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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-09-24 10:04 [p.25]
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Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 67 petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.
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View Carla Qualtrough Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Carla Qualtrough Profile
2020-09-24 10:05 [p.25]
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moved for leave to introduce Bill C-2, An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19.
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2020-09-24 10:05 [p.25]
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Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today in the House to pay tribute to the late Right Hon. John Turner, Canada's 17th prime minister.
I knew John my whole life, and he believed fiercely in the values that make us who we are as Canadians, values like treating everyone with dignity and respect and always being willing to stand up for what is just and right. Today we remember him as a House of Commons man, a strong advocate for equality and a champion of our democracy.
We live in an extraordinary country, thanks in part to people like John Turner. John learned to love democracy very early in life. From his earliest years, his mother taught him the importance of public service.
Throughout his career, first as a lawyer and later as a politician, he was always the epitome of elegance and humility. John treated every person with dignity and respect. No matter how busy he was, he never forgot anyone's birthday.
As a member of Parliament, John had the privilege of serving three different provinces. Thanks to his mastery of the law and the democratic process, he was able to overhaul the Criminal Code. His work for the Department of Justice paved the way for legal aid in Canada, ensuring that every person could defend their rights, regardless of their economic or cultural background. These changes transformed the lives of millions of Canadians.
It was obvious to anyone who spoke with John how much he loved Canada. John always talked about his country with immense hope and optimism. For him, Canada was a place where people helped and respected one another, a place where equality was a way of life.
It was just last year that John was on the Hill to celebrate his 90th birthday with people from across the political spectrum, and I remember that he was still passionate about strengthening our democratic institutions. He used to say that “Democracy doesn't happen by accident.” He was right.
John knew that keeping our democracy strong and free meant we needed to put in the hard work to keep it that way. He believed in the incredible power of young people to get involved in our democratic process and encouraged them to do that wherever he could. John knew that Canadians, regardless of age or background, formed the heart of our country and that our future depended on all of us working together for everyone.
Today, as we mourn his loss and reflect on his legacy, let us all remember our ability to give back to our own communities.
To John's wife, Geills, and their children Elizabeth, Michael, David and Andrew, to his grandchildren, his sister Brenda Norris and brother-in-law David Kilgour, your husband, loving father and brother was a great Canadian. We are all so lucky you shared him with us.
I invite my fellow Canadians to join us in signing the virtual book of condolences, and together, let us continue to work to defend and strengthen our democracy. As John once said, let us not take this country for granted.
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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-09-24 10:10 [p.26]
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Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition and the Conservative Party of Canada, I have the honour to pay tribute to former prime minister the Right Hon. John Turner.
Some people leave their mark on this place in a way that outlasts them by decades. To walk the halls and see their portraits is to be reminded daily that we stand where they stood.
The tributes that have poured out for Mr. John Turner in the last week could easily lead one to believe that the very existence of the modern Liberal Party is his greatest legacy. So many veterans of the Martin and Chrétien campaigns of the 1990s and early 2000s took to television, to social media, and to local radio and newspapers this week to pay tribute to the man they give credit for getting them involved in politics.
Their stories had one common theme. They spoke to a plain truth that John Turner never forgot and that so many who held the same lofty offices as his have never known. John Turner cared about individual Canadians, and not just those he encountered in the halls of power, where he spent more than 20 years as attorney general, finance minister, prime minister and leader of the opposition. Stories this week have been set in airplanes, taverns, church basements and coffee shops, stories of a man who took the extra time to know Canadians' stories and remember their names.
We have a tendency in moments like this to turn men into monuments, and with a prime minister who was an Olympic athlete and a Rhodes Scholar, that would be very easy to do. However, to Canadians who shared their stories this week of a man who remembered their names years after first meeting them, of a politician who inspired them to get off the couch, of an adversary without a shred of malice in his heart, the John Turner who comes through is one who always had more interest in being a person than he ever had in being a portrait.
I will relate a story. It is very interesting, and when I first heard it I questioned whether it was actually true. When I tell the story, I think those who have not heard it will share in my awe.
As the story goes, the young Liberal MP John Turner and his wife were vacationing in Barbados. While on the beach one morning, Mr. Turner's wife noticed a man out for a swim who appeared to be in trouble. The surf was rough that day. There was a strong undertow and the elderly man was not a strong swimmer. Mr. Turner's wife anxiously alerted her husband to the situation. Without hesitation, the young MP, who was a competitive swimmer in his university days, plunged into the surf. Grasping the man in a life-saving hold, he struggled against the undertow and finally made it back to shore.
Once on the beach, Mr. Turner set out to give the man mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When the resuscitated gentleman came to his senses, who was the person Mr. Turner had saved? It was none other than the Progressive Conservative leader, former prime minister and then leader of the opposition John Diefenbaker. Is that not unbelievable? It is one thing to run into a colleague on a holiday, especially an opposition colleague, but it is another thing to save that individual's life. What an amazing and wonderful story.
They say that the greatest compliments are those that come from our staunchest adversaries, and in spite of being one of his fiercest adversaries, former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney had this to say about Mr. Turner:
The fact that he was a gentleman set him apart.... He was leader of the opposition...and while we had many battles...there was no malice in the man. He was a man of principle, so he brought a great sense of dignity both to himself and to the various jobs he held.
He always conducted himself with dignity and with elegance, so I think he's going to be remembered, of course, as a prime minister, but also as a parliamentarian, who contributed a great deal to Canada in the course of a highly successful life.
As I say, he brought to politics a very, very good mind and a vision for Canada. He brought all those values, including integrity and dignity, to his job. He symbolized, I thought, much of what was best about Canada.
What wonderful words from former prime minister Brian Mulroney about the Right. Hon. John Turner.
In closing, history has taught us that we always knew where John Turner stood. It did not matter if it was the prime minister he served, the Canadian people he faced or the party that he dedicated his life to. He did the hard job for every prime minister he served, and from what I have heard, when he disagreed with them they knew it. In fact, John Turner was the last finance minister to have resigned from cabinet on principle. Mr. Turner had all the qualities one would want in a Canadian statesman, even when people disagreed with him, and sometimes especially when people disagreed with him.
Our public life is richer because of the contributions the Right Hon. John Turner made. May he rest in peace.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
2020-09-24 10:15 [p.26]
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Mr. Speaker, John Napier Turner was born in England in 1929. He emigrated to Canada with his mother in 1932 after his father died.
A true athlete, he qualified for the 1948 Olympics in London but was unable to compete because of a knee injury. Although sprinting was his speciality, his political career was more like a marathon.
John Turner entered politics for the first time in 1962, when he was elected to represent the Liberal Party of Canada in the riding of Saint-Laurent—Saint-Georges, on the Island of Montreal. Six years later, in 1968, this ambitious man ran to succeed Lester B. Pearson as the leader of the Liberal Party. However, it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau who became the Liberal leader and then prime minister.
As the justice minister under that government, John Turner decriminalized abortion and homosexuality. These changes to the Criminal code were a major step forward for the rights of women and the LGBT community. It was also in his capacity as justice minister that Mr. Turner applied the controversial War Measures Act during the October 1970 crisis. In 1972, he became finance minister, a position he held for three years.
Members will recall that John Turner was not happy about Quebec not being a party to the constitutional agreement of 1982. While his Liberal Party colleagues were adamantly opposed to recognizing Quebec's distinct character, John Turner was in favour of the Meech Lake accord. That is why Jean Chrétien, his long-time political rival, accused him of not standing up to Quebec.
In 1984 John Turner finally achieved his dream, replacing Pierre Elliott Trudeau as the leader of the Liberal Party and becoming Prime Minister. Although his time as Prime Minister was short, lasting only 79 days, John Turner loyally remained the leader of the official opposition until 1990 and finally retired from politics in 1993.
His important contribution to politics deserves recognition.
On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends mourning his loss today.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Peter Julian Profile
2020-09-24 10:18 [p.27]
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Mr. Speaker, today we are paying tribute to John Napier Turner, who made major contributions to politics in Canada.
With the passing of John Turner we mourn a prime minister of Canada and a man who made incredible contributions to public life as a minister of finance, a minister of justice, and briefly as a prime minister and as the leader of the opposition in his decades of public life.
As the House is well aware, John Turner was larger than life outside of politics as well. He was a Rhodes scholar, a talented athlete and a skilled lawyer.
Ed Broadbent, a former leader of the NDP, who served with him in Parliament, said of him that of all the party leaders he had known, John Turner had the deepest respect for Parliament and for its democratic rules and procedures.
In the end, though, he never did take a seat in Parliament as a prime minister, 11 seats down from your seat, Mr. Speaker.
We can talk about his contributions. We can certainly talk about his background. However, I would like to speak about his being an inspiration to so many Canadians. I know this because of my own family history. My father, who is now 98 and still married to my mother, who is 97—we have good genes in New Westminster—was a long-time school administrator and teacher, and someone who won a high school basketball championship in British Columbia and was a school board trustee in New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby. He had never run for higher office, but when John Turner became the leader of the Liberal Party, he was inspired and sought and won the Liberal nomination. He ran for the Liberals in that riding, 20 years before I ran for the NDP. Though that election did not turn out as either my father or John Turner had planned, the reality is that John Turner inspired hundreds of candidates across the country and millions of Canadians in the elections of 1984 and 1988. If members were to visit my parents' home in New Westminister, B.C., they would see many pictures of John Turner with my father.
That inspiration John Turner developed and provoked in so many Canadians is something that lives today. His deep respect for democracy was something I think all Canadians admire. The reality is that our democracy is as good and as strong as the calibre of the representatives Canadians choose for themselves.
John Turner was an exemplary public servant and will be greatly missed.
The NDP caucus and our leader offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of John Napier Turner.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-09-24 10:21 [p.27]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like the unanimous consent of the House to also offer condolences on behalf of the Green Party.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-09-24 10:21 [p.27]
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Do we have unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-09-24 10:21 [p.27]
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I also want to thank all of my colleagues.
It is a great honour for me to address the chamber to pay tribute to my friend, John Turner.
I, obviously, am from a different generation, and in case anyone thinks I have changed sides, I am wearing red today in honour of John Turner. I do not know how I became so lucky to be considered worthy to be one of the few opposition MPs invited to what I think will go down in history as an extraordinary event, his 90th birthday party on June 10 last year.
John Turner did not approach reflections on his 90th birthday as someone who was out of it, who was not paying attention, who was just reflecting on the past, but gave a speech that was a clarion call to democracy. To his last days, he was engaged in the life of this country. He loved Canada so passionately, and his contributions to this country must not be underestimated. When he was Minister of Justice, he gave us legal aid. He said that everyone had to have access to the law, that they had to have access to a defence. He also took the first step on the very long road to LGBTQ rights by ending the criminality of same-sex relations in this country through a change to the Criminal Code.
He did much, and he was remembered and celebrated at that birthday party, as we have now heard, by Brian Mulroney by video and other living prime ministers who were present, including the Right Hon. Joe Clark, who gave a spectacular address, the Right Hon. Paul Martin and the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien. It was an extraordinary evening.
I want to give my condolences to Geills; Elizabeth; granddaughter, Fiona, and to my dear friends, Laura and David Kilgour, family members of someone who exemplifies what it means to be a great Canadian. John Turner is the exemplar of what that looks like: John Turner was a great Canadian.
Rather than spending anymore time saying things about him that I have learned, I have to say that he fought so hard against the creation of the PMO as a big-time institution. He was there, working for our current prime minister's father. Indeed, Tom Axworthy famously relates how when he was working for Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Tom was sent with a message from John Turner, Minister of Finance. Turner said to him, “You just go back there and tell the boss that I don't need some junior G-man from PMO coming around here to tell me what to do.” Those were the days. It has taken a while.
I want to end what I am saying by quoting what John Turner told us on his birthday. It goes to the essence of what he meant by saying that democracy does not happen by accident, as the Prime Minister has mentioned. He said that often:
I don't like the use of the term “backbencher” when describing MPs. It is the MP who holds a prominent position in the House of Commons. My thinking on this is honed from the Magna Carta—one of the greatest pieces of democracy ever. Written in 1215, it laid out the essence of democracy in Great Britain and became the template of democracy worldwide.
Then, reflecting on the Magna Carta and the importance of the people voting, and the people who are elected occupying the position of government, he said:
It's so different today, where Prime Ministers
—and here I want to make sure that is plural, so that no one thinks they are being singled out—
act in a manner that I can only describe as unilateral.
The most important part of democracy in my view is that “people govern people”. We have to hold that principle sacred...where debate and opinion of people matter.
...democracy does not happen by accident.
I thank John Turner for his constant reminder that we have to contribute to our society and give back. He lived under principles of faith as a devote Catholic. He understood that what we do to each other, we can expect to be done unto us, and we have an obligation to the entire family of humanity.
Eternal rest grant unto him. Light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-09-24 10:26 [p.28]
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I am grateful that we are able to come together today to pay our respects to our colleague as members of the parliamentary family. During and even beyond his long political career, John Turner was a passionate defender of our parliamentary democracy.
Together let's commemorate the life of Canada's 17th prime minister.
I invite all hon. members to stand to observe a moment of silence.
[A moment of silence observed]
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View Kenny Chiu Profile
CPC (BC)
View Kenny Chiu Profile
2020-09-24 10:29 [p.28]
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Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition from Canadians concerned with the passing of the national security legislation in Hong Kong. It is their belief that the passing of this law is in gross violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the one country, two system framework. The petitioners call upon the government to impose appropriate sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.
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View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back. I am presenting two petitions today. The first is in support of Bill S-204, which was put forward in the Senate by Senator Salma Ataullahjan. The bill would make it a criminal offence for Canadians to go abroad to receive an organ for which there has not been consent, and it would also create a provision to make someone inadmissible to Canada if they had been involved in organ harvesting or trafficking. This is an important human rights bill. Efforts have been made to pass similar versions of this bill in this and the other place for over 10 years.
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View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, the second petition speaks to the government's priorities with respect to health care in January and February when it could have been focusing on improving seniors care and preparing for a response to the pandemic. The government's focus was instead on removing vital safeguards associated with the government's euthanasia regime. The petitioners raise concern about the government's plans previously in Bill C-7 to eliminate a 10-day reflection period and also reduce the number of witnesses required. The petitioners believe that these were important safeguards that need to be in place and question the government's priorities with respect to removing safeguards when there are so many other vital health care issues that we should be focused on.
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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2020-09-24 10:31 [p.29]
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Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions that I would like to table today. The first is signed by over 2,600 Canadians and calls on the government to extend paid maternity leave for a minimum of three months for mothers in Canada during the pandemic, and noting that many of them are not receiving adequate health care due to the redirection of these health resources as a result of COVID-19. As well, many are not able to get affordable, quality child care at this time. As such, the petitioners note that COVID-19 has significantly impacted their physical and mental health and call on the government to allow mothers who are currently on 12 months of maternity leave the option of switching to 18 months of maternity leave.
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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2020-09-24 10:33 [p.29]
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Mr. Speaker, the second petition has over 6,000 signatures. The petitioners call for action from the government for people who are struggling with family separation because of the delay in spousal sponsorship applications. People are desperate to reunite with their loved ones, yet the immigration process for spousal sponsorship has ground to a halt. They call on the government to create a special temporary resident visa for applicants, with reasonable eligibility criteria and conditions, and to allow spouses and their children from visa required countries to easily apply for the STRV online and to issue and deliver multi-entry STRVs electronically and expeditiously. We need to ensure that the capacity to process applications is increased and that we address the lengthy delays that exist. Prompt action is required.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-09-24 10:33 [p.29]
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Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to table a petition on behalf of residents from Cumberland and Courtney. They call on the government to declare the current opioid overdose and fentanyl poisoning crisis a national public health emergency under the Emergencies Act in order that the government can manage and resource this crisis with the aim of reducing and eliminating preventable deaths from poisoned fentanyl. We have lost over 147 residents in British Columbia in August alone. The government has not declared it a public health emergency despite the fact that over 15,000 Canadians have died since 2016. The petitioners want the government to reform current drug policy and decriminalize personal possession. Last, they want the government to create with urgency and immediacy a system to provide safe, unadulterated access to substances so that people who use substances experimentally, recreationally or chronically are not at imminent risk of overdose due to a contaminated source. These petitioners are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and cousins of people who have died and lost loved ones. The government needs to take action.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-09-24 10:35 [p.29]
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Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples to present the following petition. It relates to an aspect of the climate crisis and calls on the government the deal with how we send our money to developing countries and how that money should be allocated.
The petitioners recognize that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has clearly indicated that the impact of accelerated global warning has disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable. This is increasing inequities, particularly for women, in the developing world. Approximately a third of Canada's climate finance has been in investment projects for adaptation and is, very specifically, missing some opportunities to allocate money as grants instead of loans.
The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to commit at least 50% of Canada's public climate finance for developing countries to adaptation and at least 15% to projects that target gender equality as a primary objective.
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View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
View Paul Manly Profile
2020-09-24 10:36 [p.29]
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Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and privilege to stand today to present a petition by seniors advocates in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
COVID-19 has exposed the degradation of care to seniors and the instability of the workforce.
The petitioners are calling on the government to include long-term care in the public health system by creating national standards for care and staffing levels under the Canada Health Act and ensure accountability; eliminate profit-making by government-funded long-term care facilities, ensure funds are spent as allocated and ban subcontracting; standardize equitable living wages and benefits, and implement single-site employment for all staff; strengthen government oversight, and initiate strong penalties and clawbacks for facilities not complying with the regulations; and require independent family councils with protect rights.
I would like to thank Penny MacCourt in my riding. There are 2,500 signatures on this petition.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-09-24 10:37 [p.30]
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Before proceeding, I just want to remind all members that when presenting petitions we ask that they be as brief as possible and have a synopsis. We only have limited time, and we want to make sure that all members get to present their petitions.
I wish to inform the House that, because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 20 minutes today.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am rising today on a question of privilege concerning the Liberal government's disrespect of an order of the Standing Committee on Finance requiring the production of records related to the Prime Minister's half-billion-dollar WE scandal.
At its July 7 meeting, the finance committee adopted the following motion:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the Committee order that any contracts concluded with We Charity and Me to We, all briefing notes, memos and emails, including the contribution agreement between the government and the organization, from senior officials prepared for or sent to any Minister regarding the design and creation of the Canada Student Service Grant, as well as any written correspondence and records of other correspondence with We Charity and Me to We from March 2020 be provided to the Committee no later than August 8, 2020; that matters of Cabinet confidence and national security be excluded from the request; and that any redactions necessary, including to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents whose names and personal information may be included in the documents, as well as public servants who have been providing assistance on this matter, be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.
On or about August 8, the government provided the finance committee's clerk with about 5,600 pages of materials. These documents were subsequently released to committee members on August 18, mere minutes before the prorogation of Parliament. It is important to understand that these pages often included several copies of the same emails and, worse, many of the pages featured blacked-out, redacted, obscured and hidden content. It is those redactions that trouble me, and they should trouble every member of Parliament.
I will quote Speaker Milliken's highly publicized Afghan detainee documents ruling from April 27, 2010. This is on page 2042 of the debates. He said:
Before us are issues that question the very foundations upon which our parliamentary system is built. In a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and in fact an obligation.
The finance committee exercised its privilege and obligation to get to the bottom of this extraordinarily troubling WE scandal wherein the Prime Minister handed his friends $543.33 million in a contribution agreement to run a paid volunteer scheme, instead of trusting Canada's hard-working public servants to administer the CSSG.
The order I quoted, which passed, allowed for cabinet confidences and national security content to be excluded. All other vetting was to be done by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. Of course, a contract to a children's charity for a youth volunteering program would not involve national security, but it is simply a standard form for motions generally used at committees lately.
The government, however, contravened the committee's order, as is explained in the law clerk's own August 18 letter to the finance committee:
The letters accompanying the documents for each department stated that redactions had been made to protect Cabinet confidences in accordance with the motion adopted by FINA. In addition, the letters and documents indicate that the departments had also made redactions to protect personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act, to protect third party information and information on the vulnerability of their computer or communication systems, or methods employed to protect their systems. These latter grounds for exemption from disclosure are contained in the Access to Information Act.
Upon reception of the documents on August 9, 2020, you provided them to my Office so that we could make the necessary redactions to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as public services as contemplated by the production order. However, as mentioned above, the documents had already been redacted by the departments to protect personal information and on other grounds.
Here comes the kicker:
As my Office has not been given the opportunity to see the unredacted documents, we are not able to confirm whether those redactions are consistent with the order of Committee.
Further down the page, Mr. Dufresne adds the following:
As mentioned above, the department made certain redactions to the documents on grounds that were not contemplated in the order of the Committee.
A moment ago, I referred to the finance committee using a familiar form of motion. I should pause here to note that the entire pattern of document redactions is also familiar. On February 26, the health committee adopted a document production order seeking records concerning the Liberal government's preparations for the current pandemic. In response, the government provided significantly censored documents, covering up key details about the Liberals' failures to prepare Canada adequately against COVID-19. That episode required Mr. Dufresne to write a similar letter to the clerk of the health committee noting the government's open defiance of a parliamentary committee exercising its constitutional rights.
For a government that preaches transparency and openness by default, its track record of blocking out inconvenient facts speaks louder. However, one significant evolution since the health committee's experience is that here the government tried to deflect responsibility elsewhere for the redactions.
According to an article on August 27 on CBC News entitled, “Commons law clerk says government went too far in redacting WE Charity documents”:
Last week, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office told CBC News that the redactions were done by the parliamentary law clerk, who was following the committee's direction to remove documents covered by cabinet confidentiality and personal information about Canadian citizens.
The Prime Minister's Office was trying to deny its complicity in the cover-up concerning these documents. In fact, this seems to have been a talking point circulated among Liberals.
On the evening of August 19, I was part of a panel discussion on CBC's Power & Politics along with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He repeated the Prime Minister's Office's alternative facts and told viewers that night, “The motion included a proviso that redactions should be done as necessary to protect certain interests, including privacy interests, etc., and those should be done by House administration, including the Office of the Law Clerk. That is exactly what happened in this case. The motion was followed to the letter. Redactions were done not by the government and not by political staff but by House of Commons objective officials.”
The denials of the Prime Minister's Office have been exposed as bald-faced lies in the law clerk's letter. Those denials were also given voice by the parliamentary secretary, who had likely been unwittingly briefed and scripted by the PMO to believe that they were true.
It is my respectful submission, Mr. Speaker, that two separate grounds for a prima facie contempt of Parliament are made out in these facts.
First, as the law clerk and parliamentary counsel informed the committee's clerk on August 18, the government disrespected a lawful order of a committee of the House of Commons to produce documents. This is, for reasons I will argue, an appropriate case to come directly before the House.
Second, the Prime Minister's Office and the parliamentary secretary, in attempting to deflect criticism from the government's redaction of those documents in disobedience of a committee's order, made misrepresentations about the work of a table office of this House and risked damaging his reputation in the process.
Allow me to offer you, Mr. Speaker, some of the applicable precedents and procedural background to these issues.
As to the first ground, the breach of a committee order, the law clerk's own letter helpfully offers a succinct explanation of the situation. This is what it says:
We note that the House's and its committees' power to order the production of records is absolute and unfettered as it constitutes a constitutional parliamentary privilege that supersedes statutory obligations, such as the exemptions found in the Access to Information Act. The House and its committees are the appropriate authority to determine whether any reason for withholding the documents should be accepted or not. One such measure is the Committee's decision to have my Office make the necessary redactions to protect personal information and the public servants providing assistance in this matter.
Page 137 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, explains the source of this authority:
By virtue of the preamble and section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, Parliament has the ability to institute its own inquiries, to require the attendance of witnesses and to order the production of documents, rights which are fundamental to its proper functioning. These rights are as old as Parliament itself.
Bosc and Gagnon add, further down on that same page, that:
For the purposes of an inquiry, the committee may send for any papers that are relevant to its order of reference.
This right to order the production of documents is unlimited. At pages 984 to 986, Bosc and Gagnon elaborate that:
Public servants and Ministers may sometimes invoke their obligations under certain legislation to justify their position. Companies may be reluctant to release papers which could jeopardize their industrial security or infringe upon their legal obligations, particularly with regard to the protection of personal information. Others have cited solicitor-client privilege in refusing to allow access to legal papers or notices.
These types of situations have absolutely no bearing on the power of committees to order the production of papers and records. No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of that power rooted in House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect, or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of papers and records.
Tension between government and Parliament on the interaction between the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act on the one hand, with the document production orders on the other, is as old as the laws themselves.
Some books were not available from the Library of Parliament due to COVID limitations, so I am drawing from digital text.
For example, the first report of the former Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections from the third session of the 34th Parliament states, at page 9 of the Journals for May 29, 1991:
After careful consideration and consultation, the committee has concluded there is nothing in the Privacy Act to prevent the House of Commons from issuing an order for the production of unexpurgated versions of the two reports.... The House, in our opinion, has the the absolute power to issue an order requiring the solicitor General to provide the two reports in their entirety.
Disregarding a committee order is a very serious matter. Page 239 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, second edition, explains this:
Disobedience to rules or orders represents an affront to the dignity of the House, and accordingly the House could take action, not simply for satisfaction but to ensure that the House of Commons is held in the respect necessary for its authority to be vindicated. Without proper respect, the House of Commons could not function. Thus, disobedience may well be considered contempt.
In substituting its own judgment for the finance committee's or the law clerk's, the government has overstepped its authority and flouted the will of the finance committee.
Sir John Bourinot in his first edition of Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, wrote at page 281:
But it must be remembered that under all circumstances it is for the House to consider whether the reasons given for refusing the information are sufficient. The right of Parliament to obtain every possible information on public questions is undoubted, and the circumstances must be exceptional, and the reasons very cogent, when it cannot be at once laid before the Houses.
In the Afghan documents ruling, the chair articulated at page 2,044 an approach to raising those “reasons very cogent”, namely to make the case through the persuasion of debate and the offering of amendments to the motion under debate.
In the end the government does not have the final say for, as Speaker Milliken put it:
The House debated the matter and voted to adopt an Order for the production of documents despite the request of the Government.
In usurping the role assigned to the law clerk, the Liberal government's evasion of accountability represents a grave affront to the dignity and authority of the House of Commons.
Page 138 of Bosc and Gagnon speaks to the present situation stating, “If such an order is ignored, the committee has no means to enforce the order on its own. It may report the matter to the House and recommend that appropriate action be taken. It is then a decision of the House whether or not to issue an order for the production of papers.”
Obviously, the committee was unable to report its situation directly to the House because the Prime Minister shut down Parliament through prorogation quite literally within minutes of the documents becoming available. In fact, it has become perfectly plain for all to see the motivation for prorogation was to shut down committee investigations getting too close to the Prime Minister for his own comfort.
If the Speech from the Throne was about presenting a refreshing agenda reflecting the COVID pandemic, the Prime Minister simply could have prorogued Parliament the night before last, or yesterday morning for that matter. He did not need to shut down Parliament on August 18. The only thing that accomplished was killing committee investigations cold in their tracks.
This brings me to page 152 and 153 of Bosc and Gagnon, which I want to address directly. They state, “Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings only upon presentation of a report from the committee which deals directly with the matter”.
I would respectfully submit the present situation is one of those extreme cases where the Speaker's direct intervention is warranted. This is not a matter in which we can just pick up tomorrow where we left off.
Page 977 of Bosc and Gagnon explains, “Certain specific conditions must be met to continue with a study begun during a previous session or Parliament.... Finally, committees must be constituted; that is, they must be assigned members and a Chair must be chosen.”
The finance committee has no members and it has no chair. In fact, if the Liberals were being particularly cynical, they could exploit Parliamentary tactics to keep our committees from considering substantive business until November.
On December 4, 1992, the House considered a question of privilege concerning the intimidation of a subcommittee witness. In making his argument, then Liberal deputy House leader Don Boudria said at page 14,630 of the Debates:
I wish to bring to your attention in the unlikely event that you would be tempted to rule that this matter should be dealt with at committee, that in fact the committees are in the process of winding down for the Christmas period.
This evidence was brought before a sub-committee which has terminated its proceedings for the next few months. Therefore, the evidence on this could only be heard before committee in a number of months from now at the earliest, if at all, in the event of a prorogation of Parliament later.
For his part, Mr. Speaker Fraser argued at page 14,631, ruling, “Some mention has been made that this matter arose in a committee and hon. members will have heard me say many times that usually matters should be put back to committee. My own feeling is that under the circumstances which have been explained to me that is not the convenient or appropriate thing to do at this time.”
Mr. Speaker, your most recent privilege ruling concerned a complaint about something that has previously arisen in committee of the whole and Bosc and Gagnon explain on page 919 its relevance to the present case, stating, “Once that committee has completed its business, it ceases to exist.”
In your ruling on July 22, 2020, at page 2,701 of the Debates you said, “I accept that the particular circumstances of this situation, notably the challenge surrounding the committee of the whole format, do make it appropriate to bring the matter to the Speaker.”
We are, I would argue, in substantively the same position today with standing committees such as the finance committee. Committees were terminated with prorogation and have not yet been reconstituted, and may not be for some time.
I respectfully submit that you ought to extend by analogy your July ruling, not to mention Fraser's 1992 ruling, to the present circumstances of unconstituted standing committees. Prorogation denied the committee the opportunity to meet and to report this abuse by the government to this House. The time necessary to reconstitute committees and the delays that could be attempted compound this problem. The House must have a means to address behaviour contemptuous of committees.
Having made out the grounds for finding a prima facie contempt, I want to speak briefly on the remedy. When members rise on questions of privilege, the Chair always hears that they are prepared to move an appropriate motion. I, too, am prepared to do so. However, I quote Speaker Milliken, who asked rhetorically in the 2010 ruling I cited, at page 2,044:
The authorities I have cited are unanimous in the view of the House's privilege to ask for the production of papers and many go on to explain that accommodations are made between those seeking information and those in possession of it to ensure that arrangements are made in the best interests of the public they both serve.
...Is it possible to put in place a mechanism by which these documents could be made available to the House without compromising the security and confidentiality of the information they contain? In other words, is it possible for the two sides, working together in the best interests of the Canadians they serve, to devise a means where both their concerns are met? Surely that is not too much to hope for.
This notion of a prima facie ruling forcing an opportunity to reach a negotiated settlement before addressing the matter before a motion and vote was echoed by Speaker Levac of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on September 13, 2012, at page 5 of the Votes and Proceedings. It is a ruling that should ring bells for some Liberals across the way, specifically for staffers in the Prime Minister's Office. It concerned the Dalton McGuinty government's defiance of a document production order related to the gas plant scandal.
Many of the folks at the heart of the Ontario Liberal operation later picked up and headed down the 401 to Ottawa, some with outrageously high expense claims I should add, and they brought their political playbooks to the nation's capital. One of them who did not make it to Ottawa though was Dalton McGuinty's chief of staff. He was instead sentenced to imprisonment for his role in destroying gas plant scandal records, so it should go without saying that opposition members of Parliament are anxious to lay hands on the full records of the sweetheart deal between the Prime Minister's friends at WE and the Canadian taxpayers.
The Conservatives are prepared to be constructive and reasonable if it means getting expeditious access to the documents in question. Perhaps in the time you are deliberating on these issues we may be able to reach an adequate compromise. To throw out an idea, I note that among the ranks of the official opposition are several privy councillors. One or more of them, on the strengths of their Privy Council oaths, could view the documents to be able to provide assurances to other MPs that the government's grounds for redactions are legitimately claimed.
I recognize that solution may not work well for members of the other two opposition parties. Perhaps an alternative would be for the government to simply allow the House law clerk and his team of lawyers a chance to view the original documents so they can provide MPs with these assurances. I note in passing that the law clerk's own special adviser and counsel previously served as chief of staff to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, so I could not imagine the Liberals having a serious objection to this course of action. Nonetheless, my point is that there are solutions staring us right in the face, if only the Liberal government would engage us on them.
However, if discussions cannot reach an expeditious compromise, I am fully prepared to put a solution forward by way of a motion for the House to decide.
Next, I would like to turn to the second ground for a prima facie contempt finding: the Prime Minister's Office's lies about the law clerk redacting the documents.
Bosc and Gagnon explain this contempt at page 81, which states:
There are, however, other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege: tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House, such as disobedience of its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its Members, or its officers.
It is worth noting here that the corresponding entry in Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand, fourth edition, at page 763, clarifies that the reference to libels extends to slanders. However, in any event, Bosc and Gagnon, at page 81, elaborates upon the scope of contempt of Parliament as follows:
The House of Commons enjoys very wide latitude in maintaining its dignity and authority through the exercise of its contempt power. In other words, the House may consider any misconduct to be contempt and may deal with it accordingly....
Throughout the Commonwealth most procedural authorities hold that contempts, as opposed to privileges, cannot be enumerated or categorized.
To be clear, Mr. Dufresne is, of course, a table officer of the House. Citation 219 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, reminds us, “The Officers in the service of the House of Commons are the Clerk of the House, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, the Deputy Clerk, and the Clerks Assistant.”
The Prime Minister's Office, in its effort to spin its way out of a scandal, which has enveloped the whole of government and claimed the career of a finance minister, lied about the work of Mr. Dufresne, attempting to lay blame at his feet. What is more is that the Prime Minister's staff enlisted a member of the House, the member for Parkdale—High Park, to go on television to spread their spin about the law clerk. Maingot, at page 250, writes, “As in the case of a court of law, the House of Commons is entitled to the utmost respect; thus, when someone publishes libellous reflections on the House, they will be treated as contempt of the House.”
Indeed, in a case concerning the defamation of a table officer, Mr. Speaker Tusa of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, on June 24, 1987, at page 79 of the Journals, found a prima facie case of privilege about remarks which “may have harmed the credibility of the Legislative Counsel and Law Clerk”. In that case, the legislative assembly subsequently adopted the following motion:
That this House accepts the apology of the Minister of Justice with respect to his public remarks attacking the credibility of the Legislative Counsel and Law Clerk, and confirms that those remarks constituted a breach of the privileges of this Assembly.
Madam Speaker Sauvé articulated a view on October 29, 1980, at page 4213 of the Debates, on an appropriate threshold when falsehoods were deployed. She stated:
Members will appreciate that the expression “false” is subject to but one interpretation in the House of Commons Debates, that is, pejorative, and it is considered unparliamentary when referring to another hon. member. While the word has less sinister meanings in the context of contempt, it seems to me that to amount to contempt, representations or statements about our proceedings or of the participation of members should not only be erroneous or incorrect, but, rather, should be purposely untrue and improper and import a ring of deceit. To be false in the context of contempt, and interpretation of our proceedings must be an obviously, purposely distorted one....My role, therefore, is to interpret the extracts of the document in question, not in terms of their substance, but to find whether, on their face, they represent such a distorted interpretation of the events or remarks in our proceedings that they obviously attract the characterization of “false”.
The Prime Minister's Office quite clearly knew who was responsible for redacting the documents provided by the government to the finance committee when it was spinning journalists and putting out the justice minister's parliamentary secretary on TV panels.
We are not talking about the woman or man on the street in North Bay who might be following our proceedings from afar through the news. Instead, we are talking about a central player in the scandal implicating an esteemed officer, a table officer of the House, in a distorted interpretation of events, purposely untrue and bearing a heavy ring of deceit.
As Saskatchewan's Mr. Speaker Tusa said on May 23, 1989, at page 94 of the Journals, “it is the duty of the House to protect its officers.” That goes to the essence of my question of privilege.
Members of Parliament have many things said about us in the course of our work. However, we also have many platforms, including the most awesome of them all, the floor of the House of Commons, to respond and defend ourselves. Our table officers, who provide us with such solid support and service, on the other hand, have no such outlet and, if they tried, could risk compromising their neutrality. That is why it is incumbent on us, incumbent on the House, to protect our clerks at the table.
That is why I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, to find a prima facie contempt in respect of the Prime Minister's Office and the parliamentary secretary's defamation about the role played by the law clerk in blocking government transparency and breaching a committee's order. We must protect the hard-working staff of the House from being exploited, in this case exploited for political gain, when there is a lie at the heart of such exploitation.
If you find a prima facie contempt, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to move an appropriate motion.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-09-24 11:10 [p.34]
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I thank the hon. member for his submission. I will take it under advisement and return to the House.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-09-24 11:10 [p.34]
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Mr. Speaker, I think you will find that the government did in fact comply with the motion as adopted by the committee. However, it is disappointing that in a time that we are facing a second wave of a pandemic, the Conservatives want to use this time in the House to play partisan politics and talk about the WE Charity rather than focus on providing the help that Canadians need.
I will get the opportunity to review the many comments put on the record by the member opposite and will provide further comment in the coming days.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-09-24 11:11 [p.34]
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The hon. member for La Prairie wishes to speak to the question of privilege.
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View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-09-24 11:11 [p.34]
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Mr. Speaker, we would like to reserve the right to respond to this question of privilege at a later date.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Peter Julian Profile
2020-09-24 11:11 [p.34]
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I would like to take a few minutes to add some comments to the excellent presentation given by my colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
I would like to add some points, in part because it was my NDP motion that was brought forward to the finance committee on July 7. I very carefully wrote that motion to ensure that any redactions necessary be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel at the House of Commons. The idea was very clear that any redactions to take place would only be made through the Office of the Law Clerk. As members are well aware, all MPs from all parties voted for that motion. Therefore, this is not a partisan issue it all; it is an issue of ensuring that the privileges of the House of Commons are maintained.
It was with shock and consternation that the same day we became aware of this, through the Office of the Law Clerk writing to the clerk of the Standing Committee on Finance, saying very clearly that departments had made certain redactions to the documents on grounds that were not contemplated in the order of the committee and also stating, ”As my Office has not been given the opportunity to see the unredacted documents, we are not able to confirm whether those redactions are consistent with the order of the Committee”, the committee was shut down.
Of course, the committee would have acted immediately, but as the member points out, at the very same moment we became aware of the censorship of these documents, of which there are 5,000 pages, with 1,000 of them completely or substantially altered and censored, Parliament was prorogued, and the committee will not be meeting again potentially for several weeks.
As the House is aware, and as the member has cited, this work of the finance committee comes through an order of the House of Commons. Unanimously, because of the pandemic, we agreed at that time that the finance committee would provide oversight for all spending related to the pandemic. Surely, in this case, it means the House of Commons was mandating the finance committee to do that work.
As members know, Standing Order 108 states, “Standing committees shall be severally empowered to examine and enquire into all such matters as may be referred to them by the House....” This is clearly what happened in this case.
As the member has cited, chapter 20 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which we very clearly follow as a bible with respect to the directions it provides us, states:
The Standing Orders do not delimit the power to order the production of papers and records. The result is a broad, absolute power that on the surface appears to be without restriction. There is no limit on the types of papers likely to be requested; the only prerequisite is that the papers exist in hard copy or electronic format, and that they are located in Canada. They can be papers originating from or in the possession of governments....
Clearly, a House of Commons mandate was given to the finance committee and the committee was endeavouring to provide that oversight.
Unanimously, on July 7, with the support of all members from all parties, an order was made for the production of papers. On August 18, we found out they had been censored or substantially redacted. Over 1,000 pages had basically been wholly or substantially blacked out.
I know other members will be intervening on this, hopefully today, because it is important that you, Mr. Speaker, be given the opportunity to come to a rapid decision in this respect.
The decision made on April 27, 2010, by Speaker Milliken against the Harper government at the time. states the following:
It is the view of the Chair that accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would in fact jeopardize the...separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts. Furthermore, it risks diminishing the inherent privileges of the House and its members, which have been earned and must be safeguarded.
He also stated:
...procedural authorities are categorical in repeatedly asserting the powers of the House in ordering the production of documents. No exceptions are made for any category of government documents, even those related to national security.
At the time, he was referring to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan.
My caucus and I are of the opinion this definitely constitutes a question of privilege. If a debate were to be held on this matter, our caucus would be ready to participate because this matter is extremely important to parliamentary privilege.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2020-09-24 11:17 [p.35]
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I thank hon. members.
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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-09-24 11:17 [p.35]
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Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak on behalf of Canada's Conservatives and the official opposition to respond to the government's Speech from the Throne.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, the House Leader of the Official Opposition.
We heard another Liberal Speech from the Throne. It was another speech full of recycled Liberal promises, with grand gestures and lofty visions, but with no real plan to deal with the pandemic, no real plan to deal with the urgent health care needs of the provinces, no real plan to deal with the lack of jobs and no real plan to deal with Canadian unity issues or western alienation. There was no plan to deal with the economy.
The Liberal Speech from the Throne was full of the same old promises and recycled ideas that we have all been hearing for years and years. Many of these promises have been unfulfilled and they leave countless people behind.
I am talking about people like the single mom from Burlington who has to choose between staying home with her sick kids and picking up another shift at the local Subway to pay the rent. I am talking about the fish harvester down east who is not sure how they are going to afford their next season. I am talking about the producer in Brandon, Manitoba burdened by the carbon tax and worried about a trade war keeping their goods from market. I am talking about the dad in Hinton, Alberta who does not know what he is going to do when the bank's mortgage deferral program comes to an end.
I am talking about the family in Cantley, Quebec that is trying to get their minivan to last through just one more winter, and they cannot afford an electric car. I am talking about the people who drive Ford 150s, like thousands of Canadians. They are tired of being insulted by Liberal elites. I am talking about the family in Yukon that runs a fly-in guide outfitting business. They rely almost entirely on international tourism.
These are the people that Conservatives are standing up for. These are the people who we know have been left behind in this Liberal Speech from the Throne.
Let us just make sure that it is clear: The Prime Minister shut down Parliament. He prorogued Parliament, he shut down committees and he stopped everything dead in its tracks when he was being exposed for his scandal. Why was this? He said he was going to present a Speech from the Throne that would give Canadians a plan. It did none of that. It is clear the only reason the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament was to cover up and distract from his own scandal.
It is also very disturbing that there was no plan to deal with this pandemic. When our leader spoke with the Prime Minister last week, he asked the Prime Minister to ensure that Canadians had better and faster access to COVID testing options. It is vitally important right now that Canadians have options to get tested for COVID and they get the results back in a timely manner. It is unacceptable that we trust countries such as Japan, Germany and the U.S. with our national security intelligence, but we do not trust their approval of 15-minute saliva tests.
Just last March, the Prime Minister promised that rapid testing for Canadians would be his top priority. Half a year and half a trillion dollars later, Canadian families are still waiting in line for hours and sometimes days for tests, let alone for results. The Prime Minister has failed to deliver. Maybe the wealthy, well-connected friends of the Liberal elite can afford to stay quarantined. Maybe they can afford to wait, but hard-working Canadians cannot afford to take weeks off to quarantine if they come up in a contact-tracing list. They deserve a plan and they deserve to have some hope.
There was no commitment to increase health transfers, which was the provinces' top ask. Instead of giving the provinces the resources they need to fight the pandemic, the Liberals are once again interfering in provincial jurisdiction.
Last week, on behalf of the provinces, Premiers Kenney, Pallister, Ford and Legault were here in Ottawa, presenting a united front and asking the federal government to do the right thing by providing appropriate health care funding to the provinces with no strings attached. Contrary to what the Prime Minister thinks, and who believes Ottawa knows best, it is the provinces that are best placed to deal with issues that fall within provincial jurisdiction.
Last week, to highlight the extent of the health care funding problem, my premier, Manitoba's Premier Pallister, explained it this way. He said that never has there been a higher demand for health care, never have federal contributions to health care been so low and, because of this, never have wait times been so long. This was before the pandemic even started. Now, with the second wave of the pandemic upon us, people are hurting and sometimes even dying because the federal government is not giving the provinces the health care funding they need to look after their people.
Furthermore, the Canadian Medical Association had this to say about the failure of the current Liberal Prime Minister's Speech from the Throne. It stated:
...today's speech falls short of delivering on the promise of ensuring a resilient health care system and keeping Canadians healthy.
The top issue we are dealing with today is a health crisis, and the Liberals failed to address it in the Speech from the Throne. It is absolutely unacceptable. While I could continue on the issue of health care, I know that my colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill and our shadow minister for health, will have a lot more to say during this debate and during the days and weeks ahead.
I want to close my remarks today with a very important issue. I understand that for some who are here in the east it may not be top of mind. For those who live in Ontario, Quebec and maybe the Atlantic provinces, I fully understand and I can see why they do not see this as top of mind. I wish the Prime Minister would help to bring it to the forefront. It is the issue of unity in this country and the issue of the western provinces, including the one I come from, feeling alienated by the Prime Minister and the current government. The Prime Minister likes to say that we are stronger when we are united and we are all in this together, yet our country is more divided than ever.
Our Conservative leader made it clear during his first call with the Prime Minister that if the Prime Minister is serious he must make addressing national unity concerns and western alienation a priority. However, there is not a single thing in the throne speech to even acknowledge that there is a problem.
Our government needs to show Canadians that it values and respects all of them and their contributions to this country. This respect starts with an understanding that revenue generated by various resources in each region of the country helps to build roads, hospitals and infrastructure in other parts of the country and not just in the provinces where the resources are found. The lack of respect by the Prime Minister for our natural resource industries is unacceptable because these industries form the backbone of our economy.
In the words of Alberta premier Jason Kenney:
In a 6,783 word throne speech, not one word recognized the crisis facing Canada’s largest industry: the energy sector that supports 800,000 jobs.... Instead, we got a litany of policies that would strangle investment and jeopardize resource jobs when we most need the industry that generates 20 percent of government revenues in Canada.
To highlight the failure of the Liberal government to deal with the issues facing Alberta, Premier Kenney went on to say:
Alberta is disappointed that instead of listening to Canada’s provinces, the federal government doubled down on policies that will kill jobs, make Canada poorer and weaken national unity.
In fact, agriculture, forestry and energy resources were not mentioned once in this speech. This is completely unacceptable given that we found out yesterday that Canada recorded its largest ever drop in natural resources employment in the second quarter.
Under the leadership of the hon. member for Durham, Canadians can rest assured that we will hold the Prime Minister and the Liberal government to account. We will not support this Speech from the Throne, but we will put forward a plan that keeps Canadians safe, protects jobs and gets our country back on track.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-09-24 11:27 [p.37]
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Mr. Speaker, we on the government's side recognize the importance of working with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders to do what we can to minimize the negative impact of a second wave.
I would like to provide a quote from the Premier of Manitoba. It is a response to the safe restart agreement that contradicts most of what the deputy leader of the Conservative Party says. The letter states:
This federal funding will help support work already undertaken by the Government of Manitoba to increase daily testing capacity from a baseline of 1,000 tests to more than 3,000 tests per day.
It further states:
The Government of Canada will provide $700 million to support health care system capacity to respond to a potential future wave of COVID-19. A further $500 million will address immediate needs and gaps in the support and protection of people experiencing challenges related to mental health, substance use or homelessness. This investment will help to keep Canadians safe and healthy with the health care supports they need.
Does the member agree that it is time we get co-operation from the official opposition, as we are receiving it even from Conservative premiers in Canada?
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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-09-24 11:29 [p.37]
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Mr. Speaker, as an opposition, the Conservatives have shown ourselves to be very co-operative since the pandemic hit in passing emergency legislation. We had to be very careful because we saw the Liberal government try to make a power grab during the pandemic. We had to be careful, but we have been very co-operative. I will take no lectures from my colleague from Manitoba on the Liberal side regarding co-operating. We have done our fair share of co-operating.
Today is the day, and the opposition will take this day, to stand up for Canadians who are left behind by the Liberals. This is not just about throwing money at something. This is money that the Liberals are very good at promising and very bad at delivering, as we have seen over the last five years. The money never gets to its intended place. We saw this when times were good and the Liberals were promising money for infrastructure. We can ask Manitoba how far that money went and whether it was even delivered. I can say it did not get to its intended place.
We are not impressed by Liberal promises. We have heard them. We have seen them. We got the T-shirt.
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View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-09-24 11:30 [p.37]
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Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne offers supply-managed farmers full and fair compensation for recent trade agreements.
I have some questions and I would like my colleague to comment. First, is this the last time this promise will be made? We like this promise, we agree with it and we want it to be kept, but this is not the first time we have heard it. There needs to be action. Farmers are fed up. They have run out of patience. It is time for them to be properly compensated.
Second, when it says “full and fair” does that include the agreement with Europe, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CUSMA? Does that include the limits on exports of dairy by-products to other countries, which makes no sense? Does that include the fact that CUSMA came into force on July 1? We are worried. It is time for the government to stop interfering in provincial jurisdictions, start minding its own business and, most importantly, do what it promised.
I would like my colleague to comment on the compensation for farmers.
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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-09-24 11:31 [p.37]
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Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague, as I come from an agricultural riding in Manitoba. I have been so disappointed, as have all of us on this side, by the lack of value, attention and credit given to our agricultural sector in Canada. This includes those who are part of the supply management system, but also livestock producers and grain producers. Every sector of the agricultural industry in Canada has been ignored and disrespected. People have pretended that the sector does not exist and what it contributes does not exist. The Speech from the Throne is another example of that.
We have to continue to advocate for farmers. The Liberals seem not to have set foot on a farm in many years, and I would invite some of them to visit some rural areas. I know they do not represent those areas, but they need to understand the sacrifices our farmers make in producing food not only for Canada, but for the world, and they do it in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. They should be congratulated, rewarded and supported instead of ignored.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-24 11:33 [p.37]
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Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent and, very humbly, as the official opposition House leader.
I want to sincerely give thanks for all the support for my colleagues in the official opposition and, obviously, for my leader, the hon. member for Durham, leader of the official opposition and of all Conservatives in Canada from coast to coast. As we know, he and his wife are now fighting COVID-19. He will get back here stronger than ever; I can assure the House of that.
We are gathered here today after the House was prorogued for five weeks. During the summer, committees were working to shed light on the government's serious, unacceptable ethical lapses, but the Prime Minister decided to prorogue the House. Parliamentary committees were all suspended. We could not do our jobs in the House or in committee. We are now back in the House after the throne speech.
A Speech from the Throne is a unique and exceptional opportunity to bring Canadians together, to talk about national unity and the fact that the provinces and the federal government must work together and respect jurisdictions. This is an opportunity for the government to show that it has a clear plan and knows where it is going, all while effectively managing government spending. The throne speech is an opportunity for the government to show that it has a plan. What we saw yesterday was anything but a plan. The government gave a classic Liberal speech and completely ignored these three fundamental elements.
First let us consider the issue of spending. We all realize that in a crisis like the one we are experiencing now, investing is essential. Yes, unfortunately, that creates deficits. We faced that reality in 2008-09. We are not happy about it, but we understand that it has to be done. However, we still need to know where we are heading. What the Prime Minister and his government showed us yesterday, given the speech delivered by the Governor General, is that they do not realize that the money being spent today does not belong to us. Yesterday's speech was all spend, spend, spend, but there was nothing about controlling that spending. That is unacceptable.
Of course we must invest in certain sectors. Yes, we must do something for the workers who have lost their jobs because of the crisis. Yes, we must do something for the businesses that have to close temporarily, and will have to take advantage of a potential economic recovery. We must be there to support them. We still need to know where we are heading, and the government has done everything but control spending. We all remember the economic snapshot provided by the former finance minister. We all saw that the deficit was approaching half a trillion dollars and that our debt load had reached over one trillion dollars. The former finance minister never mentioned those two significant figures, and with good reason, because that is not a record to be proud of.
We believe that investments must be made, but there must be a plan. Yesterday's throne speech shows us that the government wants to spend money we do not have and does not know where it is heading. I remind members that money we do not have is a debt that must be paid by our children and grandchildren. The Conservatives are thinking of the younger generation. Yes, the next generation will have to pay for the government's unbridled spending. When we ask for better control of spending, we are thinking first and foremost of young Canadians.
Furthermore, true to Liberal tradition, the government is picking fights with the provinces. No sooner was the Speech from the Throne a wrap than the Premier of Quebec took to social media to express his disapproval on the grounds that the speech sidelined collaboration and scorned jurisdiction. I want to make it perfectly clear that jurisdiction is no mere academic notion meant for the likes of professors and constitutional experts. The government needs to understand and act on its responsibilities while allowing the provinces to take care of theirs. Yesterday, the government said it would invest in health, education, child care and so on, but those are basically provincial responsibilities, not federal ones. What the federal government is responsible for is making sure tests are approved so they can be done as efficiently as possible, but the government is not even meeting its own expectations in that regard. It is minding the business of others instead of taking care of its own.
There is a solution to this, one that the leader of the official opposition proposed two and half weeks ago after meeting with the Premier of Quebec, and that is increasing health transfers to the provinces. That would be a legitimate and important step forward, as indicated by the member for Durham, the leader of the official opposition, our Conservative leader, after meeting with the Premier of Quebec, and we are proud of it. This is classic Conservative: We respect provincial jurisdictions.
As we all know, there are new needs related to health care. The COVID-19 crisis has brought this to light with regard to seniors, among others. We know that transfers do need to be increased, and if there is one area where we need to spend—if we are fortunate enough to win Canadians' trust—we would definitely invest more in health by increasing transfers to the provinces, since health is a provincial jurisdiction. That happens at the provincial level, not the federal level.
Lastly, a Speech from the Throne should emphasize Canadian unity. All of us Canadians need to stand shoulder to shoulder and work together. Whether we are from Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, or wherever, we need to work together. There was absolutely nothing in yesterday's speech that would support and foster a strong, united Canada. There was not a single word about Quebec's aerospace industry, not a single word about natural resources in the west, nothing in the speech to bring Canadians together.
Let me be perfectly clear. Some hear “natural resources” and automatically think of the west, but 50,000 people in Quebec work in the petrochemical industry. That is a lot of people. That is why we believe all provinces must be involved and must work together to make Canada a better place.
The Speech from the Throne is a unique opportunity to underscore that. It is the ideal time for us all to work together for the good of Canadians, and for all Canadians, no matter where they live, to make a tangible contribution to our recovery.
Sadly, the Prime Minister failed to do that. I therefore move, seconded by the member for Lévis—Lotbinière, that the motion be amended by adding the following:
And regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide a plan to approve and deploy new rapid testing measures to aid the provinces in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic;
Further regret to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide an adequate plan to support the future of Canadian workers and small businesses inclusive of a program for wage subsidization that protects Canadian jobs while effectively promoting the value and dignity of work, along with a more extensive plan for commercial rent assistance and effective small business supply chain protection;
Further regret to inform Your Excellency that your government continues to neglect the unity problems that its policies have created in the Western provinces by undermining the role that resource workers, and resource producing provinces have played in paying for quality public services across the Federation;
Further regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has not acknowledged the need for a new policy regarding Communist China that reflects its responsibility for imposing a new police state-style security law on the over 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, as well as committing a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Uyghur Muslims in the Chinese area of Xinjiang; and
Also further regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide adequate transparency to the House with regard to the relationship between the organization known as the WE Charity, the Prime Minister’s family, the relevant government ministries, and outside organizations involved in the development of the Canada Student Services Grant program.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-09-24 11:42 [p.39]
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The motion in amendment is in order.
Before we begin, I respectfully request that hon. members remember that time is very limited during during questions and comments. I know that this hybrid format is new. Therefore, it is vital that we respect the time members have.
That is why I am asking hon. members to keep their interventions short so as to allow as many members as possible to have an opportunity to ask questions or provide comments to the member who spoke.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Malpeque.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2020-09-24 11:46 [p.39]
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Mr. Speaker, there are some regrets on this side too. I was hoping the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, in his new capacity, would get up and thank this government for the leadership it has provided since COVID first hit in March.
His remarks were full of contradictions. On the one hand, the member and the party opposite are saying we should stop spending and that the government is spending too much. On the other hand, members have said that the government should transfer more money to the provinces, and spend here and spend there.
Does the member not realize that we have already transferred $19 billion to the provinces under the safe restart recovery program? Does he not realize that we have transferred $2 billion to assist the provinces with education? Does the member think that is important? Also, the throne speech outlines so many things for individuals and businesses to get the economy started again and protect individuals and businesses during the second wave.
Could the member get up and just say thanks?
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-24 11:47 [p.39]
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No, I will not say thanks to the government, and this is why, Mr. Speaker.
First of all, there is a real miss in this throne speech: control. Where is the control in spending money? It is too easy for the government to say that today it will spend $2 billion for this and $4 billion for that, will create brand new programs and will give $900 million to family friends to create a brand new program with WE Charity.
This is what we have seen in the last six months. Obviously we have to seriously address this issue. Obviously we have to help Canadians. Obviously we have to help businesses. However, the point is that we have do it with control, and the government has absolutely no control—
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-09-24 11:48 [p.39]
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Questions and comments, the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-09-24 11:48 [p.39]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the House leader for the official opposition for his enthusiasm and spirit and for talking about our working together.
In talking about working together, one thing we put forward was to call on the government to extend the amount of sick days to 10 so that when someone is sick, they will stay home instead of possibly going to work because they have to pay their bills and feed their family. Instead of going to work and spreading the virus in this pandemic, they should be at home taking care of themselves, and their children if they are sent home from school sick with symptoms of COVID. This is something that we are calling on the government to take action on to make sure that people are getting the support they need. During this pandemic, we have seen the gaps in the social safety net. People need help right now.
Does the member and does his party support us in calling on the government to take care of those workers and to extend sick days, and not just during the pandemic but once and for all?
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-24 11:49 [p.39]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the NDP for this important question.
Obviously, there are a lot of people who were put aside by these government policies in the last six months. My colleague, the deputy official leader of the opposition, the member for Portage—Lisgar, said very clearly that this throne speech and this government have failed in the last six months to directly help people who needed it.
Yes, obviously, there are a lot of people who have been served, which is fine, but, unfortunately, what we have seen is a government policy is that continues help some people while creating another problem.
Canada is experiencing a serious labour shortage in every sector because of the Liberals' policies, yet they want to renew these policies as though there is nothing wrong with them.
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View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-09-24 11:50 [p.40]
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Mr. Speaker, my question is for the new opposition House leader. Congratulations to him.
I am proud to be a Quebecker, and I am proud of Quebec. I will say a few words about the Speech from the Throne. I did not make a note of all the ways that it intruded into provincial jurisdiction, nor all of Quebec's models that the Canadian government wants to copy for Canada-wide programs.
I am thinking specifically about the child care program. The Canadian government wants to bring in a Canada-wide child care program based on the Quebec model. I would point out that this model has been around for about 25 years. It is unique in North America and is held up as an example around the world.
Would the hon. member agree that the proposed Canada-wide program is just another intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, especially since Quebec has its own program? Would the hon. member agree that the right thing to do would be to transfer the money to Quebec, since it already has its own program?
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-24 11:51 [p.40]
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Mr. Speaker, as a proud federalist, I am also very proud to be a Quebecker and to represent Quebec.
Yes, we believe that, unfortunately, the government's proposal is a direct intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. It was rather odd to hear the Governor General state during the throne speech that the government plans to learn from Quebec's example. Since the government wants to use Quebec's model, which has been in place for 25 years, is that not proof that this is an area of provincial jurisdiction?
The Liberal Party already made this promise two decades ago, but it never kept it. It promised care for children who are now too old for child care.
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2020-09-24 11:52 [p.40]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. opposition members for their comments.
First, I would like to state what I believe to be a fundamental fact in this moment in our country's history: COVID-19 is still very much here. We have not yet beaten this pandemic. We are fighting a battle, and this is a battle we must win.
I know the fight against this disease in the past six months has been difficult for Canadians. For too many people, especially our seniors, the most vulnerable, it has been a matter of life and death. This ordeal is unlike anything that we, as Canadians, have lived through in modern history.
I wish I could stand in this place and say that it is over, that the hard work is behind us, but that is simply not the reality. In the four biggest provinces of Canada the second wave is not just starting, but is already under way. On March 13, when we went into lockdown, there were only 47 new cases of COVID-19. Just yesterday we had well over 1,000 new cases. The fact is this fall could be worse than last spring. That depends on the actions we all take in the coming days and weeks, because we all, collectively, have the power to beat down this second wave. We can and we must. All Canadians need to wear their masks. We need to wash our hands. We need to avoid gatherings, especially indoors, and remember that this is not the time for partying. We need to maintain social distance. We need to download and use the COVID Alert app. Of course, we all need to get our flu shots.
As for us parliamentarians, we have a job to do as well, an important job, which is to ensure that Canadians, and the businesses that employ them so they can feed their families, get the support they need to help them pull through this pandemic. We need to do whatever it takes to support people through this crisis. The reality is that the best way to support our economic recovery is by making sure that we are supporting the health and safety of Canadians right now.
There are folks, including members on the opposite side of the aisle, who think that we should have moved more quickly to help businesses and more slowly to help individual Canadians. That is simply wrong. We know that supporting hard-working Canadian families, our seniors and young people is the best way to make sure that our economy comes roaring back as quickly as possible. It is disappointing that the Conservative Party has chosen to put politics first. It would rather vote to have an election in the midst of a pandemic than to vote to extend badly needed help to Canadians at a time of unprecedented need.
Our sole objective since March has been to help Canadians get through this crisis, to protect their health and their businesses, and to protect workers and their livelihoods.
We know that the pandemic has hit some groups more than others. This includes our seniors, working mothers, racialized Canadians, indigenous peoples and youth. We intend to address these inequalities.
I listened carefully to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition made yesterday and the interventions by the two hon. MPs who spoke to the Conservative approach today. I think they are faced first with a fundamental challenge. The deputy leader got up and started by saying that we have no plan, and then proceeded to explain how she disagrees with all the different elements of our plan. Again, the Conservatives cannot have it both ways.
We know that the preoccupation of many Canadians, as highlighted by the hon. deputy leader, is with the health and safety of Canadians. That is something we all share, we as elected officials and Canadians. That is why, from the very beginning of this pandemic, we have worked with top scientists, doctors, public health agencies across the country, premiers and municipal governments. We have worked with everyone to focus on keeping Canadians safe and healthy through this challenge. From the very beginning we sat down regularly with the premiers. Indeed, I think we have had close to 20 first ministers meetings just over the past six months to talk about how we need to work together to help Canadians.
I will come back to the contention by the Conservatives that we are somehow in a national unity crisis, just to highlight the reality that Canadians across all orders of government and all regions of the country have never been more united in working together to deliver safely for all Canadians. Indeed, as we look around the world and contrast how we have managed through this pandemic with places where the positioning around a pandemic response has been a source of partisan controversy and discourse, we see the fact that Canadians have come together has been very significant in contributing to our well-being. The reality is that from the beginning of our meetings with those premiers, our position as a federal government has been, how can we help?
We were there to encourage more testing. We were there to give them the tools to do more testing, whether it was money, resources or equipment they needed. From the beginning, we have been encouraging and helping the provinces to expand their testing capacity. Across the country, we are seeing an increase in testing capacity, thanks in part to the $19 billion we gave the provinces for a safe recovery.
Since the pandemic started, we have sent the provinces half a billion dollars in health transfers. To support a just recovery, we then transferred another half a billion for health care systems, since we realize that this is an unprecedented public health crisis.
We are going to continue making decisions based on science and listening to the experts who are doing everything they can to keep Canadians safe. At the same time, we are also taking action to make sure we have the means to boost testing numbers.
That is why, with our international procurements and the incredible innovative work being done here right here by Canadian scientists and researchers, who are creating new alternatives to testing moving forward with new equipment that we can produce right here in Canada, we have significantly stepped up the federal government's ability to support the provinces in their responsibilities around testing. We will continue to do that.
We recognize that big questions around health care are being brought forward by the crisis of this pandemic. That is exactly why we have not only transferred, as I said, a billion dollars to the provinces to help with the immediate, acute supports, on top of the $19 billion we transferred to the provinces through the Safe Restart Agreement, but we have also committed to absolutely sitting down with the provinces this fall to talk about the future of the Canada health transfers, recognizing that our health care systems are changing and that there are new needs. We recognize, for example, that more and more of health care is not going to be delivered in institutional settings but in home settings. That means investing in home care, investing in supports for the delivery of health services, not just to hospitals and institutions, but through a broader range of ways. The federal government will be there to be part of that conversation.
We also recognize that increasingly treatment for diseases is not through surgical intervention or institutionalization, but through increasingly sophisticated medications and pharmaceuticals. Of course, as pharmaceuticals becomes more complex and sophisticated, their costs go up. That is why as a federal government we have already stepped up over the past years to drive down the cost of prescription drug prices, to be there to support the provinces with rare disease, high-cost drug strategies. We will continue to do that as we move toward a national universal pharmacare program, working first with the provinces that want to move quickly on it. Those are also parts of the conversations that we need to have about the future of health care in this country.
Let me be very, very clear that the federal government continues to have an important role to play in ensuring the safety and security of all Canadians. We will be there with the health care system and with supports for social programs, as we have been from the beginning.
As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, which cannot come fast enough for any of us, we know that we have to learn lessons from this pandemic. However, while we are in this pandemic, the federal government will be there every step of the way with a focus on supporting the health of Canadians.
Of course, we recognize the provinces' responsibilities and jurisdictions when it comes to health. They do great work in their jurisdictions.
However, we also recognize that we need to help them when they become overwhelmed or face particularly difficult challenges. That is why, when the Premier of Quebec asked us to send in the army to help in long-term care facilities during this crisis that Quebec could not manage alone, we did not hesitate to help. We are there to help protect our seniors and to support Canadians. That is a promise that we made from the very beginning of this pandemic and we are keeping it.
We are showing that, yes, we are there. We sent the Canadian Armed Forces to help our seniors. We are continuing to help thanks to the Canadian Red Cross, which is still working in Quebec's long-term care facilities to help the province regain control of this tragic situation.
We will help Canadians in partnership with the provinces. Some people are recommending that we should simply send transfer payments and give the provinces blank cheques for their health care systems, but that would not have helped because we needed people on the ground, soldiers and Canadian Red Cross personnel.
This is not just a question of money, although we will certainly continue sending money. We have transferred over $40 billion to the provinces for their health care systems, and we will continue to take action to protect the health of Canadians. However, we will do so as Canadians would expect, in other words, in partnership with the provinces. That is what we will continue to do.
Despite everything, the Conservatives continue to suggest that we have not been there for Canadians.
The Conservatives say that our plan has left everyday Canadians behind. When the pandemic struck, the Conservatives were more concerned with austerity than with helping people, and now they have doubled down on that view. When they say we have not been there to help ordinary help, I can say that almost nine million Canadians who received the Canada emergency wage subsidy would disagree with them. We were there to support Canadians right across the country despite the Conservatives saying that we should not be.
We were there for the millions of workers who managed to keep their jobs or get hired back to their jobs because of the wage subsidy that supported payroll. Those people needed support through this pandemic.
The issue that keeps coming back from the Conservatives is that we are doing too much, we are investing too much in Canadians, we are helping Canadians too much and that it is irresponsible for the future. The reality is, as I said, the best way to recover the economy of the country is to support Canadians through this health crisis. That is what the Conservatives do not understand.
In the short term, while we are living with this pandemic, we will continue to invest in Canadians and support them.
What we are not hearing from the Conservatives in their response to the Speech from the Throne is specifically what spending measures they disagree with. Do they disagree with the extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy, because that is in the Speech from the Throne. We are extending it through to next summer. Do they disagree with the $500 a week that people got through CERB, which we are now going to be continuing to deliver through the EI system and with a benefit that is going to support those Canadians who still cannot access EI? We know that supporting Canadians who need the $500 a week through the continuation of this pandemic is essential, yet the Conservatives do not seem to want us to do that.
Therefore, my question continues to be this. What do the Conservatives actually disagree with? What is it that they do not think we should be doing for Canadians right now? Where do they leave Canadians aside? Where do they say that we have to recover the economy, so we have to stop spending?
If we had not stepped up as a federal government right across the country, in every province and territory, to put money directly in the pockets of people from the beginning of this pandemic, what would Canadians have done? First, they would have had to go further into debt to pay for groceries or to pay their rent. The help we gave was significant, but not only did it prevent them from going deeper into debt, it also prevented many people from having to use food banks and from losing their homes and jobs.
The reality is that there were still far too many people who had to go to food banks. That is why we invested hundreds of millions of dollars in food banks, shelters and supports for the most vulnerable across the country. Every step of the way, we had the backs of Canadians. We are committing now, as we approach this second wave, to continue to have the backs of people, and the Conservatives would rather vote for an election right now rather than support people.
The Conservatives are asking a lot of questions that Canadians are asking, such as what the path is for our deficit and if we will be fiscally responsible. This is where we have to make a very clear distinction between the short-term measures that are there to support Canadians and the long-term recovery plan in a post-pandemic world. The short-term measures we need to support Canadians will be there for them. We will support Canadians through this pandemic in all the ways we need to, because that is the best way to get us to a strong economy on the other side. Again, what the Conservatives do not understand is doing less to support Canadians will actually hurt our economy in the long run. It will lead to a slower recovery and greater deficits.
Absolutely, once we are through this pandemic, it will be extremely important to be fiscally responsible and sustainable. That is where the investments we are proposing in the throne speech on child care, on housing and on pharmacare are not just things that support the social safety net. It actually leads to better growth; more women in the workforce; more families not facing impossible choices when their kids have to stay home; more support for businesses that do not have to pay the same level of prescription drug coverage with a national universal pharmacare program; more people who are not costing us through shelter systems and vulnerabilities, but have their own homes and are able to contribute to our country.
These are not simply social measures. They are economic measures as we move forward and they will be done because the pandemic has shown us the cracks in our society that Canadians need to fill.
The Conservatives often talk to us about our seniors and the need to support them better in these tough times. We have provided an additional $2.5 billion in support to eligible seniors in the form of one-time, tax-free OAS and GIS payments. We are supporting community-based projects aimed at improving seniors' quality of life and reducing their social isolation. To that end, we invested an additional $20 million in the new horizons for seniors program.
The Speech from the Throne lays out the work we will do with the provinces and territories to set national standards for long-term care. We will take action to ensure that seniors are able to stay in their own homes longer. We will work with our colleagues here in Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to hold those who neglect seniors under their care accountable.
The Speech from the Throne also states that we will look at new measures to ensure better pay for personal support workers, who do a difficult but essential job. Our society must better value their diligence, their skills and their hard work. We must keep trying to do better by our seniors. If the Conservatives disagree, they can keep saying so and vote against the throne speech, which offers real help for our seniors. If they disagree with these measures, they can tell seniors themselves. That is what they are saying.
When it comes to job creation, we know that we have a lot of work to do to get the economy back to where it was before the pandemic and create an even stronger economy. In our first five years in office, we created more than a million jobs for Canadians. During the pandemic, our country saw record job losses, as did every country in the world.
The Conservatives keep saying that the CERB and the support we are giving people who have to pay rent and buy groceries are a disincentive to work. The reality is that we are always going to be there to support workers. We know that Canadians want to contribute and work, but there is a job shortage because of the pandemic. Many sectors were hit extremely hard by this pandemic. We will continue to be there to help people who want to work but have no job to go to. The Conservatives claim that if we stop providing support to millions of people, they will find jobs, but that is a totally ridiculous and irresponsible thing to say.
Once again, I am asking the Conservatives to list the specific measures in the throne speech that they disagree with. Since they do not like the Liberal Party and its approach, they ought to suggest something else. However, they have nothing to suggest. They know that our priority from the beginning has been to be there for Canadians. Since they have nothing to suggest, they talk about a national unity crisis. In reality, Canadians have never been so united.
That has been the story of this pandemic: Canadians coming together to work together in all orders of government to deliver for people; to work together in communities; to work together in workplaces; to be there for opposite sides of the country; PPE produced in Ontario, making its way across the country; supports in scientific resources developed in the west, in B.C., sharing their impact across the country; seafood harvested on our coasts, feeding the rest of the world; and energy workers in Alberta, who continue to innovate and look forward to a better world where their kids will continue to have jobs and opportunities.
The members opposite have asked me about Alberta and are highlighting it. Let me tell them how this government has been there for all Canadians and specifically, because they keep asking, for Alberta.
From the very beginning, the Canada emergency response benefit helped thousands upon thousands of Albertans who were already being challenged with a crisis in the oil and gas sector that is global and is particularly acute in Alberta.
We were there with the CERB. We were there with the emergency wage subsidy to keep people on. We made investments in cleaning up orphan wells, which was a provincial area of jurisdiction but that we are happy to support because we need to give people opportunities to do the right thing and to have work through this difficult time.
On top of that, we sat down and delivered part of $19 billion that we transferred to provinces that has helped Albertans and people across the country with that safe restart. Those transfers to keep people safe were worked out and agreed with all premiers, including the premier of Alberta. Just a few weeks ago, when school boards and parents across the country were worried about kids getting back to school, we signed a $2 billion safe restart agreement with the provinces to make sure, among other things, that school boards in Alberta would have some money to make sure that kids get back to school safely.
However, the Conservatives are choosing to create a national unity crisis. All Canadians are challenged by this, with some areas being much harder hit than others: the tourism sector, the oil and gas industry, and certain cultural sectors that are based on performance. There are many sectors that are hurting and we are continuing to look at ways to deliver supports to them right across the country. I know the deputy leader did not mean to mislead the House, so I am hoping she is going to be able to correct herself. She said that the agriculture, the forestry industry and natural resources are not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. That is not true and she can check on page 24 if she really wants to, but we took a lot of time to reassure people and talk about the challenges faced by people across the country.
If we want to talk about agriculture, we know that the capacity of hard-working farmers and fishers across this country to put food on our tables and contribute to important global supply chains by working hard even through a pandemic is incredibly important. Our farmers have been absolute heroes in making that happen. That is why when we look at the things they are worried about with increasing flooding and increasing droughts because of climate change, we realize that the deputy leader's party and former government did really hurt farmers in the Prairies. They killed the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. The PFRA was there to help manage water in the Prairies in a way that is only becoming more important with the impacts of climate change. However, the previous Conservative government killed it. The reality is that we know that managing our water resources, particularly for our farmers in the Prairies, is essential. That is why this throne speech promises to deliver on a Canadian water agency to replace and continue the good work of the PFRA. For that alone, Conservatives on the Prairies should be voting for this throne speech; but no, the Conservatives killed the PFRA so they would not want to highlight that we are actually bringing it back.
We talk about how important our forestry workers are going to be in building good jobs for the future, how important our natural resources industries and miners are going to be in building jobs for the future. We know that we are moving toward a society and a world where more and more high-tech solutions are going to rely on rare minerals, on good-quality and well-extracted products. Look at the fact that Canada's clean aluminum is so important to so many supply chains across the country.
Canada's clean aluminum is produced with minimal greenhouse gas emissions and is prized by industries from around the world that want to be able to say their electronic devices do not contribute to climate change. That is good news for aluminum workers. It is also great for workers in our natural resources sector that we can show that electric car batteries are made with minerals extracted here, in Canada, in a responsible, forward-looking way.
I was very happy to have a chance to speak to people in the mining sectors, and I know what Canada has to offer in terms of both natural resources and natural resource processing. This will help us secure a place in the economy of the future, which will be more prosperous and more sustainable. That is critical. We spoke about this in the throne speech. We will continue to recognize that the best way to restart the economy is to also look at where the economy is going. A low-carbon economy is the way of the future. However, the reality is that we will not be able to reach net zero by 2050 without the full participation and innovation of workers in our energy and natural resources sectors.
There are energy experts in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. These workers are always looking to innovate, plan for a better future and find concrete solutions. We need them to make our economy cleaner, more efficient, and more successful on the global marketplace. This is an integral part of our future, and we will continue to invest in this sector.
The Conservatives want to turn this into a national unity crisis. I am sorry, but that is frankly irresponsible. More than anyone else in the world, Canadians showed that they were there for one another during this pandemic. To try to make this into a political attack is simply irresponsible and ridiculous.
We will continue to be there for Canadians through this pandemic. We will continue to support the families and the workers who need it right across the country. We will continue to do what is necessary to have Canadians' backs, regardless of what the Conservatives might say. We will continue to recognize the cracks in our systems that the pandemic has revealed: the challenges around homelessness, the challenges around women excluded from the workforce, the challenges around access to health care and pharmacare and the challenges around systemic racism that continue to hold back far too many people across the country. That is why, as we move forward in fighting systemic racism, we move forward first and foremost on economic empowerment for Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses.
It is interesting, because I heard a lot of people say that there are so many other things to do. Yes, there are. If one sits down with Black community leaders and talks to Black entrepreneurs, one of the first things they will ask for is better access to capital. That is why we were so glad a few weeks ago to be able to announce that we have worked with Canada's top banks on delivering access to capital to start rebalancing the economic scales and the barriers that exist because of systems that are discriminatory, but there is so much more to do and we talk about that in the throne speech. We need to reform our justice system. We need to improve outcomes for Black communities and young people. These are the things we are going to continue to do not just for Black Canadians but for all racialized Canadians.
On the flip side, that pathway toward reconciliation continues to be more important than ever before. All the commitments this government has made over the years on moving forward on reconciliation that we have been steadily working on and living up to now need to be accelerated. We need to continue to protect indigenous brothers and sisters from the impacts of this pandemic, but we also need to be giving them the tools and the ability to thrive and prosper in their communities right across the country. That is where we are going to be accelerating many measures of reconciliation. That is why we will be bringing forward in the House, before the end of this year, legislation to enact the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, despite the fact that the Conservatives are already set to vote against it.
We know that Canada is an incredible country. It is an incredible country, not because of geography, not because of history as much as because of Canadians themselves: people who are there to support each other, to work hard for each other, to build their success and to make sure that their communities feel success as well, to stand up for each others' rights and opportunities and to build a better future. That is what this pandemic has shown, Canadians stepping up to do what really matters.
It is unfortunate to see the Conservatives choosing to focus on politics at this time when Canadians are pulling together, trying to create divisions instead of recognizing that Canadians are working together. On this side of the House, we will continue to work not just to support Canadians, but with all members of the House to move forward on meaningful, tangible ways to help Canadians now and into the future.
This moment in our history is going to make a big difference, not only for the next few years, but for decades to come.
This is about how we are going to help the most vulnerable people and rebuild a forward-looking economy with opportunities for everyone across the country. This is about how we are going to ensure that the barriers that exist because of systemic racism are reduced and eliminated. The choices we make today as a country are extremely important to the life of our nation.
Our parents and grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, worked very hard. They laid the foundation of our society and the country we live in today. They faced crises and made changes with the future in mind. They created the world as we know it today. That is what they lived through. That is what they accomplished.
There are two things I would add. First of all, we must learn from their example. They successfully created the incredibly prosperous world we enjoyed at the end of the 20th century. We must emulate the way they responded to a crisis by coming together and working hard to build a better future.
As we ponder that, we need to learn from their example and understand what we need to do to make things better. We need to acknowledge that the seniors who built the country we love today are now extremely vulnerable, living in long-term care homes across the country. It is our duty to focus on them and do everything we can to protect them. As a country, we will be there to honour their sacrifices and recognize their vulnerability.
Together, we will overcome this challenge. I know we can work together. I know we can keep our promises to Canadians. I know the future will be better because of the work we are going to do together.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-09-24 12:31 [p.45]
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Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise after the Prime Minister, who today has delivered his second partisan speech in the last several hours because last night he had a so-called national address to the nation, which was anything but a call from the Prime Minister and rather a call from the Liberal Party leader.
What we saw today was a Prime Minister who is completely out of touch with Canadians. When it comes to national unity, the Prime Minister chose to fan the flames rather than focus on what Canadians are going through.
Yes, there is a national unity problem in this country. Yes, westerners are fed up with federal policy. Yes, the government of Quebec is fed up with the current government meddling in provincial jurisdictions.
Concerning this reality, the Prime Minister said it was “irresponsible and ridiculous”. What we are currently going through is anything but ridiculous.
What people in the west are living with right now is not funny. However, the Prime Minister is saying that it is irresponsible to raise the issue. That is funny. How can the Prime Minister be so arrogant today?
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2020-09-24 12:32 [p.45]
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Madam Speaker, the story of the pandemic in Canada is the story of people working together. Since the beginning of the pandemic we have had 18 meetings with the provincial premiers. At each meeting the federal government asked how it could help the provinces protect their citizens and what it could do, together with the provinces, to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. During those 18 meetings with the premiers, we made record investments to the tune of $19 billion to help the provinces achieve a safe reopening. We invested $2 billion to ensure a safer return to school in Canada.
We are in the midst of a crisis. At the same time, Canadians are coming together from coast to coast to coast. The reality is that pointing out we are divided is pure Conservative spin. Yes, some people have different political views, while others are frustrated, and I understand that. However, it is wrong to say that Canadians are divided when we are more united than ever, especially in comparison with our American neighbours. We are working together to protect each other. The reality is that we will continue to work together.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-09-24 12:34 [p.45]
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Madam Speaker, I heard the Prime Minister say that the Conservatives are going to have to answer a lot of questions. I think the Prime Minister is also going to have to answer some questions, especially about seniors.
He spoke about seniors a moment ago. He is going to have to tell us why, for the first time ever, he is creating two classes of seniors, namely “young” seniors and “old” seniors.
He is also going to have to answer some questions about WE Charity.
The federal government does not run any hospitals. It does not run any seniors' homes. The provinces are the experts, yet the federal government is still trying to tell them what to do, instead of just transferring the money they need to provide high-quality services in the provinces, including Quebec.
With an air of condescension, not to say contempt, he said that we are asking for a blank cheque. We are not asking for a blank cheque. All we want is for the federal government to keep its word and cover 50% of Canada's health care costs. All we want is for the federal government to respect the Constitution that the Prime Minister's father foisted on Quebec.
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2020-09-24 12:35 [p.46]
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Madam Speaker, I am happy to correct the hon. member, who I am certain did not want to mislead the House. The federal government is responsible for providing health care to indigenous people living on reserve and to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
It is worth pointing out that we have military health care expertise, because it means that our soldiers were able to help Quebec's long-term care facilities. Our military has considerable expertise that helped Quebec better protect its seniors. We will continue to respect jurisdictions. We will continue to be there for Canadians.
The member also referred to our promise to increase old age security for seniors aged 75 and over. We recognize that people are living longer and longer, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, as people age, their expenses increase, and their pension does not go nearly as far as it used to. We therefore recognized the importance of doing more for seniors so that they can live longer in dignity, and we will continue to do just that.
We will always continue to work in partnership with and respect the provinces. That is what makes our beautiful country, our great confederation, work. As a federalist, I know that there are things that my sovereignist friend and I will not agree on, but we will always agree on the fact that we all need to work to protect Canadians, no matter where they live in this country.
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View Taylor Bachrach Profile
NDP (BC)
View Taylor Bachrach Profile
2020-09-24 12:37 [p.46]
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Madam Speaker, so many people in northwest British Columbia continue to struggle with the loss of their income as a result of this pandemic. This includes people working in retail, people working in tourism and people working in hospitality.
The government's original plan for the transition from CERB to EI included an unexplained reduction in benefits of $400 per month. Will the Prime Minister please confirm that he has now accepted the NDP's demand that there be no reduction in benefits in the transition from the CERB program?
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2020-09-24 12:38 [p.46]
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Madam Speaker, I am pleased to highlight that we recognize the challenges faced by Canadians right across the country. From the very beginning, with the Canada emergency response benefit, we were there to support Canadians, even though the Conservatives continue to insist that we should not have been so quick with the CERB, should not have been so quick to help Canadians and should have focused on businesses first instead.
We know that supporting workers and families across this country was the right thing to do. We all want to imagine a country in which our economy will be running again at full steam without this pandemic, but we are not there yet. We still have far too many people who are out of work, far too many people who would love to find a job or would love to be working but simply cannot.
That is why we are transitioning the CERB into a robust EI system that will continue to offer $500 a week to people who are looking for work or who cannot find work and to people who need that support because they simply have to be home to support their families during this difficult time.
For the people who have not been able to access or cannot access EI, we are creating a Canada recovery benefit that will support them with $500 a month, because that is the support that all Canadians deserve.
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View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2020-09-24 12:39 [p.46]
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Madam Speaker, I am so glad that the Prime Minister talked about CERB, because it was a program that not only helped so many individual Canadians, but in fact put our economy in such a place that it could continue to survive throughout this pandemic.
I will take this opportunity, as I have done before, to thank the incredible public service that delivered on that program. The reality is that we went from the World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic to having money in the bank accounts of 5.4 million Canadians in one month and four days. By any standard that is an extreme accomplishment, and it is all due to the incredible public service we have.
The Prime Minister would know that the economy and our environment are incredibly important to me. The throne speech hit on the government's aim to legislate Canada's global goal of net zero by 2050. I am curious if the Prime Minister could expand on how he sees the changes to our economy, and what parts of the economy we will push and support to make this a reality so we can meet our goals.
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View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2020-09-24 12:41 [p.46]
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Madam Speaker, let me first respond to the initial comments of our esteemed colleague from Kingston and the Islands.
The Canadian public service has been extraordinary, and not just the federal public service but those right across the provinces, as we have worked on initiatives to support vulnerable workers and support local food banks and shelters, and as we have delivered unprecedented financial supports, with the CERB and the Canada emergency wage subsidy, for an economy that was shut down through the spring. They are extraordinary people who, even as everyone else was hunkering down and staying home, stayed at work, connected online and delivered innovative, creative ways of supporting Canadians. We are all deeply indebted to them.
With regard to the environment, we will continue to recognize that the best way to build a strong economy for the future, for the long term, for future generations and for now is to invest in innovative new technologies, in decarbonization and in moving forward to ensure that every sector is playing a role in transforming our country for the better, from energy workers to auto workers, from fishers and foresters to farmers.
We know that working together on fighting climate change and building an economy of the future goes along with being responsible and sustainable in the long term.
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View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-09-24 12:42 [p.47]
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Madam Speaker, so much fuss for so little return. Parliament was shut down a month ago in the midst of a serious pandemic. Now we are probably at the start of the second wave. When Parliament was shut down, the government said there would be a throne speech. We were expecting clear measures, unambiguous ideas and concrete solutions to the current situation.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister delivered an address to the nation. People were calling us, wanting to know what he was going to announce. This was an extraordinary situation. We were on tenterhooks, expecting something big. Unfortunately, the Speech from the Throne is a hodgepodge of ideas that we have heard many times before. It is a rehash of last year's throne speech. These are empty ideas, not solutions. People may say that it is greener. The greenest thing about it is all the old ideas they recycled.
Apart from that, apart from a huge, perhaps historic, intrusion into provincial jurisdictions by the federal government, there is nothing noteworthy. After listening to the Prime Minister's address to the nation, I thought, what a joke. Was that all? He told us to wash our hands, wear a mask and use the COVID Alert app, and said that the government would take on debt instead of Canadians. There was nothing new. It was really a one-man show. What a joke.
I was wondering why he went to all the trouble, and then I realized. We know how magicians make things disappear. They create a diversion. They distract us and then use sleight of hand. That is what this government is trying to do. It is using the throne speech and address to the nation to create a diversion and try to hide something. It pretends it is being serious and taking the bull by the horns.
He wants to make the WE scandal disappear into thin air. This whole charade was designed to get the Prime Minister out of the mess he has been in for the past month over WE Charity. He was up to his neck in this scandal. It was the worst scandal his government had gone through, and there were plenty. Four committees were studying the matter. The Minister of Finance resigned, which is a big deal. The Prime Minister is facing his third probe by the Ethics Commissioner. He is rewriting the Guinness Book of World Records. He is the Wayne Gretzky of ethics violations. All this to hush up the scandal. The government should not expect to get off lightly, because the Bloc Québécois intends to keep the ball rolling. We are going to keep a close eye on what is happening with the WE scandal.
People are asking us what the solution is. It is very simple. This address to the nation and the throne speech should have been about the public health crisis and the health care systems that have been affected by this unprecedented crisis. The solution came from the provincial premiers and the Government of Quebec. It is simple. The solution is to put money into health care. That is all there is to it. That is all the provinces want. They must get help to pay for health care.
The Prime Minister says he has met with them 20 times, but he is not listening to them. He met with them 20 times and every time the ministers told him the same thing, but he is not listening. He could meet with them 100 times, and it would not matter. He is not listening to Canada's health care experts, the people in charge of safeguarding the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.
Earlier, the Prime Minister spoke about blank cheques. He just does not get it. The Canadian Constitution clearly states that health care falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. It says so in black and white. To help the provinces and Quebec provide proper funding for health care, the federal government needs to contribute.
The federal government is saying that it will not give out any blank cheques, but it is not the government's money. The Prime Minister needs to understand that. It is not his money. It is taxpayers' money.
Quebec taxpayers pay taxes and give the federal government a blank cheque. They give the federal government that money, but in return they expect to receive services from the federal government. Quebec taxpayers expect to receive quality health care after paying those taxes. After putting money in its own pockets, this government is meddling in things that are none of its concern, acting like an armchair quarterback and saying that the provinces need to do this or that, when it knows nothing about what needs to be done.
The federal government was supposed to provide 50% of the funding, but that was cut to 33% and then 25%. In the early 2010s, the Conservatives had a great idea. They said that they were going to put a 3% cap on increases to health care transfers. It was their idea.
The 2013 Thomson report was clear. Maintaining health care spending, including in Quebec, requires an annual funding increase of 5.6%. It does not take a PhD in math to understand that when costs increase by 5.6% annually and the federal government only allocates 3% more in its budget, the remaining 2.6% is on the wrong side of the balance sheet. That is obvious.
Last week, the premiers of Quebec and the provinces stated that, based on their calculations, they need an additional $28 billion for health care. Once again, the federal government refused and said it was not going to write a blank cheque.
Ironically, this government tries to interfere in the jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec, but it cannot manage its own affairs properly.
The rail crisis was a federal matter, yet for 20 days, the government stated that it would not do anything and that it was up to the provinces and Quebec to take care of it. It is actually a federal matter. The government needs to do its job. It went out of its way to do nothing. That is unbelievable. I call that compulsive passive resistance.
Then the pandemic began. Since the virus came from overseas, the Prime Minister was advised to close the borders. It was only logical. That was his job. That is what he is there for, among other things, but he said that he would not close the borders. It took the mayor of Montreal going to Dorval and saying that enough is enough. The mayor did what the Prime Minister was supposed to do. The government is not looking after its own affairs.
Foreign workers who arrived here were meant to be put in quarantine, and the federal government was supposed the manage the situation. It failed to do that. It does not take care of its own affairs, but it pretends it is king and says it will manage areas under provincial jurisdiction. It needs to mind its own business. That is what Quebeckers want, for this government to mind its own business.
With regard to hospital staff, nurses are doing an amazing job. They have been performing miracles for years. As a result of increased chronic underfunding by this government, and by the federal government in general, they are being called upon to make more and more miracles happen. They are being left to fend for themselves. Orderlies are having to take on more and more work. Burnout is ever present. Instead of saying that it is going to help them, give them money, support them, give them resources and not let them down, what is the government doing? It is telling them how to do their jobs and refusing to provide more help. That is what the government said in the throne speech. It makes no sense.
The government saw the throne speech as an opportunity to interfere in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, including long-term care facilities, home care, family doctors, virtual health care, mental health resources, pharmacare, training for workers, and child care. These things are none of the federal government's business.
What exactly is the federal government's business? Taxpayers' money. The federal government should take that money and give it back to the government responsible for providing these services to taxpayers, be that in Quebec City or Ottawa. That is precisely how the Canadian federation works. I did not make that up or make the rules. The Liberals are the ones not following the rules.
There is some good news, sort of. It is not entirely good news though. It never is.
Helping seniors is a good thing. For the past year, we have been talking about how seniors are in a precarious financial situation, and the crisis caused by the pandemic has made things even worse. These seniors are isolated and sick, and, sadly, many of them have died. We asked the government to help them, but the government decided to help only those over 75. We do not understand that kind of logic. Do they think nothing happens to people between the ages of 65 and 75? Do they think those people live a charmed life? Why create two classes of seniors?
The government is going to help certain industries that are struggling, including the travel, tourism and culture sectors. That is great. However, the throne speech included nothing for the aerospace industry, even though it accounts for 43,000 direct and indirect jobs in Quebec and is its largest export. This sector was hit hard by the pandemic, and yet the throne speech offers no solutions.
The government has promised to create a million jobs. This is the usual smoke and mirrors from the Liberal Party, which seems to like round numbers. It says it is going to create a million jobs, but we have no idea how.
The Liberal Party has already promised to plant two billion trees. People were impressed and wondered how the government would do that. The government would only reply that it was going to plant those trees, but now, one year later, not one tree has been planted.
The Liberals promised that Canada would reach net zero by 2050. People were impressed. They wondered what the Liberals' secret was and asked them how they were going to do it. The Liberals have no idea. This is a joke. It is all smoke and mirrors.
The government says it will create one million jobs. It may want to start by protecting aerospace jobs that are so important for Quebec. These are good jobs that benefit all of Quebec and its exports. It is not complicated. It is what needs to be done. Again, however, this government pouts and does not want to deal with the economy in a smart way, when all it would take is an aerospace policy. In Canada and Quebec, we are the only country that does not help its aerospace industry in a structured way. In Quebec, we are capable of building a plane from stem to stern. It is a source of pride. We do that in spite of the federal government and the fact that half of our taxes do not come back to us in a smart way.
The government said it would make web giants contribute. That is good news. It is interesting. Yet, the government does not mention tax havens because the Liberals are spineless. I know some Liberal members and I like them. I have not spoken at length with them about it, but I know that they would say that tax havens do not make sense. Why then are the Liberals not taking action? Which friends do they want to protect by standing by while everyone has been urging them to take action on this issue over the years? These tax havens represent billions of dollars in lost taxes.
The government has extended the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The Liberals know that it is a good measure because they used it for six months and made $800,000. They tested the subsidy and found that it worked for them. They thought it was great and decided to keep it in place.
The government is talking about a green recovery. Fine, but since we are on the subject, I would have liked the speech to nix the Trans Mountain expansion. Many economists and academics, even some from western Canada, are saying that this project is not viable, that it will not make money and that investing $12 billion in it is unthinkable. The message was crystal clear, we have heard it over and over, and it became glaringly obvious two weeks ago. The writing was on the wall. There throne speech should have made a definitive statement about it, but it was not even mentioned.
The government's environmental whims are shorter-lived than a balloon at a porcupine party. They come and go. That is a fact.
The government sacrificed the future of farmers and milk quotas, for example, for the sake of more international agreements. The government sacrificed these things for the sake of globalization, and farmers lost billions of dollars. They were promised again and again that they would get compensation and that the money was there. It was there in last year's throne speech. What happened since then? Nothing. What is happening now? Still nothing.
This sends a message to farmers. The government is putting their finances in jeopardy because it cannot negotiate sensible agreements with other countries. As a result, the government cannot and will not help them. Farmers are told that they will get help, but they will not. That is typical of the Government of Canada.
In conclusion, there is very little in the throne speech to satisfy the Bloc Québécois. If the government wants our support for the throne speech, it will have to produce an agreement to increase health transfers by next week. That is what Quebeckers are asking for. That is what Quebec's health care system needs. That is what the Bloc Québécois wants.
I would like to table, seconded by the hon. member for Salaberry—Surroît, an amendment to the amendment:
That the amendment be modified by adding, after the fourth paragraph, the following:
“We regret that your government did not respond to the unanimous call from the Premier of Quebec, and provincial and territorial premiers for an unconditional increase to the Canada Health Transfer so it represents 35% of health care costs in Quebec, the provinces and territories;
We also regret that your government is creating two classes of seniors by proposing to increase old age security only for people aged 75 and over;
We regret that your government is violating constitutional jurisdiction by not allowing Quebec and the provinces to opt out, with full compensation, of federal programs in areas under their jurisdiction;”.
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View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
2020-09-24 13:01 [p.49]
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The subamendment is in order.
Questions and comments, the hon. parliamentary secretary.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-09-24 13:02 [p.49]
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Madam Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed but not surprised. My colleagues, the members of the Bloc, would like to see the demise of Canada. That is fairly well established. All they want is to have the cash without any standards or anything tagged onto the money. They just want the government to give them the money.
This is completely at odds with the people I represent. The people who I represent are not that much different from a majority of Canadians. They understand and appreciate that the federal government's role is more than just handing over cash or a blank cheque. They understand and appreciate the value of our health care system. They want a national government that genuinely cares about the delivery of that health care system.
The federal government does have a role to play. The Canada Health Act dictates that the federal government has a role to play.
The member commented that the throne speech would do nothing for the aerospace industry. Facts are often distorted in the chamber. The government cares passionately about the aerospace industry, whether it is in the province of Quebec or in the province of Manitoba. I suspect that the wage subsidy program has been very beneficial for many aerospace jobs.
Would the member not recognize that many of the initiatives that have been brought into force over the last six months have literally saved thousands of jobs in the province of Quebec and have assisted many more, tens of thousands, people, providing money to them?
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View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-09-24 13:04 [p.49]
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Madam Speaker, the member opposite must not have very many constitutionalist friends. Personally, I am going by the Constitution. I read it and I have studied it. I know what I am talking about.
He said that health care does not fall under Quebec's jurisdiction and that the federal government has a role to play in it. I am sorry, but he should read his materials again. He cannot be serious. Nobody who has read the Constitution would say that the federal government has no business writing blank cheques.
The Constitution dates back to 1867. The sources of revenue available to the provinces and Quebec were insufficient to manage all the expenses. That is why provincial transfers were created in 1867. At the time, the federal government's main sources of revenue were quite profitable. They were related to transportation and borders.
Back in 1867, one of the only ways the provinces could get money was an income tax. There was no such thing at the time. Income taxes were created in the early 20th century by British Columbia. When the Canadian government saw that this was working, it decided it wanted in on the action, even though this was not supposed to be a source of revenue for it. It is the story of the Canadian federation. I could give an eight-hour speech on this, but I think I had better stop here.
The people across the aisle are going to have to realize that what we are saying is not just hot air. It is based on facts.
He talked about aerospace policy. We do not just want the government to shell out money reluctantly or grudgingly, as it has been doing for years. When there were problems with the C Series, Bombardier waited a long time for federal money, which almost failed to materialize. At the time, most of the aerospace funding was going to sectors that channelled more capital towards Ontario and Quebec. That is more misinformation from the member opposite.
At some point, the member is going to have to learn how to handle information properly. If he wants to debate that, I have no problem with it.
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View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Speaker, it is great to hear Bloc Québécois members passionately defending the Canadian Constitution. It is truly a delight to hear. It is fitting and informative.
The NDP has gone after clear wins for people, measures that will help them in their everyday lives. The crisis has shown how important sick leave is. People who do not feel well and have COVID symptoms should not to feel forced to go to work. They should be able to stay home, because that is a fundamental right in terms of workers' health and safety.
Does my Bloc colleague agree that people should be entitled to sick leave?
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View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-09-24 13:06 [p.50]
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Madam Speaker, I would like to point out that I am not extolling the virtues of the Constitution. I am quite familiar with the Constitution, since it has been hindering Quebec's economic development since 1867. That is why we take great interest in the Canadian Constitution and why we want out of it. From the very beginning, the Constitution has been diminishing our rights and institutionalizing our minority status in Canada. That is a fact. An entire nation and its people were simply confined under the label of “province” among the other provinces of Canada.
He is extolling the virtues of centralization and that is proof of encroachment. NDP members are like Liberals in a hurry. They want to take away the provinces' powers and Quebec's powers; that is what they are fighting for. It is too bad the member from Rosemont does not talk about this in his riding; I am not sure he would be here after the next election.
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View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2020-09-24 13:08 [p.50]
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Madam Speaker, my colleague spoke at length about the aerospace sector and Quebec's position as a leader in that field. Another area in which Quebec is a leader is the electrification of transportation, which came up in the Speech from the Throne. The ideas are there, but the details are not and that concerns us.
Quebec is already leading the way in generous car purchase incentives and first when it comes to electric vehicles in Canada. We have 1,800 charging stations. We are talking about 4,700 jobs and 58 businesses. The Speech from the Throne mentions this sector.
Where will the government put its federal investments? Will they be sent to competitors of the Quebec market, cancelling out Quebec's efforts? Will the government instead negotiate with Quebec on mineral processing and battery production and support the ecosystem of our SMEs that built this expertise?
In his last intervention, my colleague said that Quebec's initiatives have always been underestimated. What does he think about the potential harm of the Speech from the Throne to the promise of electric transportation?
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View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-09-24 13:09 [p.50]
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Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question.
Quebec is definitely becoming more and more engaged in the green energy transition. We are pioneers in Canada. It is not that we are any better or worse than others. The fact is that our use of hydroelectricity has led us to make this energy transition more quickly.
We cannot ask this government to help both western oil and Quebec's energy transition. This just goes to show that Canada is not working, because we cannot serve two masters at any one time. Grasp all, lose all, the saying goes.
I completely agree with increasing support for the energy transition. To date, unfortunately, we have only been paid lip service.
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View William Amos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View William Amos Profile
2020-09-24 13:10 [p.50]
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Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois's perception is shaped by its very narrow vision for the future of this country and Quebec.
The federal government invests 87¢ for every dollar invested in Canada, at all levels of government. The federal government invests to help our workers, families and SMEs, and to protect our economy and our families. This government is prepared to help Quebeckers and our SMEs all across the country.
As for climate change and environmental protections, why does the member not talk about the Government of Quebec's position on “net-zero”? Our government knows where it stands on this.
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View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-09-24 13:11 [p.50]
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Madam Speaker, Lavoisier said, “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.”
The money that the federal government gives Quebec represents taxes paid by Quebeckers. It is not a gift.
The Bloc Québécois certainly does not think of Quebec as a minor player. On the contrary, for the Bloc, Quebec is a major player, and we hold Quebeckers in such esteem that we believe they are capable of seizing control of their own destiny. Does that mean that we hate Canada? Absolutely not. It is just that we are different and we deserve our own country.
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View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague and friend, the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, who is going to speak to us about issues that affect his community and the people of British Columbia.
I am pleased to rise in the House to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the NDP. Quite frankly, my first reaction, and I believe everyone's first reaction, was to wonder whether this was all worth it. There has been much ado about nothing. The government prorogued and shut down Parliament claiming that we needed to take a new direction, to start fresh with a forward-looking vision.
Yesterday, I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day, like I woke up and was back in October 2019. The Speech from the Throne is a rehashing of the Liberals' platform from last year. It contains some worthwhile measures, some unfortunate ones, and some omissions. However, there is nothing to explain why the government decided to prorogue Parliament. The Speech from the Throne is a carbon copy of the one the government proposed during the last session. The NDP feels this was a missed opportunity.
The government doubled down with the Prime Minister's speech to the nation. It was ridiculous and comical. I think the Prime Minister did not like that the Governor General got to read his text, so he thought he would go on TV and read it himself, just to be sure he would get his face on the nightly news. I think the Prime Minister actually has plenty of opportunities to speak to Canadians and the media.
We were treated to a pointless throne speech that seemed like reheated leftovers, followed by an address to the nation that was equally pointless and told us nothing new. It simply reminded us to be careful and wear masks. It seems like the Liberals used our parliamentary institution to deliver political talking points, with no real message. Some might point out that this is not the first time the Liberals have done that, and I would agree. We in the NDP were left wanting more.
Parts of the throne speech seem promising. The Liberals say we need to look after families and children, invest in child care, and make sure people can get their prescription drugs. The NDP has a pretty good memory. The Liberals first brought up the idea of public child care and pharmacare back in 1997. The Liberals have been talking about these great social programs for almost 25 years, but they never actually follow through. They always say they could not do it this time but will do it next time. They expect us to believe them every time.
The real test is not the Speech from the Throne, but whether the government will make the right decisions and, ultimately, make investments that will really help Canadians.
We worked with the government over the past few months because we wanted to make sure everyone could eat and pay rent during the crisis. People need access to a basic income so they can power through this health and economic crisis.
At first, the Liberal government's responses were not very encouraging. We said that millions of people were losing their jobs and had no income to support their families. The government's first response was that those people could apply for employment insurance. We reminded the Liberals that 60% of workers do not have access to EI because it is a highly flawed program. Our progressive left-wing party has long been calling for an overhaul of the EI program.
We managed to get the Canada emergency response benefit. At first the Liberals told us that they were not offering it to everyone, but we wanted it to be given to everyone. Anyone who did not need it could pay it back in taxes. Then the Liberals proposed a sum of $1,000 a month. In many places, that was not nearly enough. In places like Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, once the rent is paid, assuming that is enough to cover the rent, there would be nothing left over. The Liberals were reluctant, but we managed to push them to provide $2,000 a month.
Then we realized that self-employed workers, freelancers and contract employees were not covered. If someone has 10 or 12 contracts and loses eight or nine of them because of the crisis, they still have a little income. Initially, all of these people were excluded from the CERB. We negotiated, worked and pushed for measures, and we were able to make sure that people could earn up to $1,000 a month and still access the CERB.
The Liberals forgot about students, who were also excluded. We pointed out that not all students are mollycoddled young people living with their parents. Many of them had to pay rent and put food on the table, but they did not have summer jobs. We therefore called for a student benefit. It took a while. We worked hard and negotiated with the government, and we succeeded. This proves that progressive members who are willing to work constructively are needed. They can get things done for ordinary folks, for self-employed workers and for students.
Earlier, I spoke about sick days. Clearly, my Bloc Québécois colleague has no qualms about brushing this issue aside. In real life, sick days are very important to people, especially during a crisis and a pandemic. We do not want anyone who has symptoms such as a fever or cough to go to work. We made significant progress by putting pressure on the government. Getting sick days for workers was an achievement that was applauded by Quebec and Canadian unions. I believe we took an important step forward.
Of course, there were things missing from the throne speech. We are in the midst of a health crisis because of a virus that has been around for six months and will probably be around for six more. However, the Liberal government is doing nothing about transfer payments for the public health care system. Stephen Harper's Conservatives cut the health transfer escalator. Despite their fine talk, the Liberals have upheld the Conservatives' vision, putting enormous pressure on public health care systems in Quebec and across Canada. During the crisis, we saw that our public health care system needs money and oxygen. It must be able to recruit staff and offer good working conditions and salaries so that they stay on the job. We saw and are still seeing orderlies who do not want to go to work because it is too dangerous. We understand. They are paid a pittance. Some nurses are leaving the profession because the hours are too hard.
Obviously, hospitals are run by Quebec and the provinces, not Ottawa. However, the federal government must cover the costs and make a significant contribution. At present, the federal contribution does not even cover 25% of total health care costs. The NDP and others are telling the federal government that it is missing the boat. Why is the government not announcing that it will transfer more money to public health care systems? Why do we have a so-called public system that is largely privatized?
The NDP is the party of Tommy Douglas and universal health care. People should be able to access care with their health card, not their credit card. Why are there so many private seniors' homes and long-term care homes? Because people want to make money off health care for seniors. Disaster struck the Centre Herron, a private long-term care home in Dorval. Residents were paying between $3,000 and $10,000 a month but were not even getting clean diapers. They were eating spoiled food. They were not being cared for. They were falling down, and nobody was picking them up. That is completely unacceptable to the NDP. We do not want the private sector involved in our health care systems, and certainly not in elder care.
We are going through a public health crisis right now, but let us not forget that we are still in the midst of an environmental and climate crisis. That has not gone away. We are travelling and driving a little less. The economy has slowed down, and our greenhouse gas emissions have dropped, but that will not last. If we do not change our ways and change our production and consumption patterns, we are heading straight for a wall.
I would refer members to a book written by Frédéric Bérard, law professor at the University of Montreal, entitled La Terre est une poubelle en feu, or “the earth is a flaming trash can”. We are seeing this again with the wildfires in California. The book's title is not simple imagery, it is actually quite accurate. If we do not drastically change our way of life, our greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise and we will completely miss our Paris targets. It is becoming increasingly hard to imagine that we will be able to limit global warming to 1.5°C, which is the commitment we made. The Liberals keep contradicting themselves on this. They say all the right things, yet they continue buying pipelines, expanding oil production and boosting subsidies to oil companies. The NDP will oppose that.
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