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View Christine Normandin Profile
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-07-22 14:20 [p.2724]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech. It touched on a number of very specific issues, including preventing the use of hard drugs, but also mental health issues, which are very important in the context of COVID-19 and have played out in ways that may be hard to predict.
In light of this, I submit to my colleague that it is important to recognize the role that Quebec and the provinces can play in these very specific issues, which are generally related to social services and health.
Furthermore, I would like to know whether she thinks there was any useful or legitimate reason for the federal government to impose conditions before it would transfer money that is critically needed for dealing with these problems, which are so pressing right now.
Would she not agree that the federal government should just have gone ahead and transferred the money, knowing that the provinces and Quebec are best equipped to deal with the current concerns?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2020-07-22 14:21 [p.2724]
Mr. Speaker, it is a difficult issue. The federal government is trying to make sure that services and access to mental health treatments are fairly equal across the provinces. We do not want it so that in one province they are fully supported and in another province they are not. That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to make sure that the level of support is equal across the country, because some provinces will need more in child care, will need more in mental health, will need more in addressing the opioid crisis than other provinces will. We wanted to make sure that at least we have that baseline standard right across the country. That was the reason behind that negotiation.
View Marilène Gill Profile
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-07-21 14:02 [p.2686]
Madam Speaker, people in the regions of Quebec are once again being held hostage by Air Canada and a government measure.
On June 30, we learned that Air Canada, which is heavily subsidized by the federal government using taxpayer money, was suspending 30 regional routes indefinitely and closing a number of service counters in eastern Quebec for good, including those in Gaspé, Mont-Joli, and Baie-Comeau, in my riding.
Since the announcement, the government has shown zero leadership to support Quebec, which is itself looking for solutions. Even the Minister of National Revenue, the member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, whose constituents have been hit hard by Air Canada's pressure tactics, has said nothing about this. Her silence speaks volumes and is typical of the government's absolute failure to take action on this issue.
The consensus among people who live in the regions, mayors, reeves and the Government of Quebec is clear, and the Bloc Québécois has supported that consensus since the announcement. It is time for the federal government to support sustainable solutions so that the regions are never again cut off from major centres as they are now. The economic vitality of Quebec's regions is at stake.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
Madam Speaker, on July 1, Air Canada announced its decision to drop 30 regional routes and close eight stations at regional airports, including many in eastern Quebec. This was a devastating blow for my entire region, and especially for the Mont-Joli airport, which will lose over 30% of its revenues without the Air Canada counter.
Local players quickly joined forces to try to come up with a new model for reliable, sustainable regional air service. Various project proponents saw this news as an opportunity to transform the regional transportation model by proposing an alternative to private companies, since we are talking about providing a service, not a product. Air transportation is a service that should help revitalize a region.
The federal government must commit to supporting the Quebec initiatives rather than continue to stubbornly subsidize private airlines that abandon Quebec's regions overnight. The government needs to wake up and recognize that an air transportation model should serve the interests of the people, not the shareholders of private corporations.
View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
Madam Chair, has the government said no to the request made repeatedly by Quebec, since 2017, to transfer some $1.5 billion for social housing, for which not a penny has yet been sent?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, as the member opposite noted, we have been with the provinces and territories from the very beginning, from the initial tranche of $500 million, to ensure they had the necessary supplies, equipment and personnel, and were ready to deal with any influx of cases and changes to their medical—
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-06-17 15:52 [p.2497]
Madam Chair, I am very happy and honoured that the leader of the Bloc Québécois and hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly agreed to share his time with me. It is almost too great an honour, but, given that this is an opportunity to continue what I passionately started this afternoon, I will certainly not turn it down.
Like the leader of the Bloc Québécois, I pointed out yesterday that the government offered $14 billion to Quebec and the provinces to cover some of the expenses incurred as a result of the current pandemic. Beyond the obvious fact that this amount is hugely inadequate, there is also another issue: The $14 billion come with certain conditions.
Quebec and the provinces have rejected these conditions, and as a result, the money is not being paid. The funds were to be used to purchase masks, among other things. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues, and the masks have not been purchased because the federal government insists on imposing conditions. It does not manage any hospitals, long-term care facilities, child care networks or public transportation networks, but it claims to know all about them.
When we asked that the government provide money without strings attached, a genius across the aisle said we were asking for a blank cheque. It so happens that our friends across the aisle know all about blank cheques. Despite having a minority government, for weeks now the Liberals have been asking Parliament to give them blank cheques.
At first, realizing that we needed to help people, we decided to work in a spirit of collaboration to help our fellow citizens who have been sorely affected by the pandemic. We collaborated, because we believed that was our role, as parliamentarians.
Some people think that, because we are the opposition, we always have to oppose the government. Like my colleagues from Beloeil—Chambly and La Prairie, I once sat in an assembly where almost 80% of bills were passed unanimously. Contrary to what the government House leader says, the opposition is not only there to oppose and squabble. On the contrary, we have collaborated from the very beginning. However, when those with whom we have been collaborating do not keep their word and prefer to use the powers we gave them to do pretty much anything they want, regardless of the commitments they made to us, we are less inclined to keep on collaborating.
We did not close the door. Last week we proposed that we suspend the sitting so that the party leaders could agree on how to proceed with passing the bill to grant more money for people with disabilities. It was the Liberal Party that said no. The Liberals did not want to have to negotiate. They are acting as if they were a majority government that can demand blank cheques and they do not care about anyone else. If we do not give them a blank cheque, that is it. There is no negotiation.
In the end, all kinds of people, and especially people with disabilities, should have been getting more money, but they are not getting it. We ended up in this situation because the Liberal Party decided not to allow leaders to negotiate and because it shut down Parliament.
Since Parliament is not sitting, aside from the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, we cannot pass legislation. The government cannot introduce a bill because Parliament has been shut down. That, right there, is the truth.
Today, the government is asking for yet another blank cheque. This time, the cheque is for the supplementary estimates, so that the government can continue its weeks-long spending spree. The way the process works is that we initially have to give the government permission to spend some funds before we finish considering the votes, so that government operations can continue.
Canada is not like the United States, where people get laid off for stretches of time until the budget is agreed upon.
That would be how the process works normally, but we are not proceeding normally. The debate on the supply bill, which we have to vote on, is happening under highly extraordinary circumstances.
As the Bloc Québécois leader said moments ago, the government seems to have once again negotiated support so that it can keep spending like it wants to and so the Prime Minister can keep putting on a show in front of his cottage every day without worrying about Parliament. He was given the power to spend, so he takes the money, talks it over with his ministers—
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-06-17 15:59 [p.2498]
Madam Chair, I get the feeling that the government House leader's Latin roots are coming out in the House. We keep being reminded that the government is negotiating, talking and discussing things with the Government of Quebec, but nothing ever comes of it.
As I said yesterday, it is almost July, and the construction season has begun.
When will you finally give Quebec the $1.4 billion intended for social housing? Work has not yet started, the needs are there—
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-06-17 16:00 [p.2498]
Madam Chair, despite my Latin roots, I am going to remain very calm.
I would simply point out to my hon. colleague that the Bloc Québécois has spent its entire existence telling Quebeckers that they should say yes, but now all the Bloc can say is no.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
That is perfect, Madam Chair.
There is a tremendous need for social housing in Quebec. The federal government has come to an agreement with all provinces except Quebec. There is a terrific program called AccèsLogis Québec.
When will the $1.4 billion owed Quebec be invested so we can build social housing?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-06-17 16:08 [p.2499]
Madam Chair, we are currently having discussions with the Government of Quebec.
This is an absolute priority for both governments.
View Mélanie Joly Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to talk about the work being done by Canada's six regional economic development agencies and what they have done to support Canadian businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic is having a huge impact on Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Because of the lockdown, a big part of our economy has had to be put on hold. Everyone's lives have been turned upside down, and that is especially true for the owners and employees of small and medium-sized businesses.
Since the crisis began, I have spoken, mainly virtually, with thousands of business and association leaders from across the country. They all talk about different day-to-day realities, but there is a common thread. They are working very hard for their employees, their communities and their families. After several weeks of lockdown and, for many of them, after temporarily closing their businesses, they are now reaching their limit. These businesses provide good local jobs and are a source of local pride. They form the foundation of a strong middle class. They are the backbone of our economy and, above all, our communities.
Our government realized very quickly that it was important to help businesses through the crisis, and we quickly implemented measures. We launched the largest economic assistance program in Canadian history. The measures we implemented include the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which helps businesses retain workers and rehire the ones they had to lay off. We also allowed businesses to defer GST/HST and customs duty payments. We created the Canada emergency business account, which basically provides $40,000 loans. This measure includes a $10,000 subsidy if the loan is repaid within two years. We remained responsive to needs, and we adjusted and improved the assistance to ensure that it would help as many Canadians as possible. In short, we expanded the social safety net.
However, one thing I heard from business owners is that despite the scope of the economic and social safety net in place, the situation remains difficult for small businesses. We asked ourselves two questions. Number one, how can we help businesses that are slipping through the cracks? Number two, what tools can we use to provide that help, knowing that, as they said, business owners prefer to turn to institutions close to home, ones that they trust?
To address those two concerns, we developed a special assistance program delivered by our six regional economic development agencies. These agencies are on the ground. They are in the best position to help the workers and SMEs at the heart of our communities. They know them.
That is how we came up with the regional relief and recovery fund, or RRRF, which has a total budget of $962 million. This fund is administered by our economic development agencies, either directly or indirectly through key partners such as CFDCs or the PME MTL network, as I recently had the opportunity to announce in Montreal. We made sure to be where businesses need us to be.
The purpose of this fund is to support businesses that are central to their local economy, that do not qualify for existing federal programs and that have needs that are not covered by these programs. It offers SMEs and organizations that are having cash flow problems emergency financial support to help them stay in business, including by helping them pay their employees and their fixed costs.
We must protect our main streets and our local businesses, and this new fund gives us the means to do that.
As I mentioned, the challenges faced by small businesses are not felt equally in all regions. This is particularly true in our Canadian northern territories. That is why in addition to the regional relief and recovery fund, $15 million was allocated for the creation of the northern business relief fund. With this fund, we target further needs for immediate relief for SMEs and ensure the stability of businesses and sectors that are vital to the recovery of our northern economy.
As members know, main street businesses are the lifeblood of a community. COVID-19 hit them hard. Many businesses responded by broadening their offerings and complementing traditional storefronts with online shops to attract new customers and reach new markets. This created an opportunity.
We have a unique chance to help them now, and moving forward, to not just recover but come back stronger and better equipped to compete in tomorrow's economy. This is why we launched a new “Digital Main Street” platform, which will support almost 23,000 businesses across Ontario, helping them not just survive in the new economy but thrive. Thanks to over $42 million in federal funding through FedDev Ontario, this innovative program will help businesses go digital.
We also know that challenges do not stop at main street. That is why we also provided $7.5 million for the recovery activation program delivered by the Toronto Region Board of Trade. This program will provide customized training for more than 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses to digitize their operations and bring their business online.
Our response to the challenges small businesses are facing in the current crisis would have been incomplete without acknowledging that certain sectors have been more directly weakened and require special attention.
The tourism sector, which employs 1.89 million people in Canada, has been hit hard, and we are working tirelessly to mitigate the impacts on the Canadian economy. While the sector can benefit from the strong support measures the government has put in place, we knew that additional efforts would be required as the summer season approached and the economy was reopening.
On May 31, I announced an investment of over $40 million in the tourism sector. This investment will directly support more than 30 high-potential projects, such as the Point Grondine eco park development, which will offer visitors a new indigenous tourism experience in northern Ontario, a region you know very well, Mr. Speaker. The $40 million will also support more than 100 tourism organizations in southern and northern Ontario, as well as in western Canada, to help them adapt their operations to this new reality and drive visitors back into local communities as the economy reopens.
We know that the indigenous tourism sector is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. To bolster this industry, our government has also announced a new stimulus development fund that will provide $16 million to support the indigenous tourism sector.
We continue to work with economic stakeholders in the tourism industry in Quebec, the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada to make a real difference in the tourism sector in eastern Canada as well.
Investments and initiatives like the ones I have presented today are crucial to the success not just of our businesses but of our communities. The decisions we make now will have a major impact on future prosperity, and we choose to invest.
Our message to workers and businesses is clear: We have been here for them with measures and support, and we will get through this together.
I encourage businesses and organizations to make use of the measures that the Government of Canada has put in place to help employers, workers and individuals across the country.
I also invite my fellow MPs to tell business people in their ridings about the wide range of support programs available and encourage them to apply.
We are working with you, and we will keep working with you to create good local jobs and build a stronger economy in our communities and greater prosperity for everyone despite these difficult times.
View Christine Normandin Profile
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-06-17 18:18 [p.2521]
Madam Chair, I understand that there may be a second wave in this pandemic and that we will not necessarily have the time to return to the House in the meantime to consider new votes. I would therefore like to know where is the money that the provinces and Quebec will need to deal with a second wave.
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, we are in talks with Quebec and the provinces to decide what we must do together to prepare for a second wave and to ensure a safe and healthy recovery for all Canadians and Quebeckers.
View Paul Manly Profile
View Paul Manly Profile
2020-04-20 11:04 [p.2159]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. This is my earliest opportunity.
I must start by reflecting on the enormous tragedy that took place over the weekend in Nova Scotia. I am sure that none of us is unaffected by this horrific event. That tragedy only adds to the urgency of my request.
Your role, Mr. Speaker, is to protect the rights and privileges of every member in this place. Historically, the Speaker has also been responsible for the physical safety of members and indeed of all who work in Parliament. That we are currently in a global pandemic due to the COVID-19 virus is clear. The impact of that pandemic is the reason that this House, by unanimous consent on March 13, 2020, agreed to adjourn until this date.
However, I submit that the date of April 20 was a mere placeholder. No one knew on March 13 what living in a pandemic meant. We knew nothing about flattening the curve. Now we do. I submit that when we agreed to the adjournment on March 13, we placed in that motion a simple expedient to continue adjournment in keeping with public health advice. All that had to happen until any time yesterday, was for the House leaders of the four larger parties to sign a letter to you, Mr. Speaker, requesting further adjournment. The responsibility for such a letter not being sent rests on one party in this place, and now here we are.
The rights and privileges of many members are prima facie violated by any motion to proceed with regular sittings of the House in which they cannot participate. All members from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador cannot participate under provincial quarantine orders without having a 14-day quarantine upon returning to their home province and must isolate even from their families.
This is particularly painful, given that today, in the aftermath of those terrible murders, our colleagues from Nova Scotia cannot gather. They cannot console their bereaved constituents. None of us, from the Prime Minister to the Governor General, can go to Nova Scotia to console them. Our hearts go out to each and every Nova Scotian and those across Canada affected. My colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands, a former Nova Scotia resident and proud Cape Bretoner, knows one of the family members of a victim. This is a terrible time to be debating procedural motions in Parliament.
For my other colleague, the hon. member for Fredericton, her rights and privileges are violated. Should she attempt to represent her constituents physically in this place, which is her duty and her right, she would be required to self-isolate from her husband and children on her return, for 14 days.
Quebec members have also been asked by their government not to travel. The idea of a small number of MPs meeting in Ottawa violates their privileges and offends the efforts of the Quebec government.
The rights of Quebec MPs have been violated.
Parliament is not a debating club for the benefits of large organized political groups or parties. Political parties are not mentioned in our Constitution. Parliament is an assembly of duly elected members. All MPs are equal, just as their constituents and constituencies are equal.
On this day we are in uncharted territory. As Green MPs, we seek to rely on the rules and procedures of this place that have protected Westminster parliamentary democracies for centuries. Those rules evolve, but most fundamentally, the Speaker's role is to protect the rights of each and every MP.
In a pandemic, this surely means that the Speaker should find a question of privilege and, in light of the affront to Parliament of continuing debate on the matters, I ask that you, Mr. Speaker, find a prima facie question of privilege and that you forthwith refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs currently meeting virtually. I also ask that you take protection of the House into your own hands, deciding to adjourn immediately sine die and that you inform us when we shall resume sittings of the House, based on public health advice as to when it is possible for every MP to exercise his or her rights and privileges in this place. I also ask that you continue to pursue the unanimous wishes of those in this place under the existing unanimous consent orders of April 11, to pursue without delay a virtual question period and to reconvene only when a compelling legislative need is identified.
View John Brassard Profile
View John Brassard Profile
2020-04-20 11:10 [p.2160]
Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of points with respect to the hon. member's question of privilege.
First, I would remind the House that the procedure and House affairs committee is dealing, in a very short time frame, with the issue of a virtual Parliament.
Second, we would reserve the right to respond to the member's question of privilege.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-04-20 18:31 [p.2225]
Madam Chair, I thank the minister for her response.
For millions of taxpayers, it is important to restore some fairness. These measures are unprecedented, and there will be a lot of debt. Those who have the means to contribute must do so and stop fleeing to islands in the south with a golden parachute.
My question is about a completely different topic, the housing agreement with Quebec. To my knowledge, this agreement is yet to be signed. The money in this agreement would obviously be huge for Quebec. Would the government be willing to give a little, sign the agreement and transfer the money, if it is still available?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
2020-04-20 18:32 [p.2225]
Madam Chair, the hon. member has raised an important question with respect to the bilateral housing agreement between Canada and Quebec.
We are working very hard through our officials and making sure that we strike an agreement that, of course, reflects the unique desires, structure and formula that Quebec has asked us to consider. We are finding ways to do that while also remaining true to the national housing strategy and National Housing Act.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised earlier today by the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith concerning sittings of the House during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the question raised by the hon. member deals with the manner in which the House will conduct business involving all members in the coming weeks, as the country continues to be confronted by a crisis which is without precedent in recent history, I thought it important to return to the House with a ruling quickly.
During his intervention, the member alleged that the rights and privileges of several members would be violated by any motion to proceed with the business of the House while the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing. According to the member, many of his colleagues are unable to physically be in Ottawa to participate in debate because of their obligation to follow quarantine orders when they return to their respective province. In response to the exceptional circumstances we are facing, the member requested that the Chair postpone the resumption of the House business to a later date, in accordance with public health guidelines.
It is important to recall that although the Speaker fully understands the sentiments expressed by the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, he is bound by the Standing Orders and decisions of the House in this matter. The house has the exclusive right to govern its internal affairs, schedule its work and establish the conduct of its proceedings. In this regard, during the sitting of Saturday, April 11, a decision was made to adjourn until today, and this order was respected. It is not within the Speaker's purview to question a decision of this nature made by the House.
I also wish to underscore that, both in the motions that the House has adopted in the past few weeks and again today, there has been a recognition of the very particular circumstances in which we find ourselves. For example, the House has recognized the need for members to respect physical distancing and has provided ways that members can participate in proceedings remotely. These are but two examples of how, with the co-operation of members from all sides, the House has shown flexibility in adjusting its rules and practices and demonstrated that our proceedings are quite adaptable. In addition, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has been charged with evaluating other ways of managing business in the current circumstances and I am confident that it will be able to suggest an acceptable course of action for everyone.
The motion passed today is another example of this approach, which permits the House to decide how it wishes to conduct its affairs. A careful reading of the motion does not reveal anything that could in any way prevent members from travelling to Ottawa to participate in the proceedings of the House.
Instead, their movements would be limited upon returning to their community, as the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith explained. I know that all hon. members wish to follow the advice of our public health agencies, as the House Administration has been doing from the beginning of this crisis. I also recognize that for those members who travel to participate in the proceedings of the House, those instructions may have significant consequences for them and their families. However, the key question is to determine whether or not they can fulfill their parliamentary duties.
In my view, it is not for the Chair to dictate to members the manner and degree to which they will participate in the proceedings of the House; as the House has itself determined, the choice rests with them. For this reason, I cannot find there is a prima facie question of privilege in this case.
I thank members for their attention.
Before we return to our constituencies to resume our work there, I would like to take a moment to extend my thanks to all those who continue to provide support so the House of Commons can fulfill its responsibilities to Canadians.
I thank all the members who are here in the House. They are working under unusual conditions, and I appreciate it.
I would also like to thank our staff in Ottawa and in the members' constituencies for their unflagging support as members carry out their duties both here in the chamber and in the communities they represent.
The amazing House Administration, Library of Parliament and Parliamentary Protective Service teams also deserve our sincere appreciation. Their support made it possible for us to sit today confidently and safely. I thank them for showing Canadians that the House of Commons is hard at work despite the pandemic.
Finally, my heartfelt thanks go to the women and men who care for us, keep us safe and keep us fed. We are deeply grateful to all front-line and health workers who, under the most difficult circumstances, are making every effort to ensure we will get through this together stronger than ever.
Accordingly, pursuant to order made earlier this day, the House stands adjourned until Monday, May 25, 2020, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 8:18 p.m.)
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 11:03 [p.1984]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's passionate speech.
Quebec has had a pharmacare program since 1996, and it might even be due for some upgrades. Can my colleague explain why no other province has adopted such a program since 1996?
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2020-03-12 11:03 [p.1984]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to sit with my hon. colleague on the health committee.
The member pointed out that Quebec has been a leader in this country on universal pharmacare. It is the only province right now that covers all of its citizens' pharmaceutical needs.
There are some criticisms of the model that Quebec uses, because it has a hybrid model that requires employers to cover their employees, while anybody else is covered by the public system. The health committee heard evidence that we should specifically not adopt that model for all of Canada, because Quebec has the highest per capita cost of delivering prescription drugs in the country.
Consequently, New Democrats believe it will benefit the Government of Quebec and Quebeckers to remain involved in the project we propose, considering its clear benefits to the people of Quebec, but we totally respect that it is Quebec's decision to retain its own system. It could absolutely withdraw from national pharmacare and use those funds to improve its existing system.
The NDP would like to sit down with all provinces, including Quebec, and look at how we can build a national system for delivering pharmacare, similar to the way we worked together on health care. However, it will absolutely be up to Quebec to decide if it wants to opt in or opt out, with federal compensation, because we respect Quebec's ability to do so if that is Quebec's choice.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 12:03 [p.1994]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Montarville.
I am pleased to speak to the motion moved by my NDP colleagues.
To start, the motion is calling on the House to:
(a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare;
(b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare....
I will stop there.
I am a member of the Bloc Québécois and a member from Quebec. During the last election campaign, I pledged to be the voice of Quebeckers in the House of Commons and to defend their interests. When a national assembly speaks unanimously on an issue concerning the relationship between Quebec and Ottawa, the Bloc Québécois takes notice and ensures that this consensus is echoed in the House of Commons.
I will read the motion that was adopted unanimously by the National Assembly on June 14.
THAT the National Assembly acknowledge the federal report [the Hoskins report] recommending the establishment of a pan-Canadian pharmacare plan;
THAT it reaffirm the Government of Québec's exclusive jurisdiction over health;
THAT it also reaffirm that Québec has had its own general prescription insurance plan for 20 years;
THAT it indicate to the federal government that Québec refuses to adhere to a pan-Canadian pharmacare plan;
THAT it ask the Government of Québec to maintain its prescription drug insurance plan and that it demand full financial compensation from the federal government if a project for a pan-Canadian pharmacare plan is officially tabled.
Our National Assembly is speaking with one voice across party lines. It is fair to say that, when our National Assembly, a parliament of the people, of the Quebec nation, speaks with one voice across party lines, it is Quebec that is talking.
I would have liked my NDP colleague to take into account the will of the Quebec nation in the wording of his motion, especially since the 2005 Sherbrooke declaration is part of his party's history. The Sherbrooke declaration recognized asymmetrical federalism and intended to give Quebec the systematic right to opt out. It does not sound as though the NDP wanted to take into account the unanimous voice of Quebeckers in this motion. That is why the Bloc Québécois will vote against it.
The more progressive the successive federal governments, the more they seem to get bored of their areas of jurisdiction and their responsibilities. The government wants to create social programs. That is a noble intention, but it falls outside the government's jurisdiction.
When it comes to health, the federal government would have been more help to the Quebec nation and the various provinces if it had kept its 2015 election promise to increase health transfers. More than $4 billion over four years could have been invested in the respective health networks in order to take care of our population and fulfill our responsibilities.
The federal government has a hard time managing programs like Phoenix, and Canadians are not likely to forget that anytime soon. Rather than try to assert jurisdiction over health care with respect to access to medication, the federal government should focus on controlling the cost of medication. Drug prices are soaring, and the government is being complacent by refusing to immediately enforce the new Patented Medicines Regulations, which would save $9 billion over 10 years.
I began my speech with such enthusiasm, but I must not forget to stop after 10 minutes because I am sharing my time with the member for Montarville, who is listening to me very intently right now.
The Bloc has more faith in Quebec than it does in Canada, so it is surprising that a progressive party like the NDP wants a nation that is behind the times compared to ours to tell us how to be progressive.
Generally speaking, if we compare the two, Quebec's social safety net is broader than Canada's. Quebec also has the best family policy in North America, with parental leave and child care. Post-secondary studies are easier to access in Quebec than anywhere else in North America, and we have low tuition fees and plenty of financial aid. Our tax system is the most progressive in North America because income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, is 0.31 for Quebec compared to 0.42 for the United States and 0.37 for Canada.
I would now like to talk about Quebec's pharmacare program, which has been in place since 1996. Yes, we have our own pharmacare program, and all Quebeckers are covered. It may not be perfect, but it is unique in North America.
Under Quebec's Act respecting prescription drug insurance, every person living in Quebec must be covered at all times by a pharmacare program. Workers and their families must be covered by private insurers. The rest of the population is covered by the public system administered by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec. It is therefore a hybrid system. The public portion of the program costs the Quebec government $3.6 billion.
However, recognizing that the Quebec system is the best on the continent and emphasizing Quebec's right to make its own decisions does not mean that our system is perfect. Here is the problem. For the public part of the program, the government has managed to negotiate lower drug prices and limit dispensing fees. Pharmacists, and especially drug companies, have made up for that by inflating the prices they charge private insurers, so much so that the cost of private insurance has skyrocketed. That means more money not going into workers' pockets.
This problem is being exacerbated by a transformation in the pharmaceutical industry. It has been quite a while since the industry discovered any new molecules that could be used for a wide range of diseases. Newer medications are targeted at narrow groups of people, which means that research costs are spread over fewer people. As a result, costs are soaring.
Between 2007 and 2017, the average annual cost of treatment for the top 10 selling patented medicines in Canada increased by 800%. The number of medicines with annual per-patient costs of at least $10,000 increased sevenfold, from 20 to 135. These high-cost medicines account for 40% of new patented medicines. Fully 30% of insurer spending is allocated to these medicines, which cover less than 2% of beneficiaries.
Quebec's hybrid system may have reached the limit of what it can do for Quebeckers, but that decision is up to them. Quebeckers are perfectly able to look after their system and make improvements.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 12:13 [p.1995]
Madam Speaker, I want to clarify something. My colleague who introduced the motion was very specific and said that we absolutely do recognize that Quebec has its own system. If it is Quebec's will that it continue on with its own system of pharmacare, then that is its choice. We wanted to provide as much choice as possible to the people of Quebec.
In fact, even though Quebec is ahead of the curve with its public and private system, Quebeckers are among those who spend the most per capita on prescription drugs and 10% of them cannot afford the drugs they need.
Even though Quebec has this ahead-of-the-curve system, would it not be something that the Bloc Québécois could consider in terms of improving things for the people of Quebec, that they listen to what the NDP has to say, explore the national version and see if that actually helps Quebeckers in their province?
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 12:14 [p.1995]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
When a program falls under my jurisdiction and the parliament of another nation compels me, through legislation, to negotiate something I did not need to negotiate in the first place, then I think that is a good reason to include such a statement in a motion.
Since that intent is not in the motion, we can say what we want. Quebec is being invited to a meeting that the Quebec National Assembly does not want to attend.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-03-12 12:15 [p.1995]
Madam Speaker, Canada is a great nation with many different partners. We have provincial governments. The Saskatchewan government played a critical role in terms of the health care system we have today. In many ways, it played a leadership role to ultimately having a national health care system from which the residents of Quebec, Manitoba, Atlantic Canada and B.C. have all benefited.
Quebec has played a very important role on the issue of pharmacare. Like Saskatchewan, Quebec has an opportunity to play a strong leadership role, so the residents of Quebec possibly have a more enhanced program. Would my colleague not agree that given the leadership that Quebec has demonstrated in the past, it can actually play a strong national leadership role in ensuring that Canadians from coast to coast to coast, including people in Quebec, could possibly have a better program? After all, are we not here to serve first the constituents we represent?
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-03-12 12:16 [p.1995]
Madam Speaker, I encourage the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to ask the Quebec National Assembly that question.
I understand that members want to improve the system, but there is a problem. If we were to insist on the 6% health transfers that Quebec is calling for, or on the 5.2% that the territories and provinces agreed upon, over a period of four years, the government would have to inject $4 billion into our health care networks. If the government just stuck to its own jurisdiction and sent that money straight to the front lines to help Quebeckers and Canadians instead of creating programs that would siphon off some of that money for overhead, then I think that would be more beneficial for everyone.
It is one thing to claim to want to start a discussion with another government, and I urge him to talk to all parties in the Quebec National Assembly, but it is a whole other thing for the parliament of another nation to force the Quebec nation to sit down at the table against its will.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 12:17 [p.1995]
Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Montcalm on his excellent speech. I could almost say that there is nothing more to add. In fact, he said it all and left me with practically nothing to say.
In any event, as the Standing Orders would have it, I will add my voice to that of the hon. member for Montcalm. There may be some overlap, but that will only illustrate that the Bloc Québécois speaks in the House with one voice, the voice of Quebec.
We have heard our NDP colleagues present the same arguments in the House a few times now, either during question period or in their interventions. I have heard some extremely compelling arguments about the difficulty many Canadians have paying for the drugs they need for their health. I have to say that I appreciate the arguments being made by our NDP colleagues and why they are making them here.
The problem is that they are making these arguments in the wrong parliament. Under the Constitution Act, 1867, and the new version that was imposed on us in 1982, which changed nothing in this area, health is the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. The federal government has a very bad habit of meddling in the provinces' jurisdictions and neglecting its own. Rather than looking after its own affairs, it seems that it is always tempted to stick its nose in the affairs of others.
We saw this, for example, in the recent crisis involving the Wet'suwet'en. Under the Constitution, the federal government still has fiduciary responsibility for first nations in Canada, but the Prime Minister continued to repeat that it was up to the provinces and police forces to intervene. It was a crisis that strictly affected western Canada and relations between the federal government and a first nation, but every day the Prime Minister repeated that it was up to the provinces and the police to intervene.
The federal government meddled in the health sector. It left a bad taste in our mouth, and we are still talking about it today. My colleague referred to this, and I would like to expand on this subject.
One day, the federal government woke up and wondered whether it would be a good idea if all Canadians across the country had the same pharmacare coverage. The provinces answered that health care is their domain. The government then offered to foot 50% of the bill, hoping that would get the provinces on board. The provinces approved and said they agreed.
Today, the federal government is covering about 17% of the bill. Right now, we have to fight tooth and nail just to get the federal government to do the bare minimum and cover the increases to system costs, since the provincial health transfer escalator is 3% a year. However, health care costs across Canada, especially in Quebec, are rising at a rate of about 5%. We would like the federal government to increase its contribution, not to 50% as initially promised, but to a mere 25%. We are therefore requesting an annual escalator of just over 5%, but even that is asking too much.
For Quebec, it is a case of once bitten, twice shy. We are not exactly eager to have the federal government put its paws all over this yet again. The Quebec government gets the money to pay for its own pharmacare plan from the overall health care budget, but this overall budget is being underfunded by the federal government.
Are we going to let the federal government put its paws all over health care again? Certainly not. We suffered through previous federal government interference in health care. Years and decades later, we are still asking the federal government to reverse the changes that were made to health transfers by the previous Conservative government, which capped them at 3% a year.
That does not cover rising health care costs. There is a shortfall because annual increases to federal health transfers have been anemic. There is a shortfall, which means that the federal contribution to health is actually shrinking. That is a fact. Do we want the federal government to do more? No, for goodness' sake, no more federal involvement. The more it does, the more harm it causes. We do not want that.
My NDP colleague said she understands that Quebec is distinct and wants its own system. Why is that not reflected in the motion, as my colleague from Montcalm requested? This is the second time this has happened. The first time, the New Democrats were so surprised that the Bloc Québécois voted against their motion. I turned to the NDP's House leader, who wanted to me support his motion today, and I asked him why the motion did not say anything about letting Quebec maintain its own drug program and giving it the right to opt out with full compensation. The NDP's latest motion says nothing about that either. Why is it so hard for them to understand?
We are not going to make any commitments based solely on our colleagues' empty words. Empty words have caused nothing but trouble for Quebec and the provinces. Provinces are still struggling with what came to be called a fiscal imbalance. The tax base they were allocated to fulfill their responsibilities was far below what they needed. At the federal level, however, the tax base exceeded the government's needs, which means that, historically, the federal government has ended up with a lot of money. Not knowing what to do with that money, it decided it would be a good idea to take it and stomp right over provincial jurisdictions.
If the government is so flush with cash to invest in health care, it should increase transfers so that the provinces and Quebec can meet their needs. We are facing a global public health crisis, yet we are still quibbling over an increase to health transfers.
I think that if the federal government wants to do something, it should focus on its own areas of responsibility. With regard to prescription drugs, there are two things that fall to the federal government. First, the federal government needs to increase health transfers. That is the first thing. As I mentioned, Quebec has its own pharmacare plan, but it is funded from the overall health care budget. If the government increases its health transfer contributions, it will give the Quebec government some breathing room, which will help the province maintain its pharmacare plan and its health care system in general.
The second thing that the federal government needs to do is something we have been long waiting for, but it always gets put off. It involves amending the regulations so that Canadians stop overpaying for drugs. Our drug prices are aligned with those of several other countries, which, for a variety of market-related reasons, traditionally set prices too high. The United States is a classic example. The government needs to amend the regulations and stop aligning Canada's drug prices with those of the U.S. That alone will substantially change the cost of medication.
Instead of trying to meddle even more in Quebec and provincial jurisdictions, you should mind your own business and do what you have to do. One thing you must do at the federal level is amend the regulations.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-03-12 12:45 [p.1999]
Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague on his intervention.
I would like to ask him about the level of intervention being suggested by the NDP. Why do they fail to understand that health is a jurisdiction of Quebec?
My two colleagues, the hon. members for Montarville and Montcalm, clearly asked the NDP why they omitted from their proposal the fact that Quebec has the right to opt out with full compensation. I heard them say, off mike, that it is in their platform. I am sorry, but to us platforms are vague promises. Canada has made plenty of vague promises. I could spend 45 minutes listing those promises and run out of time. We no longer believe the vague promises.
What was the real purpose of this omission?
I am sorry to have to vote against the motion. We are in favour of pharmacare, but we are here to protect Quebeckers and the National Assembly. We will have to vote against the motion.
What is the real reason the NDP omitted Quebec's right to opt out? Did they want to come across as more progressive than we are?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2020-03-12 12:47 [p.2000]
Madam Speaker, our health critic said today that it is part of our policy and it is in our platform.
We hope to have a program that works. Quebeckers can participate in the program if they wish. We are open to them joining it if they want to. We do not want to begin the process with the assumption that they will not participate. We want to convince them to join it, but we recognize that it is up to them.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-03-12 13:57 [p.2010]
Madam Speaker, I will go back to the question I asked earlier. Why does the motion not include an option for Quebec and any other province to opt out of the program with full compensation? That would have enabled us to work together instead of forcing us to vote against the motion. We agree with our colleagues' emotional pleas. We would have liked to see it in writing. We no longer have faith in promises.
Why did they not put it in writing?
View Peter Julian Profile
Madam Speaker, it goes without saying. Of course we are talking to Quebeckers about this. I spent more than 10 years of my life in Quebec. I lived in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, in the Eastern Townships, in Montreal and in the Outaouais. The current pharmacare program is good, but it should be improved. That is what Quebeckers say when we talk to them about this. Too many pharmaceuticals are not covered.
If the federal government contributed its share, then of course Quebec could decide how to spend it. That might compensate, but it would also help improve the program. This is in Quebeckers' best interest. It is in everyone's interest to have a pharmacare program so that nobody has to beg or borrow money or go without the medications they need.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
Mr. Speaker, events all over the world are being cancelled due to the coronavirus. Festivals in Quebec are subject to the same uncertainty and the same concerns. From Le Festif! in Baie-Saint-Paul, a major cultural, tourist and economic attraction for our region, to the Quebec City Summer Festival, as well as festivals of all sizes in Montreal and across Quebec, everyone is in suspense.
Can the festivals go ahead with their programming? If organizers have to cancel events, will the grant programs be maintained? What about lost ticket sales and sponsorships? We need to plan for this now.
Will they be compensated?
View Mélanie Joly Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Of course, I am sure she would agree with me and all members of the House that the health of Quebeckers and Canadians is our top priority.
We understand the concerns being expressed by people in the tourism and cultural sectors, and we know very well, from our discussions, that most stakeholders are worried. That is why I am having productive conversations with the ministers. I will have an opportunity to have a conversation with tourism ministers from across the country via teleconference this afternoon. We will take appropriate measures as needed.
View Denis Trudel Profile
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-03-12 15:32 [p.2027]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her speech.
My colleague is a member from Quebec. We could discuss people's well-being and pharmacare. The problem is that this is not the right forum. Health is a provincial jurisdiction.
I would like to remind my colleague, who is from Quebec, that, on June 14, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution indicating that Quebec is calling for full and unconditional financial compensation if a Canadian pharmacare plan is officially implemented. The National Assembly clearly stated that Quebec refuses to join a Canadian pharmacare plan.
They want to negotiate with the provinces, but how will they negotiate with Quebec, which has already said that it is not on board?
View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for paying close attention to my speech.
As I mentioned several times in my speech, it is extremely important for the provinces, territories and the federal government to collaborate and work together because it is for the well-being of all Canadians and thus all Quebeckers. This is about the health and safety of our fellow citizens. It is truly important that we work with the provinces and territories.
I also wanted to say that one of the recommendations of the Hoskins report was that we work together. That will make things more efficient while respecting jurisdictions.
View Mario Simard Profile
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-03-10 10:30 [p.1846]
Madam Speaker, something stood out to me in my colleague's speech. He said that, when this type of negotiation happens in the future, the government would declare its intentions ahead of time.
I would simply like to say that the trend in the most recent trade negotiations was to protect Ontario's auto industry and Alberta's oil industry; such is the Canadian way. Quebec's interests were not necessarily taken into consideration.
The question I would like to ask my colleague is this: Should we not try to come up with a mechanism so that Quebec has a stronger voice in trade negotiations?
View Omar Alghabra Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Omar Alghabra Profile
2020-03-10 10:31 [p.1847]
Madam Speaker, I want to assure my colleague that Quebec's voice is and has been very important throughout this negotiation process. This means not only our colleagues, the Liberal members of Parliament and other members from Quebec in the House, but also the businesses and stakeholders who represent and work in Quebec. They were at the table throughout this process.
We have always declared our intentions as we embarked on negotiations for a free trade agreement. This agreement we reached with the NDP formalized a way for us to table it in the House of Commons, but we have always declared our interests. I want to remind my colleague that Canadian and Quebec interests were preserved in this negotiation, whether related to supply management, automotive, aerospace or agriculture. I know many Quebec producers, farmers, manufacturers and workers are relieved that we are about to ratify this bill.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the member is on our international trade committee and I appreciate his support and participation.
Looking at the cultural exemption in particular, that is something very important to all of us and certainly to the government. It means that with this agreement we will be protecting a $53.8-billion industry, thousands of jobs across Canada, 75,000 of which are in the Quebec region.
I would like to hear my colleague's comments on whether he thinks that is a worthwhile part to have in this agreement.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
Madam Speaker, I talked about the cultural exemption in my speech. We are pleased that it is being reaffirmed. I would remind hon. members that Quebec fought hard for this UNESCO recognition. There are some things that cannot be treated entirely as commodities. Our culture is undeniably very rich and recognized around the world. That being said, we do not have anything that resembles Hollywood. That is why we need to have practices and guidelines in place to regulate and protect our culture and offer it preferential treatment. The cultural exemption is an excellent way to do that. It is not the only way, but it is essential.
View Mario Simard Profile
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-03-10 11:30 [p.1856]
Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague for his well-researched speech. It stands in contrast to some of the speeches we hear in the House, when members spend their time thanking their families and colleagues. I think his speech was strong and contributed to the debate. For those reasons, I salute him.
As my colleague noted, we have made what we can consider to be a gain on aluminum. At the very least, we have been able to reduce the harmful impact that the agreement might have had on Quebec aluminum.
My colleague mentioned softwood lumber in his speech. I appreciated hearing him mention that the United States is behaving in an underhanded way by dragging certain Canadian lumber producers through the courts until they run out of steam. I also liked his comments on supply management.
He ended on a strong note by telling us that the solution may be independence for Quebec. However, in the meantime, the Bloc Québécois may have a solution to propose. If the Quebec delegation were given a larger role, through some sort of mechanism, would that not result in better agreements? I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
Madam Speaker, honestly, that would be great, and we are working hard to make that happen. That is of course an area we will be investing energy in. The problem is that we could invest our energy in so many other things if we were truly free to make our own decisions. We would not get bogged down in convoluted squabbles with the rest of the country, whose interests are sometimes diametrically opposed to ours.
I fully understand why the rest of Canada might not care about aluminum, because aluminum is a Quebec industry. I fully understand why the rest of Canada would make concessions and not do anything for aluminum because it would rather put its eggs in another basket. There is no doubt in my mind that becoming good neighbours would be in our mutual interest.
View Denis Trudel Profile
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-03-10 14:54 [p.1889]
Mr. Speaker, I have a very serious question. We recently learned that $4.3 billion was spent under the national housing strategy. How much of that $4.3 billion was invested in Quebec? Zero, not one penny, zilch, nada, nothing.
There is still another $1.4 billion available, but that money is languishing in federal coffers while Quebec is going through its worst housing crisis in 15 years.
Will the government finally unconditionally transfer to Quebec the money it is owed, which is languishing in federal coffers?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
2020-03-10 14:55 [p.1889]
Mr. Speaker, we want to make sure that Quebeckers get their fair share of our historic investment in housing. We hope to reach a bilateral agreement with the Government of Quebec, as we did with the other provinces and territories.
View Denis Trudel Profile
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-03-10 14:55 [p.1889]
Mr. Speaker, when someone cannot put a roof over their head, they wind up in the street, and this in a country with a government that goes on and on about how it has lifted thousands of people out of poverty. The government's current actions are forcing thousands of Quebeckers to either stay in or return to poverty. It spent $4.3 billion in Canada and not one cent went to Quebec, because Ottawa wants to impose conditions.
When will it transfer the $1.4 billion we need, which we paid for through our taxes?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
2020-03-10 14:56 [p.1889]
Mr. Speaker, we know that it will be impossible for us to achieve our ambitious housing objectives without collaborating with our provincial and territorial partners, including Quebec. We will continue to work with all levels of government to serve Canadians and ensure that every Canadian has safe and affordable housing.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
Madam Speaker, it has now been several weeks since Bill C-4, an act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, was introduced.
It is becoming increasingly clear that this agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has some serious consequences for Canada's and Quebec's economies. It is simple. Under this agreement, our exports to the United States will decrease and our imports from our neighbours to the south will increase. As a result, the United States will diminish Canada's industrial activity, shifting this activity to its own cities and towns. The C.D. Howe Institute's most recent study estimates that Canada's GDP will take a $14-billion hit. That is worrisome.
Agriculture in Canada, and especially in Quebec, will be one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy. It will lose a significant portion of its market share to the United States. This is not to mention all the other trade benefits and legal advantages in terms of copyright, intellectual property, trademarks and data protection that the United States gained over Canada in these negotiations.
I even heard Canada's chief CUSMA negotiator say that the Government of Canada negotiated with the United States without analyzing the consequences of its decisions. Negotiating that kind of free trade agreement usually takes three years. Canadians should have been invited to submit studies that should have been debated to gain a better understanding of the long-term benefits for our economy. In this case, the United States forced negotiations and Canada was left scrambling.
The Government of Canada also rushed the study of Bill C-4. After finalizing the agreement last year, the Liberal government, which had a majority at the time, rejected the House of Commons' requests to examine the ins and outs of a future CUSMA implementation bill. That was last May. Then a general election was held on October 21. The House could have convened sooner, but that is not what happened. We finally opened the parliamentary session in December, but we did not discuss the agreement. We could have discussed it back in January, but that did not happen either. We could even have scheduled time for it in March during break last week, but it was all done in a rush in committee.
Fortunately, now that we have a minority government, the tone has changed, which has translated into some gains for Quebec. The Liberal government's haste was concealing some things. The Bloc Québécois insisted and managed to make the government aware of the consequences that its decisions and actions have on Quebec.
Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois was able to intelligently intervene to make this agreement a little more favourable for Quebec. If the Bloc Québécois had not done so, the Liberal government would have hurt Quebec's aluminum industry, even though it is the cleanest in the world. Indeed, CUSMA would have driven away more than $6 billion in investments in Quebec's aluminum industry. The Bloc Québécois salvaged something from the wreckage. The negotiations with the Liberal Party on Bill C-4 proved once again the importance of the Bloc Québécois in Ottawa.
On the other hand, it is unfortunate that CUSMA does nothing to address the softwood lumber crisis. Once again, it lets the United States dictate the market.
I now want to come back to the impact the agreement will have on rural life. In Quebec, over two million people live in rural areas. Eighteen percent of Quebeckers live in a village like Saint-André-de-Kamouraska or in a small urban community like Macamic in the west of Abitibi. Over 40% of the revenue in Quebec's agricultural regions comes from the dairy industry. The weakening of supply management directly undermines the economic and social development of Quebec's rural regions.
Last weekend, I attended the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec convention in my home town of Rouyn-Noranda. I spoke with many next generation farmers who are very concerned about the impact of the changes to supply management because a stable, predictable income is important.
In CUSMA, as in previous agreements, Canada failed Quebec's dairy farmers. I would like to remind members that most of Canada's dairy farms are in Quebec. CUSMA gives up more than 3% of our dairy market, which amounts to an annual loss of $150 million in revenue for the two million people who live in the rural regions. Our agricultural community, which is at the very heart of our villages' vitality, continues to grow weaker every year.
I therefore expect the government to think about our towns and villages in the various compensation programs. That is why the Bloc Québécois, dairy producers and farmers in general are asking for a direct support program to compensate for losses, starting with the next budget—and that means very soon—to ensure that the economic vitality of our rural regions is not undermined.
Canada seems to have no regard for the reality that farm life and supply management create jobs and investments that contribute to the existence of a strong middle class in Quebec's rural areas.
Fortunately, a few days ago, the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill to protect supply management in Quebec in future trade negotiations.
Under this bill, the federal government will not be able to make an international trade commitment through a treaty or an agreement that would have the unfortunate effect of undermining supply management in Quebec. Our farmers and producers will finally have the protection they deserve to deal with the politics of free trade in the world. Circumventing supply management needs to stop. This bill is essential. I invite all my colleagues in the House of Commons to support it because, in addition to being an easy target in negotiations, supply management can also be circumvented with the right strategies. It is no secret that the United States has been using milk protein as a way of getting around supply management for years. It used to be a way for them to offload their surpluses onto Canadian markets at a lesser price than what our producers were asking. Now, they use it as a weapon to destroy supply management.
With the last agreement, the Canadian milk solids industry has literally been put under third-party management by the United States. Washington can limit the amount of protein our producers are entitled to sell in the rest of the world. The Americans will be able to squeeze Quebec out of global markets. That is a direct attack on our sovereignty. In other words, our producers could end up with huge surpluses and the surpluses could disrupt and jeopardize our family farm model.
Even worse, CUSMA also requires that we consult the United States about changes to the administration of the supply management system for Canada's dairy products. To force a Canadian industry to consult its direct competitor in another country about administrative changes it could make in future on the national level challenges our sovereignty.
For that reason the Bloc Québécois is recommending that Bill C-4 be accompanied by the following measures: that supply-managed producers and processors be fully compensated for their losses resulting from the trans-Pacific agreement, CETA and CUSMA and that this be clearly indicated in the next budget; that import licences resulting from breaches in supply management be issued first to processors rather than distributors and retailers; that, before ratifying CUSMA, the government consider the fact that if the agreement comes into force before August 1, 2020, milk protein export quotas for 2020-21 will be 35,000 tonnes rather than 55,000 tonnes if the agreement comes into force after August 1; that the government establish a permanent forum with producers and processors to ensure that the export tariff quotas are implemented in such a way as to cause the least possible harm to the dairy sector.
I was talking about the importance of income stability, which will have huge implications for the next generation of farmers in particular. Access to land, all of the bank loans and other programs are made possible through guarantees. The quota system and supply management were the main guarantees that farmers could offer. The implications are still being downplayed and they affect the cities, towns and regions of Quebec especially. All of Canada's concessions to our trade partners in recent agreements will have a direct impact on Quebec's rural economy. The latest trade agreements negotiated and signed by Ottawa have done nothing but create uncertainty in Quebec's towns and regions, in particular among farm owners, who are generally the ones who stimulate economic growth in their communities.
The principles of CUSMA will clearly have huge implications on investments in farms and processors, not to mention the job losses in cities and towns. The impact on agricultural producers goes beyond dairy farmers. We are talking about other farmers, veterinarians, equipment manufacturers, equipment vendors, truck drivers and feed suppliers. These financial losses will be felt by the various SMEs that remain in these towns. What is worse, the towns' social development will be affected. Services could be lost, schools could be shut down, and so on.
I invite all my colleagues in the House to visit the riding of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, particularly east of Témiscamingue, to understand the impact of a school closure or even the closure of a single retail store. In order to reduce the impact of all these losses, especially on rural Quebec, would it be possible for Ottawa to finally accede to Quebec's request that Quebeckers be put in charge of regional development programs? In the wake of the disastrous outcomes for rural Quebec, federal programs should be tailored to rural Quebec instead of being Canada-wide programs designed by Ottawa. If Ottawa is not in a position to protect and develop rural Quebec, if Ottawa does not care about Quebec's regions, then it should let Quebec manage the programs in a way that is more effective and beneficial for Quebec.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2020-03-10 16:50 [p.1906]
Madam Speaker, I have to disagree. We have a minister for regional development in Quebec, separate from the rest of the country, who is doing an excellent job, and all sorts of projects are being approved.
The member mentioned the quota on milk protein, and that is true, but the quota is far above what we are producing now, so it is not going to have any immediate effect.
The member also talked about losses of investment in aluminum. Those decisions were made before the CUSMA final agreement was made.
As well, he mentioned a study, but there have been tons of studies that show the effects on benefits if we did not have this agreement. For instance, the RBC said there would be a dramatic reduction in the Canadian GDP of 1%, affecting 500,000 workers, and Scotiabank said that the Canadian economy would stand a strong chance of falling into recession without this agreement.
There are $57 billion worth of exports from manufacturers in Quebec, great businesses, which the agreement protects, and the cultural exemption would protect 75,000 Quebec workers.
Does the member agree those are benefits?
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2020-02-27 13:26 [p.1676]
Madam Speaker, it is with great humility that I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to medical assistance in dying.
Many MPs have very personal stories about the end of life of one of their loved ones. As the Bloc Québécois critic for seniors, it goes without saying that I have heard my share. Therefore, in my speech, I will recall the work done by the Bloc on this issue, the sensitivity that exists in Quebec regarding medical assistance in dying and, finally, the position of certain groups of seniors and women who have come to meet with me.
First, let me go over the context again. In September 2019, the Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, both suffering from a serious degenerative disease, stating that one of the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in dying is too restrictive. This criterion, that of “reasonably foreseeable natural death”, is found in the federal government's Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts with regard to medical assistance in dying, and the provincial government's Act respecting end-of-life care.
Justice Christine Baudoin said it well in her ruling when she wrote: “The Court has no hesitation in concluding that the reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement infringes Mr. Truchon and Ms. Gladu’s rights to liberty and security, protected by section 7 of the Charter.” Those two individuals had argued that they were being denied medical assistance in dying because their deaths were not imminent.
Let me now remind the House of the Bloc Québécois's position and highlight the outstanding work of the member for Montcalm, to whom I offer my deepest sympathies. I want to thank him for the work he has done on this file because, as he quite rightly pointed out, legislators did not do their job properly with Bill C-14. As a result, issues of a social and political nature are being brought before the courts. We need to make sure that people who have serious, irreversible illnesses are not forced to go to court to access MAID. That would be terrible, and yet that is what will happen if we cannot figure out a way to cover degenerative cognitive diseases.
However, we believe that it is important to be very cautious before making any decisions on questions related to mental health. That is why we are relieved that the bill does not address eligibility for MAID for individuals suffering solely from a mental illness. Indeed, this issue requires further reflection, study and consultation, which will be completed at the Standing Committee on Health as soon as the motion moved by my colleague from Montcalm is adopted.
For the second part of my speech, I would like to talk about Quebec's sentiments on this whole issue. Quebec was the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass legislation on medical assistance in dying. Wanda Morris, a representative of a B.C. group that advocates for the right to die with dignity, pointed out that the committee studying the issue had the unanimous support of all the parties in the National Assembly. This should be a model for the rest of Canada.
Ms. Morris said she felt confident after seeing how it would work in Quebec and seeing that people were pleased to have the option of dying with dignity. The Quebec legislation, which was spearheaded by Véronique Hivon, was the result of years of research and consultation with physicians, patients and the public. It has been reported that 79% of Quebeckers support medical assistance in dying, compared to 68% in the rest of Canada.
In 2015, when the political parties in the National Assembly unanimously applauded the Supreme Court ruling on MAID, Véronique Hivon stated:
Today is truly a great day for people who are ill, for people who are at the end of their lives, for Quebec and for all Quebeckers who participated in...this profoundly democratic debate that the National Assembly had the courage to initiate in 2009....I believe that, collectively, Quebec has really paved the way, and we have done so in the best possible way, in a non-partisan, totally democratic way.
For the third part of my speech, I would like to tell you about a meeting I had with the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, or AFEAS, in my role as critic for seniors and status of women. During the meeting, the AFEAS shared with me its concerns with MAID. I will quote the AFEAS 2018-19 issue guide:
Is medical assistance in dying a quality of life issue? For those individuals who can no longer endure life and who meet the many criteria for obtaining this assistance, the opportunity to express their last wishes is undoubtedly welcome. This glimmer of autonomy can be reassuring and make it possible to face death more calmly....As the process for obtaining medical assistance in dying is very restrictive, those who use it probably do so for a very simple reason: they have lost all hope....This process cannot be accessed by individuals who are not at the end of life....People with degenerative diseases, who are suffering physically and mentally, do not have access to medical assistance in dying.
Many people are not eligible for MAID because of the federal law governing the practice, which was imposed by a court ruling in February 2015. Four years after Carter, individuals whose quality of life is severely compromised by degenerative diseases are still being forced to ask the courts for permission to end their suffering.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court even struck down two sections of the Criminal Code prohibiting Canadian doctors from administering MAID. In Carter, the highest court in the land stated that a competent adult who clearly consents to the termination of life is eligible for MAID if that person “has a grievous and irremediable medical condition...that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”.
According to the AFEAS, the Supreme Court's criteria were very broad. In drafting the MAID eligibility criteria, the Government of Canada included the concept of reasonably foreseeable natural death only for people at the end of life, which excludes a significant number of people who are experiencing intolerable physical and mental suffering.
The entire process is based on the intensity of the suffering as assessed by a doctor and a panel of experts. The sick person's own assessment is not always taken into account. There are no compassionate criteria among the requirements for obtaining MAID. A person may be at the end of their life and be unable to make the request themselves because they cannot communicate. The law applies only to people who are able to give their free and informed consent up until the very end, which could be terribly traumatic and even cruel to those who have been suffering for years.
With regard to advance consent, the AFEAS spoke about the case of Audrey Parker, a woman from Halifax who died with medical assistance on November 1, 2018. She made a video three days before her death. In that three-minute video, she said that she would like nothing more than to make it to Christmas, but that if she became incompetent along the way, she would lose out on her choice of a beautiful, peaceful and, best of all, pain-free death.
The Barreau du Québec believes that the law should be amended to comply with the criteria set out in Carter and thus prevent court challenges from being filed by people who should not have to carry such a burden.
A panel of experts has studied this issue and recommends, under certain conditions, ending the suffering of patients who have previously expressed their wish to receive medical assistance in dying, but who subsequently become incapable of expressing their consent, in particular people with various forms of dementia or cognitive loss such as Alzheimer's disease. This is why AFEAS is asking, with respect to human rights, that the process of medical assistance in dying be based more on the rights of individuals and on respect for their wishes.
With respect to reasonably foreseeable natural death, it requested that the reference to “reasonably foreseeable natural death” be removed from the eligibility criteria. With respect to advance consent, it asked that the person's informed consent be respected and that it be given in advance. Also on the subject of advance consent, it asked that the consent anticipated, stated and recorded by the person be recognized.
In conclusion, today's debate demonstrates the need to act so that people suffering from degenerative and incurable diseases are no longer forced to go before the courts to challenge the terms and conditions surrounding eligibility for medical assistance in dying, and so that we can ensure the best possible continuum of care.
Let's take action so that everyone can die with dignity.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2020-02-27 13:39 [p.1678]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite. I want to ask a question regarding a point raised once again by the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, who talked about patients being pressured and the possibility of doctors influencing people. The evidence that we examined during our consultations does not support that position.
I wonder if the member has any information on how the medical profession operates in Quebec. For our part, we found that doctors always show great professionalism, vigilance and circumspection when broaching the subject with patients.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2020-02-27 13:40 [p.1678]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Personally, I have heard more about doctors showing a great deal of compassion for their patients and wanting them to be able to end their lives with dignity than the reverse. Personally, I have not heard of many, or really any, cases of undue pressure. Doctors take the Hippocratic oath, which provides patients with a great deal of protection.
However, just because I have not heard about something does not mean it does not exist. If it ever does happen, it must be reported. That could be discussed in committee. I think we need to let doctors do their job, which is about compassion more than anything else.
View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-223, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec).
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my first bill in the House of Commons, a bill seconded by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.
This bill amends the Citizenship Act to require that permanent residents who ordinarily reside in Quebec must have an adequate knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship.
In Gilles Vigneault's masterfully chosen words, “The Francophonie is a vast, unbounded land, the realm of the French language. It exists within us. It is the invisible, spiritual, mental and emotional homeland within each one of you.”
I thank the House for its support.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-02-25 10:24 [p.1473]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to provide that it does not apply in Quebec. Canadian multiculturalism is a political ideology imposed on Quebec. All it has done is juxtapose a multitude of cultural solitudes and ghettoize difference.
The Quebec nation wants to design its own integration model. We are open to diversity and we want to create a harmonious coexistence based on shared values, especially when it comes to protection of the French language, separation of church and state and gender equality.
View Alain Therrien Profile
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-02-25 10:46 [p.1477]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby.
Historically, the fathers of Canadian Confederation decided that health should be the responsibility of the provinces and Quebec. The government has since revealed a very obvious thirst for centralization. Last year, the federal government intruded further and further into areas of provincial authority by exploiting its spending authority. What is being proposed here is a blatant intrusion into Quebec's jurisdiction. The Quebec government has always been against this idea, so much so that it called for the right to opt out with compensation. That element is missing from my colleague's motion.
My question is very simple. Given that this falls under Quebec's jurisdiction, that you are spending money that should be made available to Quebeckers through the federal health transfers, and that you are spending that money according to your own inclinations, how do you think Quebeckers are going to take this?
View Peter Julian Profile
Madam Speaker, that is why I mentioned the University of Montreal. I urge my colleague to go and see for himself the long line of Quebeckers waiting to be seen at the University of Montreal and at Quebec's free dental clinics.
We know that there are people in Quebec who do not have access to dental care. We know that the federal government should provide full funding. We know that the provinces and Quebec can decide how to manage these funds. Nevertheless, there is a dire need across Quebec and Canada. That is why it is so important to vote for this motion today, so the people who are desperately waiting today outside the University of Montreal and the free dental clinics can believe in the future and know that their quality of life will improve.
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
2020-02-25 11:00 [p.1479]
Madam Speaker, much has been said about the NDP's Sherbrooke declaration, which calls for respect for Quebec's jurisdictions, an asymmetrical model and an automatic right to compensation. We do not oppose the essence of the proposal, but the first chance it gets, the NDP is proposing an intrusion into Quebec's jurisdiction. There is another way. What we are calling for, and what the provinces want, is for the federal government to restore health transfers. The provinces want 5.2%, and we want 6%. That would give the Government of Quebec and the provincial governments the flexibility to manage their health care programs. Otherwise, these kinds of proposals will disrupt health care management.
What are my colleague's thoughts on that?
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-02-25 11:01 [p.1479]
Madam Speaker, we are suggesting a change to the Liberal proposal, which really benefits the wealthy. Giving Quebec the right to opt out with full compensation is part of our values. The measure we are proposing would use that money to help families who need it the most.
Quebec could have access to the federal program if it wants. If it wants full compensation, that is also Quebec's prerogative. We are proposing something for the common good. We will always advocate for working together to build a more just society. We know we can achieve better results by working together. That is exactly what we are proposing, while still respecting Quebec's jurisdictions. Health is always a provincial responsibility. This is a matter of funding. We want to fund a program to help people who need dental care. That is exactly what we are talking about.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-02-25 12:00 [p.1487]
Madam Speaker, I would like to share my time with my friend and colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean.
The Bloc Québécois is a social democratic party. We feel strongly about redistributing wealth and ensuring equal opportunities for all. We fully support the principle of progressive taxation, and we believe it should be implemented to a greater degree. The idea is that the wealthiest contribute more to funding public services, which are universal and used by everyone.
On that note, it troubles us that the big Canadian banks are not taxed heavily enough. It is not like these companies could relocate to another country. They are in a protected market. Furthermore, I cannot overlook the fact that these multinational corporations and banks still have legal access to tax havens, which means they do not contribute as much to the public purse as they should. The rest of the population suffers, because they receive lower-quality services while paying more taxes and fees.
As everyone knows, we think quality health care is important. We believe that a person who falls ill has basic needs and is entitled to comprehensive care. Unfortunately, the current lack of funding means that many people do not have access to the care they need. That goes for prescription drugs and dental care too. In this day and age, it makes no sense that a person with dental problems would not be able to get the care they need and see a dentist. Dental problems can be very painful.
Today's motion is problematic. Dental care is an aspect of health care, and health care is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec. Ottawa's role with respect to public services and health is to provide as much funding as possible, but Ottawa has not been doing that for quite some time. This problem goes all the way back to 1996, which, as it happens, was after the Quebec referendum.
Ottawa decided to deal with its debt problem by slashing transfers for health, social services and education, even though expenses are rising faster in those areas than anywhere else, as we can see from budgets tabled by Quebec and the provinces. Health and education costs go up year after year, but Ottawa is providing less and less money to cover those costs.
Originally, Ottawa promised to cover half of our health care spending. Ottawa was supposed to match every dollar spent by Quebec. This equality was completely wiped out at the end of the 1990s and the federal government has been retreating year after year ever since no matter who is in power in the House. Even though the total amount increases every year, the percentage of the federal government's contribution keeps decreasing. Quebec is now asking that Ottawa fund at least a quarter of health care spending. We are well below that and the percentage keeps going down every year.
In the last Parliament, the Liberal government pompously announced a plan to reinvest in health care. At the end of the day, it just cancelled the Conservatives' cuts and added a few crumbs, all while interfering in this jurisdiction. At the time, Quebec's health minister, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, even accused the Liberal government in Ottawa of engaging in predatory federalism. Coming from a Quebec Liberal minister, that is saying something.
There is a consensus on this in Quebec City. Every year, the Government of Quebec asks Ottawa to make an annual reinvestment of 6% to make up for lost ground and get the federal government's share to a quarter of health care spending. There is also a consensus among provincial governments who are all calling for an annual increase of 5.2% in federal spending on health. Between Quebec and the provinces, everyone agrees that it is important for the federal government to make up for lost ground.
On that, we have to take into account the aging population, since seniors require more health care, which is more expensive. At the other end of the spectrum, young people get more money for education, which only makes sense.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has made several updates to his “Fiscal Sustainability Report 2018”. He noted that Ottawa is the one with the fiscal flexibility, and that the provinces have no more wiggle room. This is true to such an extent that, even if the government chose to incur massive debt and run up the debt, it would have the means of maintaining the net debt at its current level. Based on future projections, the Parliamentary Budget Officer expects that Ottawa will have completely reimbursed its debt, while the provinces will still be drowning in massive debts because funding needs in health and education are increasing, but Ottawa is contributing less and less. That is a big problem.
The motion we are debating here infringes on provincial jurisdiction. We are not opposed to the idea of funding dental care, but we believe that that decision is up to Quebec, which does not have the money to fund all general health care services. When it comes to pharmacare, Quebec has a system that works, even though it is far from perfect. Obviously, a dental program is also necessary, but we should not be discussing it here. Our role here is to decide to increase health care funding so that the provinces can move forward with their plans.
I would like to read out a brief passage on this subject. I will then ask the members a question.
This asymmetry vis-à-vis du Québec can be applied in real terms through opting out with compensation. The right to opt out applies where the federal government, on its own or with the agreement of the provinces, intervenes in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction (in particular health and social services, education, family policy, housing, municipal infrastructure, etc.). In such case, no conditions or standards should be applied to Québec without its consent, obtained after consultation and negotiation. The principle of opting out is very important, as it makes it possible to reconcile the exercise of federal spending power for provinces that want it with respect for Québec's constitutional jurisdiction.
As members may have guessed, I was reading a passage from the Sherbrooke declaration adopted in 2005 by the Quebec wing of the New Democratic Party of Canada. It is odd that after adopting those principles, the NDP is now moving a motion in Parliament that encroaches directly on provincial jurisdiction and does not mention that Quebec should automatically be allowed to opt out with full compensation if the federal government implements this measure.
Sadly, our party is no stranger to this treatment. If former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe were here today, he could remind us how many times motions like these, ones that encroached on areas of provincial jurisdiction, have been moved.
In closing, the Bloc Québécois is a social democratic party. We believe in quality public services, but the role of the House is to provide health funding. It is up to Quebec to decide how to invest that money, whether in emergency care, dental care or pharmacare. It is not up to the House to encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. That is why we will be voting against today's motion.
View Peter Julian Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. I must, however, remind him that there are lineups across Quebec. Quebeckers are waiting for dental care.
If I understand correctly, the Bloc is saying that this issue is not fixed and that criticism of underfunded health care is warranted. However, the Bloc is choosing to penalize Quebeckers by refusing to support a motion that would provide dental care. The federal government would give this money directly to Quebec, which could decide what to do with it. As the member for Burnaby South pointed out earlier, this measure would include the right to opt out with full compensation, which goes without saying.
I do not understand why we are going in circles. There is a dental care crisis right now. The money is there at the federal level. If this motion is adopted and if the Government of Quebec agrees, Quebeckers will have access to that money and to dental care services. As I mentioned in my speech, people are lining up at the Université de Montréal to access free care because they have no other option.
Does the Bloc understand how important it is to give the Government of Quebec this option?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-02-25 12:10 [p.1489]
Madam Speaker, what the Bloc understands is that this is yet another intrusion into provincial jurisdictions. If the member wanted to respect the Sherbrooke declaration, the motion should have stipulated that Quebec and the provinces would have the right to opt out with full compensation. Otherwise, what is the point of the declaration? Was it meant simply to grab votes in Quebec? Then, when it comes time to apply it, it is soon forgotten. Unfortunately, that seems to happen all too often.
Quebec's social and public services are more abundant and of higher quality than those found in the rest of Canada. We in the Bloc Québécois trust the National Assembly of Quebec to implement progressive policies that will ensure high-quality services for Quebeckers.
Any time Ottawa comes forward with a social service or progressive measure, Quebec has usually adopted it at least a generation earlier. That is the problem.
Health is underfunded, and the House of Commons is to blame. The House must first address health care funding.
View Peter Julian Profile
Madam Speaker, the Bloc asked earlier whether Quebec would have the right to opt out with full compensation. The NDP said yes. The Bloc asked how this would be paid for. We explained, and the motion is quite clear on that point.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer himself explained how we could pay for this dental care. I do not understand how a self-proclaimed social democratic party can act like this. People are lining up at the University of Montreal. I know people in Saint-Félicien and in Roberval who are experiencing this. I lived in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, and I know a lot of people in the Lac-Saint-Jean area who are truly in need of dental care.
The Government of Quebec makes the decision, of course. The federal government pays, and we have already found a way to get that money to Quebec if that is what the government wants.
Why is the Bloc so strongly opposed to a measure that could potentially help many Quebeckers?
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
Madam Speaker, what a coincidence, I also know the people of Lac-Saint-Jean. That is my riding. The people of Lac-Saint-Jean like things to be clear. I am looking at the motion in front of me. I will not hold it up, because I am not allowed to. Nowhere in the motion does it say that Quebec would have the right to opt out with full compensation. It does not say that anywhere. They can say it all they want, but it is not written in the motion, and the motion is what we will be voting on. The people of Lac-Saint-Jean like things to be clear. I guarantee that they would agree with me.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
Madam Speaker, Bloc Québécois MPs are progressive and in favour of social democracy. I like the idea of helping the least fortunate. I am sure everyone here likes that idea.
However, it would have been so simple to include the right for Quebec to opt out with full compensation. If that had been in the motion, the Bloc Québécois would probably have voted in favour of it.
I would encourage the NDP to amend its motion. That way, we might manage to accomplish something together.
View Heather McPherson Profile
View Heather McPherson Profile
2020-02-25 13:38 [p.1501]
Madam Speaker, I am glad that the Bloc is a progressive party. It is nice to have them on our side of the room.
We would like to see a plan that would be national in scope. We are looking for dental care that would be available to any Canadian who needs it. Whether or not there is an opportunity to discuss that further, I would have to talk to my colleagues.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
Madam Speaker, as I listened to our hon. colleague, I could see how devoted he is to his people, and I really appreciate that.
People have been talking about collaboration for a while now. We proved it last week by accomplishing something major for the people of Quebec and the other provinces.
What the Bloc Québécois is saying is not complicated. If the New Democrats amend their motion to say that they support Quebec having the right to opt out with full compensation, the Bloc Québécois could potentially get on board.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2020-02-25 13:55 [p.1504]
Madam Speaker, the NDP believes that the principle of asymmetrical federalism is fundamental to Canada. Quebec has many progressive programs to defend the values, interests and quality of life of Quebec residents. That is obvious to the NDP.
With regard to the question about the motion, the member will have to speak to his critic. However, the NDP feels it is necessary to implement a program that will give people in Quebec and other regions of Canada access to dental care.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2020-02-25 16:17 [p.1528]
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to discuss child care or health care, but I would like to read to my colleague a recent unanimous resolution of the Quebec National Assembly. It dates back to June 2019 and states the following:
That it [the Quebec National Assembly] reaffirm the Government of Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction over health care;
I really think that my NDP colleague knows that health is a provincial jurisdiction, but, through his motion, he is trying to impose a certain way of doing things on Quebec, to make Quebec spend money on this particular area. It is up to Quebec and the provinces to decide what they will do with their money.
View Brian Masse Profile
View Brian Masse Profile
2020-02-25 16:17 [p.1528]
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the Bloc has twisted itself around in this case, out of an ideology, to be against young people, families and children.
It is important to read the motion. The motion asks the government to redirect some of the highest income in its budget to a program. The motion does not even say how that could be done.
The Bloc's position on this is interesting, but I am a bit disappointed in Bloc members. I know they are strong advocates with respect to many other issues. In reality, the motion does not say how this could be done. The resources could be directed to Quebec so it can go about providing its dental program and to Ontario and other places. It does not specifically say that in the motion.
It is an unfortunate missed opportunity for the Bloc to support progressive policy, because it would open up an income stream for Quebec to better prepare its citizens for this type of problem.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2020-02-25 16:37 [p.1531]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to know my Liberal colleague's thoughts on the Sherbrooke declaration.
In 2005, the late Jack Layton, former parliamentarian and leader of the NDP at the time, said that in a Canada that works, Quebec would have the right to opt out unconditionally with full compensation.
In our opinion, the NPD's proposal proves that the party is distancing itself from its late leader, Jack Layton. This comes to us as a surprise and a disappointment.
I would like to know my colleague opposite's thoughts on the following question: Should a proposal like the one currently on the table not include a right for Quebec to fully opt out with full compensation and no strings attached?
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
The motion we are discussing today is on dental care for Canadians. What we have said from the start, and what we have seen in the mandate letter of the minister, is that we are willing to look at these things. We are willing to do whatever is necessary and whatever is possible to consider for the better health of all Canadians.
We have said from the start that we would take suggestions from other parties and from all parliamentarians in this House on how we can move forward for the better health of all Canadians. This is something that we take very seriously.
Again, going back to the health committee, all the members discussed the possible studies they would be able to do, and one of the ones that was mentioned first was dental care. The Minister of Health had this in her mandate letter as something that we have to look at within the terms of her mandate. It is something we are very proud to work on, and we will collaborate with all members in this House to ensure that we are working toward better health for all Canadians.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2020-02-25 16:42 [p.1532]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite is talking about the need to collaborate, especially on health care, which is a provincial jurisdiction, as we have been repeating since the beginning of this discussion. Quebec has a very effective health care system that covers dental care, in large part, for children 10 and under. It certainly does not need to be reviewed, at least not in its current form.
My colleague is talking about collaboration, participation and partnership with the provinces. However, a partnership involves mutual respect. Does my colleague agree with including the right to opt out with full compensation, as Quebec is demanding and as is set out in the 2005 Sherbrooke declaration?
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on the great work that Quebec does for health care. I look forward to perhaps using this as a model on dental care that we can study at the health committee. Maybe we can learn from Quebec.
Quebec has done many things to lead the country in the past. I look forward to the upcoming dental study and looking at the models that work in Canada and finding ways to make them work in other provinces and territories as well.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-02-25 17:43 [p.1541]
Madam Speaker, I would like to give my hon. colleague from Alberta, a man who is very well known in Quebec because he spent a good part of his childhood living there, the opportunity to talk about how Quebec sees dental care.
Is this an area of shared jurisdiction or does it fall under Quebec's jurisdiction?
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2020-02-25 17:43 [p.1541]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question.
With regard to his question about Quebec, I do not know whether the province offers this service to its residents or not. That is a choice that Quebeckers need to make with their provincial government.
What I do know is that, in my province of Alberta, we have a provincial government that can decide when and how to provide a given service, such as dental care. The situation is different in my province.
When I was very young and lived in Quebec, dental care was offered to those aged 18 and under, and the government paid for it through the health care system.
Of course, things are done differently in my province. However, this is a decision that every province has to make.
If we look at the federal government's fiscal situation, it is clear that we simply do not have the money for another federal program imposed on our provinces.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2020-02-25 17:55 [p.1543]
Madam Speaker, I want to ask my NDP colleague whether she believes, as I do, that health falls under provincial and not federal jurisdiction.
What is more, why is the NDP of 2020 distancing itself from the Sherbrooke declaration, which was made by former NDP leader Jack Layton in 2005? Under that declaration, Quebec would have the right to opt out with full compensation, no strings attached, when a law is passed in an area that falls under Quebec's jurisdiction.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-02-25 17:56 [p.1543]
Madam Speaker, I always love to talk about the late Hon. Jack Layton. He is a hero of mine, and I know that Jack was one of the fiercest advocates for a full body approach to health care, whether talking about health care, pharmacare or something like dental care. It is what New Democrats have been talking about for a very long time and have been pushing governments to do.
I believe that health care is about both a federal commitment and a provincial commitment, and it does not have to be limited. I certainly believe in the Canada Health Act in terms of what it can achieve across the board universally in that scope.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for her inspiring speech, and I look forward to hearing my colleagues' questions very shortly.
I would like to begin by proposing that we remember what our role is as representatives of our constituents. I think our primary focus must always be on trying to create a better, fairer, more progressive world where people can live in dignity, reach their full potential, hold meaningful jobs with good working conditions and have a good quality of life that makes life worth living. We always need to keep in mind that we are here to improve the quality of life of our constituents, to create a world with more justice and dignity for all.
We in Canada are fortunate enough to have had a universal public health care system that is accessible to all for many years. It is an invaluable system that many people fought for, including the NDP, but also members of other political parties. Those people fought to have a system where everyone is treated equally when they become ill. When illness strikes, medical treatment is not provided just because an individual has a credit card or a bank account, but because they are a citizen of a country where a collective decision was made to treat people without discriminating on the basis of money, fortune or wealth.
Unfortunately, our universal public health care system was not accompanied by a universal public pharmacare system. We are the only country in the world where this incongruous situation exists. I believe we will have other discussions about pharmacare, which will greatly improve the lives of Canadians and significantly cut costs.
Our universal public health care system is not perfect. The motion presented today by my party would address one of the problems. At some point, the human body began to be viewed as a puzzle, with some parts being insured and others not. If someone has a heart attack, they get in an ambulance and go to the hospital. If they need bypass surgery, it is covered. If they need open heart surgery, they will get it because the heart is covered by health insurance. If they break a leg climbing a tree and need a cast, the leg is covered. However, if there is a problem in a person's mouth, if they have trouble with their teeth, if they have a cavity or need a root canal, well, good luck. That is not covered. They have to get out their chequebook or credit card.
Our system is flawed. The human body has been separated into various parts that are valued differently for insurance purposes. It is pretty odd. Dental care is extremely important to people. Millions of people in Canada cannot or will not have their dental problems looked after because they cannot afford to. About one in five people in Canada avoids going to the dentist because of cost. Does that make sense to anyone? Can we justify that to the people we represent, to our constituents? I do not think so.
During the last election campaign, I talked about this with people at their homes, in parks and in restaurants. They realized right away that it makes no sense that the quality of care we get for some parts of our bodies, like our mouths and teeth, depends on our wealth and good fortune. We value equality, and that is not equal. As a progressive, that is something I will fight.
As parliamentarians, whether we are in the government or in an opposition party, we have to make choices. From the beginning of the 43rd Parliament, the Liberal Party has made a very clear choice by proposing another tax cut that once again favours the wealthy. This is not the first time, either. The Liberals did the same thing in the last Parliament when they proposed a middle-class tax cut that did not give one cent back to people who earn less than $45,000. For the Liberals, people who earn $35,000 or $40,000 a year are not rich enough to be part of the middle class, so they got nothing. This year, the Liberals are proposing another tax cut which, let's face it, is an expenditure. It is money that is no longer going into the government's coffers. We are missing out on a certain amount of revenue, with no guaranteed results to show for it. We are not guaranteed better services for the public or a better quality of life.
This completely irresponsible tax cut is going to cost us nearly $7 billion. The tax cut that the Liberal government is proposing is worth $6.9 billion, and once again, it will benefit the wealthiest Canadians.
The biggest benefits, which will save people $300 a year or more, are limited to those who earn at least $113,000 a year.
The Liberals are saying that this will save the average family $600 a year. Only individuals who earn at least $143,000 will be eligible for that $600 a year, which is the maximum savings provided by this tax cut. The people in our society who are going to save $600 are the ones who earn nearly $150,000.
Personally, I do not see this as a progressive measure. I do not think it will help those who are struggling and those who are the most disadvantaged.
The NDP put forward a proposal that appears in the motion moved today, specifically, that anyone who earns more than $90,000 a year will not get a tax cut. Like everyone else, the first tax brackets will benefit, but above $90,000, there will be no tax cut. This measure will save Canada $1.6 billion.
It is not very complicated after that. The money that was going to the rich would be transferred to a new public dental care program that will cost between $800 million and $850 million a year, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We save twice as much as we need to give additional coverage to 4 million Canadians, to people in the 338 ridings represented here, to people who are suffering and who cannot afford the care they need.
A society has to choose whether to take care of people or to give handouts to the rich. It is important to look at what we are facing today and think about what choice we have to make to help our constituents as much as possible.
We want public dental care to be accessible to people who earn less than $90,000 a year. Let us keep it simple. People who earn $90,000 or more do not get a tax cut, and people who earn less than $90,000 a year have a new social program that will make a real difference in their lives. The program will improve their health and will probably save our health care system money because it will prevent illnesses that can get worse when someone does not have access to care. We need to keep this in mind to ensure we are making the right decision.
Many years ago, we made the good decision to develop a public, universal health care system. It was such a good decision that candidates like Bernie Sanders are desperately trying to institute this system in the United States, knowing that it would be the right thing to do and a positive social change.
Our proposal would cost less than $1 billion a year and would be funded from an irresponsible tax cut that helps only the wealthiest Canadians.
Some people will say this encroaches on provincial jurisdiction. We have heard that one before. Since I am going to be asked the question anyway, I will remind hon. members that we have the principles of the Canada Health Act, that there are health transfers to the provinces and that there will necessarily be negotiations with the provinces to see whether or not they decide to get on board. Then, it might be worthwhile for Quebec to get $250 million to $350 million to allow Quebeckers most in need to receive dental care.
I think a responsible Quebec government is going to sit at the table, like every other province, and look at what can be done.
The Sherbrooke declaration is indeed still part of the NDP platform, and Quebec's right to full compensation would inevitably be included in legislation. However, what we have before us today is not a bill or a federal-provincial negotiation. It is a motion. It is a direction that parliamentarians are giving to the government to tell it that this is important and that it should move in that direction.
I want to reassure everyone. If this works out, it will not be a federal public servant playing around in people's mouths, it will be a dentist, and that dentist will probably be paid and hired by a clinic or hospital in Quebec, if you are a Quebecker.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2020-02-25 18:13 [p.1546]
Madam Speaker, I am happy to hear from my NDP colleague.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes that health, including dental health, is a major concern for all Quebeckers. This issue has been one of the Bloc Québécois's key demands going way back. Currently, the federal health transfer goes up by 3% per year, but we want it to go up by 6% per year to make up lost ground and bring the federal contribution up to at least 25% of health care costs. Originally, the federal government contributed 50%. We fully agree with that idea.
Still, the problem is that the federal government has to respect provincial jurisdiction to ensure the money will be used efficiently. We must avoid contradictions. My colleague just said that his party might have forgotten to include Quebec's right to opt out with full compensation and no strings attached in its motion. I am pleased to hear that. I would have liked to see that stated explicitly in the NDP motion, but I can understand that it was just an oversight.
That said, the Bloc Québécois cannot vote for a motion like this, for the reasons I just explained. The money needs to be transferred to Quebec with no compensation and no strings attached so that Quebec can decide how to use it.
Dental health is a major concern for us. We share that concern.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Madam Speaker, I am glad to hear that the Bloc Québécois supports the general idea. I would have liked their support here in the House, but I understand that we have our differences.
The Conservatives slashed health transfers and the Liberals maintained those cuts, but our parties agree that health transfers need to go up by at least 6%.
View Mario Simard Profile
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-02-25 19:09 [p.1555]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the charming member for Repentigny.
I will try to keep a cordial tone, as I have noticed in the last few minutes that there is enormous tension in the House. I hope my Conservative friends will keep the same cordial tone that I will use during this short speech.
On the way here, I thought about what we would be doing tonight. To be frank, I am wondering why we are having an emergency debate tonight. The reality is that the cancellation of the Teck Frontier mine project is the result of a private company’s decision to abandon its project because it sees that it is not economically viable in the current context. It has made a decision to stop investments, which I agree are huge enough, so as not to fall into a money pit.
I think the Conservative Party has always been the party of some form of capitalism. It is a party that clearly understands the implications of the free market system. I do not understand why the party that constantly invokes market forces, the free market and small government is asking today that the House intervene when a private company makes a decision. I find that rather curious.
In 2011, this private company based its analyses on the price of a barrel of oil, which was around $100. For the project to be viable, the price of a barrel of oil would have to currently be between $80 and $90. As we know, the price of oil is around $50 to $55. Therefore, I am wondering if my friends in the Conservative Party would like the Canadian government to end up supporting the Teck Frontier mine project, given that the market is unable to currently support this type of fossil fuel project. There is a really big question mark in my mind. I am certain that my friends in the Conservative Party would be happy to respond.
There is another rather crucial element. I do not know if members are aware of this, but the majority of large investment funds are taking their money out of fossil fuels. They realize that the climate crisis is real and that, in the next few years, fossil fuels will no longer be driving economic development. They are investing in the energy transition instead. It seems to me that people should be aware of this.
Perhaps the economy of the future lies not in petroleum resources, but in cleaner energy and the energy transition. That is something that is important to be aware of, and I think the financial community has come to that realization. In my opinion, if the main oil-producing provinces do not wake up to that reality, then they will be doomed to relive the same type of crisis as they are experiencing now.
The climate crisis is not a myth. Some people are even talking about this being the anthropocene era. Humans are having such a devastating effect on the planet that they may eventually render it uninhabitable. Personally, I do not want to live with such a liability. I am thinking about the planet that I want to leave to my son. The Conservatives often calculate the public debt and say that we are going to leave a public debt to our children. In my opinion, there is a much bigger debt that we may be leaving to our children, and that is the environmental debt. If we are living in an environment where the climate is constantly changing and the air around us is unbreathable, we are not leaving our children much of a legacy. I think our Conservative friends should think about that.
I think I know what this evening's debate is about. Perhaps my Conservative friends and I will say the same thing. I get the impression that the western provinces feel alienated from the rest of the country. I get the impression that they feel like the federal government has let them down. We can agree on that, because Quebec has been through it before. To come back to the western provinces' feeling of alienation, I could tell them about Quebec's special circumstances and especially about the impact that fossil fuels have had on our economy.
It should be noted, and this is quite important, that from the early 1970s until 2015, the Canadian government apparently invested $70 billion — that is the figure we have, but we will never know the real amount — in the technology needed to develop the oil sands. Of that $70 billion, $14 billion came from Quebec, but that investment did absolutely nothing for us and contributed nothing to our economy.
Another NDP politician I quite like is Thomas Mulcair. Before the 2015 election campaign and before he was flirting with the idea of becoming prime minister when he saw some rising support in the polls, Mr. Mulcair talked about Dutch disease. What is that? Dutch disease is the phenomenon whereby the value of our dollar increases to the point where it puts pressure on our exports, thereby leading to a downturn in manufacturing, which is based primarily in Quebec. Therefore, any time natural resources, such are oil, are heavily developed, the Quebec economy suffers. That is what happens.
This means we spent $14 billion to undermine Quebec's manufacturing sector. That is a fact. I could mention Dutch disease to any number of people, and they will be aware of that logic.
Briefly, it seems to me that if the problem we are having today has to do with a feeling of alienation among people in western Canada and the impression of being mistreated by the Canadian federation, I could tell them all about Quebec's specific case.
First, I should mention that twice during constitutional talks, when the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords were signed, we sought but never received recognition. Not only did Quebec not receive the recognition it was seeking on those two occasions, but it also hit a wall.
Second, I would point out to my western colleagues that, in 1982, the Constitution was repatriated without our consent. Quebec never signed the Canadian Constitution.
Third, I would remind my colleagues that, in 1969, the Government of Canada launched broad consultations on bilingualism and biculturalism. In the end, the government realized that making Canada a bicultural country would result in recognizing Quebec's special status. The government therefore decided to scrap the idea and make Canada a multicultural country so as to avoid giving Quebec the recognition it wanted.
As members can see, on four or five occasions, the Canadian federation clearly said no to Quebec. If my Conservative Party friends want to talk about feeling alienated this evening, I get it because it has happened to us repeatedly.
In this case, this sense of alienation is fuelled by economic interests. Every day in the House I keep hearing that Canada is not doing enough to support the oil sands sector. My friends from the Conservative Party keep coming back to that and are constantly asking that we build a pipeline.
I find it funny we are never in a position where we have to ask for hydro towers to be built. Hydro-Québec has never received a penny from the federal government to help install its infrastructure, which contributes to delivering green energy throughout Quebec, energy that could also be used for the other provinces and even exported to the United States. Surprisingly, we are not hearing those speeches here.
When I look at everything that has been done by the Canadian government, I have one question. Think about the Trans Mountain pipeline that was purchased for $4.7 billion. Initially we were told it would take another $7 billion to get the pipeline up and running, but that amount is now $12 billion. That pipeline is going to end up costing at least $16 billion. Personally, I think it is ironic to hear the west complaining today about alienation and saying that the federal government is not doing enough.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-02-25 21:46 [p.1578]
Madam Speaker, last year, Quebeckers consumed 10.6 billion litres of gasoline. This number has been rising steadily for years. Furthermore, 62% of those 10.6 billion litres came from the United States, and 38% came from Canada.
Some may find it funny that we are supporting Donald Trump's America this way, but we Conservatives believe that Canada would be much better off if we were energy self-sufficient. To get there, we need projects. This week, Canada experienced yet another backlash under the government of the past four years.
For nine years, Teck Frontier had been working on an oil extraction project so that Canada could stop buying oil from the United States and become self-sufficient. This project would have created 10,000 jobs, including 7,000 in operations and close to 3,000 in mine construction. The project would have required investments of $20 billion that would have been beneficial to Canada's economy. We are talking about $70 billion in economic benefits for the various orders of government.
Unfortunately, this project is dead. It died due to government inaction. The government did everything in its power to throw a wrench in the works of this project.
As I said, for nine years, people spent $1 billion preparing the project. They brought in the best specialists in the world to find the best ways to produce oil with the least energy and the best environmental footprint possible. What is more, Alberta's energy sector has reduced its pollution levels by 33% over the past few years.
Everything was ready. In July, the file was placed on the desk of the Prime Minister of Canada, ready for approval. This was the last step in the process. In nine years, every provincial, federal, regional, environmental and economic step had been completed. One of the most important steps was to secure the support of the 14 first nations directly affected by the project.
The current government keeps crowing about national reconciliation. Instead of building bridges, we are seeing barricades going up across Canada. Real reconciliation means working hand in hand on successful projects, not giving away people's money.
As Felix Leclerc said, “The best way to kill a man is to pay him to do nothing”. Unfortunately, the first nations have been victims of this terrible approach, whereas these projects would allow them to work hand in hand with non-indigenous people and be a full partner in prosperity.
Last July, the Prime Minister had a potential project for approval in front of him that was good for the Canadian economy and for all Canadians. Just before the election, perhaps worried, or fearful, about the political implications, the Prime Minister left the file to gather dust on his desk. The election was then called.
After the election, he did not know what to do with the project. He found two ways to throw a wrench in the works. Even though everything had been done properly, the Liberal government, which wanted to really make sure the project was not approved, invented two new demands to see how the industry would react. It was taken by surprise when the company was able to meet both of these new demands. Everything was set to go.
Four days before the project was to be approved, Teck Resources found out that the government had let prominent members of Parliament publicly announce that the project was not good. Members from Kingston and the Montreal area spoke out in opposition to the project.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when members suddenly contradict the government while it claims to be taking time to think, it sends a message that the government wants nothing to do with the project.
We need to remember that we certainly know people who spoke out against the project. We need to remember that elected officials from Kingston paid for ads criticizing the project. The company got discouraged and decided to abandon the project. Unlike a member who spoke earlier, I will quote the full sentence. The letter signed by the president and CEO of Teck said the following:
...we have, as others in the industry have done, continued to optimize the project to further confirm it is commercially viable.
That is contrary to what those on the other side are saying, namely that the company backed out because the project was not profitable. That is not true.
I would also like to point out that the price of oil is pretty good today. We know very well that it fluctuates constantly. This is a 30- to 40-year project, not a 30- to 40-day project. Those are the facts.
Ultimately, after spending $1 billion, working for nine years, preparing jobs for 10,000 people, garnering $20 million in investments, laying the groundwork for $70 billion in economic benefits for governments, and managing to work with 14 first nations, the company pulled the plug on the project.
Unfortunately, it is not surprising with this government. Since the Liberals came to power, 200,000 jobs in the energy sector have been lost. It would be like all the car and plane companies in Canada closing up shop tomorrow. It would be a national disaster in Ontario and Quebec, and rightly so. In the past four years, 200,000 jobs have been lost. I hold this government responsible. The leader of the government said with a straight face:
We need to phase them out.
This industry is not being phased out fast enough. Pipeline workers are a threat to social security wherever they go. That is what the Prime Minister is saying. There is nothing more insulting than insulting Canadian workers. The Liberals said that they were looking forward to it and it was not going as fast as they would like. What an affront to these Canadian workers. What an affront to this industry that is fundamental to our country. It is the Prime Minister who is acting like that, and it is certainly not for everyone's good.
The Financial Post reported today that $150 billion in investments have been lost since the Liberals took office. Meanwhile, in the United States, production more than doubled over the past 12 years, including under Barack Obama. The Prime Minister's close friend was not afraid to develop his country's full energy potential. He realized that energy self-sufficiency is a good thing and that there is no shame in producing shale gas or shale oil. The United States drilled 670,000 shale gas and oil wells under Barack Obama. I look forward to seeing the reaction of the Quebeckers who love Barack Obama so much when they hear that fact. That is a leader who cares about his country's economy, not a leader who shows contempt for his economy.
Sometimes people say that Quebeckers do not like oil. Need I remind the members that Quebeckers consumed 10 billion litres of oil last year, 62% of which came from the United States? Need I remind the members that 400 Quebec businesses are directly affected by the recently cancelled project? Need I remind the members that 50,000 people in Quebec work for the petrochemical industry? Need I remind the members that Quebeckers are quite familiar with pipelines? Jason Kenney did not invent them; they have been around since 1942.
Quebec has 2,000 kilometres of pipeline. A 248-kilometre pipeline was built in 2012 between Lévis and Montreal. It crosses 26 waterways and 630 parcels of agricultural land. It works so well that nobody knows about it and nobody talks about it. That is a fact in Quebec. There are nine pipelines running under the St. Lawrence, and as far as I know, there are no cyclops fish swimming around. The pipelines were built properly.
Teck's Frontier project died today, and this is really not a good day for Canada or Quebec.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Mr. Speaker, we come together today to discuss Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.
This bill implements the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action number 94, proposing a change to the citizenship oath as it is drafted in the schedule to section 24 the Citizenship Act. First, clause 1 of the bill amends the text in the schedule. In other words, it changes the wording of the oath or affirmation of citizenship.
As we have heard, the new oath proposed by the Liberal government would read as follows:
I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
The solemn affirmation is also similarly amended.
As my colleague indicated, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-6. We recognize the legitimacy and the importance of incorporating a reference to indigenous rights in the citizenship oath.
However, I want to be clear that there is some contradiction here in the Liberal government's rhetoric.
Why the piecemeal approach to recognizing Canada's different nations instead of recognizing the entirety of these nations and affirming their political equality?
If Canada positioned itself as an association of free and equal peoples, it would be easier to ask newcomers taking their oath of citizenship to commit to respecting the fundamental rights of all founding peoples. As the spokesperson on communal harmony, I believe we should use inclusive language.
I would also like to point out that the government did not use the wording suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It seemed very clear and well-worded to me. I think that wording is of critical importance when drafting an oath of citizenship, especially considering its solemn and symbolic nature and how meaningful this final step to citizenship is to a new citizen.
Why did the government not use the wording proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
If the wording needed to be changed to include aboriginal rights, would there not be a wording that does not suggest, as the current wording does, that the Constitution is a law among so many others?
I would like to have some answers to those questions.
I would also like to quote the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship:
The oath is a solemn declaration that all newcomers recite during the citizenship ceremony. With this amendment, we will take an important step towards reconciliation by encouraging new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect the significant role of indigenous peoples in forming Canada's fabric and identity.
Far be it from me to pit Canada's different nations against one another, on the contrary. I support their true recognition and the equality of peoples. I am just saying that it would be easier for newcomers to understand the history of Canada if we invited them to appreciate the contributions of all founding nations.
The French fact, the British fact and the history of the first nations, Inuit and Métis people are all deserving of recognition.
The hon. Senator Murray Sinclair, who was co-chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, contradicted the minister. He said, “Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed.” The senator is clearly open and receptive to recognizing all of the nations within Canada. I commend him for that.
Since Canada has chosen to position itself as a multicultural majority nation in which national cultures are reduced to regional folklore, the federal government's efforts to respect indigenous peoples are still somewhat awkward. I am not saying that these efforts are wrongheaded. I am saying that they would come more naturally if Canadian federalism were an asymmetrical federalism based on the equality of peoples.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes indigenous nations for what they are: nations. The Bloc advocates a comprehensive approach to government relations, focusing on negotiating nation-to-nation agreements. Recognition should be the starting point for any commitment to reconciliation.
However, although section 35 of the Canadian Constitution recognizes aboriginal and treaty rights, it does not define the federation as a free association of equal nations.
Unlike Canada's plan, Quebec's plan for independence, promoted by the Bloc Québécois, proposes that indigenous nations be counted among the founding peoples of a sovereign Quebec, which would be founded on a true association based on mutual respect and equality.
Because I agree with the government, I urge my colleagues to vote in favour of the bill. The Bloc Québécois supports efforts to recognize indigenous treaty rights. Canada has a long way to go to reconcile with indigenous nations, and the Bloc Québécois wants to be an ally and support that cause.
However, we know that Quebec will take a different approach, because we are not afraid to propose fundamental changes and challenge the very foundations of our public institutions. In any case, once Quebec is sovereign, we will have to draft our own citizenship oath. Obviously, our oath will be free from any references to the monarchy and the Crown. It will affirm that all public powers rest with the people. It will do justice to the first nations, the Inuit and the Métis, as well as the British and French cultures.
I commend the government for its willingness to implement the recommendations set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report. I truly hope that Canada will succeed in moving this process forward.
I believe that Quebec's independence should be an opportunity for Quebeckers to engage in its own reconciliation efforts with indigenous nations and I think it will be crucial that those nations sit down with us at the table when we write our constitution. I intend to be at that table and to participate in opening a new chapter in our history. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this new, future chapter be free of the injustices of the past.
View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my 20 minutes with my very honourable and esteemed colleague and friend, the hon. member for Montarville.
I want to take this opportunity to try to sum up the situation because it is not really clear. The news reports are all over the place and contradictory. Nevertheless, it is important for everyone to be on the same page to find solutions.
I would also mention that the idea of leadership has been getting a lot of attention lately. Leadership is mostly a question of attitude. Again, I saw a few ministers attend the meeting with the Prime Minister. One minister said that the government wanted to have a dialogue, because it did not want to not have a dialogue. I was deeply moved by that profound statement. Another minister said that the government was going to move quickly and I saw the Prime Minister come in basically saying that he was coming in.
I want to remind members that there have been other major crises in the past that have affected Quebeckers and Canadians. I will speak about three of them. In 1998 we had an ice storm. Quebec's premier, Lucien Bouchard, delivered an update about the situation every day in the late afternoon. I can still picture it. It was an act of leadership intended to maintain public confidence in light of the magnitude of the problems.
Then there was the terrible Lac-Mégantic disaster, when the then Quebec premier, Ms. Marois, did essentially the same thing. I was the environment minister at the time and that is what we did. We provided people with the most up-to-date information on what was happening. My esteemed colleague was also involved on the public safety side.
Just last year flooding affected many Quebeckers. The Quebec government and the premier provided a detailed daily update about what was happening. This morning, the Prime Minister blew in, took off his toque and then disappeared. I believe that we are all in need of clearer and stronger leadership.
Another aspect of the motion is problematic. The motion claims that the majority of the Wet’suwet’en people, and in some cases all or at least most people in the nation, support the gas pipeline. I do not know where that number is coming from. I do not know where that claim is coming from. I do not know how that was calculated. That nation controls its own institutions. What is more, some sources say that there are five hereditary chiefs, others say there are nine and still others say there are 13. It is a bit vague, but that is their prerogative. Would the Conservatives say that the Prime Minister of Canada cannot govern because he got fewer votes than they did? No. They may not like it, but they recognize that Canada has its institutions, as we should recognize that the Wet’suwet’en nation has its own institutions. Who are we to interpret that to make it fit our political agenda?
Our job must be to first recognize this nation and its institutions. We need to ask the nation to choose one or more representatives who are prepared to meet with us, and we must do the same in order to open a discussion. That is how we must manage this supposedly nation-to-nation relationship, without ever losing sight of the fundamental objective, which is the immediate lifting of all blockades throughout the country. That is what we must do.
We can accomplish that through a series of actions that will show Quebec and Canadian businesses and workers that the government is doing something.
The Premier of Quebec said this morning that he was looking into alternatives to rail and transport trucks. Something is getting done in Quebec. Quebec says its options are limited and that its only recourse for putting an end to the crisis would be to request police intervention, although that would not be its first choice. I think that sounds reasonable and proactive, unlike what I am seeing here in Ottawa, at least in some cases. I am starting to see some movement.
I also want to point out that an indigenous blockade on indigenous territory is one thing. A blockade organized by indigenous people on non-indigenous territory is something else. A blockade set up for fun by college students on Montreal's south shore is a third thing. The third thing is unacceptable. The third thing is obstructing rail traffic on Montreal's south shore.
I have something to say to my constituents. There are two train stations, one in McMasterville and one in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, where traffic has been blocked because people who are not indigenous thought it would be fun to get in on the action. I thought of the people who blocked the Jacques Cartier Bridge not so long ago. I felt the situation was serious and needed to be resolved in a serious way, with the right people at the table, to avoid another college strike.
One possible solution would be daily reports. Everyone seems a little confused about the RCMP. Does the RCMP take orders from the government or not? When it suits the government, the government says that the RCMP is independent and it cannot be told what to do or not to do. The RCMP said that it would move its command centre. The government cannot not boast about that move because the RCMP is independent. It was faster and smarter than the government. If this helps meet the demands of the Wet'suwet'en, that is a positive first step. I remind members that not too long ago the RCMP had snipers pointed at Wet'suwet'en protesters. That is certainly not how to defuse tension. This is positive.
There have been other demands, but I think that we need to take initiative and do something so that we are not simply responding to demands. It could be never-ending. The second step would be to create a forum for important, fundamental, serious, sustainable and credible discussions to convince them that something will happen if they sit down at the table. This second gesture would be significant.
The third step is a sensitive subject in a Parliament that, with few exceptions, is decidedly pro-oil. I suggest suspending work on the project temporarily as a way of extending an olive branch, because I personally believe that work on infrastructure designed to increase the amount of fossil fuel we transport and consume is bad in general. My suggestion to temporarily suspend construction is a compromise, one that the Wet'suwet'en nation itself may not be making. Let's temporarily suspend the work.
That is not within federal jurisdiction, but I would imagine the Prime Minister of Canada, who thinks he is the boss of the provinces, could pick up the phone, call the Premier of British Columbia, and tell him to ask the company to put the work on hold for a bit.
Taken together, these three steps—creating a forum for discussion, withdrawing the RCMP and temporarily suspending work on the project—will probably, but not definitely, be enough to remove the blockades and get the right people to the table. Once that happens, we can resume relatively normal economic activity throughout Canada and Quebec and engage in serious discussions. Without serious discussions, the same thing will just keep happening again and again.
I think solutions are within reach. They have to be implemented in good faith with clear leadership that can build consensus in Parliament. We need to show first nations that we are serious, committed and credible, and that although we will not give in, we are acting in good faith. The government needs to keep its election promises and prove those things are true.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-02-20 11:26 [p.1299]
Madam Speaker, there is a proverb that says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. I am starting from the assumption that our Conservative friends had good intentions in moving today's motion. Nevertheless, we need to realize that the last thing we need today is a tone that leads to confrontation. I think what we need instead is a tone that leads to collaboration, discussion and negotiation.
We absolutely cannot subscribe to the Manichaean view on display in the Conservatives' motion, implying that there are good guys on one side and bad guys on the other. Who are we to determine or judge that sort of thing? I think we do not have all the information to make that kind of call.
I sense some sordid partisan motives behind today's motion, and I do not like it. We really do not need that kind of motive in a situation like this one. On the contrary, we need to work in a spirit of collaboration, as I was saying earlier. That is the only way to arrive at a peaceful solution to the conflict that is happening right now.
On the other hand, we cannot condone the current lack of leadership on the part of the Prime Minister and his government. The government is needlessly letting the situation drag on and, as the saying goes, “the longer we wait, the worse things will get”.
On Tuesday, we were treated to the Prime Minister's mollifying words when he delivered a statement filled with platitudes. There again, I would say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. This speech was filled with platitudes and we saw how effective it was. In fact, it was so persuasive that instead of convincing the protesters to end the blockades it resulted in new ones being erected yesterday, whether it was out west or, as pointed out by the leader of the Bloc, on the line linking Mont-Saint-Hilaire to Montreal. Stations in his riding and mine were closed.
In Saint-Basile-le-Grand and Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, users of public transit were surprised to find out that they were also being taken hostage by this conflict even though on Tuesday the Prime Minister had called for it to end. Suddenly, they could no longer use public transit. What is happening is of great concern.
I have to say that the Prime Minister's many tearful displays of contrition over the past few years, while entirely justified, do not bring us any closer to reconciliation. To achieve true reconciliation, the government needs to make good on the lip service it has been paying for many years now.
In 1982, in the aftermath of the iniquitous repatriation of the Constitution at Quebec's expense, the current Prime Minister's father entered into constitutional negotiations with first nations. Those constitutional negotiations were never concluded, and now here we are today. What we are experiencing today is the result not only of the government dragging its feet since the 1980s, but also the totally unacceptable treatment our first nations have endured for centuries.
It is time to stop paying lip service and actually walk the talk. In that regard, it is important to note, as the leader of the Bloc Québécois pointed out a few minutes ago, that our party is the only one that has put forward any concrete proposals for dealing with the crisis.
These are solutions that go beyond lip service and do not require forceful interventions that could potentially make the situation much worse. I urge the government to stop seeing the members opposite as a monolithic group who are all of the same mind, since that is not the case, and to be receptive to the proposals that have been made so far. I think there are still some people on the Liberal government side who have not yet realized that they are a minority government and that we have to work together and take the best ideas from all sides. The Bloc Québécois has proposed some concrete ideas. The Bloc leader referred to those a few minutes ago. I urge the government to take action.
It is important to recognize that the government's procrastination is forcing the provinces and Quebec to act in the federal government's place, and they will end up getting the blame for the actions they take. We have even heard ministers, including the Minister of Transport, suggest as much. This shows a lack of leadership and a lack of courage from the Liberal government.
The Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion on February 18. I want to read it out.
THAT the National Assembly reaffirm its adherence to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
THAT, accordingly, it invite the governments of Québec [and] Canada to maintain egalitarian nation-to-nation relations with the indigenous peoples of Québec and Canada....
The next part is important to our Conservative friends.
THAT it acknowledge that the current conflict, which stems from the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, is having an undesirable impact on railway network users and on the economy [of Quebec];
THAT the National Assembly call for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to the current crisis, in order to prevent violence.
The consequences are so dire for the Quebec economy, the Canadian economy and mass transit users that Quebec's premier was forced to seek an injunction and consider the possibility of intervening. What is the federal government waiting for?
The federal government claims to want to avoid the kinds of crises we have seen in the past, but its procrastination is leading us straight into a potential crisis. What is it waiting for?
I would appeal to that desire for social peace and urge the protesters at the blockades to consider that their protests and actions have gotten society to pay attention to their demands and hopes for next steps. I hope that this will lead us to sit down and finally negotiate with first nations.
That said, the protesters must realize that if they continue, the us-versus-them mentality will persist. That mentality certainly does nothing to foster understanding, negotiation and co-operation.
If everyone is serious about negotiating a solution, then actions need to be taken by all sides.
That is what we expect from a government, even a minority one.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
Madam Speaker, I have been listening with great interest to the comments made by my esteemed colleague from Montarville.
It is odd that the Bloc Québécois, whose main talking point is that the federal government must avoid interfering in Quebec's affairs as much as possible, is now asking why the federal government will not intervene regarding the blockades in the interest of public safety in the province of Quebec.
Like my esteemed colleague, I am old enough to remember what happened at Oka in 1990. The Sûreté du Québec was dispatched to the barricades. Then the federal government was asked to intervene, and the conflict went on for 78 days, or two and a half months.
First of all, I would like to ask my esteemed colleague what he remembers about Oka and how it relates to today's situation, which affects the entire country, not just a small area of Quebec. What does he remember about those notorious 78 days, for that is how long it took to reach a resolution?
Second, what he calls procrastination on the government's part is actually an effort to enter into dialogue with key stakeholders that is happening as we speak.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-02-20 11:39 [p.1300]
Madam Speaker, I am not sure where my colleague was when I gave my speech. I never asked for the government to intervene with respect to the blockades in Quebec. That is not what I asked for.
In fact, I said just the opposite. I asked the government to sit down with the nations involved, beginning with the Wet'suwet'en nation, in order to come up with a solution to end the blockades across Canada, including in Quebec. As far as I know, and correct me if I am wrong, the federal government still has a fiduciary responsibility to first nations. I therefore call on the government to do its job, under the Constitution that it imposed on us, and look after our indigenous nations.
View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague fromAbitibi—Témiscamingue.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to the Conservative Party motion. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives are taking an approach that would only escalate tensions and does nothing to help resolve the current crisis.
The Bloc Québecois cannot support the Conservative motion's approach. Why not? The answer is obvious. This motion focuses on divisions within the Wet'suwet'en nation, in keeping with the good old colonial tactic of divide and conquer. It helps demonize the protesters. It attempts to set the first nations against each other. In no way does it help resolve the crisis.
Basically, this Conservative motion forces the House to take sides in a conflict that is none of its business. It forces us to choose between the hereditary chiefs and the band council. Adopting and enforcing this motion would only add fuel to the fire and would do nothing to resolve the crisis and lift the blockades.
I note that the Bloc Québécois seems to be the only party that has set aside partisanship in order to find potential solutions to this ongoing conflict. We have already made several proposals. For example, the Bloc Québécois asked that a war room be created with Ottawa and the provinces concerned. The Bloc Québécois called on the federal government to appoint a mediator tasked with initiating talks on the territorial issues with the independent Wet'suwet'en in exchange for an end to the railway blockades. The Bloc Québécois called for an emergency debate so that the House could discuss potential solutions to adopt. In a speech to the House, the leader of the Bloc Québécois proposed the temporary suspension of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in exchange for the removal of the barricades. The Bloc Québécois proposed that the Prime Minister apologize on behalf of the RCMP for considering the use of lethal force against the protesters. The Leader of the Bloc Québécois suggested that an indigenous police force selected by the Wet'suwet'en nation replace the RCMP on their territory.
Since the beginning of this crisis, it seems that only the Bloc Québécois has been trying to find concrete solutions to address the situation. We did not stand idly by, unlike the Prime Minister and his ministers, who did nothing for far too long, hoping that everything would fix itself. The federal government needs to step up and take action.
Quebec is taking action. This past Tuesday, the Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion that reads as follows:
THAT the National Assembly reaffirm its adherence to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
THAT, accordingly, it invite the governments of Québec [and] Canada to maintain egalitarian nation-to-nation relations with the indigenous peoples of Québec and Canada...
THAT it acknowledge that the current conflict, which stems from the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, is having an undesirable impact on railway network users and on the [Quebec] economy;
THAT the National Assembly call for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to the current crisis, in order to prevent violence.
Unlike the Conservatives, who are taking a hard-line approach, the Bloc Québécois joins with Quebec's elected officials in their unanimous will to find a peaceful solution to this crisis. We urgently need action and a peaceful solution to this crisis.
With every day that this crisis goes on, our economy suffers even more. This crisis is affecting workers and ordinary folks. Just look at the number of CN employees who have been temporarily laid off because of the rail blockade. If nothing is done right now, many more employees will join their ranks.
I would like to list other major effects of this crisis. The blockade in Belleville is currently preventing the flow of $2 billion worth of goods. It is hard for companies to find alternatives because, in addition to being 25% to 35% more expensive, the trucking industry is already facing a serious labour shortage.
The blockade is causing major problems for forestry companies, which are already struggling due to the current softwood lumber dispute, since they rely on rail transport to ship their lumber.
Forestry producers do not get paid until the shipment is received. If this situation goes on much longer, it could lead to cash-flow problems.
Thousands of containers of goods destined for western Canada are backlogged at Quebec's ports. Many perishable goods will spoil if they are not delivered. Trains full of perishable goods are sitting idle on the tracks. If the blockade goes on, Quebec could experience a propane shortage that could be extremely damaging, especially for farmers. Passenger trains will also suffer the consequences of these blockades. Many people need to take the train to get to work.
For all these reasons, the federal government must find a solution quickly to put an end to this crisis. It cannot go on.
Soon, Quebec consumers will suffer the consequences, as will those in neighbouring provinces. Quebec's food market relies on the railways running smoothly.
According to René Desmarais, a senior consultant with the Conseil québécois du commerce de détail, if the crisis continues, it is just a matter of days before Quebeckers are faced with empty shelves at supermarkets and other stores. According to him, that could happen as early as this weekend.
The rail blockades have paralyzed most freight transportation for the past two weeks. The government needs to re-establish communication with representatives of the Wet'suwet'en nation because the entire transport logistics chain is in jeopardy.
This is the 15th day of the crisis, and nothing has been done. Where is the Liberal government's leadership in a crisis situation? We are not seeing it. The government needs to break the impasse and end the crisis that is disrupting our economy, causing job losses and affecting many families. This is a crisis of confidence that further undermines the agreement with all peoples of the nation. Let us negotiate and give them the legitimacy they deserve. Let us work together to establish a society worthy of the name.
In closing, I want to reiterate that we must find a peaceful way to resolve the crisis. The approach proposed by the Conservative Party will certainly not lead to such an outcome. That is why I cannot support the motion we are debating today. We do not want to relive the Oka crisis 30 years on, so it is important to find the right approach for putting an end to this crisis. The government will then have to find a permanent way to prevent this sort of crisis. The current government has set the bar extremely high when it comes to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. This has created expectations and has led to frustration and disappointment when the government does not live up to those expectations.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to express my solidarity with the victims of the blockade. I am thinking of producers, small businesses and exporters, among others.
Practically speaking, a blockade is not a good solution. However, that is the situation we are facing right now, and we need to be in problem-solving mode.
With that in mind, the Bloc Québécois does not support the motion that the Conservatives put forward today, because it is irresponsible. From the outset, this irresponsible situation was created by the federal government, which let things get out of hand, claiming that it was not within its jurisdiction.
Although the Coastal GasLink project is under British Columbia's jurisdiction, the fact remains that the protesters' actions were directed at federal infrastructure. Unable to manage the crisis with true leadership, the federal government prefers to hide behind the provinces.
Does that mean the protesters will have to raise their voices and become radical extremists, as the Conservatives fear? Fortunately, we are not there yet.
While we support rapid resumption of rail service, we believe, as do the Mohawk chiefs who have spoken out, that this situation must be resolved peacefully. I think the word “peacefully” is key. A solution that condemns those at the barricades is dangerous, for both law enforcement and the protesters.
What would happen if this crisis resonated with other Canadians and they added their voices to those of the protesters? There have been a few examples of this in Quebec. Would the Conservatives also condemn them and call on the authorities to intervene with as much force?
Although the RCMP has withdrawn from the territory, it should still apologize for enforcing an injunction against the pipeline opponents, using force against the Wet'suwet'en community, and triggering hostilities that are currently creating more and more problems for all Canadians.
Given that this government is clearly refusing to listen, the protesters must shout even louder to be heard. Let us listen to them.
During these discussions, the government should at the very least negotiate the temporary suspension of the Coastal GasLink project in exchange for the removal of the blockades. That is the best and most reasonable solution. I would also remind members about the Bloc Québécois proposal. Perhaps calling in a mediator at this stage could be a solution. We are not there yet.
I am wondering if the Conservatives have thought about the consequences of their motion.
If we send the police in to intervene with force, we run the risk of making the situation worse and spoiling the efforts that have been made over the past few years to seek reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Again, the international reputations of Quebec and Canada could be tarnished by heavy-handed intervention and negligence in negotiations with these peoples.
I also want to mention the international context. Canada is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council. In that context, I think that it is advisable to have good relations with our indigenous peoples.
I would remind members that, a few days ago, Quebec and the Cree signed another historic economic agreement with a handshake and big smiles, in stark contrast to the Canadian government. When there is a genuine political will for a nation-to-nation relationship, we do not need barricades or law enforcement to solve problems or reach economic agreements.
While violent police action would bring a swift end to the situation, relations with indigenous people would yet again be poisoned for many years to come.
As Ghislain Picard said last month:
It is frustrating and disappointing that the Government of Canada is once again committing to the principles of free, prior and informed consent on the one hand, but on the other hand, allowing projects without seeking to work with the First Nations directly affected by them. Clearly, no project will be viable if it is imposed by force on First Nations communities.
In short, the Canadian government failed to demonstrate good statesmanship by not engaging in dialogue sooner.
During a crisis like this one, where the authorities take charge by force, I am happy to see that Quebec has its own strong, sovereign National Assembly to defend Quebeckers' choices.
I feel deeply for the first nations, who do not have the strength of a sovereign national assembly behind them. There is no excuse for not seeing them, talking to them and listening to them, nation to nation. I say again, nation to nation.
Indigenous peoples must be treated with respect and dignity. It is not for us to judge their governance model.
That is why the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion on February 18:
THAT the National Assembly reaffirm its adherence to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
THAT, accordingly, it invite the governments of Québec [and] Canada to maintain egalitarian nation-to-nation relations with the indigenous peoples of Québec and Canada, in keeping with the principle of a people's right to self-determination;
THAT it acknowledge that the current conflict, which stems from the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, is having an undesirable impact on railway network users and on the economy;
THAT the National Assembly call for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to the current crisis, in order to prevent violence.
This crisis worries me. In my riding of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, there is another pipeline project, the Gazoduq project, that is under review. This pipeline would cross through Abitibi-Témiscamingue from east to west, ending at Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, so that liquefied natural gas could be sold around the world. These objectives are very similar.
A lot of residents are worried, especially since they oppose this pipeline project. They are desperately looking for peaceful ways to make their voices heard. Will they take inspiration from what is being done for indigenous people and do the same thing in order to be heard?
The formula is starting to sound familiar. Oil projects get split into smaller projects, so they are easier to push through. Was the same thing done with Coastal GasLink? That is the exact same approach being used for the Gazoduq project that would go through my riding.
It bothers me that the current federal government spent several billion dollars to buy a pipeline. That could mean that the federal government is in cahoots with developers and is taking advantage of the financial vulnerability of indigenous and rural areas.
If the government continues to impose pipelines across the country, how many times will we see this type of crisis? Should I be expecting this type of crisis when the Conservatives' natural gas pipeline or the hypothetical energy corridor is built in my home region?
In closing, I want to say that I believe there is a diplomatic and respectful way to resolve this crisis and to allow the first nations to decide how best to govern themselves. I am also convinced that there is way to ensure the economic development of the regions while respecting the principles of sustainable development and social licence. I do not think that it is through force that we will stimulate our economy and our vitality.
View Denis Trudel Profile
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-02-18 14:03 [p.1152]
Mr. Speaker, Saturday was a day of mourning for Quebec.
On February 15, 1839, five of our heroes, five Patriotes, were hanged at the Pied‑du‑Courant prison. They were executed for defending their nation's freedom.
François-Marie-Thomas Chevalier de Lorimier, Charles Hindelang, Pierre-Rémi Narbonne, Amable Daunais and François Nicolas lost their lives for the sake of justice and democracy.
Their voices were silenced that all Quebeckers might be heard.
The night before he was executed, Chevalier de Lorimier wrote these final words: “Although so much has gone wrong, I take heart and continue to hope for the future. My friends and my children will see better days. They will be free. Long live freedom and independence.”
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
2020-02-07 11:50 [p.1092]
Madam Speaker, CN wants to close its rail traffic control centre in Montreal to centralize its operations in Alberta. This is an injustice to Quebec controllers and it will make communication in French very difficult for rail workers. It can also become a safety issue, if English-only instructions are not properly understood by train conductors and railway workers.
Will the Liberal government do something to ensure that CN reconsiders its decision?
View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, we recognize the concerns raised by the hon. member opposite. Our government remains committed to railway safety, as well as security, efficiency and environmental responsibility.
I would be happy to have the minister discuss this with him at a later time.
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
2020-02-07 11:51 [p.1092]
Madam Speaker, just as the number of rail incidents continues to increase in Quebec, CN is only making things worse. There are 60 controllers in Montreal to manage all of eastern Canada. CN wants to replace them with 35 controllers to manage the entire country. We will end up with fewer controllers, not to mention that they will not be able to communicate in French.
Will the government take this up with CN?
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-07 11:51 [p.1092]
Mr. Speaker, we always share any concerns relating to Canada's official languages. The French language must be protected throughout the country for safety reasons. There is no question that the minister will review the situation as it relates to safety and language.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
Mr. Speaker, for your reference, I will start by reminding you of my interventions from yesterday.
First, our unwillingness to support the free trade agreement is largely due to the threat of outsourcing that mining industries are facing. The government talks about possible compensation for the industry as if this is something that would benefit the industry. Even if the industry does receive that money, 60,000 jobs could be in jeopardy, because there is no guarantee that the money would reach Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean or the North Shore.
Second, this agreement does nothing to address the softwood lumber issue. Thirty thousand jobs are at stake, and we are struggling to save our villages. Many villages, especially in my riding, are depending on these issues and free trade deals, which do not protect the softwood lumber industry. This can be a difficult situation.
As for supply management, the whole issue of income stability is a major challenge for farmers. They need to be able to predict their income, but the loopholes that have been created in supply management are making things hard for them. We are increasingly seeing quotas being sold off.
When my speech was interrupted, I was saying that the United States is imposing limitations on our negotiations with other world markets. I think that, if we adopted an amendment to change that penalty, we will at least have saved our right to do trade with who we want and thus preserved our sovereignty.
There are 10,000 dairy farms in Canada, including 5,600 in Quebec. That is a major industry that employs 83,000 people, either directly or indirectly, and generates over $1 billion in taxes for the Government of Quebec. The industry is not asking for any direct subsidies. It is a matter of pride, and unfortunately, the decisions on compensation will take advantage of that. Dairy producers do not want the government's charity. They want to be independent and successful. Their prosperity is essential to the vitality of the agricultural life of the small family farms scattered around Quebec's towns and villages.
In closing, in my opinion, Quebec is the big loser in this agreement. The compensation was provided at Quebec's expense. The Government of Canada says that it wants us to work together and that it is reaching out to us. That implies being open to Quebec's demands. It is therefore irresponsible to sign this agreement without adding protections for supply management and aluminum and without putting an end to the softwood lumber dispute.
Could Canada listen to the solutions proposed by Quebec? For now, it it is obvious that the federal government has once again abandoned Quebec's economy.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-02-06 10:18 [p.995]
Mr. Speaker, four years ago the future of free trade in North America was in doubt. At the time, President Trump said that NAFTA was “the worst deal in history“ and campaigned to tear it up. This presented an existential threat to the well-being of Canadians, as so many of our communities and workers depend on free and open market access to the world's biggest economy.
Thanks to the hard work of the Deputy Prime Minister, her negotiating team and Canadians of all stripes and backgrounds, we stood firm against the largest economic threat Canada has faced in recently history. We even did pretty well. Extremely well, I would say, since we reached a better agreement with our partners and friends, the United States and Mexico.
Without a doubt, this is a better deal than the current NAFTA. This is a good deal for Canadians, no matter where they live.
Today I want to focus on the benefits this agreement offers to Quebeckers. The benefits are many, because we stood up for Quebec. Allow me to share some examples. The new NAFTA retains the cultural exemption that allows so many artists and creators to succeed. It even covers the digital world. The new agreement retains the dispute resolution mechanism that was used to defend Quebec's softwood lumber industry. It protects our supply management system, including dairy farmers. It also gives manufacturing exporters and aluminum workers better access to the American market.
Allow me to begin with the cultural exemption. As the former minister of Canadian heritage, as a proud Quebecker and as a lover of arts and music, my province's unique culture is near and dear to my heart.
Quebec itself is near and dear to my heart. Yes indeed, we have a unique culture. Our culture, our way of life, our way of looking at things are what create our identity. We must protect this culture, this identity. It must be protected in traditional media and, especially today, in the 21st century, it must be protected online. The Americans wanted to get rid of this cultural exemption. They wanted to prevent us from being able to financially support and protect our culture, our linguistic duality. Not only did we preserve that right, but we even managed to get it extended to digital media. The Prime Minister drew a line in the sand, sending the Americans a clear message that Canada would not sign without this exemption. No exemption, no agreement.
This will help over 70,000 Quebeckers employed in the cultural industry to continue to thrive.
We stood our ground for Quebec.
Second, I am sure members in the House will recall that the American administration sought to eliminate the dispute resolution mechanism known as chapter 19. We refused to concede to this, and I will explain why.
This mechanism is a critical equalizer in a trading relationship in which we are, frankly, the smaller partner.
It was under chapter 19 that Quebec was able to defend its softwood lumber industry against anti-dumping measures and abusive countervailing duties imposed by the Americans.
The Prime Minister said it was non-negotiable. We gave Canadians our word, and we did not budge.
Once again, we stood our ground for Quebec.
Third, I turn to the agriculture industry, and the supply management system in particular.
Supply management supports thousands of farmers, food producers and their families. Together, they export $5.7 billion worth of agricultural products from Quebec to the United States every year. The U.S. President and his administration wanted to do away with supply management. We said no. Period.
While CUSMA provides incremental access to the U.S., our negotiators overwhelmingly maintained the supply management system of controls on production, price and imports.
The Prime Minister has been clear: We will fully and fairly compensate farmers and processors for any loss of market share, as we did under the trade agreements we signed with the European Union and Asia-Pacific countries.
This summer we announced $1.75 billion in compensation over eight years for nearly 11,000 dairy farmers in Canada. Everyone who applied by December 31, 2019, has received their payments by now. The rest will receive theirs by March 31.
We protected supply management. This will allow Quebec dairy products to remain part of our kids' daily breakfast routine, in Quebec and right across the country.
Once again, we stood our ground for Quebec.
Finally, and more perhaps more importantly, CUSMA preserves and actually increases duty-free access for Canadian goods. For Quebec, this means that key exports to the U.S. will continue to receive duty-free treatment compared to the most favoured nation rate charged on imports that are not from the United States' free trade partners. It also means continued market access for nearly $60 billion in Quebec exports to the U.S., and stability for workers in aerospace, heavy truck, agriculture and aluminum industries.
My Quebec colleagues like to say that the new agreement is bad for our aluminum workers, but that is completely untrue, because the new agreement requires 70% of the aluminum in vehicles to be North American in origin. That is 70% compared to zero. My Bloc colleagues would have us believe that is a step backward, but I see it as a clear win.
We have also increased the regional value content threshold for cars from 62.5% to 75%, which is a major step forward, as car manufacturers will be required to use more of our products, including our aluminum.
Manufacturers are using more and more aluminum in cars because it is lighter, which means that cars consume less fuel. These measures are helping our industry, and our workers benefit from increasing demand. The industry itself supports the agreement. Jean Simard, president and CEO of the Aluminium Association of Canada, said that the new NAFTA is the right way to go.
Quebec's economic community supports it too. Last week, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec called for it to be ratified as soon as possible to end years of economic uncertainty.
In December, Quebec's business sector signalled its support for the agreement. The Conseil du patronat du Québec, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec and the Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec told us that they want all parliamentarians in Ottawa and all stakeholders to ensure that the agreement is ratified as soon as possible. This agreement is vital for economic growth and for all Quebec regions. Therefore, there is a consensus in Quebec, except for my Bloc Québécois friends and colleagues, who are not really listening. They keep repeating that the agreement will let Mexico import aluminum from China and pass it off as North American aluminum. The opposite is true, as the agreement will prevent that.
At the industry's request, we have put a system in place to track and monitor transshipments of lower-quality aluminum from countries such as China or Russia through Mexico. This will ensure that Quebec's high-quality aluminum is not replaced by cheaper, lower-quality goods.
Once again, we stood our ground for Quebec.
The benefits of the new deal do not stop here. There are also progressive, modern elements in this agreement that align with the values of Quebeckers.
Some hon. members of the opposition mocked the government when we wished to include chapters on labour and the environment. Both of these chapters are in the new agreement, and they are not window dressing. Actually, they are both subject to dispute resolution. This means Quebec union workers will be on a more level playing field with Mexican workers, and it means that the environment we share will not be forsaken in the name of economic growth.
The Canada-United States-Mexico agreement is a good agreement for Quebeckers and for all Canadians. We have made real gains that will help our families. As Premier Legault said, I believe that the Bloc Québécois must defend the interests of Quebeckers, because it is in the interest of Quebeckers for this agreement to be ratified and adopted.
As always, I am reaching out to my colleagues from all parties and urging them not to delay the process, but to work together and adopt this important bill.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
Mr. Speaker, today's debate is of course on the bill to implement the Canada-United States-Mexico free trade agreement, or CUSMA.
Unfortunately, we found that Quebec was pretty much excluded from the discussions. Quebec's priorities were largely excluded. That is why there is a very good chance we will be forced to vote against CUSMA in its current form.
Some of the other parties are making up all kinds of stories about the Bloc Québécois. They want everyone to believe that we oppose free trade agreements, we are against the economy and we want to withdraw into a shell. All the prejudices and all the spin being spewed about us are completely false.
To illustrate that, I want to talk about two important figures in Quebec's independence movement. No one can deny the influence they have had on Quebec and, in a way, on the rest of Canada. I am talking about Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry.
Jacques Parizeau was the finance minister in René Lévesque's government, and was also premier of Quebec. He was a great economist who trained at the London School of Economics and Political Science, an internationally renowned school.
As for Bernard Landry, he was also a finance minister in Quebec and premier of Quebec.
They were two important champions of free trade, including the first free trade agreement, the first NAFTA, signed with the United States and Mexico.
They were among its main proponents. Mr. Landry toured Quebec to talk about how important it is for small nations to do business with other foreign countries and to open new markets.
We do not want to stay locked up inside Canada. We do not want to limit ourselves to doing business with Ontario. I am more than happy to do business with Ontario, the Maritimes and the other provinces, but why should we limit ourselves to this country, which has a somewhat limited population? Why not send our goods, our knowledge and our skills to other places and benefit from what others have to offer us?
We have absolutely nothing against that. On the contrary, it is a real benefit for Quebec to be able to take advantage of those different markets. However, there are some things that we care about. There are some things that we want to maintain. To the extent possible, we want to maintain control over our agriculture because we like being fed by local farmers who produce food that meets the highest health standards. Since we never know what might happen abroad, it would be good to be able to continue feeding ourselves.
The other thing we care about is culture. Quebec is America's Gaulish village. That is something we hear a lot. I think it is important for us to keep our culture strong in Quebec and that we ensure that agreements continue to promote and protect that culture.
This agreement does contain at least some worthwhile aspects with regard to culture. Some progress has been made and we are pleased about that.
Labour is also an important issue to us. A free trade agreement must contain attractive working conditions for workers in each of the countries, whenever possible. It is not about comparing apples and oranges. Attractive working conditions are necessary to ensure that people in other countries are not exploited and to ensure that we do not lose any jobs here. Otherwise, the agreement leads to exploitation in other countries.
I think we must consider these issues when we sign agreements. Once again, I think some progress was made. The agreement is not all bad, but unfortunately there are a number of aspects that bother us. I will explain.
One of the things that bothers us is the Liberals' record when it comes to Quebec. Free trade agreements are useful, but free trade agreements are generally about gaining something. Concessions are made, there is some give and take, and we end up with a deal that benefits all parties. The problem in this case is that the Liberal government tends to sacrifice Quebec when it signs free trade agreements.
The gut reaction always seems to be to sacrifice Quebec a bit more and listen to Quebec a bit less than the provinces or the rest of Canada in its entirety. Finally, the government works for Canada and not Quebec. That is why we want to form an independent country. Then we could negotiate our own agreements, which would benefit us and respect our conditions. We would stop getting the short end of the stick, as is often the case with Canada.
Let's go back in time a bit and look at the Liberals' record of listening to Quebec. They are currently making up all sorts of things and saying that they listened to Quebec. If we go back less than 100 years, to the 1940s, the Liberals promised Quebeckers during the Second World War that there would be no conscription. Indeed, Quebeckers did not forget the conscription imposed by the Conservatives under Borden. However, once in power, the Liberals organized a neat little referendum to be able to go back on their promise and impose conscription on Quebeckers. This is just one example of many.
A little later, there were expropriations in Mirabel for the construction of the airport. Then, in Montreal, there were expropriations in the entire Faubourg à m'lasse neighbourhood, where my grandfather grew up, to build the infamous Radio-Canada tower. This was a tragic event in the lives of a lot of Quebec families. Ottawa, claiming to know what was good for them, told them their homes and neighbourhoods would be torn down. These families lost their livelihood, but the government washed its hands of it. I think it is horrible what the Liberals, who were in power at the time, did. It shows their inability to listen and their insensitivity to Quebec.
I will go back in time again, this time to the 1970s, to the time of the War Measures Act. Yes, some people were causing trouble and doing things that perhaps should have been avoided. Let's agree, however, that the enactment of the War Measures Act was a complete overreaction on the part of the Liberal government. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used the opportunity to enter the offices of the Parti Québécois and steal its lists. More than 400 people were put in prison. It was a national disgrace because, more than anything else, it was an operation that was designed to humiliate Quebec.
Let's now turn to the 1980 referendum. Once again, the Liberals made great promises. Trudeau senior, whose son is now Prime Minister, told us in the 1980 referendum that voting no meant saying yes to change and that it would make Quebec happier. In the end, he promised us all sorts of things and talked about honour and enthusiasm, a bit like Brian Mulroney did a few years later.
After all these fine promises, a constitution was signed by every province except Quebec. This led to the infamous “night of the long knives”, when the others decided to do without Quebec's support.
There was also the sponsorship scandal, which happened under the Liberals as well.
I remember that throughout their last term, the Liberals vowed over and over to protect supply management. However, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement opened a breach in supply management. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership opened another breach in supply management. The Canada-United States-Mexico free trade agreement is opening yet another breach in supply management.
In particular, I remember a byelection campaign in Lac-Saint-Jean in 2018. The Bloc ran an excellent candidate, Marc Maltais. The Prime Minister of Canada went to Lac-Saint-Jean to assure farmers that supply management would not be touched. However, a few weeks after the election, a breach was created in supply management. The people of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean remembered, because in the 2019 election, they voted in a Bloc member.
That is not the end of the problem. This much-touted agreement gives no consideration to forestry, which is important in Quebec. It has not been included in the agreement. More recently, we have learned that aluminum was being completely abandoned.
It is a real shame that I do not have more time to speak, because I would have had a lot more to say.
The important thing to note is that the Liberals keep saying ad nauseam that 70% of auto parts will have to be made of North American aluminum. That is completely not true. No, 70% is no better than zero, because 70 times zero is zero. The 70% is for manufactured parts, but the aluminum will not necessarily come from here. It could come from China and be processed in Mexico.
At the end of the day, we are losing out and it is really frustrating.
View Mario Simard Profile
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-02-06 12:06 [p.1011]
Madam Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for his speech. That is the first time that I have heard a well-reasoned speech in the House from anyone other than a Bloc Québécois member.
I would simply like to clarify a small point. As you very rightly pointed out, when NAFTA was originally signed, Canada was the major player in the aluminum industry. Now Mexico produces 15 times more aluminum than Canada. I would like to make a minor distinction. You said that all workers would be affected—
View Mario Simard Profile
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-02-06 12:07 [p.1011]
Madam Speaker, I got carried away in my enthusiasm.
I would like to point out to my colleague that he was talking about workers in Kitimat, but the agreement will not really change anything for them because their primary market is Asia.
The North American aluminum market is Quebec's domain. I do not know whether my colleague shares my opinion. Quebec is once again the sacrificial lamb in this deal.
View Peter Kent Profile
View Peter Kent Profile
2020-02-06 12:07 [p.1011]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
I am well aware of the threat China poses to Canada's aluminum industry.
Indeed, it is something that the Liberals are trying to pass off by saying that 70% is such a great guarantee. However, 70% is not a great guarantee when it used to be 100% and it was defended by the Government of Canada, the Province of Quebec and the Province of British Columbia, and workers were guaranteed a bright future for what is the cleanest aluminum produced in the world today.
View Mario Simard Profile
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-02-06 12:20 [p.1013]
Madam Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's remarks.
He referred to the Buy American Act. Let me remind him that in 2013-14, Novelis, a mill in my region that rolled aluminum, was relocated to Oswego in New York State. Hundreds of jobs were lost in my riding.
My colleague also mentioned the problems with supply management. Without indulging in recriminations, since I do not want to bash my Conservative friends, I must point out that they allowed loopholes in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Quebec is Canada's leading producer of fine cheeses. The loopholes have jeopardized businesses in Quebec that produce exceptional cheeses, such as the Médard cheese factory.
Does my colleague agree with me that Quebec is once again the big loser and that its market shares will be affected by the new agreement?
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