requirements are even more robust.
Departments are required to renew the security status of employees on an ongoing basis. There are also times when enhanced security screening is required. It is undertaken when duties involve or directly support security and intelligence functions. These extensive processes help ensure the integrity of our system.
Let me stress an important point. Individuals must be officially granted a security status or clearance before they are assigned to a position and before they are granted access to sensitive information, including personal information.
Employees also take ongoing security training to better fulfill their obligations. It is important to note that public servants process a wide range of sensitive documents. Some of these documents may include personal information, others may be confidential cabinet documents, and some may be related to national security.
The vast majority of these documents are handled securely and appropriately without issue. However, when employees are found to have not followed the appropriate protocols, they are provided with additional guidance and assistance to help ensure that the mistake is not repeated. When it comes to privacy specifically, the Government of Canada also has a framework for protecting Canadians' information.
The directive on privacy practices requires government institutions to develop plans and establish procedures to manage privacy breaches and assign roles and responsibilities to that end. The directive also requires these institutions to report any substantial privacy breaches to the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to answer the question.
The guidelines for privacy breaches provide explicit guidance as to what is or is not a “material” breach. These are just some of the ways the government is working hard to safeguard the privacy of Canadians. It is of utmost importance to this government, and we will continue to practise due diligence and ensure that the privacy of Canadians is protected.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the robust system that is in place for the public servants who are responsible for handling these files. I talked about a top-down issue that they have. He also talked about the remedial training or support that public servants would receive if they mishandled information.
Given the top-down issue I identified and the several concrete examples I cited where the Prime Minister was found guilty of breaking the rules, will any remedial training be available to the Prime Minister? If not, I would be very happy to help the government create a curriculum that I think would be of great benefit to the Prime Minister and his ministers.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-02-20 18:46 [p.1365]
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the suggestion he has so kindly made just now. I hope we will have the opportunity to discuss it further.
As I said, the government is committed to protecting the privacy of Canadians. The Government of Canada has a very strong investigative and security system and provides extensive privacy training to its public servants. Without proper security clearance, public servants cannot be in a position where they have to deal with sensitive information.
Let me make one thing clear: The vast majority of sensitive government documents are handled securely, appropriately and without issue. It is also important to note that in the event of a privacy breach, departments must have plans and procedures in place to manage the breach. We can do even more.
Thanks to our targeted plan to manage privacy breaches in our government, I am convinced that we will be strengthening privacy and privacy breach management within policies, guidance and tools.
View Paul Manly Profile
View Paul Manly Profile
2020-02-06 12:33 [p.1014]
Madam Speaker, I understand that the member has a number of problems and some of those are similar to what happens with dairy producers in my riding. I have heard from the dairy producers. We also have an aluminum industry in British Columbia. Our largest aluminum smelter is in Kitimat, the Alcan smelter. A huge LNG plant is being built, which is getting its aluminum tariff-free from China. We see problems with this issue across the country.
I understand, from the different debates here, that many MPs are not happy with part of the negotiation. We hear that the Liberals were not happy when the Conservatives were negotiating these agreements. The Conservatives are not happy with the Liberals' negotiating of these agreements.
Do you think we should have a more open and transparent process of negotiating trade agreements, so all parties can be involved and we can debate the merits of the socio-economic benefits of these agreements before we enter negotiation?
View Julie Vignola Profile
View Julie Vignola Profile
2020-02-06 12:34 [p.1015]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my esteemed colleague for his empathy. We share the same concerns for our constituents.
I do believe there should be more non-partisan discussion on such hot topics as the economy, our sovereignty, and Quebec and Canadian producers, since transparent discussions will make it possible to draft agreements that truly represent our people.
View Dave Epp Profile
View Dave Epp Profile
2020-02-04 12:03 [p.883]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the reminder to thank my spouse and I will do that more appropriately in an upcoming speech. As a new member, I take that advice seriously.
I have also heard the government's call to continue to campaign as a transparent government. As a new member to this chamber, I would ask my colleague to help me understand how an internal review would fulfill that goal of transparency. Is our motion not far more appropriate toward encouraging transparency?
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2020-02-04 12:04 [p.884]
Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague's sentiment. This has to be an open and transparent review. We know full well that in an internal review the government is going to scapegoat the parole officer who was dealing with this, throw him under the bus and give a free pass to its patronage appointments to the Parole Board.
This has to be a fulsome, open and transparent review to ensure that we never again lose a sister, a mother, a daughter, a brother or anyone due to the incompetence of the Parole Board.
View Taylor Bachrach Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the new NAFTA, the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement.
New Democrats recognize that the United States is Canada's most significant trading partner, and that the trade enabled by the agreement we are debating today is critical to Canada's economic success. Since the signing of the original free trade agreement, Canadian exports to the United States increased from $110 billion in 1993 to $349 billion in 2014. However, it is vital that the wealth generated through trade creates good jobs for working people in Canada and not simply for the interests of the wealthiest few.
When the initial agreement was signed back in November 2018, the NDP raised serious concerns about how the new trade deal addressed workers' rights and environmental regulations. Disappointingly, it was left to the Democrats in the U.S. rather than the Liberal government to stand up to the Trump administration and fight for these important changes.
I would like to use my time today to address three broad areas of concern. First, I will highlight two industries in my riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley that I believe should have done better by the deal the government signed. Second, I will address the failure of this deal to engage indigenous people and to uphold their rights. Third, I will speak on our thoughts about the closed-door process by which our government negotiates deals such as this one.
While we have seen some sectors thrive and bring jobs and opportunities to northern British Columbia, we have also seen some industries struggle. We have heard a fair bit in the House already with regard to how this agreement would affect Canada's aluminum industry.
Canada's aluminum industry is the fifth largest in the world with an annual production of 2.9 million tonnes of primary aluminum. All of this is produced with a lower carbon footprint than other international producers.
The only aluminum smelter in western Canada is located in my riding in northern British Columbia. Rio Tinto's Kitimat smelter employs more than 1,000 workers in the town of Kitimat and contributes over $500 million annually to British Columbia's economy. As anyone who knows Kitimat will say, it is hard to overstate the importance of the smelter to this community. Indeed, it was the primary reason for the founding and construction of the community in the 1950s. However, for over a year, illegal steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the U.S. left workers in Kitimat anxious about their community's future. While people in my riding were left wondering whether they would continue to have work, the government went ahead and signed the new NAFTA deal with those tariffs still in place.
The cost of the government's inaction on aluminum has been high. It has been estimated that across the country over 1,000 jobs have been lost. While the government is celebrating the lifting of these tariffs, I am still hearing concerns from aluminum workers in my riding.
The U.S. has made it clear that it would be willing to reinstate tariffs at any time, and all it would take is for President Trump to decide that there has been a surge in aluminum imports for these tariffs to return. Unfortunately, we do not have a definition in this agreement for what would constitute a surge in imports, which means continued uncertainty for workers in my riding regardless of whether this agreement is ratified.
I have also heard concern with how the amended agreement deals with rules of origin in the automotive sector, a topic we have heard about in the House over the past few days. While the agreement requires that 70% of steel and aluminum used in the manufacture of automobiles be from North America, no one seems to have bothered to ask what percentage the industry currently uses. Without that information, how can Canadians determine if this threshold will stimulate our industry or simply be a backstop?
Furthermore, the requirement that 70% of aluminum be North American is undermined again by the lack of a definition for what is meant by “North American”. For steel, the agreement sets out a specific definition, which reads, “for steel to be considered as originating under this Article, all steel manufacturing processes must occur in one or more of the Parties, except for metallurgical processes involving the refinement of steel additives....”
Such processes include the initial melting and mixing and continues through the coating stage, yet for aluminum, no such definition exists. This calls into question whether Mexican auto parts manufacturers could import cheap aluminum ingots from China without running afoul of the 70% rule. If this is indeed possible, it begs the question as to what the value is of having the 70% provision included in the agreement at all.
It appears that weaker aluminum provisions were the cost of getting this agreement signed, a concession that poses a real risk to the economy of the region I represent. Should this deal be ratified, workers in my riding deserve to hear more from the government about how it plans to protect aluminum workers and increase the market for Canadian aluminum.
A second area of concern I have heard about from people in my riding is softwood lumber. In Skeena—Bulkley Valley, as many as 3,500 people are employed in the forestry sector. However, for many communities, falling lumber prices have led to tough times. We have seen layoffs, curtailments and mill closures across northern B.C. At such a tough time, what we needed was a government in Ottawa on the side of forestry workers, but that has just not been the case.
While it is vital and positive that the NAFTA dispute mechanism has remained in the new trade agreement so that Canada can continue to argue for independent arbitration when the U.S. seeks to impose tariffs on Canadian softwood, we see very little in this agreement for the forestry sector. Since the previous softwood agreement expired in October 2015, we have desperately needed a new agreement to give forestry workers certainty that their product will still have access to the U.S. market. Instead, we have seen the Trump administration imposing softwood tariffs.
It would seem that during all those trips to Washington, getting a fair deal in the softwood lumber dispute was never on the table, but we will never know because of the opaque process by which this agreement has been negotiated. I would have thought that while we were opening up trade negotiations with the U.S., getting a stable resolution on softwood would be at the top of the agenda.
Another real concern with this new agreement is indigenous rights. In 2017, the Liberal government promised it would negotiate an entire chapter in this agreement to promote indigenous rights, but again we are left disappointed with what the government has delivered. It is so disheartening, as we work toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples across North America, that this agreement makes no mention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We see again that the government has put the interests of big corporations ahead of indigenous peoples, who are seeking justice and respect on their own lands.
Finally, I would like to address the process by which this agreement was negotiated.
Throughout the negotiations, we heard from the Liberals that this was the best deal possible, but then the Democrats in the United States were able to deliver the important changes that the Liberals told Canadians were just not possible. Now we are hearing more concerns from some sectors, and again it is difficult for Canadians to have their voices heard. For people in northwest British Columbia, it feels like the government is just not listening.
People are rightly concerned that such an important agreement for Canada's economy would be adopted without a thorough examination. Why is it that Canadians know more about the negotiation strategy and objectives of our trading partner than they do of their own government?
Going forward, we need to see a real commitment to changing how Canada negotiates international trade agreements. Too often we see deals made behind closed doors, with everyday Canadians having little input. We need a commitment to increase transparency and a government that gives voice to working people most affected by trade agreements, not just to corporate lobbyists that stand to profit most from the outcome.
That is why the New Democrats support a thorough study of this deal along with the creation of a transparent trade process that holds our government more accountable and allows Parliament to play a more meaningful role than that of a simple rubber stamp. We owe it to Canadians.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-02-03 11:27 [p.796]
Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent intervention.
The Bloc Québécois is also concerned about these agreements being negotiated behind closed doors, because the details are often slow to emerge.
For instance, does my colleague know that the Canadian government agreed to limit exports of milk by-products, milk protein concentrate and infant formula to countries outside the agreement? This provision is something we have never seen before, and I would like to hear what my colleague thinks about it.
View Taylor Bachrach Profile
Madam Speaker, what the hon. member has raised is precisely why we need a better process, one that is transparent and engages Canadians in the debate around what the objectives and the strategy for negotiating these trade agreements should be at the front end of the process, not the back end. The example he raised is a good one.
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, the government revealed that 38 departments and agencies mishandled sensitive information more than 5,000 times last year. Clearly this is not a one-off. This is a pattern across the Liberal government. Information was mismanaged and misplaced. It is clear the Liberals do not care about the privacy of Canadians.
When will the Prime Minister hold his ministers to account and demand that they protect the privacy of Canadians?
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-02-03 14:59 [p.830]
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to safeguarding sensitive government information and maintaining the highest standards of document security, as prescribed in our policies. Each employee receives proper training on this and a minimum of safeguards for protected and classified documents are outlined in the directive on security management.
We will continue to monitor and ensure the privacy of Canadians are protected.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
Mr. Speaker, last year the government had over 5,000 security breaches related to classified documents. That is 20 for everyday work, with no one fired and no one's security clearance revoked.
If that was not bad enough, one ministry felt it was above the will of Canadians. In an affront to Parliament, Global Affairs Canada did not even bother to disclose its breaches: So much for an open and accountable government.
Will the Prime Minister protect democracy now and demand that Global Affairs Canada release its breaches?
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-02-03 15:00 [p.830]
Mr. Speaker, as I just said, the security of Canadians' personal information is very important to our government. Our government is determined to safeguard the personal information of Canadians, as well as government information. Every employee receives training on security measures. We will certainly continue our good work on this issue.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
Madam Speaker, I am here today to speak to the trade agreement now before the House. I have had opportunities in the last few days to stand in the House, but this is my first speech.
I would like to thank all the people in my riding who helped me in being elected to serve in the House for a second term. When we have an election, it is amazing how many people come forward to volunteer, and they do so much significant work in the community.
I also want to thank my family members who supported my being here today, especially my sister Mary. Even though she has three small children to care for, she flew in to spend the last few days of the election with me. It meant a lot to have her there.
However, I also want to acknowledge all the volunteers for every party. At the end of the day, democracy is fundamental to our country. It is important to acknowledge all the people who volunteered and spent time working very hard for their candidates.
I have some concerns about this agreement and I am torn on this issue. I recognize the importance of trade to our country and to its economic success. We live in a global economy, but I have a lot of concerns about how that works.
The U.S. is Canada's most significant trading partner. It is our friend and our neighbour. We have some political challenges with the U.S. at certain times, but there is a lot of back-and-forth between our two countries. Therefore, trying to find ways to work with the Americans is important.
However, at the end of the day, trade needs to focus on fairness. We need to have trade that assures all Canadians are respected throughout the process.
I live in a rural and remote community. North Island—Powell River is just under 60,000 square kilometres. There are several ferries. It is both on Vancouver Island and on the mainland. One of the things that worries me in our trade process, and I will talk about the transparency of that process, is we often forget some of our rural and remote communities and the challenges they face when we do not think about trade through that lens.
My riding has several dairy farms. When we look at what has been happening with the past several trade agreements, supply management is struggling. From my perspective, supply management is really under attack. I understand that there are challenges when we trade, but supply management is so important. It assures all Canadians of a good product in which they can trust. I encourage people to check out a Canadian dairy farm. It is an amazing thing. It is a lot more healthy and wonderful than one thinks, and we can trust that product.
Protecting rural and remote communities is key. Supply management allows us to have robust farms that are small and local, that provide local jobs, not only on the farms but in the services they use, and that is important.
Viewfield Farms, Daldas Farms and Lloydshaven farm are in my riding. Those farms are a big part of our community. Not only do they employ people at their farms and create amazing products, but they also access the services around them to care for their farms, their milk products and their cows.
When we look at the negotiations that have taken place on supply management, under CUSMA, CPTPP and CETA, we see that about 10% of the market share has been taken away from those sectors, which makes it harder for those farms. I hope we do not want more focus on centralization. That takes away from those small rural and remote communities and starts to build in larger centres. Therefore, this is important.
The other thing that worries me is that this trade agreement contains a provision that would grant the U.S. oversight into the administration of the Canadian dairy system. It undermines Canada's sovereignty and our ability to manage our product. When we look at the product produced in the U.S., we need to be concerned about it. We know that the American dairy sector uses bovine growth hormone, which increases milk production up to 25%. There are no studies on what that does to people when they consume these products.
We know it is really bad for the cows. They suffer from more stress and there is a higher incidence of udder infections, swollen legs and premature death. It should be very concerning when that product is coming across our borders. Canadians need to know what the product is. As I said earlier, those who go to Canadian farms will feel good about eating dairy products. Farmers take care of their cows.
Another important area for me, especially in this day and age, is environmental protections and addressing issues like climate change. When there are trade discussions, Canada has an important opportunity to reflect on how it is doing with respect to its climate change actions, on which we need to do a lot better. However, it is also an opportunity to negotiate with other countries to increase their accountability. I want to see more trade agreements in which provisions around the environment and climate change are binding and fully enforceable. We do not see that in this agreement.
The provisions should also focus on and be in line with Canada's international obligations. When we look at the Paris Agreement, we do not see that reflected. When I look at this trade agreement, it really does not help us move forward toward those important environmental climate change targets.
I have another frustration. I remember being in this place in the spring of last year, talking about ratifying this agreement. Again and again, the NDP asked why the government was rushing this, that we needed to ensure the U.S. Democrats in Congress had an opportunity to do their work on this deal, that they would make it a better deal, and that happened. However, we kept hearing that it was the best deal we could get. Then the government would go back to the table and come back again, saying it was a better deal.
It is important for the government to understand it has an obligation to get the best deal it can, to take every action it can to ensure Canadian workers are cared for, that we are respectful of workers in other countries, that we look at how it will impact our businesses and economy, what it looks like in urban settings and in rural and remote settings. I am glad the work was done, but it is frustrating to keep having this conversation.
I am very pleased that chapter 11, the investor-state dispute settlement of NAFTA, is finally gone. When we look at the history of the country, Canada was sued repeatedly, and this mechanism kept us in a vulnerable position. I am glad it is gone.
However, I am also concerned about some of the language I see in the agreement that leads me to believe some of those things are entwined in the language. We will have to watch that carefully, and we should be concerned about it.
At the end of the day, though, one of my biggest frustrations on all trade agreements is the lack of transparency of the negotiation process. It needs to be addressed, and I hope that is fixed soon.
Canadians across the country need to understand what we are negotiating and why. As I said earlier, I represent three dairy farms in my riding, and one thing they wanted to know was how much supply management quota we were giving away. They were frustrated by the lack of communication and clarity around this very important issue.
We have a huge country with a lot of diverse economies. We also have a lot of rural and remote communities, like mine, that are struggling as we adjust to this changing world and changing economy. We need to ensure that trade recognizes this and looks at how we can work collaboratively to ensure those folks are not left behind in these discussions.
I call on the government to understand that we need a more transparent process. I understand that when we are negotiating something, we do not want to lay all our cards on the table publicly. However, there still was not enough information that allowed different sectors in our communities across Canada to express their concerns and ensure that those voices were heard. Even in the states, Trump was very clear about his goals, so we need to hear the goals of government.
I look forward to having further discussions. I am excited for the bill go to committee, where we can study these issues more fully.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-01-28 11:01 [p.548]
Madam Speaker, first I want to pay my respect to my hon. colleague for the quality of his French. He said many sentences in French, and we deeply appreciate that. However, it is not because he spoke in French that I totally agree with him.
That is why I was so surprised by the amendments he proposed. He wanted to gloss over the facts. The fact is that over the past four years, this government failed to show any transparency with regard to accountability for major infrastructure projects.
My question is perfectly simple. Why does the government want to deny the facts with regard to transparency?
View Andy Fillmore Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Andy Fillmore Profile
2020-01-28 11:02 [p.548]
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin this response in the same way that I ended the last one: Better is always possible.
The motion was predicated on the earlier March report from the PBO that identified where we could do better. We did do better and closed the gaps identified in that report. That caused the PBO to issue a second report later in that same year, declaring that we have in fact met the obligations that were set out to us.
I spoke in great detail in my speech about all the transparency mechanisms that are in place, from the infrastructure website to other government accountability websites. I would invite members of the House to agree with the PBO that we have in fact met our obligation to invest over $186 million in Canadian communities to improve the economy and create jobs over 12 years.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue. We will each have 10 minutes, and I am looking forward to hearing his speech.
First off, I want to go back to the content of the motion moved by my colleague, the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, so that we can see what it is about. The motion essentially says the following:
That, given the Parliamentary Budget Officer posted on March 15, 2018, that “Budget 2018 provides an incomplete account of the changes to the government's $186.7 billion infrastructure spending plan” and that the “PBO requested the new plan but it does not exist”, the House call on the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the government's “Investing in Canada Plan”, including, but not be limited to, verifying whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises; and that the Auditor General of Canada report his findings to the House no later than one year following the adoption of this motion.
There is something there, and I expect this to be an interesting discussion. Before I begin analyzing our response to the motion, I would like to first indicate that the Bloc Québécois intends to vote in favour of this motion for several reasons. Here are the main three.
The first reason is the delay in spending, which members have already mentioned. Since 2016, the government has delivered on only a small part of the announced infrastructure spending. When money is announced for a project, that money is needed for the project to begin. That is even more important when it comes to infrastructure because infrastructure is something that our constituents, our communities, our towns and our cities need to operate, to grow and to have a healthy economy.
It always fuels cynicism when the government announces $300 million for this or $1 billion for that, but the money never comes. We are obviously concerned about these delays in spending. We would therefore like the Auditor General to tell us what is really going on.
The second reason is the importance of transparency when it comes to economic data. Without numbers, we cannot really get an accurate picture of the situation. The government's numbers are never very clear. It appears to be recycling amounts from previous announcements whose time is running out. Is that money being reclaimed or not? Is it being reallocated elsewhere? Nobody knows what is going on with that money.
Obviously, we think that when the government makes spending announcements, the money should actually be spent on what they said they would spend it on, especially when it comes to infrastructure. Our communities have infrastructure needs, especially Quebec communities, and we will look at why a bit later. Transparency is important because we need predictability. People need a clear sense of the situation not only so they can really trust the information they get from the government but also so they can make good decisions and adjust plans as needed. Without that information, people are flying blind.
The third reason why we plan to vote in favour of the motion is that we believe it is important for Quebec to obtain its fair share. When there is a delay in spending and a lack of transparency in the data, it is difficult to know if Quebec is getting what it is entitled to.
According to one of the PBO's reports on phase 1 of the infrastructure plan covering the period from 2016 to 2018 and tabled in March 2018, Quebec received only 12% of total investment under the program while Quebec accounts for 23% of Canada's population. I think it goes without saying that we find that offensive and, above all, inadequate. Like anyone else, we Quebeckers pay taxes to Ottawa, and we expect to receive our fair share of the taxes that we send to Ottawa until we become independent. Let us hope that happens as quickly as possible.
I will do a brief comparison of amounts received by Quebec compared to those received by the other provinces, according to the table on page 9 of the PBO's report. If we look at the figures for Ontario, for example, we see that it received 32% of total infrastructure investment for 2,884 infrastructure projects, which represents $161 per capita. We see that Ontario's share of the investments was not so shabby.
Other provinces were spoiled even more. On a per capita basis, Yukon received $1,797, Nunavut received $2,146, the Northwest Territories received $1,618, and Newfoundland and Labrador received $1,752. If we look at what each of the provinces received, we can see that Quebec was overlooked and received the least money. Ontario was next, but it still managed to receive nearly its full share. By way of comparison, Ontario is getting 32%, or $161 per capita, and Quebec is getting 12%, or $97 per capita. Some provinces are getting thousands of dollars per capita, yet Quebec cannot even get $100. It is easy to understand why we are not too happy with these figures and why we would like some answers from the Auditor General.
Other things are brought up in that Auditor General report. The Prime Minister had planned to spend $14.4 billion in 2016-17 and 2017-18, as stated in his infrastructure plan. According to the Auditor General's report, however, it appears that only 50% of planned expenditures were actually spent.
There is no excuse. Sometimes, they tell us that it takes a while to come to an agreement, that there are administrative delays and that projects are not being submitted. A little later in the same report, we see that 17% of projects received no funding even though they had been approved. One in five approved projects did not receive any money.
This is inconceivable and inexplicable to us, and we very much look forward to hearing the real explanations that the government will give us. We have not heard any yet, but perhaps the Auditor General will be able to tell us more.
We also know that it is always harder for Quebec to secure funding. We have some demands. We want 100% of the funds earmarked for Quebec to stay in Quebec, we want Ottawa to send the money directly to the Quebec government, and we want it to stop imposing all kinds of conditions. Apparently, that does not suit Ottawa, and it always slows things down.
It is important to know that only 2% of public infrastructure in Canada falls under federal jurisdiction, and the remaining 98% comes under either municipal or provincial jurisdiction. The federal government owns only 2% of infrastructure, yet it controls a large portion of the budget and imposes all kinds of conditions on everyone.
It is not familiar with the reality in the municipalities and the provinces. A central government does not have the credibility to say that it understands the reality in every municipality in the country. Canada has 5,000 municipalities, but the Bloc is concerned first and foremost with the 1,400 municipalities in Quebec. It would be impossible for Ottawa to be familiar with the reality facing each and every one of them. Federal regulations make it difficult for the municipalities to qualify for and secure the funds that are rightfully theirs. This is especially true for small municipalities, which do not have an army of staff to research how to qualify for the various federal government programs, how to submit an application and how to navigate all the bureaucracy.
Clearly, it would be far more efficient if the money were transferred to Quebec so that it could be distributed based on people's needs. The money would trickle down much faster to where it is needed on the ground.
The Bloc Québécois is permanently stuck in this tug-of-war, because we want Quebec to get the money to which it is entitled.
I know that I am running out of time, but I want to close on another topic, namely the Canada Infrastructure Bank, for which the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities is responsible. After all, we are talking about infrastructure. It is very hard to get service in French when dealing with that bank. Since the bank was founded, there has not been a single executive, press secretary or CEO who speaks French. No one can respond to the municipalities in French. It is a major problem. We are talking about $35 billion that the federal government is investing in this bank. The private sector might be investing in it as well.
It was even reported a few days ago that no one at the office of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities speaks French. It is clear that we are more than misunderstood in this country. Quebeckers would be much better off if we could manage our own money.
View Peter Julian Profile
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the excellent new member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
This is not a debate that is abstract at all. When we talk about infrastructure and infrastructure funding in this country, the lack of coordination and the shortchanging we have seen over the last few decades from Ottawa are causing real hardship right across the country. In this regard, I would criticize as openly the Harper Conservatives as I do the current government for their refusal to adequately fund what is becoming a chronic problem in this country. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and many other groups have identified the shortfall. We are talking about an infrastructure deficit of over $170 billion in this country and that does not include first nations communities.
What does that mean? That means the infrastructure that was put in place largely after the Second World War, in the 1950s and 1960s when there was adequate government funding for this, to ensure that we have water treatment and sewage facilities, roads and bridges has not been renewed.
The Liberal government will say that it has funded some of the infrastructure that is needed. Today as we go through the discussion and debate in the House of Commons, we will find that the Liberals will mention particular projects that have been funded. Certainly, those projects are welcome. The reality is we are talking about a massive infrastructure deficit of over $170 billion in this country. That some infrastructure funding is being forwarded does mean that it is doing some good and making some progress, but what that means is that while the house may still have a leaky roof, while the toilets do not work, while there is no heat, yes, we have windows being replaced and a new front door.
What I am saying is that we are far from the degree of investment that is required in this country to bring the quality of life right across the country up to speed. This is a profound problem. That is why we welcome and support the motion that was brought forward today.
The difference between the rhetoric and the reality is that the government has said that it is financing all of these infrastructure projects, and yet tens of billions of dollars remain unallocated to this day. That is something only the Auditor General can look into with the expertise that he has to offer, to make sure that parliamentarians, of course, but more importantly Canadians as a whole, can get a real handle on the massive debt between the rhetoric and the reality.
The reality is that we are in an infrastructure crisis in this country. The rhetoric is that somehow the government is addressing this. However, the few projects the government is financing are far from what is needed across the country.
I am proud to represent the cities of New Westminster and Burnaby, both led by very progressive city councils that are endeavouring to do things with the small amount of taxpayers' dollars that the municipalities actually get, around 10% of the taxpayer pie. The tax dollars that are actually allocated across the country come from municipalities. We have good infrastructure that has been put into place because the cities and the recent new B.C. government have been providing supports for some of the infrastructure that is needed. We are still a far way from having in place an infrastructure program that addresses the $170 billion and growing deficit that we have in this country.
That has to change. It is obvious when one looks at the state of our highways, bridges and waste-water treatment centres. There is a difference between rhetoric and reality. La Presse even reported a few months ago that the state of our roads is deteriorating, not just in Quebec but across Canada. This is because the funding that should be going to infrastructure is not being allocated. That is why we are experiencing a crisis.
The government will say it has allocated money in each budget. The Auditor General will be able to tell us to what extent that is the reality. The Auditor General will be able to tell us that the funding announced by the government has actually led to infrastructure projects being started and to what extent municipalities in rural and urban regions across the country have been able to access that money. In New Westminster we are looking for a renewal of the Canada Games Pool, which was built over 40 years ago and needs to be renewed. New Westminster would like to see some of that funding coming from the federal government. At the moment, that has not happened.
Burnaby has identified a number of sites for housing. Both Mayor Jonathan Coté in New Westminster and Mayor Mike Hurley in Burnaby are endeavouring to ensure that all aspects of quality of life are increased in those two cities by getting the needed infrastructure funding.
What has been the government's approach? First off, when we talk about the overall allocation of funding, the Auditor General will be able to determine in a way that only his department can determine the extent to which the funding has actually been allocated. More importantly, when we talk about the funding itself, the question is how that money is being allocated.
Under the previous government we had public-private partnerships. In public-private partnerships it costs the taxpayer significantly more to ensure private profit for what is essentially public funding. I can point to the debacle of the Ottawa LRT, a public-private partnership where billions of dollars from the public were allocated to put in place a transit system that has become notoriously unreliable. I travel each day to work. I have tried to travel on the LRT. However, in recent days, as with so many other people in the national capital region, I have been unable to take the train because the number of trains and their frequency has been reduced through this public-private partnership. As a result of that, the ability of citizens to access this service has been circumscribed. This is just one example of many.
Similar concerns have been raised about the government's approach with the Canada Infrastructure Bank. A previous member of Parliament, Guy Caron, who was finance critic for the NDP, repeatedly raised concerns, as have other NDP members, around the idea that public money would go to further private profit. In the executive suite of the Canada Infrastructure Bank we have seen what can only be described as chaos, a turnover of those people that had been appointed to head up the bank. Very little progress has been made. Arguably, the most significant projects that have come through the Canada Infrastructure Bank were already online for public investment. The federal government played a shell game around that to try to give some credit to the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
It is so essential that these aspects of the use of the public dollar be examined by the Auditor General. The Auditor General has the confidence of Canadians. The Auditor General can look at these projects and within one year can bring forward recommendations about how infrastructure funding should be treated in this country. It should not serve for friends of the government to make a profit out of this. It should not simply be a piggy bank for election campaigns.
What we need is a sustained ongoing source of public funding that municipalities across the length and breadth of this country can depend on. That is why the NDP is supporting the motion.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2020-01-28 12:36 [p.562]
Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest. What really concerns me is that I remember in 2015, the Liberals made such beautiful promises about everything and they got elected. They were going to deal with the infrastructure crisis and it was the most beautiful plan we had ever seen. Then they set up the Infrastructure Bank with our finance minister, who is pretty much the finance minister for the 1%, and it turned into an open bar for the lobbyists to come in with no oversight.
The privatization of key public assets is what the Liberals have been spinning to their friends. One has only to look at the LRT in Ottawa, run by SNC-Lavalin, where it cannot even get the doors to open. It did not even meet the criteria, but they are friends of the Prime Minister.
Therefore, I am deeply concerned when I see that we cannot even account for billions of dollars. We do not even know where it is. I am also concerned that the Liberals are against oversight by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which is the one opportunity that we have as parliamentarians to get straight answers.
I would like to ask my hon. colleague this. Why does he think that the Liberal government came in with such good promises and ended up in such a cynical place?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-01-28 12:38 [p.562]
Madam Speaker, I would say it is because they are Liberals.
It is true. Based on history, the Liberal Party always said one thing and then would do exactly the reverse. If anyone knows about that, it is the NDP member. In 1974, the Liberal Party was elected saying there would be no control over taxes. The Prime Minister's father said that in 1974, while our party said that we had to have control.
What did the Liberals do in 1975? On October 8, if my memory is good, they called a shot on that. They said one thing and they did the reverse. Their history continues.
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
2020-01-28 13:08 [p.566]
Madam Speaker, I would like to note that I am splitting my time with the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.
Before I get into my speech, I want to correct the record. The President of the Treasury Board just indicated that the FCM is absolutely thrilled with the party on the other side. I would say there is a lot of hesitation from the mayors, councillors and reeves I have spoken to across the country. They are quite disappointed in the way that money has flowed from the government and think that the government's communication back and forth on when exactly they will get that money has been a problem. I am sure he would be happy to accept my correction to the record.
Infrastructure impacts all Canadians on a daily basis. It is the roads we drive on, the public buildings we use and the parks we bring our children to. It is a large component of any government's budget, yet the current government seems unsure of how much funding has gone out the door to support infrastructure development.
In 2015, the Liberals promised that they would run modest deficits of less than $10 billion over the two years that followed and make historic investments in infrastructure. They have already failed on the modest deficits front. The deficit this year alone is estimated to be more than $26 billion. The government does not seem to have a plan to get the budget back to balance, but that is a different debate for a different day.
The government introduced the investing in Canada plan, a $188-billion plan to update infrastructure based on the priorities the government had. The government failed to work with the provinces to ensure they were shared priorities. Almost right away there were problems with the plan.
A March 2018 report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that only half of the spending promised to be invested in infrastructure had been tied to projects. After this finding was published, the government shuffled its cabinet and the next minister of infrastructure was urged in his mandate letter to stop the current lag with regard to infrastructure projects and get more money out the door. The government knew it was failing to meet expectations.
Reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer kept coming. Another report found provinces were not investing as much in infrastructure as the federal government had estimated. This is a result of the federal government's not consulting with provinces when developing its investing in Canada plan.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer also ran into roadblocks when conducting research for its reports. After a request, Infrastructure Canada was unable to provide the data requested regarding a list of all the specific project commitments under the investing in Canada plan.
That is why we need the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the government's plan. The department that should have a thorough list of all the projects in its own plan cannot provide it. Canadians deserve to know how their money is being spent.
I have seen first-hand how the incompetence of the government's infrastructure plan has been impacting Canadians. For the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to travel across Canada and visit mayors and councillors in rural and urban municipalities. I have spoken to municipal leaders from all provinces and territories to get their feedback on the current infrastructure plan.
One of the biggest things I heard during these discussions was that money needed for crucial infrastructure was stuck in Ottawa and that the federal government is not listening to local concerns. This Ottawa-knows-best approach is not working for municipalities. We need to streamline infrastructure and need a government that acts in the best interest of local communities on matters of infrastructure.
Many of these municipal representatives told me that they have yet to see any promised infrastructure funding flow into the areas. They have put in the requests and sometimes do not even hear back from the federal government. Mayors and councillors want more control over their projects. They want to decide what gets done instead of having bureaucrats, sometimes thousands of kilometres away, choose what to prioritize.
Many of the municipalities I consulted have said online application forms to receive infrastructure spending are so complicated that some have even given up entirely. Imagine having the sole beneficiaries of funding not even bother to apply for funding because it has been made too difficult. Instead, these municipalities are looking for other sources of funding to get their projects built.
The government also founded the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a $35-billion agency designed to attract private investors to create public infrastructure projects. Despite costing so much money, we have seen very little in the way of announcements from the bank. In fact, the first announcement from this bank came more than two years after its establishment and it was just a reannouncement of funding that the government had already pledged.
Despite not accomplishing much, the infrastructure bank has had no problem asking for more money from the federal government to cover salaries, legal services, travel and other expenses. Announcements from the bank are sparse and the government has not yet been transparent about what the bank is actually achieving for Canadians.
Not all Canadians will even benefit from the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The finance minister confirmed that small municipalities will not benefit because investors will look to invest only, in his words, in “large transformational projects” that Maclean's notes will “produce a revenue stream, from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investment.” As well, the bank will only provide funding to projects worth $100 million or more, virtually guaranteeing that rural communities across Canada will not qualify, while small and medium-sized municipalities are losing $15 billion of infrastructure money to pay for the bank.
It is clear that the government is not listening to Canadians and is being unresponsive to concerns about the investing in Canada plan. Instead, it is continuing to forge ahead with a plan that has very obvious shortcomings.
The government knows its plan is failing too. In budget 2019, Liberals allocated a $2.2-billion top-up in municipal transfers to fund short-term infrastructure projects for the year, which, as we all know, happened to be an election year. This was despite having the previous four years in government to address delays in delivering this much-needed infrastructure.
I am anticipating that some of my colleagues across the aisle will accuse our party of wanting to cut infrastructure funding, but that is simply not true. Our previous government's record speaks for itself. Our economic action plan approved and announced $12 billion in infrastructure projects in three years of government during the worst economic crisis in a generation. We understand how important infrastructure is to Canadians. We understand the need to get dollars out the door as quickly as possible so projects can be completed in more reasonable time lines. Cutting infrastructure funding is not in our country's best interest.
The government also promised that the investing in Canada plan would stimulate the economy. The Liberals promised they would raise the level of real GDP by up to 1% in the 2017-18 fiscal year. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that there was no increase in the level of real GDP from infrastructure in Canada.
Their record on infrastructure is one of failure. They failed to match infrastructure funding with projects preferred by the municipalities. They failed to keep the deficits modest. They failed to grow the economy in the way that they promised to Canadians. They failed to be accountable and transparent.
When asked for details about the program, they cannot provide them. The department itself has an idea of how many infrastructure investments have been made. The Parliamentary Budget Officer could not get the facts. We have no idea how billions of dollars in taxpayer money is being spent.
The Auditor General must audit the investing in Canada plan to verify whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises. My guess is that it is not.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2020-01-28 15:59 [p.596]
Mr. Speaker, this is a very simple request. Throughout the last several years, we have seen the PBO, in its 2017 estimates and supplementary estimates commentary, saying there were billions missing from the infrastructure fund. We saw that with Mr. Fréchette, and we see it with the current PBO comment in 2018 that money cannot be located.
A Senate report investigating this infrastructure money came up with a finalized part of the report saying there was no metric for success for infrastructure spending apart from the fact that money was spent. It was not carbon reduction, not roads built, not Canadians' health. The government's only metric was that the money was spent.
Why are Liberals opposing having the Auditor General look at this vital issue of money for taxpayers? What are they trying to hide? What are they afraid of?
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, this morning I read one of the PBO reports that says 900,000 Canadians are going to be taken off the tax rolls with our increase to the basic personal exemption amount and 21 million Canadians will receive a tax break, that is, more tax dollars in their pockets.
I look forward to the PBO undertaking more analysis of our government proposals and plans to invest in Canada and Canadians to keep growing our economy, creating jobs and lifting people out of poverty, because that is what we ran on in 2015 and that is what we ran on in 2019. I look forward to the PBO undertaking further analysis.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 16:14 [p.599]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for sharing her vision of the infrastructure plan.
I am a little disappointed, but I was expecting the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to give a long list of all the projects that have been approved in recent years, because the list is long. As the minister said, she could have spent all afternoon reading it. However, this does not answer the Parliamentary Budget Officer's questions about the planning of these projects and the expected results.
The minister talked at length about results related to climate change and greenhouse gas reduction. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer made it clear that there is currently no mechanism for verifying whether approved infrastructure projects will have an impact on climate change or for determining that impact.
All the same, that was one of the objectives. It was part of the government's nice little slogans, like the ones the minister just uttered, such as “building Canada” or “building a better future”. However, everything depends on the information provided to parliamentarians, not the slogans.
Does the minister not believe that parliamentarians of all stripes are entitled to the same information the government has, so they can make informed decisions about the infrastructure plan? Do they not have the right to know whether a plan exists for the funds that were not invested in 2016-17 and 2017-18?
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Catherine McKenna Profile
2020-01-28 16:15 [p.599]
Mr. Speaker, our government is open and transparent, and we welcome public and parliamentary oversight of our historic infrastructure program, the investing in Canada plan. I am actually pleased to see that members opposite are now taking an interest in our investments to grow the economy, build better communities and fight climate change.
I would like to point out that, during the last election campaign, the Conservatives said they would slash $18 million from our infrastructure investments. Canadians, in contrast, decided to move forward and invest in a better future for their children and grandchildren. Canadians want to know which projects the Conservatives would like to cancel. Will it be Montreal's blue line, the Quebec City tramway, the Champlain Bridge or affordable housing?
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, in my riding in the Cowichan Valley, the Cowichan River, which has long been a source of inspiration for the first peoples who have lived there, a very deep, historical and cultural significance, is really starting to feel the effects of climate change. One of the proposals to help us save that river is to build a new weir so we can hold more lake supply water back in Lake Cowichan and control the flow during the dry spring and summer months.
I look at the motion before us today and the crux of the matter is that we want to see if the plan is living up to its stated goals and promises. The Auditor General's office plays a very important role to help us, as parliamentarians, to see if it is actually doing that.
Why is the minister's government so against us getting this information to see if we can try and find more efficiencies in the plan and give our constituents, who need this funding, the information they need to make the appropriate applications for the resources necessary to get the funding in the first place?
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