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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-06-22 10:40 [p.8941]
Madam Speaker, what a pleasure it is to address the House on such an important piece of legislation. To be very clear, in budget 2021 the government has outlined a plan to allow us to finish the fight against COVID-19, heal the wounds left by the COVID-19 recession as much as we can, and ultimately create more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days and decades to come.
This is critically important legislation, and we would encourage all members of all political stripes to support it. Within it is a continuation of the government's focus on the pandemic. In the last federal election, Canadians wanted Parliament to work well together. They wanted us to come together to do the things that were necessary to facilitate a more positive environment for all Canadians, and being thrown into a pandemic made the priority fighting COVID-19: the coronavirus.
From the very beginning, our Prime Minister and this government have made it very clear that fighting the pandemic was our number one priority. We put into place a team Canada approach and brought together all kinds of stakeholders including different levels of government, indigenous leaders, individuals, non-profit organizations and private companies. We brought them all in to hopefully minimize the negative impact of the coronavirus.
It is because of those consultations and working with Canadians that Canada is in an excellent position today to maximize a recovery. The statistics will clearly demonstrate that. We have a government that has worked day in and day out, seven days a week, and is led by a Prime Minister who is truly committed to making Canada a better community.
I have, over the last number of months, witnessed a great deal of frustration from the opposition, in particular the Conservative opposition. The Conservatives continuously attempt to frustrate the process on the floor of the House of Commons. There was a time when all parties inside the chamber worked together to pass necessary legislation, and worked together to come up with ideas and ways to modify things so we could better support individuals and businesses in Canada. However, that time has long passed. The degree to which we see political partisanship on the floor of the House of Commons today is really quite sad.
Yesterday was embarrassing. I know many, if not all, of my colleagues found it embarrassing and humiliating to see one of Canada's most noble civil servants at the bar on the floor of the House of Commons. The New Democrats and the Bloc joined with the Conservatives to humiliate a civil servant who should be applauded for his efforts over the last 12 months. He was publicly humiliated by being addressed in the manner he was, on the floor of the House of Commons, and it was distasteful. I say shame to the NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives.
There were alternatives. If they did not want to take shots at the civil service, they could have dealt with it in other ways. For example, the Minister of Health provided the unredacted information to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which was made up of parliamentarians from all political parties. Instead of passing the motion they did, they could have passed a motion for that committee to table the documents they wanted from the civil service. After all, the civil service provided the unredacted copies to that committee, not to mention that documents that had been redacted for national interest and security reasons were sent to another standing committee.
The political partisanship we are seeing today is making the chamber, for all intents and purposes, dysfunctional. We have seen the official opposition, less than a week ago, come to the floor of the House of Commons and within an hour of debate attempt to shut down Parliament for the day. It actually moved a motion to adjourn the House. The opposition is oozing with hypocrisy. On the one hand, it criticizes the government for not allowing enough time for debate, and on the other hand it tries to shut down the chamber in order to prevent debate.
If we were to look up the definitions of the words “hypocrisy” and “irony” in Webster's, which I have not, I wonder if they would describe what we are seeing from the opposition party, which moves concurrence debate, not once or twice but on many occasions, so that the government is not able to move forward on legislation, including Bill C-30, which we are debating today. That legislation is there to support Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Members of the Liberal caucus have fought day in and day out to ensure those voices are heard, brought to Ottawa and ultimately formulating policy that will take Canada to the next level. However, we have an official opposition that I would suggest has gone too far with respect to its resistance and destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons.
I have stated before that I have been a parliamentarian for approximately 30 years, the vast majority of which were in opposition. I am very much aware of how important it is that we protect the interests of opposition members and their rights. I am very much aware of the tactics opposition parties will use, but at a time when Canadians need us to work together, we have an official opposition that is acting as an obstructive force. When we talk about how Bill C-30 will be there to support small businesses and put money in the pockets of Canadians so they have the disposable income necessary to pay the bills that are absolutely essential, the Conservative Party continues to play that destructive role. It continues to focus on character assassination and on ways to make something out of something that is often not real. The Conservatives are more concerned about political partisanship than getting down to work, which was clearly demonstrated last Thursday. They are more concerned about character assassination, as we saw the official opposition, with the unholy opposition alliance, take personal shots at a national hero, someone we all know as the Minister of National Defence. This is unacceptable behaviour we are witnessing.
We have critically important legislation before the House. We can think about the types of things Bill C-30 would do for Canadians. If we want to prevent bankruptcies from taking place, we need to support this legislation, as it supports small businesses through the extension of the wage subsidy program, a program that has helped millions of Canadians, supporting tens of thousands of businesses from coast to coast to coast.
This is the type of legislation that we are actually debating today. It is not the only progressive, good, solid legislation that we have brought forward. Yesterday, through a closure motion, we were able to push through Bill C-10. We can imagine that legislation not being updated for 30 years. It is a major overhaul. We can think about what the Internet looked like 30 years ago, compared to today.
The Liberal government understands, especially during this pandemic, and we see it in the budget, the importance of our arts community, whether it was with Bill C-10 yesterday, where the government had to push hard to get it through, or the budget implementation bill today, where we are again having to use time allocation. It is not because we want to, but because we have to.
If we do not take measures of this nature, the legislation would not pass. The opposition parties, combined, often demonstrate that if the government is not prepared to take the actions it is taking, we would not get legislation through this House. The opposition parties want to focus on electioneering. We have been very clear, as the Prime Minister has stated, that our priority is the pandemic and taking the actions necessary in order to serve Canadians on the issue. It is the opposition parties that continuously talk about elections.
In my many years as a parliamentarian, in the month of June we have often seen legislation passing. It happens. It is a part of governance. One would expect to see a higher sense of co-operation from opposition parties, in particular from the official opposition party, not the obstruction that members have witnessed, not the humiliation that we have seen on the floor of the House of Commons at times.
Liberal members of the House are prepared to continue to work toward serving Canadians by passing the legislation that is necessary before the summer break. We still have time to address other pieces of legislation. Minutes prior to going into this debate, I was on a conference call in regard to Bill C-19. Again, it is an important piece of legislation. I challenge my colleagues on the opposition benches to come forward and say that we should get that legislation passed so that it could go to the Senate.
I mentioned important progressive pieces of legislation, and the one that comes to my mind, first and foremost, is this legislation, Bill C-30. Next to that, we talk a lot about Bill C-6, on conversion therapy. We talk a lot about Bill C-10, dealing with the modernization of broadcasting and the Internet, and going after some of these large Internet companies.
We talk about Bill C-12 and net zero, about our environment. We can check with Canadians and see what they have to say about our environment and look at the actions taken by opposition parties in preventing the types of progressive legislation we are attempting to move forward with.
We understand that not all legislation is going to be passed. We are not saying the opposition has to pass everything. We realize that in a normal situation not all government legislation is going to pass in the time frame we have set forth, given the very nature of the pandemic, but it is not unrealistic for any government, minority or majority, to anticipate that there would be a higher sense of co-operation in dealing with the passing of specific pieces of legislation. Bill C-30 is definitely one of those pieces of legislation.
Unfortunately, some opposition members will have the tenacity to say they are being limited and are unable to speak to and address this particular important piece of legislation. Chances are we are going to hear them say that. To those members, I would suggest they look at the behaviour of the Conservative official opposition and remind them of the Conservative opposition's attempts to delay, whether it is through adjourning debates, calling for votes on those kinds of proceedings, concurrence motions or using questions of privilege and points of order as a way to filibuster, which all happen to be during government business.
Bill C-3 was a bill that initially came forward a number of years ago from Rona Ambrose, the then leader of the Conservative Party, about judges. We can look at the amount of debate that occurred on that piece of legislation. It is legislation that could have and should have passed the House with minimal debate. It was hours and hours, days, of debate. Even though the Conservatives supported the legislation, even back then they did not want to have the government passing legislation.
Their purpose is to frustrate the government, prevent the government from being able to pass legislation, and then criticize us for not being able to pass legislation. What hypocrisy this is. Sadly, over the last week or so, we have seen the other opposition parties buy into what the Conservative opposition is doing, which has made it even more difficult.
As much as the unholy alliance of opposition parties continues to do these things and frustrate the floor of the House, I can assure Canadians that, whether it is this Prime Minister or my fellow members of Parliament within the caucus, we will continue day in, day out to focus our attention on the pandemic and minimizing its negative impacts.
We are seeing results. Over 32 million vaccine doses have been administered to Canadians. We are number one in first doses in the world. We have close to 35 million doses already in Canada, and we will have 50 million before the end of the month. Canada is positioning itself well, even with the frustration coming from opposition parties. We will continue to remain focused on serving Canadians, and Bill C-30 is an excellent example of the way in which we are going to ensure that Canadians get out of this in a better position. We are building back better for all Canadians.
View Damien Kurek Profile
View Damien Kurek Profile
2021-06-21 12:14 [p.8827]
Madam Speaker, I had the chance to listen to both the first part and second part of the hon. member's speech.
I have not heard very much about a part of the bill that proposes an amendment to the Canada Elections Act, which specifically would make it unlawful to knowingly mislead electors during an election campaign. I find it interesting that this is in an omnibus budget bill. Has she had a chance to look into the proposed amendment to the Canada Elections Act and does she have any comments on it?
View Louise Chabot Profile
View Louise Chabot Profile
2021-06-21 12:15 [p.8827]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question, even though I cannot answer it entirely.
The entire election issue has us scratching our heads. Why make changes with respect to elections when everyone here is saying that there will not be an election during the pandemic and we are still in a pandemic?
I even wonder why there needs to be an election and why we should make changes. I hate the fact that we in the House are unable to reach a consensus on the conditions to put in place to hold an election. It is up to parliamentarians. This should not be done through a regulation in a bill.
View Damien Kurek Profile
View Damien Kurek Profile
2021-06-21 12:18 [p.8827]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to join in the debate, once again, in the House.
However, from what I am hearing in the media, and the rumours around Ottawa, we very well may be facing an election in the coming months. As this may be my last speech prior to that election, I want to share some brief words of thanks to the constituents of Battle River—Crowfoot for the honour to be their voice in Canada's Parliament over the last year and a half or so.
As we have faced an unprecedented time on so many fronts and the need for collaboration and to hold the government to account as a member of the opposition, it has been a true honour. I look forward to life getting back to normal. Alberta plans to open for the summer, with the vast majority of COVID restrictions being lifted on July 1. It is an exciting prospect for Albertans as we look forward to getting back to normal.
Even though Parliament is scheduled to rise in a few days, I look forward to continuing to fight in every way possible for the good people of east central Alberta and Battle River—Crowfoot for whom I have the honour and privilege of serving.
I am rising on debate on the Liberal's budget, an omnibus budget bill, Bill C-30, which the Liberals promised to never do. When a Liberal parliamentary secretary was asked that very question on Friday, he said in effect that this was different because it was a budget bill. I have asked a number of questions and on this and, quite frankly, I have not received much response to them. This bill covers a wide swath of things that, yes, were promised in the much-delayed budget that was introduced a number of months ago, but it also includes some other aspects, such as an amendment to the Canada Elections Act, a change to the gas tax fund and a few other things, which I will dive into in more detail.
However, I would like to address one concern I increasingly hear from constituents, and that is the attitude to which this current Liberal government has approached the legislative agenda and the way it has governed the country. I had a constituent give me a very apt description that I would like to share with members about the rhetoric that has been coming out of the Liberal benches as of late, and it is simply this.
The government is quick to blame the opposition for all its failures, which I think we have been very effective at articulating how absurd that is. Had it not been for the opposition, Canada would be in a much worse spot when it comes to COVID relief programs. The third time is the charm with respect to legislation that has had to be repaired several times. The fact is that the opposition has been exposing many of the areas of mismanagement and very troubling trends related to the approach that the Liberals have taken to government accountability and ethics.
These last couple of weeks, in particular, the government House leader, other Liberal members and the Prime Minister in his press conferences, who would never say this in the House of Commons because he would be held to account on it, have effectively said that it is the Conservatives who have been obstructionists, that it somehow is the opposition's fault that the government cannot get anything accomplished.
A constituent shared with me an analogy that I will share with members. It is a bit like students, after having received the syllabus for the school year, coming upon the night before the deadline for a major assignment at the end of the course and all of a sudden realizing they had lot of work to do but did very little or nothing and now they have a choice: They can either admit their failures or they can blame, pivot and make excuses. The Liberals have chosen to do the latter by blaming the Conservatives for obstruction, rather than acknowledging that they are the ones in charge and that they have utterly failed in their legislative management. If this is any indication of how the Liberals have managed government over the last six years, no wonder our country is facing some major challenges.
Bill C-30 is a large bill and it addresses many aspects of COVID response program changes to other aspects of the functioning of government. I am going to get into those specific things.
However, I want to touch on a couple of things that have not received a lot of air time, so to speak, one of which is the proposed amendment to the Canada Elections Act. The part of the Elections Act that talks about misleading statements during an election was struck down by a court ruling. The government has inserted in the bill, somewhat innocuously, an amendment to the act that would include the words “knowingly mislead” during an election.
There should be a lot of discussion on the “knowingly mislead” part, especially when we see the failures of the current government to uphold elections commitments, its pivoting away from promises made and, certainly, the astounding level of mistrust that is faced across political discourse these days. I find it troubling that this has not been debated extensively. It calls into question some of the purposes associated with why that would be inserted into the back of a budget implementation bill.
The second thing, and this is typically Liberal, is that in the budget implementation bill, the government plans to rename the gas tax fund. This is the Liberal agenda at its best. It takes something, renames it, shines it up a bit, gives it a little spit and polish, and then suggests they have done Canadians a great service with this new program with its fancy new name. That appears to be what Liberals have done with the gas tax fund, which will be called the Canada community building fund going forward.
The new name certainly has a ring to it, and most Canadians might say that it is a great idea, with grant applications and funds going to municipalities. However, it is very important to highlight that it is simply a change in name of a program, which has some of the challenges associated with government accountability and the increased costs. Then I expect to hear a flurry of election spending announcements, promoted by the infrastructure of government, as we saw prior to the 2019 election. We are already seeing cabinet ministers jet-setting across the country, using the tools they have at their disposal to make a myriad of promises prior to the election.
We are going to see a whole bunch of promises related to this new fund, but the Liberals probably will not call it a new fund. However, under a new name, the Liberals will certainly claim credit for the work, even though it was not the Liberals who brought forward that fund, and how it has benefited many municipalities, including some in Battle River—Crowfoot.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to put that on the record so Canadians know that simply renaming something does not give the government of the day credit.
There are extensions to many aspects of COVID programming and there are some concerns related to not being able to address some of the folks who have fallen through the cracks. There are further changes to health transfers, some of which are very needed. I would suggest the dollars are a little too late when it comes to vaccinations, which speaks to the Liberal strategy. If we had been on time with vaccines, we would not have had a third wave. This was the Prime Minister's third wave, when it comes to the delays we face.
As I have come to the end of my speech, I will simply say this. Parliament is an institution that represents Canadians, and to hear that the government is trying to circumvent, at every cost, the need for this place to carefully and thoughtfully debate and discuss legislation, including something as significant as the bill before us, Bill C-30, is very troubling. It is very troubling to hear the Liberals try to circumvent and dismiss the need for what should be of absolute importance to every single one of us.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
2021-06-21 17:21 [p.8871]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in relation to Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response).
The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
2021-06-21 21:51 [p.8902]
Madam Speaker, I would to ask the parliamentary secretary what the date of the last election was. If memory serves, it was October 21, 2019. Since we have a law in this country that says that elections take place every four years and at least two opposition parties have said that they do not want an election in the midst of a pandemic, why is the Liberal government using a gag order that is unprecedented in the history of Canada and an emergency procedure on this bill if it is not trying to indicate that it wants a fall election?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-06-21 21:52 [p.8902]
Madam Speaker, I have been a parliamentarian for about 30 years collectively. I can honestly say that when we get into the month of June, governments of all political stripes will often push to get legislation through before the month comes to an end. This government and this Prime Minister have consistently said that our first priority has been the pandemic, to ensure we have the backs of Canadians. At the same time, we can in fact push for important, progressive legislation and we look for that progressive alliance inside the House of Commons to try to get this legislation through. If it was up to the Conservatives, it would never pass.
View Damien Kurek Profile
View Damien Kurek Profile
2021-06-18 10:25 [p.8758]
Madam Speaker, I find it interesting to hear the Liberals tying themselves in rhetorical knots about defending aspects of policies and trying to distance themselves from decisions that were made in the past. It certainly is a fascinating discussion in rhetoric.
My question for the member is quite simple. In Bill C-30, there are some changes to the Elections Act that are related to a court decision. Specifically, it would make it illegal to knowingly mislead constituents during an election. Now, there has not been a lot of focus on this in the debate on this bill because it is a bit like an omnibus bill, which the Liberals had promised not to do, but this has been inserted into the bill. I would like to hear the member's comments on that particular aspect of Bill C-30.
View Robert Morrissey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Robert Morrissey Profile
2021-06-18 10:26 [p.8759]
Madam Speaker, I acknowledge the question from my colleague, and having listened to many debates and speeches in the House of Commons since 2015, I am often perplexed when the opposition Conservative Party rails against our government on the key area of energy as it relates to the western provinces, where the member is from. I am often left arriving at the conclusion that every member from western Canada who was part of the former Conservative government should be apologizing to the people of the prairie provinces for not taking any steps to unlock the oil industry there. They did not get any pipelines approved under that Conservative government because it had a process that was so flawed it was constantly being challenged.
One of the first initiatives of our government was to recognize that we had to have a process in place that met the needs of first nations communities and the environmental community to approve pipelines that met the test of protecting the environment and included first nations communities, and our government has done that. It was a major achievement that—
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-05-27 13:12 [p.7484]
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to the budget bill, because I have a lot of concern about the budget.
I will start with the amount of debt the government has added. The Prime Minister has added more debt to Canada than did all the prime ministers, together, since the beginning of Confederation. We are now at a debt of $1.3 trillion and the government has asked to raise the ceiling of that to $1.8 trillion.
People may wonder why that matters to me. The amount of debt that has been added to each Canadian is about $30,000. Let us think about this. That means for people who are watching, they will have to pay the government $250 a month every month for the next 10 years to pay off just what the government has spent so far. As we continue to spend, those numbers will go up. Let us think about in terms of a family. Partners and their children, everyone, will be paying $250 a month for 10 years. That is a lot of money.
There does not seem to be a plan. I asked the finance minister last night and she was unable to articulate a plan that would resolve this in the longer term. Nobody certainly expects an immediate adjustment, because we are trying to exit the pandemic, but where is the plan to exit the pandemic and restore the economy?
If we look at some of the substance in the budget, we will see that the Liberals have extended many of the programs that were put into place to help people during the pandemic, and that is great. The Conservatives always supported that. However, a lot of the programs had flaws and people were falling through the cracks. Those things were identified early on, even in April and May of last year. Therefore, I do not understand why the government has extended programs without fixing the things. Many people had start-up businesses. This was a clear area where folks who had unfortunately started up just prior to the pandemic or a few months in advance of the pandemic did not have the revenue to show for the previous year. If the government really wants to help people, why are these little holes in the programs not fixed?
It is the same situation for a lot of the women entrepreneurs. We have heard how disproportionately affected women were in the pandemic. We have seen the maternity leave issue. Women who were going to take maternity leave in the future but then had to stay home from work because of COVID were unable to get their maternity leave. The Liberals have not sorted that out in a whole year. The government knows about these issues and it needs to fix them. I do not understand why they were not fixed for the budget.
The member for Kingston and the Islands talked about the accusations that the Liberals were vote-buying and electioneering with this budget. It is hard not to think that is the case when we see money for everybody. Certainly, the Liberals will continue to give money away until they run out of the taxpayer money, and we are just about there.
I have looked at some of the promises in the budget. In particular, I want to talk about child care because that was flagged as a huge need. We have certainly heard that at the status of women committee which I chair. However, it is contingent on the provinces paying half. What if the provinces do not have the ability to pay? With the pandemic and the expenses they face, that may be the case. I asked the finance minister last night what the plan was if provinces could not afford to pay and she was not able to articulate a plan. It is very concerning when the person who is supposed to be in charge of the financial plan cannot say what it is.
We need to ensure that there is something to address the child care need because women have left the workforce and many of them will not return because they are unable to get child care.
In terms of some of the other things, this was put forward as being a growth budget. Again, last night when we looked at the estimates, I asked the finance minister about the plans for growth in the oil and gas sector and if she could point to measures that would achieve that. There was really nothing in the budget for that. It is the same for the natural resources sector. That is about 17% of our GDP. Again, there was really a blank space where there should have been some kind of a plan to grow that sector. This sector could really bring in revenue that would then pay for a lot of the social programs we are wanting.
I asked the same question about agriculture and where in the budget were the plans to spur growth in the agriculture sector. Again, there was no answer.
Therefore, this is not a growth budget. The only thing growing in this budget is the debt, and that is not what we need.
We really need to start to create jobs and get people back to work: the million jobs that were lost in the pandemic and those that will continue to be lost. We need to find help for the sectors that are struggling, and the tourism sector is well recognized as one that is struggling.
The government picked its favourite, Air Canada, and did something there, but nothing for WestJet, nothing for Air Transat and nothing for the other carriers. At the same time, the $1 billion for fairs and festivals is woefully inadequate for one of the hardest-hit sectors, which employs many people in the country. The plan needs to be realistic, and we need to appreciate that it could be a two-year recovery for the people in that sector.
At the same time, high-speed Internet is known to be a need across the country. In fact, it is essential to do business today. There is $1 billion in this budget for high-speed Internet, but I would point out that in the last few years $1.5 billion has been spent and that is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed. This is something that the government is saying it wants to accelerate.
Again, in terms of the priorities of the spending, there are some things that I think we need to stop spending on and other things that we need to divert to and accelerate, like high-speed Internet.
I was happy to see long-term care being addressed, and certainly that is important. In the area of seniors, the increases to OAS that we have long been calling for are appreciated, for those over 75 years of age. We have seen that during this pandemic the government did two carbon tax increases, and the cost of everything is going up: food, groceries, etc. Seniors are on a fixed income in many cases and are very hard pressed. While the government is busy spending, why only the 75-plus? What about the people between 65 and 75? I should point out to the Liberals that those people do vote, so that could be a consideration for them.
The other thing I see here is a top-up for low-wage earners. To me, that looks like a basic guaranteed income that just was not called a basic guaranteed income.
Of course, in this long budget bill, the omnibus budget bill that the government always promised it would never do, the government has decided to sneak in something about the Elections Act, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the budget. What happened was that, in the last Parliament, Bill C-76, a bill to change the Elections Act, tried to introduce measures to make it an offence to say false things about a candidate or a public figure, but the court struck that down as being a violation of people's freedom of speech.
Instead of challenging the court's decision or respecting the court's decision, the government has decided to take the sneaky approach and stick it in a 720-page budget bill, and put the provision in there that this would take effect on any election that occurs within six months of the coming into force of this budget. Well, that certainly sounds like the Liberals are intending to have an election in the next six months, does it not? This is just more evidence that the Liberals are desperate to have an election and that they do not keep their promises, because this is an omnibus budget bill.
At the end of the day, when we look at the measures in the budget, what did we get for it? I have just a few questions that remain.
First of all, I do not see the plan to exit the pandemic. We thought maybe the vaccines would be it, even though that has been badly bungled. Now we are saying, “Well, you know what, even if you get the vaccine you might still be able to transmit COVID and might still be able to get it, so you are not going to get your freedoms back there.” I really do not have a lot of confidence that the government is going to give back Canadians' freedoms, and if it does, that it would restore the economy. Because there is no growth plan in this budget and there are no adequate sector supports defined, there may be nothing left to reopen to, if the government does not address this. The government has to come up with a plan to address the unsustainable debt. We cannot continue to operate in this way.
Finally, the government needs to stop the war on freedom of speech of Canadians in this country.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-05-26 22:11 [p.7440]
Madam Chair, that was a great answer for the child care question, not.
Let us move along, then. One of the files that I have has to do with the election. I noticed there was a section 91 change. This was something that came before the courts. Members will remember that in the previous session the government brought forward legislation to make it an offence to say false things about a candidate or public member, and the courts ruled that a violation of freedom of speech. Instead of respecting the courts' decision, now it has been put into a budget bill.
I did not see a line item that specifically had to do with that. Was it just that it was put into an omnibus bill with a phrase that says it applies to an election in the next six months, which I assume means the government intends to call an election in the next six months, or is there money in the estimates that I missed?
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chrystia Freeland Profile
2021-05-26 22:12 [p.7440]
Madam Chair, there is just so much good stuff in the budget, and I do want to touch on all the issues that the member opposite is raising.
She talked about early learning and child care, and I am delighted she raised that issue. This is one of the key investments this budget proposes. This will drive long-term growth for the Canadian economy and provide a huge amount of relief to Canadian families.
The member asked about the role of provinces and territories. Of course, this needs to be a shared effort. We are already working with provinces and territories on this. I have to say that I believe there is going to be real enthusiasm, because everyone understands this is what Canada needs for jobs and growth.
View John Nater Profile
View John Nater Profile
2021-05-25 16:18 [p.7335]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join the debate this afternoon on Bill C-30, which is the government's first budget implementation act from this year's budget.
When I approach legislation that comes before the House of Commons, my first priority is always to look to see how this impacts people, families, communities and the businesses located within my riding of Perth—Wellington. What I also look for when I review these pieces of legislation is what might be missing, what important aspects might be missing from legislation and how that would impact the people of Perth—Wellington and by extension, people of the region and of the country.
There is no question that COVID-19 has had a significant and ongoing impact on our communities, on individuals, on their health and on their lives. Sadly, more than 25,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, countless others have fallen sick and some are continuing to experience the long-term health impacts of COVID-19.
From an economic standpoint, the ongoing lockdowns have created challenges for businesses. They have created stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Many Canadians are feeling isolated because of this ongoing challenge. Coast to coast to coast businesses have had to shut down, have had to lay off their employees and, in some cases, have gone out of business altogether.
A country without a strong and vibrant small business sector is not really much of a country at all. We rely on small businesses as the lifeblood of our communities and the employer of so many Canadians.
As the official opposition, there is a duty on our part to not only review legislation, but many times to encourage and promote improvements. We have done this countless times throughout this pandemic.
I reflect back to early in the pandemic when our opposition members criticized but also encouraged the government to come to the table with a more generous wage subsidy. When the government initially announced 10%, it was us as the opposition who encouraged Liberals to come to the table with a more meaningful option.
The same goes for the back-to-work bonus that we proposed throughout the summer, encouraging that incentive that when jobs came available, people were able to take them without losing their entire CERB payments.
Unfortunately, though, when it comes to this budget and this budget implementation act, it looks more like a pre-election plan rather than a meaningful plan forward for recovery.
I draw the House's attention to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's May 5 report in which he writes:
The Government did not make a clear link between the measures in Budget 2021 and its $70-to-$100 billion stimulus plan announced in the Fall Economic Statement. Rather, Budget 2021 combines $36.8 billion in additional COVID-19 spending along with other new spending...
Once again, we see the Liberal government using the guise of COVID-19 for other non-related funding and spending.
This week is Tourism Week and the riding of Perth—Wellington is certainly proud to host so many amazing tourism attractions, some that I highlighted earlier today in Statements by Members. I think of the Stratford Festival, the Stratford Summer Music, SpringWorks, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and, of course, Drayton Entertainment.
You will know Drayton Entertainment, Mr. Speaker, because one of the theatres is also located in your riding. Originally, the first theatre, the Drayton Festival Theatre, was in Drayton and is now in the township of Mapleton. Drayton Entertainment is one of those amazing theatres with an amazing offering each year across its seven theatres.
One unique thing about Drayton Entertainment is that it has not in the past received operational funding from the government. Instead, it has been self-sufficient, and relied on donors' funds and box office revenues to make its impact in the community. Unfortunately, this success has also hindered it throughout this COVID-19 pandemic. Last spring, when the government announced the emergency support fund for cultural, heritage and sport organizations, organizations like Drayton Entertainment were not eligible because it had not received past funding through the Canada Council for the Arts.
I raised this issue in the House early in the pandemic in the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sadly, that issue has not yet been addressed.
Going forward in this budget, we saw another commitment to the recovery fund for arts, culture and sports sectors. This might be a positive sign, but I worry, and I know that many arts and cultural organizations worry, that the same criteria will once again be used for this funding and thereby wonderful artistic and cultural organizations, such as Drayton Entertainment, will be unable to access these important funds. I will call on the government very clearly to ensure that this funding envelope is directed to all arts and cultural organizations as they look for recovery.
Another concern that we have had with the government spending on COVID-19 relief is the impact on new businesses. I hear from far too many constituents in my riding who signed a lease just before the pandemic hit, or who took over a business just before the pandemic hit or the week the pandemic hit. I heard of one constituent who literally signed their lease on March 13, 2020, and because of the pandemic's impact on their business, they have never been able to really get off the ground. Since day one, the government relief packages have not addressed new businesses. Not only did these business owners have the misfortune of starting their businesses during a worldwide global pandemic, they are also fighting with their own government to get the support they are in dire need of.
We called on this before. We have raised this in question period. We have raised this in debate. We have raised this at committees. I am imploring government members to please ensure that, going forward, government support programs for businesses are targeted and are able to be accessed by new business owners who only had the misfortune of starting during a global pandemic.
I want to talk a little about division 37 of the budget implementation act. Those Canadians paying attention may find it strange that within an omnibus budget implementation act the government also proposes to amend the Canada Elections Act. Colleagues may know that within the corridors of this very building, many are referring to division 37 as the John Nater vindication act, because it fixes the clause that I made an amendment on in the Procedures and House Affairs Committee during the previous Parliament. I was adding back the word “knowingly” in the rule about publishing false statements that affect election results.
Sadly, the government did not adopt that small but meaningful amendment. What happened? The government was taken to court, where the court ruled that this aspect of the Canada Elections Act was unconstitutional. Instead of relying on the advice of the official opposition in the previous Parliament, the government instead went with its misinformed approach. The result was a finding that it was unconstitutional. In a scathing decision, Justice Davies wrote about the advice that came from the Privy Council Office which is, in fact, the Prime Minister's own department. Justice Davies wrote, “More importantly, the advice given to the standing committee by Mr. Morin,” a senior policy adviser, “that the inclusion of the word knowingly in section 91.1 was unnecessary, redundant and confusing was, for several reasons, incorrect and potentially misleading.” At paragraph 58 he went on to state, “To the extent that Mr. Morin testified about the import of removing knowingly from section 91.1, his comments were inaccurate and cannot be taken as reflecting Parliament's true intention.”
In the other place, Senator Batters tried to take the president of the privy council to task on this matter, but he refused to take responsibility and he refused to hold his own department accountable for the misinformation that its public servants provided and that resulted in an unconstitutional finding by the courts.
I want to say this very clearly. I will not be supporting this budget implementation act because it does not address the meaningful concerns of people in Perth—Wellington, who are just trying to get ahead.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2021-05-13 15:17 [p.7197]
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity today to discuss this opposition motion that was introduced by the member for La Prairie. It is a very important discussion to be having, and I have been listening closely to what members from all sides of the House have had to say about this.
I will admit I am perplexed, as I mentioned in a few different interventions today. Despite the fact that I am squarely in the camp of those who do not want to have an election during a pandemic, I am concerned about the manner in which this motion is being brought forward by the Bloc Québécois. Namely, only two days ago during question period, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, said in response to a question from the Prime Minister that he was not afraid of an election and to bring it on.
The Conservatives and the Bloc seem to be startled by the concept that we would like to be prepared in the event of an election, one that could easily be triggered by the opposition. They seem to be confused by that, yet we have the leader of the Bloc Québécois saying to bring it on. This is what he actually said during question period. When the leader of the Bloc Québécois, a party that quite often is put in the position of being the party that decides between going to an election and not, makes comments like that it gives a great need to be properly prepared and bring forward legislation as is being brought forward in Bill C-19.
I also find it very interesting that the Bloc Québécois has talked about consensus when talking about Bill C-19. There is a need to ensure we have consensus when changing our election laws in this country. Bloc members have mentioned it many times today, but this is extremely hypocritical.
Something else that relies tremendously on consensus in the House is changing our Standing Orders. For those who do not know, when we change the Standing Orders, the rules that govern how we debate in the House, how we conduct ourselves and how we follow procedures, they are usually changed with consensus. Only a year ago, the Bloc Québécois teamed up with the Conservatives, the NDP, the Green members and probably the independents at the time to change the Standing Orders and change the number of opposition days given.
Bloc members come in here and say that we need consensus for Bill C-19 and that there absolutely must be consensus among all parties. However, their actions a year ago when it came to changing the Standing Orders indicated that consensus was not needed because they had a majority. The rules could just be changed with their majority. I find it extremely hypocritical when the Bloc comes in here and starts preaching about consensus.
Of course the response to that suggestion, as I heard before, is that the rules were only being changed temporarily to add those three days. They were not being changed indefinitely. Guess what? Bill C-19 is just a temporary bill. It would temporarily be putting some temporary rules in place in the event that an election happens to get called.
The Bloc really needs to stand up. Somebody needs to stand up and explain to me what the difference is between consensus on Bill C-19 and consensus on Standing Orders. From my position, the only difference is the Bloc's opinion on the matter and its desire on the outcome. We need very important measures in place during a minority Parliament in the event that an election happens to be called, and people change their minds all the time.
The Conservatives right now are saying that they do not want an election, but I sat in the House for five years when the Conservatives said that they did not want carbon pricing. Guess what? They changed their minds on that. Who is to say that they will not change their minds on an election? Maybe, in the event that the Conservatives suddenly say they have changed their minds, as they did on carbon pricing, and that they want an election now, we should have some measures in place on how our Chief Electoral Officer should run an election. That is all that Bill C-19 would do.
Members have been saying it is a permanent change to our election process. I have heard Conservative after Conservative say that we are changing the way that Canadians vote and other misleading information, such as that we could count the ballots until the day after the election, which is totally false. One small exception built into the legislation talks about if an election happens on a holiday Monday when mail is not delivered, then there should be a consideration to count those ballots on the Tuesday morning because they would not have been delivered on the Monday. However, the Conservatives talk about a massive shift in the way that we run elections and count ballots, and about counting ballots after election day.
Think of the possibilities of that happening. There are only so many holiday Mondays during the year, and if it happened it would only be because the mail was not delivered. However, there is a deeper problem to this. When people start making comments like that, when they start talking about counting ballots afterwards, it starts to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of Canadians as it relates to the integrity of their elections. Did we see that anywhere else recently? I think we did. Not that long ago, our neighbours to the south had a leader who sowed the seeds of doubt for months. I think all members of the House would do very well to be very careful when it comes to sowing the seeds of doubt about our electoral process.
Members need to be up front. If they have a problem with the fact that under certain circumstances ballots might have to be counted on a Tuesday, if the Monday was a holiday, they should at least identify that is the case. They should not outright say that all ballots will be counted after. They could then take it to committee and see if the committee could look at how to fine-tune that, but they should not intentionally sow the seeds of doubt in Canadians. I will say I am skeptical on this, because when PROC was studying this in the spring I was on the committee and indeed, Conservative members at the time were sowing the seeds of doubt. I would refer members to David Akin's reporting from back at that time, where he specifically said as he was watching the committee meeting that Conservatives were sowing seeds of doubt about the validity of mail-in ballots.
Bill C-19 is really about temporary measures. It is about putting measures in place just in case. I have also heard numerous members in the House talk about the Liberals being the only ones talking about an election. The member for Calgary Nose Hill said that. I encourage anyone to go on to the Twitter and Facebook feeds of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, and tell me who keeps talking about an election. The Conservatives shared a tweet yesterday. As if there was nothing else to get political gain from, they shared a tweet of a meme that had two pictures in it. The top picture was a bunch of people having fun and dancing in the sun. Above it, it said a one-dose summer.
The picture below that was of a middle-aged man with an oxygen mask on his face, lying in a hospital bed. The caption above that said “Trudeau's summer”. I am referencing it. I am quoting it. I maybe should not have said that. I am happy to be corrected.
However, that is what it said. My point is, who is looking for an election right now? Who is trying to gain political points right now? Go no further than the social media feeds of the two political parties, and we will see who is talking about an election.
We have the Conservative Party blasting out these tweets that are politically motivated. We have the Bloc Québécois whose leader said in the House, two days ago during question period, “bring it on,” in reference to an election, and then opposition members are standing here trying to wrap their heads around why it is we want to be prepared with Bill C-19. It really should not be a mystery to anybody.
If that does not convince Canadians, how about the fact that on 14 occasions, Conservatives and Bloc members have voted non-confidence in the government? It happened on March 8, with Bill C-14; on March 25, with a concurrence motion to pass supplementary estimates; on March 25, with Bill C-26 at second reading, report stage and third reading; on March 25, with concurrence on the interim supply; on March 25, with Bill C-27, which was more interim supply. All of these were confidence votes. On April 15, there was the fall economic statement, Bill C-14; on April 21, there was the budget motion; on April 22, the budget motion amendment; on April 26, another budget motion; on April 30, there was the motion to introduce the budget implementation act. Time after time, opposition members are voting against the government and showing they do not have confidence.
I will hand it to the member for Elmwood—Transcona, who said earlier in his intervention that it was necessary for somebody to work with the government. I will hand it to the NDP: It works with the government from time to time. We used to see that in the beginning, a little, from the Bloc as well. We totally do not see that anymore. The NDP still does, to a certain degree.
I know I am getting towards the end of my time. I want to highlight one more thing with respect to the motion. If we look at the “second resolved clause” in this, it says:
In the opinion of the House, holding an election during a pandemic would be irresponsible, and that it is the responsibility of the government to make every effort to ensure that voters are not called to the polls as long as this pandemic continues.
I agree with this. Actually, I agree with the motion by and large. What I disagree with is that it is only the responsibility of the government. I believe that this is the responsibility of all of Parliament. The government certainly has its job to do in making sure that we can avoid an election to the best that we are humanly possible, but the opposition has a responsibility to do that as well. The opposition plays a key role here in a minority Parliament. It could very easily take down the government, as I have indicated numerous times throughout my speech. I think it is important that what is reflected in this motion is the fact that the opposition has to play a role in that too.
With that, I would like to move an amendment to this opposition motion presented by the member for La Prairie, and I hope it will garner the support of this House. It is seconded by the member for Kanata—Carleton.
I move that the motion be amended by adding, after the words “responsibility of the government”, the words “and opposition parties.”
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2021-05-13 15:44 [p.7201]
Madam Speaker, I rise today on this Bloc Québécois opposition day to speak to the important issue of elections during a pandemic.
The motion reads as follows:
(a) the House remind the government that a general election was held in October 2019 and sadly note that more than 1.3 million Canadians...have been infected with COVID-19 and that nearly 25,000 people have died as a result;
The critic for seniors adds here that seniors were the first victims of this pandemic, and that the government should not try to use them in a cheap election ploy by promising them a one-time cheque for $500 in August, just before its target period for launching the election during the pandemic. I will continue reading:
(b) in the opinion of the House, holding an election during a pandemic would be irresponsible, and that it is the responsibility of the government to make every effort to ensure that voters are not called to the polls as long as this pandemic continues.
This afternoon, I will address this issue from three perspectives. First, I will explain the theme we chose for our opposition day, then I will put on my former journalism student's hat, and finally, I will put on my former political science student and confirmed social democrat's hat.
To begin with, I would like to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois does agree with one thing. If there is an election during the pandemic, adjustments will have to be made to ensure that polling takes place in compliance with the public health rules issued by Quebec and the provinces. That is the question though: Should there be an election?
We moved this motion today for several reasons. From a technical perspective, the bill is flawed and contains significant grey areas we have to discuss and debate. From a public health and ethics point of view, holding an election under the current circumstances is not responsible. Here is a specific example.
As the Bloc Québécois's critic for seniors, I am concerned. The bill provides for polling stations in residences for 16 days before voting day. Somehow or other, election workers would have to be there for 19 days. That is not necessary, and we would have liked to change that. Voters have a number of different ways to cast their ballot. If they cannot go to a polling station, they can always vote by mail, as usual.
In addition to the logistical issue, there is also the psychological issue around strangers being in these homes and constantly asking people to vote. We do not yet know exactly how it will unfold, but it is not hard to imagine.
Furthermore, as a former journalism student, I always pay attention to what commentators have to say. I will quote a few of them to show that this is not just a whim of the Bloc, as the other parties would have people believe with their rhetoric. Rather, our motion today is based on the concerns of the people of Shefford who wrote to me, as well as those of other Quebeckers and Canadians.
First, there was Mario Dumont on QUB radio. This is what he said on his show on May 10:
I remember that, at the National Assembly, the advisory committee of the chief electoral officer was meeting in camera because they did not want to have public grandstanding and bickering over the Quebec Election Act. They said that the parties had to agree first…
Invoking closure to pass new election rules for an election that is only a few weeks away is not a good thing…
This may be difficult to understand for the Liberals, who have a tendency to ignore the specifics relating to Quebec and its National Assembly.
Furthermore, on the May 10 episode of La joute, Emmanuelle Latraverse said that wanting to amend a law without going through Parliament was against the rules of our electoral system, which encourages seeking consensus.
The irony is that the Liberal Party has put a gag order on a bill to amend the elections legislation, but the Liberals made a big fuss when the Harper government tried to pull the same stunt. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Liberals have only themselves to blame for the timing of this legislation. I could name several others who have spoken out in response to what they have heard on the ground.
Still in the media world, in order to gauge public opinion, Ipsos conducted a poll for Global News on April 18, 2021, so relatively recently, and found that 57% of voters believed that an election during a pandemic would not be fair. A Leger poll on April 16, 2021, found that only 14% of Canadians wanted an election this spring, 29% this fall and 43% later. Liberal voters are even more hesitant. Only 6% want a spring election and 26% want a fall election. Sixty percent want it to be later. That is a huge number.
Finally, as a former student of politics, I am very worried. It is well known that every crisis carries two main risks. One is the federal government interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, and the second is austerity for the recovery. This could be disastrous, especially for our health care system.
I would add to that the serious risk of eroding our democratic systems. That is why it is inconceivable that a government is imposing time allocation in Parliament on a bill meant to frame the democratic rights of the people.
Let us not forget the context for introducing Bill C-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, there have been questions about holding an election in this particular context given the minority status of the current government. Using the current provisions of the legislation, general elections were held in New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan and two federal by-elections were held in Ontario.
Then there is the example of the provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador. We all know what happened there. That election illustrated the risks of holding an election during a pandemic. The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases forced the cancellation of a polling day and the shift to mail-in voting.
In 2019, 61% of Newfoundlanders voted and that rate fell to not quite 51% in the last election, which tarnishes the legitimacy of a government. We need to do what we can to have the highest voter turnout possible. That is what should happen. In a federal election this type of scenario could have a considerable impact on voter turnout.
Let us now continue with our timeline. On October 5, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada tabled a special report with his recommendations for holding an election during a pandemic. On December 8, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs released a report entitled “Interim Report: Protecting Public Health and Democracy During a Possible Pandemic Election”. The Bloc Québécois issued a supplementary opinion, proof of its usual willingness to collaborate.
The government ignored the work of the committee and introduced its bill to amend the Canada Elections Act in response to COVID-19 on December 10, 2020. For his part, the Chief Electoral Officer considered a range of administrative measures to adapt to operations during a pandemic.
I am going to discuss the impact of COVID-19. Since Bill C-19 was introduced five months ago, we have had only four hours to debate it. Finally, last Friday, the Leader of the Government in the house of Commons indicated that he intended to move a time allocation motion, or closure, with respect to Bill C-19 on the following Monday, May 10, 2021.
After a 45-minute debate on the gag order, there was a vote. The Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party voted against the gag order but in favour of sending the bill to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. This was followed by three hours and 15 minutes of debate, primarily on the gag order. The Liberals let this bill languish and now they are rushing it through at the end of the session, as we approach the summer break and a drop in their polling numbers.
Furthermore, running a Canada-wide mail-in vote presents some significant logistical challenges and could prevent some people from exercising their right to vote.
In conclusion, the Liberals' gag order on C-19 shows that they plan to call an election during the pandemic. That is how pundits are interpreting this unnecessary legislative manoeuvre. The Liberals are telling us that their political agenda comes before getting everyone vaccinated, helping our economy recover and lifting the health measures and stay-at-home orders. This will not all be wrapped up with a wave of a magic wand at the end of the summer.
I repeat, nobody wants an election. The Bloc Québécois wants all the party leaders to meet, reach a consensus and find common ground. Yes, the Bloc Québécois is a party of ideas.
In our democratic system, we are well within our rights to make demands of the government. The government's job is to listen to opposition proposals to make Parliament work.
We wanted health transfers to go up to 35% of total health spending. That is what Quebec and the provinces called for during the health crisis. We wanted an extra $100 per month for seniors 65 and up. Our asks are perfectly legitimate and absolutely essential. The government chose not to take them into account in its budget, so it is responsible for the fact that we voted against that budget.
We have always said that if it is good for Quebec, we will vote for it, but if it is not good for Quebec or if it is against our interests, we will vote against it. We made our intentions clear well in advance.
If the government had been sincere, it would not have hidden everything or tried any excuse to trigger elections to gain a majority. It would have listened to us and would not have settled for a budget that announced a host of electoral promises. In fact, many of the measures it announced will not be rolled out until 2022, after the next election. Is that a coincidence?
My leader, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, reached out to the government and suggested organizing a private meeting, inviting anyone the government chose. They could have met in an office and tried to reach a consensus, without resorting to closure—
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