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View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Chair, the chinook salmon are in serious decline. We are taking measures to make sure that we are going to protect the stocks. It is a critically important piece of the work that we are doing. Fisheries management issues are something that are always difficult when people are impacted, but it is something that we know we have to do, along with habitat restoration and addressing climate change. All of these things are impacting the stocks. We are going to make sure we do everything we can to protect the chinook salmon.
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-26 14:20 [p.2437]
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Mr. Speaker, this week is the first time that I have returned to the House of Commons since March, and I am pleased to see that we are all healthy and slowly returning to a new normal.
For the past several weeks, the entire Canadian population has been going through a difficult time due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, many people have lost their lives.
In addition to the health crisis hitting the world, at home in Nova Scotia we have faced other terrible tragedies. On April 22, 22 innocent victims lost their lives in the worst slaughter that Canada has ever known. On April 30, we lost six soldiers attached to HMCS Fredericton during a crash of their helicopter off the coast of Greece. Two of them were Nova Scotians. On Sunday, May 17, we lost Captain Jennifer Casey in the Snowbird crash in B.C.
Since the current crisis prevents us from coming together, it is very difficult for all the families of the victims to overcome these tragic moments on their own. I want to thank all my colleagues, my constituents of West Nova and all Canadians for reaching out to friends and family in Nova Scotia with their messages of support during this difficult time.
My family, my staff and I want to offer our deepest condolences to all the families, loved ones and friends of those who have been lost. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Nova Scotia will remain strong.
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-26 15:05 [p.2446]
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Mr. Speaker, we understand that the Nova Scotia massacre investigation is complex due to the number of lives lost and of course the crime scenes that it has. The only information the families and the public are getting are through the media from heavily-redacted RCMP documents and it looks like they are hiding something, leading to the Premier of Nova Scotia saying that it was up to the Prime Minister and the government to call for an independent inquiry.
The gunman is dead. The families deserve answers. Will the minister of public safety ask his partners to break from the secrecy and provide information as it becomes available?
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-26 15:34 [p.2450]
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Mr. Speaker, I expected this closure to happen earlier this morning, but here we are today. My question has to do with convention and precedents of the House. It seems that once we do something it becomes a rule of the House, which means that in the future we can go forward and continue to do it.
When September rolls around, when things get back to whatever the normal is going to be, is this going to be continued because it has now become a convention? We all know, and have been told that from a political standpoint, there are no votes for us in Ottawa. We should stay in our constituencies and meet with our folks.
We should be able to come back here. Will this be continued in September?
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-25 14:57 [p.2357]
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Mr. Speaker, the role of the Auditor General is very important to Canadians. An auditor general provides information based on facts and expert advice on government programs and activities. Never before has an auditor general said that his or her budget was insufficient because of the increased workload caused by the additional audits required to review the Liberal government's out-of-control spending.
When will the minister fully fund the Auditor General's budget?
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-05-25 14:58 [p.2357]
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Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, the answer says, “We are going to look at it, but we are not necessarily going to do it.”
No auditor general has ever had to cut audits under any prime minister until now. The government should be ashamed of that. We know that Liberals are not fans of auditors general. Who could forget when Sheila Fraser blew the whistle on the Liberal sponsorship scandal?
It is clear that the work of the Auditor General is critical to the functioning of our democracy. When will the government give the Office of the Auditor General the money it needs to audit Liberal spending?
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:08 [p.1985]
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Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to stand today to address the motion from the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. I congratulate him on his speech and I thank him for his work on the health committee.
The government is committed to implementing a national universal pharmacare program that ensures that all Canadians have access to the prescription drugs that they need. This is our goal, as clearly stated in the 43rd Speech from the Throne. It is a goal that we have been working towards for some time. While we are now closer than ever, it is important that we continue our measured, considered approach to implementation. We need to get this right.
This morning I will explain the steps the government is taking to make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable for Canadians. I will also explain why these actions are key to the implementation of a national pharmacare program.
Canadians should not have to choose between buying groceries and paying for medication, but for many people, paying for prescription drugs is a heavy burden and for others it is completely out of reach. Surveys show that more than seven million Canadians are either entirely uninsured or under-insured.
This means that many of these Canadians cannot afford to fill their prescriptions. They simply do without the medication they need. If their health absolutely depends on taking these drugs, they may forgo necessities, such as food and heat, so that they can pay for their prescriptions. We can no longer afford to do nothing. We cannot afford to wait.
That is why we asked Dr. Eric Hoskins and a panel of eminent Canadians to provide the government with a blueprint for a national pharmacare program. After hearing from many thousands of Canadians, the council found a consensus of opinion that everyone in Canada should have access to prescription drugs based on their need and not on their ability to pay.
The government shares this view. With national pharmacare on the horizon, addressing the affordability of drugs is imperative.
How do we do that? The first step is to update specific parts of our regulatory regime and bring them into line with the rest of the world.
Let me begin with a few words about the evolving use of pharmaceuticals in Canada and the associated increasing costs, costs that impact everyone.
Pharmaceuticals are important to the health of Canadians and a vital part of Canada's health care system. Drugs help cure or manage previously debilitating or fatal diseases, allowing Canadians to live longer and healthier lives. Diseases that were deadly 100 years ago, such as tetanus, diphtheria, polio and many others, can now be prevented by vaccination. An HIV diagnosis was a death sentence at one time. New drugs offer innovative treatments for diseases like arthritis, hepatitis C and many types of cancer.
All this innovation comes at a cost. It is part of the reason that Canadians are paying higher prices for prescription drugs than they should. Patented drug prices in Canada are the third-highest in the world, behind only the United States and Switzerland. Canadian prices are, on average, almost 25% more than the OECD median for the same patented drugs. As a result, the private and public drug plans that cover the majority of Canadians are rapidly becoming unsustainable.
Let me give an example. Diabetes affects an estimated 3.4 million Canadians and is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Canada spends nearly $600 million annually on new oral anti-diabetic drugs. The two top-selling oral anti-diabetic drugs cost Canadian public drug plans close to $1,000 per year per patient, twice as much as in France. Imagine the savings if Canada paid France's prices for these drugs. That is a lot of money. It is money that could be used to cover the cost of drugs for people with limited or no insurance coverage.
A second example is a drug used to treat a rare soft-bone disease. This disease used to be almost always fatal, but this drug changed the prognosis. However, it is one of the most expensive drugs in Canada, costing more than $1 million per year per patient, depending on the required dosage. Unfortunately, this high price resulted in difficult decisions and delayed access to the drug for many Canadians.
If Canada paid lower prices for all drugs, there would be more money available in drug plans to provide better coverage or to provide coverage to those without insurance.
Even outside the area of rare diseases, pharmaceutical costs keep going up. Drugs are now the second-largest category of spending in health care, and biologics and other specialty drugs account for an increasing share of these total drug costs. This rate of growth in drug costs is unsustainable, and it is hurting Canadians every single day.
As a trend toward higher-cost specialty drugs continues, we cannot continue to pay higher-than-average prices for drugs. What could we do? The answer is not to spend more. We already spend more per capita on pharmaceuticals than nearly every country in the world. We need a solution to bring fair prices and sustainable drug costs for Canada.
Part of the problem was that Canada's approach to patented drug price regulations was outdated. Our previous pricing regulations were established in the 1980s. We have more than 100 different public drug plans and thousands of private drug plans, which means that drug coverage is provided by a patchwork of payers.
It was well past time to bring these regulations into the 21st century. Canada needed a modernized approach to regulating patented drug prices, one that would provide long-term sustainability and protect Canadians from excessive prices. That is why last summer the government modernized the patented medicines regulations to provide the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, or PMPRB, with the tools and information it needs to protect Canadians from excessive prices for patented medicines.
I want everyone to remember that Canada pays the third-highest costs in the world. As a comparison, we pay double what France pays on some drugs.
We will now benchmark prices against countries that are similar to Canada economically and similar from a consumer protection standpoint. Previously, the price ceilings for patented drugs in Canada were set by comparing our prices against prices in seven predetermined countries: France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The list of countries has now been updated by removing the United States and Switzerland and adding Australia, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, for a total of 11 countries as comparables.
We then wanted the PMPRB to see the actual prices being paid in Canada, not just the list prices being published by pharmaceutical companies. When the PMPRB was created, the market prices of drugs matched the list prices. Over time, as a result of the significant confidential discounts and rebates negotiated by third party payers, actual prices paid in the market became significantly lower than list prices. Without access to this information, the PMPRB was left to regulate domestic price ceilings based on inflated list prices.
With the modernized regulations, patentees will be required to report Canadian price information as the net of all adjustments, such as rebates and discounts, so that the PMPRB is informed of the actual market prices being paid in Canada.
Finally, we wanted to consider the value that a drug offers and its overall affordability. Most other countries with national pharmacare programs already do this. When setting a price, we need to consider three things. First is the value for money: Does the drug offer a therapeutic benefit that justifies its cost? Next is the size of the market: How many people will benefit from the drug? Last is to consider Canada's GDP and GDP per capita: Can we afford to pay for the drug?
These changes will provide the PMPRB with the tools it needs to protect Canadians from excessive drug prices and bring us in line with the policies and practices of most other developed countries. This was a critical step toward improving the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs. Taken together, we anticipate that these regulatory changes will save roughly $13 billion over the next 10 years. That is a significant saving for Canadians.
From those savings, public and private drug plans will have greater capacity to improve benefits for plan members or to consider new therapies not currently covered. All Canadians, including those with drug plans and those paying out of pocket, will benefit from lower prices for prescription drugs.
Modernizing pricing regulations complements the work already under way at Health Canada to streamline the regulatory review process for drugs by enabling priority drugs to reach the market more quickly. It supports the work already taking place under the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. As a member of this alliance, the Government of Canada is able to combine its buying power with that of the public plans in the provinces and territories.
It is estimated that the alliance saves public drug plans more than $2 billion a year. Successful negotiations result in more affordable prescription drug prices for public plans and lower generic drug prices for all players.
Before we can implement a national pharmacare program in Canada, we have to address the rising cost of drugs in the country by taking the steps I have outlined. Doing so will improve the viability of a national pharmacare program. National pharmacare, in and of itself, would be another step that could help us control drug prices.
I am confident that this government is on the right path. We are now exploring options as we move forward with a national pharmacare plan, and we are making significant investments.
Budget 2019 earmarked $1 billion over two years beginning in 2022, with up to $500 million ongoing to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need. This is very important. This is an investment that must be made.
Budget 2019 also proposed $35 million over four years to support the creation of the Canadian drug agency, an important step toward a national pharmacare program. We have pledged to work with provinces, territories and stakeholders on the creation of the Canada drug agency. This agency could use its negotiating power to achieve better prescription drug prices on behalf of Canadians. Negotiating better prices could help lower the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians by up to $3 billion over the long term.
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss some of the important work we are doing to prepare for the implementation of a national pharmacare program. Part of this effort involves addressing the affordability of prescription drugs, an essential building block for pharmacare. To do that, we have brought our regulatory approach to pharmaceutical pricing in line with approaches that are used in the rest of the world. The actions we have taken to improve the system will help to bring down the prices of prescription drugs.
I would very much like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his motion. I am pleased to say that we are moving forward steadily. Each of the actions I have described today is helping to pave the way for an effective pharmacare program.
From bringing down prescription prices to improving the management of these drugs in our health care system, we are taking the time necessary to get this right, keeping in mind that the provinces and territories will have a key role to play in determining how pharmacare will take shape.
Pharmaceuticals are an important part of Canada's health care system. That is why federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health have made affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of prescription drugs a shared responsibility.
The updates we have made to the patented medicines regulations, when taken together with the Patent Act, will provide the PMPRB with the tools to protect Canadians consumers from excessive patented drug prices.
All of these measures are important steps in our plan to prepare for the implementation of a national pharmacare program. It is critical that the government work closely with the provinces and territories, as they play a key role in the development of a drug agency, the strategy for high-cost drugs and for rare diseases. Together we are making progress toward a more efficient and effective system.
Based on these initiatives and others I have outlined today, it is clear that we are in fact moving forward with the recommendations from the Hoskins report. I am pleased to support today's motion and urge other hon. members in the House to do so as well.
We must continue to collaborate with the provinces and territories. Our government looks forward to continuing these discussions while taking the critical next step to implement national universal pharmacare.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:23 [p.1987]
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Mr. Speaker, a lot of work has already happened in the last couple of years. A lot of collaboration has already begun and there are a lot of positive steps.
As we move forward on implementing national pharmacare, we have to continue to collaborate with the provinces and territories. I believe there is a meeting very soon, this spring in fact. Our government looks forward to continuing these discussions while taking critical next steps to implement national pharmacare.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:25 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue. We need to do some serious work on a rare diseases strategy for Canadians. It is very important. As it pertains specifically to Trikafta, the company has not submitted an application to market this product in Canada.
However, working toward the rare diseases strategy, budget 2019 put forward a billion dollars over two years and $500 million each year ongoing to come up with a way to solve this issue so Canadians have access and affordability.
I spoke about the fact that we paid the third-highest prices. Why is Canada paying the third-highest prices for pharmaceuticals in the world? Why is it twice as much as some countries? Why are we paying 25% more than OECD countries on average? We need to find a balance between affordability and accessibility so all Canadians can be safe and healthy.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:27 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
I want to congratulate Quebec on doing a great job with moving toward national pharmacare. Quebec has one of the models for our country.
As the member said, Canadians do pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, the third-highest behind the United States. We already have done more than any government in a generation to lower drug prices. We have new rules on patented drugs that will save Canadians over $13 billion. We joined the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance. Now we are taking the next critical steps to implement national pharmacare. We will not rest until Canadians can get and afford the medications they need.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:29 [p.1988]
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Mr. Speaker, I would not want to presuppose an outcome or what may or may not come to be when so much of the responsibility, so much of partnership with the federal government will be the provinces and territories. It is so important to not try to foist upon provinces and territories what the federal government wants, but to work closely with the provinces and territories to determine what is best for them and for Canadians to ensure access and affordability for all Canadians.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-03-12 11:31 [p.1989]
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Mr. Speaker, this is a very sensitive and serious issue in Canada. We spoke earlier about Trikafta and how there had been no application for its approval in Canada yet. I know there are other issues.
For serious or life-threatening conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, there is the special access program. It does work and it has worked. However, we would not necessarily put specifics on what the $1 billion looks like until we form a partnership with the provinces and territories in order to move forward.
The $1 billion over two years and the $500 million ongoing each year is to ensure we can solve these problems the member has spoken about in the House before, which, frankly, are very serious and affect me personally.
I appreciate the comments of the member and the questions he has asked. We know we have to work on a rare diseases strategy. We have put the money in budget 2019 and in future budgets. We will continue to do the absolute most we can for Canadians.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:04 [p.2002]
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Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity.
Today's motion is about pharmacare. Perhaps I will lead with my conclusion. I will be supporting this motion. I will be supporting it because quite frankly I am sick of knocking on the doors of seniors who tell me they have to split their medication because they cannot afford it, not only putting themselves in a difficult financial position but reducing the effectiveness of the medicine they have been prescribed.
Most of the people I talk to at home, and I dare say most Canadians, are happy with their own coverage right now. However, the golden thread that runs through the social fabric of Canada is that as Canadians, we care as much about our neighbours as we do about ourselves. It is incredibly frustrating for me to know that one in five Canadian households report that a family member is not taking his or her medication because he or she cannot afford it. I am sure that the 36 million Canadians who do not suffer from this problem are disappointed to know that one million Canadians cut back on their food or home heating because they cannot afford the cost of their pills. When my neighbours cannot afford the cost of their medication, it decreases the quality of my life to know I live in a society that does not adequately take care of its vulnerable.
One of the greatest frustrations I have as a federal member of Parliament is that the number one issue for my constituents is their health care system, whether that is access to a family doctor, the quality of mental health services, in-home care for their aging parents or a lack of access to quality medications. They sometimes end up at my office, despite the fact that health care is primarily a provincial responsibility under our Constitution. It is cold comfort for the people who bring these kinds of concerns to my office for me to say that I have to wash my hands of it because it is a provincial responsibility. What they are looking for is help in often desperate circumstances.
Despite the fact that there is this constitutional division of power, there are concrete things the federal government can do, such as transfer more money to the provincial health care systems, invest in research, invest to ensure we can do something to combat the family doctor shortage, or, yes, implement a national pharmacare program to ensure people have access to the medications they have been prescribed so they can be healthy, regardless of the financial circumstances they may have been born into through no fault of their own.
There are two categories of problems I see with the lack of access to an adequate national pharmacare system.
First is the lack of access to medication because of issues surrounding affordability. I find this to be a real problem. It discriminates against our seniors on the basis of their age, because they do have increased health care concerns as they get older. It discriminates against people who are living in poverty, because they cannot afford to access drugs.
It is heartbreaking to knock on a door that is answered by a child who has not had enough to eat that day and then to sit down with his or her parents, who explain the child has been prescribed medication to which they do not have access. It also discriminates against people who have an underlying health condition that may not be the subject of coverage through private or public insurance plans. In fact, of the people who report they cannot afford their medication, 38% have access to a private insurance plan and 21% have access to public coverage that does not cover their needs.
Second, in addition to the lack of access is an issue around the lack of systemic savings that we are not benefiting from because we have not been moving forward.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, a colleague of mine from Nova Scotia, quite eloquently has described the fact that Canada is the third most expensive country in the world when it comes to the costs of medication, ranking only behind the United States and Switzerland.
We are so proud of our public health care system and the universality of it. No matter where people come from or who their parents are, they will be taken care of when they fall ill. The same is not true, and a lot of Canadians do not appreciate this, when it comes to access to the medications they need, which are often to sustain life or remain healthy.
Part of the reason this is the case in Canada is that we have a very serious patchwork of provincial and territorial programs and over 100,000 private sector health care plans in Canada. We do not necessarily benefit from the opportunity that presents itself when we can negotiate bulk purchases of medications. Some efforts have yielded success by partnering with various provinces. However, if we adopt the Costco model and buy in greater volume, we can reduce the price per unit and extend access to people who currently cannot afford their medication.
I have seen estimates in excess of $4 billion of systemic savings that come not only from a reduced cost in the price of medication, but also fewer visits to emergency rooms, fewer hospitalizations and more seniors being taken care of in their homes because they can afford access to the medication they need to be well.
We all can appreciate that there is a problem with access to medication in Canada. Over the past few years we have been working toward solving this problem.
Just a few years ago, we appointed an advisory committee, led by Dr. Eric Hoskins, the former minister of health for the Province of Ontario. That effort led to a report that identified the path forward to a national pharmacare program. The committee flagged that it would not happen overnight, but there were certain things that needed to happen to bring down the cost of drugs so we could benefit from the systemic savings that would accrue once we implemented those steps.
One of the very first steps we thankfully moved forward with in the last federal budget, with a $35-million investment, was the creation of the Canada drug agency. This body would be able to assess the effectiveness of drugs that could be proposed to enter into the Canadian system. It would provide an opportunity to negotiate better prices because of the purchase of increased volume that could be administered through the provincial public health care systems. The creation of a national formulary would allow us to ensure we would have consistent coverage, regardless of which community of province in Canada one may live.
In addition to the creation of the Canada drug agency, we have created a national strategy for high-cost drugs and rare diseases. This is important. Quite a few Canadians live with a condition that, despite the fact they may have coverage, do not have access to the medication because of its exorbitant cost or their insurance policy may not provide coverage for their particular condition or its required medication. We have earmarked $500 million annually for this approach.
It is simply not fair that the circumstances of people's birth means they would not be entitled to benefit from the medication that could keep them alive. There are still problems in Canada. Tragic cases pop up in every corner of our country each week. However, by moving forward with this rare disease strategy, we will be able to help some of the most vulnerable Canadians.
In addition to the creation of a drug agency and rare disease strategy, we have also moved forward with changes to patented medicine regulations, changes that will save billions of dollars to our health care system. One of these changes adds additional factors that need to be considered so the cost of drugs reflect the benefits to public health care system in which they can enter. Some of the regulations will require better reporting to ensure our regulations reflect the actual cost of medication.
Perhaps most important, from my perspective, is we have changed the comparator basket of countries we look at to set drug prices for Canada by removing the United States and Switzerland, the two most expensive countries in the world, and added other comparator countries with similar economies, such as the Netherlands and Japan, which will lead to a systemic reduction in the cost of medication in our country and, most important, for Canadians who need that help.
Health care is front of mind for people back home, whether it is access to a family doctor, the fact that their parents cannot find a place in a long-term care facility or the underserved mental health services in their communities. I hear about these things non-stop because people recognize there are problems. Whether they live with those problems or not, they are equally concerned for the people who live in their communities who do not have access to life-saving services and, importantly, life-saving medication.
There is something we can do. We can implement a national pharmacare program to ensure that no matter where people live, no matter where they were born or their parents' economic situation, they will not be denied access to medication because of their financial circumstances.
It is Canada in the 21st century. Canadians expect that they and their neighbours will have access to the medications they need to be well. By implementing a national pharmacare program, we can turn that dream into a reality for the millions of Canadians who go without the medicines they so desperately need.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:14 [p.2004]
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Madam Speaker, there is a lot to unpack in that question, but I will do my best to address it.
In addition to my frustrations with the shortcomings of the provincial health care system, there are other issues squarely within the federal purview that I care deeply about, notably the fight against climate change and solving income inequality in Canada, which in turn will actually have benefits for our provincial health care systems.
That being said, there are items within the federal purview that allow us to demonstrate leadership and assist the provinces in delivering the quality of care our citizens so desperately need.
In terms of the question regarding the increases to the quality of the financial transfers, I will note that we actually did land on a 10-year health accord that has seen the federal transfer go up. On top of that, we have created additional investments. My province of Nova Scotia has $288 million additional dollars for in-home care for seniors and to improve mental health services.
I would be happy to go over the role I see for the federal government to improve health care services with the hon. member at his leisure.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:16 [p.2004]
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Madam Speaker, to reiterate my opening comment, when I said I would lead with my conclusion, I will be supporting this motion. I speak not for the government, but for myself. I hope my colleagues will do the same.
The fact is that we have a time-limited opportunity in this minority Parliament to make a real difference that will extend access to medication to some of Canada's most vulnerable. I will never forgive myself if I do not take the opportunity to do everything within my power to ensure the most vulnerable Canadians have access to the medication they so desperately need.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 13:18 [p.2004]
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Madam Speaker, very quickly, we started by launching a nationwide consultation through the advisory council led by Dr. Hoskins. We followed that up with the creation of the Canada drug agency, which will ensure we can benefit from both purchasing and guarantee the effectiveness of drugs that enter the system.
Since then, we have made changes to certain medications to ensure we can bring the cost down and have some consistency in coverage. We have advanced a rare disease strategy, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars, to ensure the most vulnerable have access. These are the first steps in the process. We will get there and achieve universal coverage for drugs for Canadians.
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View Jaime Battiste Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Jaime Battiste Profile
2020-03-12 14:01 [p.2011]
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Madam Speaker, I rise today to commend and congratulate a Cape Breton teacher and musician. Mr. Carter Chiasson, a teacher at Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni, was awarded the 2020 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award. This award recognizes inspirational and passionate Canadian music educators' impact on students.
We all remember that teacher who went above and beyond the call, who did more than instruct but inspired. Carter's dedication and talent has helped students reach their amazing musical potential over many years. Recently, Carter's rendition of The Beatles' Blackbird sung in the Mi'kmaq language by Emma Stevens has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and was nominated for a Nova Scotia music award for best music video. When Sir Paul McCartney himself praises someone's video publicly, the person knows he or she has reached greatness.
I congratulate Carter on this well-deserved honour.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-12 14:17 [p.2014]
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Mr. Speaker, I have said it before in the House and it bears repeating: Acadia University is a key institution in my riding of Kings—Hants, and of course the entire Annapolis Valley.
Acadia is not only an excellent institution for higher learning and education, creating important relationships around the globe for Nova Scotia, the university also has a rich sporting tradition. Acadia's sporting tradition will add another chapter this weekend as Acadia plays host to the University Cup, a hockey tournament that brings together the top varsity programs from across the country, which is fitting given that Windsor, in Kings—Hants, is the birthplace of hockey.
This weekend, eight teams will vie for the title of national champion at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. Acadia begins the tournament with a quarter-final matchup tomorrow evening against the University of Ottawa. As I stand proudly in the House wearing the Acadia Axemen jersey, I would like to wish all teams and players an enjoyable experience in Nova Scotia. Particularly, to the members of the host team, I say we are in their corner and go, Acadia, go.
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View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2020-03-12 14:48 [p.2020]
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Mr. Speaker, since 2008, an organization in Halifax, Hope Blooms, has been making a difference. It has had a measurable impact on food security and social inclusion. It actively engages youth to grow food in its 4,000 square feet of organic garden. Through hard work, its members are improving social inclusion and food security. They even appeared on Dragon's Den, where they secured $40,000 to build a new greenhouse.
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food was in Halifax last week to meet with them. Could she inform the House on how the government is supporting this kind of project?
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 14:52 [p.2020]
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Mr. Speaker, the government will always stand for Canadian workers and Canadian interests.
In response to the unjustified U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, we provided targeted relief to begin countermeasures for Canadian manufacturers. As we have always said, all money collected through the retaliatory tariffs will go back to support the industry.
With the unjustified tariffs removed, we are going to continue to work with the industry, and expect that additional compensation could be provided over the next two years. More than $1.3 billion to date of support has been delivered to defend and protect the interests of Canadian workers, and additional support remains available for those who need it.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 14:54 [p.2021]
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Mr. Speaker, I note that the question is nearly identical to the one I just provided an answer for, so I apologize in advance if I sound like a broken record.
We have provided $1.3 billion to date in support for the steel and aluminum sectors in response to these retaliatory tariffs. In response to the unjustified tariffs, the case remains that every dollar collected will go back to support the industry. With the unjustified tariffs now being removed, we are going to continue to work with the industry, and expect that additional compensation will flow over the next two years.
We are going to ensure that we are there for the industry as the need may arise.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-12 14:57 [p.2021]
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Mr. Speaker, if the member is interested in counting zeroes, I would direct him to the one million Canadians, that is one with six zeroes, who are no longer living in poverty.
The reality is that foreign direct investment is up 18% year over year. Because of the investments we have been making in the economy, more than 1.2 million Canadians are working today who did not have a job. The kinds of investments that we are putting into the economy are putting people to work, raising kids out of poverty, and I hope the Conservatives would agree that that is a good thing.
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View Andy Fillmore Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Andy Fillmore Profile
2020-03-12 15:00 [p.2022]
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Mr. Speaker, I can assure this House that we take security very seriously, as well as the need to keep equipment from getting lost or damaged. Department audits are routine and helpful, and we make them public to ensure accountability.
In this case, a total of seven computers, not 200, were not properly recorded in a new inventory system. We are engaged in efforts to ensure that we have a complete inventory to include those missing seven computers.
Has the hon. member read the report or just the headline? If he read the report, which is available online right now, he would see for himself that the headline is indeed overblown.
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-03-12 15:05 [p.2023]
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Mr. Speaker, my question is addressed to the Minister of Innovation.
This afternoon, the Standing Committee on Official Languages will hear from Statistics Canada about important issues related to the enumeration of rights holders in Canada for the 2021 census.
Time is tight. We need to know why we have not received confirmation of the approved questions that will be on the next short form census.
When will the government confirm that these important questions will be on the 2021 short form census?
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View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, last spring, we announced the single largest investment ever made to renew the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, including six new icebreakers.
I am thrilled to say that I was able to announce a $12-million contract to the Shelburne Ship Repair for crucial work to one of the workhorses of our fleet. This investment will support up to 55 jobs and extend the life of this vessel, which is critical to maintaining service in this country.
The women and men of the Canadian Coast Guard deserve the best that we can give them, and that is why we are making sure they have the tools that they need.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-12 15:10 [p.2024]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Although I am a new member to this House, I understand that we have rules that we are intended to follow. We had very important discussions in this House over the last two weeks on the advance payments program, which is a loans program to support farmers, and I appreciate any member in this House bringing it forward.
The member for Foothills said, and I quote from Hansard, “We have asked for extensions on the advance payments program loans, to waive interest fees and to give agriculture some sort of assistance”—
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:03 [p.2032]
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Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation.
I would first like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I am pleased to rise to participate in this important discussion on implementing a national pharmacare program in Canada.
Our government is committed to strengthening health care systems across this country and supporting the health of all Canadians. We know that Canadians are proud of our publicly funded health care system, which is based on need and not the ability to pay, yet we know that at least one in 10 Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need. At a time when we are facing the crisis of a coronavirus pandemic, one only has to look at what is happening south of the border to see what happens in a country that does not have a public health care system. I am so glad I live in Canada where we are looked after by our government, and I think it is very important to carry this on into pharmacare as well.
When medicare was first introduced, Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare, said at the time that he did not introduce it in Saskatchewan for 18 years because he wanted to make sure that his province could actually afford it. When he did introduce it, a lot of the push-back came from doctors, who felt they would not be making as much money. I am very pleased that when he was part of the Government of Canada after that, he talked with his colleagues opposite and together they passed medicare in Canada.
When medicare was first introduced, prescription drugs played a much more limited role in health care. Drugs used outside of the hospital were primarily inexpensive medicines used to treat common conditions such as high blood pressure. Now, with pharmaceutical advances, drugs play a vital role in health care and are helping to cure or manage previously debilitating or fatal diseases such as cancer, although we know that many of these drugs are still extremely expensive and unaffordable for some people.
With the rising rates of chronic disease and the growing number of conditions that can be treated by medications, Canadians are taking more prescription drugs each year. Globally, the drug landscape is also evolving rapidly. Specialty drugs to treat complex, serious conditions such as rare diseases are being developed at accelerated rates. These drugs are offering hope and improved health to many Canadians. However, many of these drugs are still not affordable, and Canada continues to rely on an incomplete patchwork of public and private drug plans offered by various provinces to provide this core part of health care, which, as I mentioned, is leaving a growing number of Canadians behind. That is why our government and I feel that the time for pharmacare has come.
Today, more than seven million Canadians lack adequate drug coverage, and many are unable to take their medications due to the cost. Every year, almost one million Canadians give up food and heat to afford medicines, and they often tend to be lower-income, working-age Canadians. Even individuals who have prescription drug coverage can face significant and prohibitive out-of-pocket expenses, often in the thousands of dollars, in the form of deductibles, copayments and costs that exceed their annual or lifetime coverage limits.
When Canadians cannot afford their drugs, their health often worsens, putting an even greater strain on our health care system. Roughly 25% of Canadians who report being unable to take their medications due to cost also report using a health service they otherwise would not have needed. This includes visits to doctors and emergency rooms, which place a huge strain on the system.
No Canadian should have to choose between paying for prescription drug and putting food on the table. However, we know that many are still forced to make this impossible decision.
In addition, Canadians face some of the highest prescription drug prices in the world. The average annual cost of the top-10 selling patented drugs in Canada grew from $2,200 in 2006 to more than $18,000 in 2017. Prices for drugs to treat rare diseases can start at $100,000 and go upwards of $2 million per patient per year, often over a lifetime. The result is that both the public and private drug plans that many Canadians rely on are feeling the strain.
Drug spending in Canada is high, reaching more than an estimated $40 billion in 2019. Drugs are now the second-largest category of spending in health care. This is unsustainable, and it is hurting Canadians every single day. The unaffordability of many medications leads to Canadians being less healthy and creates higher health care costs for us all.
That is why the Government of Canada is committed to implementing a national universal pharmacare system. This program would save Canadians $13 billion in drug prices over the next 10 years. However, it will not be easy. We need to work closely with provinces, territories and stakeholders to improve drug coverage so Canadians, including those suffering from rare diseases, can have access to the drugs they need.
I was pleased to be part of a government in Nova Scotia that went toe to toe with the pharmaceutical companies. We lowered our drug prices from 85% down to 35%, which was a huge help for Nova Scotia. This is the sort of thing we need to do across the country, even though we know there will be a big push-back from the pharmaceutical companies. We are already feeling it now. Certain companies are already trying to get the government to back down on pharmacare. Companies are getting the families of certain people with rare diseases to try to convince the government to back off, and this is not okay. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies are using a very bad situation, with desperate and vulnerable people, to try to lobby government on their behalf so that they will have more money in their pockets.
To help us chart our course forward, in 2018 the government created the advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare. Chaired by Dr. Eric Hoskins, the council's mandate was to provide independent advice on how best to implement national pharmacare so it would be affordable for Canadians and their families, employers and governments.
After leading an extensive national dialogue, in its June 2019 report the council recommended that the federal government work with provincial and territorial governments to establish a universal single-payer public system of prescription drug coverage in Canada. Given the scope of the transformation required to achieve this, the council suggested that it would be practical to adopt a phased approach to implementation.
Guided by the council's recommendations, budget 2019 outlined three foundational elements to help Canada move forward on implementing national pharmacare: one, establishing a Canadian drug agency; two, developing a strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases; and three, working toward a national formulary.
A Canadian drug agency would talk a coordinated approach to assessing effectiveness and negotiating prescription drug prices on behalf of all Canadians. The development of a national formulary, a comprehensive evidence-based list of prescribed drugs, would promote more consistent coverage and patient access across the country. Both of these initiatives must be done in close collaboration with provinces and territories. To make pharmacare sustainable, we also need to continue to look for opportunities to improve pharmaceutical management in partnership with our provinces and territories.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his motion on national universal pharmacare. I think we can all agree that it is critical for the government to work closely with provinces, territories and our political colleagues to determine how best to move forward on this important issue. The government looks forward to productive discussions this spring, and together we will continue to make the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs a shared priority.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:15 [p.2034]
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Mr. Speaker, I have always believed in universal medicare and universal pharmacare. I also believe we need to introduce dental care as well. Our mouths are part of our health, and I believe this is the only way forward for any civilized nation.
I look at our folks south of the border and I feel sorry for them at this moment in time. They are going through such a terrible time with the coronavirus, and they do not have a public health care system. In fact, in the United States they call it the health care industry, which speaks volumes to the difference in the way they look at things and the way we do here in Canada.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:17 [p.2034]
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Mr. Speaker, I never mentioned anything about families coming to Parliament Hill.
An hon. member: Yes, you did.
Ms. Lenore Zann: No, I did not. What I said was that I find there are some pharmaceutical companies, especially American ones, that have not even applied for their drugs to be sold or accepted in Canada yet. They are using the families of sick children to lobby the government to come up with a lower price when the time comes for them to negotiate with the government. I find that a shameful practice.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-12 16:18 [p.2034]
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Mr. Speaker, I did not really hear a question in that, but I would say to the member opposite that I agree that the provinces do need help, especially right now with COVID-19. They are going to be getting extra help to look after all our Canadian citizens. It is very important.
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View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2020-03-11 15:11 [p.1937]
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Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations concerning a motion adopted on Monday, March 9.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-11 15:23 [p.1939]
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Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table an e-petition from my riding of Cumberland—Colchester that has been signed by 4,248 people.
The petitioners note that whereas the RCMP and Treasury Board are now planning in May 2020 to move almost 4000 civilian members of the RCMP from a working pay system onto an incomprehensible failure of a pay system called Phoenix; and whereas the Public Service Pay Centre said that Phoenix was not stable on March 18, 2019, saying “Stabilizing the ... current pay system (Phoenix) remains a top priority”, and further stated in an update on April 3, 2019, “The pay issues currently being experienced by public servants are unacceptable, and we are working tirelessly at all levels to resolve them”; therefore, the petitioners call upon the president of the Treasury Board to honour the Treasury Board's commitment to civilian RCMP members and delay the transfer of almost 4000 sworn civilian members onto the Phoenix payroll system until the problems with it have been fixed or until there is a reliable and stable replacement.
I have affixed my signature.
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darrell Samson Profile
2020-03-11 16:23 [p.1950]
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Madam Speaker, I am thankful for this great opportunity to share some wisdom on this very important bill, Bill C-4, on CUSMA, which is the Canada-U.S.-Mexico agreement.
However, before I get into the bill, I will speak about the economy. Trade deals are linked to the economy, and the economy here in Canada after five years of Liberal government is very strong compared to what it was when we took office.
Let us look at what has happened. What has changed in the last five years?
We have seen 1.2 million jobs created by Canadians. We have seen over one million people lifted out of poverty, with 353,000 of those being children, which is over 20% of the poverty rate in Canada, and 75,000 being seniors, mostly women. These are big and important numbers.
As well, we are seeing the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years. These are the factors that are clearly stating how strong this economy is and how strong our government is, which has been focused on tax cuts and helping the middle class and those who want to join it.
Trade deals are extremely important to Canadians, and every province and territory is very happy with this trade deal. We had a trade deal before, but this one is new and improved.
We also have the CETA trade deal, which encompasses half a billion people. In that trade deal we have seen 98% of the tariffs removed, whereas in the past it was 25%. Members can imagine how the business community feels about that trade deal today. I know what the business community has to say about it my constituency.
As well, there is the CPTPP, the trans-Pacific trade deal, which, again, encompasses half a billion people. Between the three trade deals, we have a market of 1.5 billion people. In the Asia-Pacific deal most of the tariffs have been removed and 100% of the seafood tariffs are gone. Members can imagine that in my region of Atlantic Canada and in Nova Scotia this is a great opportunity to increase our exports, and it is extremely important.
How important is CUSMA, the Canada-U.S.-Mexico deal? It is $2 billion per day, which is an enormous sum, and 80% of Canadian exports go to these countries.
Who is supporting this trade deal? It is not just us. The premiers are saying they are behind this trade deal, which is important, and I will talk more about it, but we know that Premier Moe, Premier Kenney and company, as well as Brian Mulroney, do. The business community is happy. The unions are happy.
However, they say Trump is a good negotiator. Let us look at the three things he wanted.
First, he wanted a sunset clause at five years when we would have to renegotiate or the deal would be dead. However, that is not in there. We took that out and it is now 16 years.
Second, he wanted the end of supply management. We are the party that introduced supply management, and we are the party that is promoting supply management. We will continue to support supply management because it is important to Canadians.
Third, Trump wanted a dispute resolution tribunal where there would be American judges and courts. Do members think we would have agreed to that? Maybe a Conservative would have, but we did not agree to that. We then added another important piece where the Americans could not stop and must participate in tribunal panels, where in the past they could say no.
These are three key areas where our government has been very successful in negotiating with the Americans.
Let us bring it back to Nova Scotia. What does this trade deal represent to Nova Scotia? It is extremely important because $3.7 billion is spent by Americans in Nova Scotia. That is an extremely important investment yearly, as my colleagues can imagine. That is 68% of all our trade products leaving Nova Scotia and going to the States.
That means there are 18,000 jobs directly related to this trade deal for Nova Scotians. That is 18,000 directly related jobs; I forgot to mention the 7,000 indirect jobs. Colleagues can imagine how we feel in Nova Scotia. The premier, Mr. McNeil, said that this is a great deal for Canada and a great deal for Nova Scotia. That is a very clear message.
I want to talk about a company in my riding just down the street from me, Marid Industries. It is a steel industry and today it knows that with this deal it will be able to be competitive and move their products to the States and Mexico without tariffs. That is extremely important. That is making sure that it can move forward. These are great-paying jobs for the people who work in that industry.
Catherine Cobden from the Canadian Steel Producers Association said:
CUSMA is critical to strengthening the competitiveness of Canadian and North American steel industries and ensuring market access in the face of persistent global trade challenges and uncertainty.
That shows good, strong support from the steel industry.
Of course, we are seeing the strongest amendments in this trade deal when it come to labour and environment, two major areas that Canada is pushing forward. We are making sure that we have some criteria around strengthening labour standards as well as enforcement and inspection standards. That means that wages being paid will create a level playing field. It also affects work hours and conditions. Those are essential pieces to ensure that the playing field is level which is extremely important.
In the environment, as colleagues know, we have added some obligations in the fight against marine pollution. The other piece of it is air quality.
I must also mention pharmacare because in the last amendments we were able to remove the 10-year restriction on generic drugs, which is extremely important.
We have added new chapters protecting women's rights, minority rights and indigenous rights and that provide protection against discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. These are all important chapters that are in this trade deal and are so essential.
As well, there are cultural exemptions, which help all Canadians, including those in Quebec. That is very important.
We have work to do. We know that in a trade deal there is a bit of trade here or there. The poultry and egg industries have opened up a small percentage, 2%. We are compensating them not only for loss, but also supporting them so that they can purchase better and more up-to-date equipment. The products will then be better able to be traded internationally, opening up that potential market as well.
This is a very important deal. I am extremely proud to support this. The people in my constituency are just waiting for this to be ratified as soon as possible.
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darrell Samson Profile
2020-03-11 16:33 [p.1952]
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Madam Speaker, as members know, tariffs have been removed from aluminum and steel. We have also added in this deal that the amount of steel used in cars would be 70% between the three countries. In the past it was zero, so that is a big victory.
I want to share with my colleague some of the things his colleagues have said. Jason Kenney said he was “relieved”. I imagine it takes a lot to relieve him, but he is “relieved that a renewed North American Trade Agreement has been concluded”. Wow, he is relieved.
Let us talk about Brian Mulroney, a former prime minister of the country and chief negotiator. He said that Canada got what it wanted and that we got a great deal.
I know I have sat in this House for a couple of years and listened to the Conservatives saying to sign, sign, sign and not worry about negotiating because it is $2 billion a day. We have a much better deal today than we would have had if we had listened to the Conservatives. In the last 10 years before we took power, we know what we got.
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darrell Samson Profile
2020-03-11 16:36 [p.1952]
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Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
I realize, as my colleague should also realize, that you have to give a little to get a little in any negotiation.
One thing is certain: We were able to preserve supply management, which the U.S. President wanted to eliminate, as I explained in my speech. In Canada, we all know, as does my colleague, that supply management is extremely important. It is too bad that our former colleague Maxime Bernier is not here, because he opposed supply management and he certainly would have something to say.
Under this agreement, Quebec will receive $57 billion as a result of exports to the United States. This is definitely a very important agreement for Quebec, too.
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darrell Samson Profile
2020-03-11 16:38 [p.1952]
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Madam Speaker, there is no question that when there are provisions, it creates more discussion as we move forward. The door is not closed right now. What is important is that we have the strongest chapters on labour and environment that we have ever had in any trade deal, and we have the protection of women and indigenous people included in there. Those are key points.
These have never been in there before so, now that they are there, the members are saying they are not perfect. No, they are not perfect, but we are starting to build a strong foundation so that Canada can continue to prosper as we move forward.
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darrell Samson Profile
2020-03-11 16:52 [p.1954]
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Madam Speaker, it has been really difficult to follow the Conservatives the last three or four days on this deal. Just a couple of hours ago, I heard them saying this was the deal that they negotiated. They said the Liberals were passing the deal they negotiated. Then the member says this is the worst deal that has been done. We have to get our facts straight. The Conservatives in caucus have a responsibility to shape up their argument. It would be nice if they could do that, because it was not very clear for me.
Let us look at this a couple of ways. Would my colleague not agree that going from zero aluminum and steel to 70% is much better? Would he not agree that the labour and the environment clauses and chapters we put in are an improvement? Would he not agree that the Americans cannot block the arbitration panel? Even his colleague said we won more sugar. It is a much better deal with the sugar. These are very positive things for our country.
I would like the member to share his thoughts with me, and give me some sugar in his answer.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:31 [p.1884]
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Mr. Speaker, the selective use of memory is simply astounding. If I look back to the Harper government's record, I will note that it added $150 billion to the national debt and had the slowest rate of economic growth since the Great Depression.
Over the past four and a half years—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:31 [p.1884]
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to continue.
When we took office four and a half years ago, we started making the kinds of investments that would trigger economic growth.
What have the results been? About 1.2 million jobs were added to the Canadian economy, including more than 30,000 just in the past month. We have also made sure that the benefits of the growth that we are seeing actually land on the kitchen tables of families. More than one million Canadians are not living in poverty today who were four and a half years ago.
This is the kind of growth that we should trigger, growth that works for everyone.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:32 [p.1884]
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Mr. Speaker, the feigned sanctimony coming from the Conservatives on these issues is simply difficult to accept. The facts that they rely upon are not facts at all.
Canada does not have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the G7. In fact, the unemployment rate in Canada today is lower not only than at any point during the Conservatives' term in office, but at any point in the past 40 years, since we started keeping track of those statistics.
If the Conservatives were operating in an echo chamber and actually looked to the facts, science and evidence, they would realize that the economy has been growing at a rate that would make the Conservatives jealous.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:34 [p.1885]
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Mr. Speaker, with respect, the fiscal health of Canada remains very strong today. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is, in fact, the strongest of any G7 economy. This is the case because we are making the kinds of investments that allow us to experience economic growth. Our debt is shrinking as a function of our economy. We are one of only two countries in the G7 that has a AAA credit rating from all the major credit agencies.
We have been able to make the kinds of investments that allow us to experience economic growth, add more than 1.2 million jobs to the economy and protect our fiscal position to make sure that we have the room to respond to the kinds of challenges that are now emerging as a result of global circumstances.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 14:37 [p.1885]
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Mr. Speaker, this narrative coming from the Conservatives has absolutely no basis in reality. I will read a quote from economist Kevin Milligan, from the University of British Columbia, who said, “Any notion that the ‘fiscal cupboard is bare’ is irrefutably, absolutely, 100%, 180 degrees wrong.”
If we want to talk about cupboards being bare, let us talk about the cupboards of one million Canadians who were living in poverty with bare cupboards a few years ago. Let us talk about the cupboards that were bare of 300,000 Canadian children who were living in poverty a few years ago. Let us talk about the cupboards that were bare of 1.2 million Canadians who did not have jobs a few years ago and are working today.
The measures we are putting in place are growing the economy, creating jobs and making sure that Canadians who need help are receiving the help they need.
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View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge that conservation measures, as well as COVID-19, have had significant negative impacts on our economy as well as on harvesters, including the recreational sector.
We are continuing to work with our partners and stakeholders to consider actions that help minimize the impacts while achieving conservation efforts. We will continue to work with those groups to make sure that we meet these needs.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-10 16:25 [p.1902]
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Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to have the opportunity to speak to the new NAFTA for the second time in this House. I would like to discuss the benefits of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement for all Canadians. Guided by Canada's inclusive approach to trade, we have worked very hard from the beginning of negotiations to secure outcomes that would advance the interests of the Canadian middle class, small and medium-sized enterprises, women, indigenous peoples, and also to protect our most vulnerable residents.
Historically, Canada has always been a trading nation. Canadian exports account for nearly one-third of our GDP. Imports help meet the needs of both Canadian businesses and consumers, providing both variety in consumer products and important inputs for industry. Canada has productive trading relationships with much of the world. Our government is working hard to support trade diversification and to have new and expanding markets.
However, the United States is still our closest and largest trading partner, and the vast majority of goods that cross our common border do so tariff-free. Every day, $2.7 billion in trade and roughly 385,000 people cross the border between Canada and the United States. This exchange of goods, services and investments supports Canadian jobs, businesses and communities. Our close relationship underpins the prosperity of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Our focus from the outset of negotiations was to preserve middle-class jobs and foster economic growth. Small and medium-sized businesses, or SMEs, are the backbone of the Canadian economy, employing nearly 10.7 million Canadians in 2018. This represents about 90% of the private sector labour force.
Among Canadian firms that exported goods to the United States, 96.2% were small and medium-sized businesses, which together accounted for over $145 billion in exports. Among those that exported goods to Mexico the same year, just over 88% were small and medium-sized firms, which accounted for a total value of $2.6 billion in exports.
The new NAFTA would preserve Canada's tariff-free access to our most important market. This is vital for our SMEs that rely on North America's integrated supply chains and its almost 490 million customers. By preserving this important tariff-free access, the agreement provides predictability and stability for those nearly 10.7 million Canadians employed by SMEs that depend on trade. This enables SMEs to continue to strive and to contribute to the Canadian economy in communities right across this country.
The agreement also preserves the NAFTA binational panel dispute settlement mechanism, retaining our access to an independent and impartial process to challenge anti-dumping and countervailing duties. This has been particularly important to Canadian companies producing softwood lumber products for export to the United States and the 187,000 workers in the forestry sector. As somebody who is from the northern region of Nova Scotia, I see the effects of this in my riding.
While softwood lumber continues to benefit from duty-free treatment under the new NAFTA, we recognize there is a long history of the U.S. industry bringing forward anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations against Canadian softwood lumber products. Our success in maintaining the dispute settlement mechanism means that Canada could continue to bring challenges against any unwarranted or unfair duties in order to seek their removal and the reimbursement to Canadian exporters of duties that have been paid.
I am very glad to also see this new agreement preserves the general exception for our cultural industries, which employ over 665,000 people across the country.
Our creative economy is so important. Going forward with the green economy and the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, it helps us to create content that will be seen all around the world and really show off our country. Our success in maintaining the dispute settlement mechanism means that we can continue to challenge any of these unwarranted examples and challenges to our cultural industries as well. They are integral to our linguistic and cultural identity and they ensure our capacity as Canadians to be able to tell our own stories.
One of Canada's goals is to better reflect the trade interests of indigenous peoples in trade negotiations. To that end, the Government of Canada undertook extensive engagement with indigenous leaders, representatives, proprietors of indigenous-owned businesses and policy experts to better understand their trade interests and to seek input on priorities for the negotiations.
We have also retained policy flexibility to provide preferential treatment for indigenous peoples and indigenous-owned businesses, including in the areas of services, investment, government procurement, environment and state-owned enterprises. This means that Canada will maintain its ability to create procurement programs that support small and minority-owned businesses, including indigenous-owned businesses.
The new agreement will support all Canadian businesses, including SMEs, by ensuring continued access to the U.S. and Mexican markets. It will update the rules of trade within North America, making it easier for Canadian companies to do business, including through streamlined customs and origin procedures and greater transparency in government regulations in a wide range of sectors. For instance, new customs and trade facilitation measures will make it easier for companies to move goods across the border, including reducing paper processes and providing a single portal to submit import documentation electronically.
SMEs stand to benefit to a greater extent from such measures, as they may not have the same resources as larger firms and they have to address challenges when operating across borders. Improvements made on dispute settlement, including labour rights, will also be very important for our SMEs, as it will help ensure effective implementation of the agreement and a more level playing field. This way, SMEs may find themselves to be more competitive and have market opportunities that were not accessible to them under NAFTA.
The new NAFTA also includes a chapter on SMEs that will foster co-operation among the parties in order to increase trade and investment opportunities. This includes capacity building and promotion activities to support SMEs owned by under-represented groups. The agreement recognizes that these groups may benefit from strengthened collaboration on SME promotion activities designed to increase their participation in international trade.
The agreement includes requirements to make information available for SMEs that is specifically tailored for their interests, including information on entrepreneurship, education programs for youth and under-represented groups, as well as information on obligations in the agreement that are particularly relevant to SMEs.
The agreement establishes an annual trilateral dialogue, which provides SMEs with an opportunity to collaborate in addressing any issue that could impact them in the future. The dialogue enables participation of representatives from private sector employees, non-government organizations, unions and other experts, thus ensuring diverse perspectives, which is so important on issues related to the agreement that are relevant to SMEs. By doing so, the new NAFTA will give a voice to Canadian SMEs and facilitate discussions on issues that matter to them.
Let me conclude by highlighting once again that we have worked very hard to ensure that this new agreement will be of benefit to all Canadians, including middle-class workers, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as traditionally under-represented groups such as women and indigenous peoples.
I am proud to say that we have achieved our objective. We have made important progress toward elevating standards and benefits for all Canadians, and for that I am grateful.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-10 16:37 [p.1904]
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Madam Speaker, I would say to the member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge that I feel his pain regarding mills closing. In Nova Scotia several mills have also closed over the last 10 years for various reasons. It is never easy and it is very difficult for workers and union workers. However, I do not believe that it necessarily has anything to do with this particular deal. It has to do with the changing times and with businesses, oftentimes American businesses operating in Canada, going out of business.
One of the things I would say to the member is that I believe that this government did the very best it could under trying circumstances, and being forced into having to do a new NAFTA in the first place. I have to take my hat off to our Deputy Prime Minister for her hard work on this file.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-10 16:39 [p.1904]
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Madam Speaker, as a former New Democrat, I know what it is like to be at the negotiating table.
We have to do the best we can do, no matter what we have or what is being offered. Of course we are going to say it is the best deal we can get. I mean, that is part of the trading deals that we do.
However, I have to remind people that pulp mills have been closing for the past 10 years. On one day, the day that Jack Layton died, two pulp mills closed in Nova Scotia. It was one of the most difficult days for our New Democrat government. We had to deal with Jack Layton's death and the closure of two pulp mills, and that was several years ago, long before this trade deal was ever a twinkling in Donald Trump's eye.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 18:44 [p.1922]
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Mr. Speaker, as always, I appreciate the question and commentary from my colleague, who I know cares deeply not just about this project but about the environment more broadly.
As has been canvassed in this House many times, the Trans Mountain project matters to Canada. There are a number of reasons for that, but if we acknowledge that the oil and gas sector is a part of the Canadian economy that cannot be shut off overnight, we should do what we can to maximize the economic return while our energy producers are continuing to take part in employing Canadians and growing the economy. That said, we have to recognize that we are in the midst of a massive transition toward a low-carbon economy, and there cannot be a higher priority for the government.
With respect to the project, despite some of the issues that were raised by my colleague, we are confident that the project remains commercially viable. There is going to be a serious economic return from this project, although it was sort of dismissed. The fact remains that because we sell primarily to customers in one country, the United States, diversifying the markets these products could be sold into, whether they end up in the United States or in Asian markets, will create a competition in the marketplace that will increase the price, which will not only create economic returns on this specific project but will pay off across the energy sector more broadly. That does not even touch on the fact that thousands of Canadians in a part of the country that is deeply concerned about its local economy will now be working on this project.
I know there was some criticism on the basis that this was treated as some sort of a subsidy. The original question giving rise to the remarks this evening referred to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I just came back from a finance committee meeting where the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that in fact this is the purchase of an asset, not a subsidy.
The costs have changed over time, but that is because this project is different from what it was in 2017. We have put in place higher standards for environmental protection. We have engaged in a meaningful way with indigenous communities, and there are going to be more union jobs on this project as a result of some of the changes. If those come at a cost, the arm's-length Trans Mountain Corporation will need to recognize that it needs to meet the standard that the Federal Court has recognized is appropriate for this case.
To summarize, this project is proceeding in the right way. With regard to indigenous communities in particular, there are now 58 agreements with indigenous communities that represent over $500 million in benefits. When the project is complete, the contract awards will exceed $1 billion. Importantly, every dollar of profit, whether from the operation or the eventual sale of this project, is going to go to the transition toward a green economy.
The original question was critical, asking why we would do this when we could be doing that. It ignores the fact that we have invested about $70 billion toward the clean transition and have advanced Canada's first-ever national plan to combat climate change. It includes, of course, putting a price on pollution, investing in energy efficiency that will see 90% of our electricity generated from non-emitting sources by the end of the decade, massive investments in the transition toward electric vehicles, the single largest investment to protect nature in the history of Canada, new investments in research and innovation, and a phase-out of coal by the year 2030, to name but a few of the items that we are pursuing.
The fact is that the project remains in the national interest. We know it will put Canadians to work, but importantly, we have not taken our eye off the ball of the need to transition to a low-carbon economy. That remains at the top of our priority list as a government.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 18:49 [p.1922]
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Mr. Speaker, with respect, we maintain that the project remains economically viable, and we intend to eventually divest this project into the private sector. I expect the very likely outcome that it will actually do better than break even and will turn a profit. Based on the economics, despite the recent short-term change to the price per barrel of oil, which is having a serious economic impact on the world economy, this particular project does remain viable.
The hon. member finished his commentary by saying there is a need to take action on climate change. I could not agree more. The fact is we have invested more than any government in the history of Canada toward measures that will actually fight climate change and protect our environment. I could list a few of them.
I look forward to sharing the measures that will be contained in the upcoming federal budget and that hopefully will be implemented in this Parliament. They will position Canada as a world leader in the fight against climate change. Anything less would, quite rightly, fall short of the expectations that Canadians have of our government.
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darrell Samson Profile
2020-03-09 11:15 [p.1770]
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Madam Speaker, my colleague touched on many topics of importance, some of which I agree with, and one is when he talked about lowering taxes for Canadians. When we came into government in 2015-16, the first priority in that new Parliament was to lower taxes. Therefore, he is right when he talks about the importance of lowering taxes.
I disagree with my colleague, however, when he talked about spending money. We have not been spending money. We have been building a strong Canada by investing in Canadians. We added a million jobs, which is important, and we lowered the unemployment to the lowest in 40 years, which is very important to note.
There is a big difference between spending money and investing in Canadians. We have been investing in Canadians now for five years. The economy has been very strong and we are well prepared to weather any storm we face as we move forward.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:31 [p.1773]
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Madam Speaker, I take issue with a number of the different points my hon. colleague has made, but I will focus my question on one. In a very brief way, he passed over his objection to the improvements we have made to the Canada pension plan. When I talk to constituents in the communities I represent, one of the top things I hear from the seniors who live in these communities is that they have real trouble affording the increasing cost of living. Did I hear correctly that the plan of the Conservative Party of Canada is to undo improvements, which will result in fewer dollars going to seniors in retirement? If that is the case, why does he want to cut benefits for seniors in order to pay for whatever the Conservative plan is shaping up to be?
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:36 [p.1773]
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Madam Speaker, as always it is a pleasure to rise in the chamber and, in this instance, to contribute to the debate that largely revolves around the fiscal and economic health of our nation in uncertain and challenging times globally.
The sponsor of the motion went to great lengths to talk down the Canadian economy in an effort to score political points. I disagree with the vast majority of the points that he raised during his debate, so it is somewhat ironic that I plan on supporting the motion because the documents that may exist are not documents that we have any interest in keeping from the opposition nor the Canadian public.
Over the course of my remarks there are a few key themes that I hope to touch on, in order to provide an overview of the current economic and fiscal context in which we find ourselves; to highlight some of the emerging challenges that face the Canadian economy; and to introduce some of the measures that we have put forward in the past few years, which have yielded results far beyond what I thought possible when I was a candidate in the 2015 federal election campaign.
By way of background, it would be helpful to describe the context within which we find ourselves.
Canada is in a very healthy fiscal position compared to other developed economies in the global community. We are well positioned to respond to the kinds of challenges that are now making themselves present.
The narrative that somehow overspending has put us in a position where we cannot afford to deal with the challenges we are now facing is based on false pretenses. I honestly believe that it is designed purely to score political points based on misinformation, rather than making substantive points that contribute to the health of our democratic discourse in Canada.
The fundamentals of our economy are strong. We have seen extraordinary job growth in the past few years. We have seen, as importantly, that growth translate into benefits for middle-class and low-income Canadians. We have seen certain measures improve the competitiveness of our nation's economy and we have seen an overall improvement to the fiscal health of our economy.
Responsible management of the economy is at the forefront of our government. The mandate letter to the finance minister from the Prime Minister specifically mandates him to continue to see our national debt shrink as a function of our economy and to ensure that we preserve enough economic firepower to respond, in the event that an economic downturn does come to pass.
We have been planning to invest in Canadians to create growth but also making sure that we have enough fiscal room to operate, should the circumstances demand any kind of a change in course. Sometimes, the fiscally prudent thing to do is to take advantage of opportunities to invest that may exist.
If I look at the status of Canada's economy right now, what I see is a debt-to-GDP ratio that has actually been shrinking and is projected to continue to go down. What I see is the healthiest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G7 economy. Canada is one of only two countries within the G7 to have a AAA credit rating, the highest possible rating with all of the major credit agencies. Canada is one of only about 10 countries on the planet today that have a credit rating of this strength.
In addition, in our federal budgets that we table, we prepare for contingencies to deal with events that we may not have been able to foresee at the time of their crafting, specifically to deal with challenges that may present themselves that may not be apparent on the day a budget is tabled. Having that contingency in place is precisely the kind of thing we do to deal with emerging challenges, and I will deal with a few of them now.
Of course, the spread of COVID-19, or as most Canadian households would refer to it, coronavirus, in recent weeks may not have been something that could have been apparent months ago. When we became aware that this was an issue that needed to be dealt with, we responded professionally every step of the way.
When it comes to something like the coronavirus, I want to make clear that while it is also an economic issue, our number one priority is protecting the health of Canadians. I have been blown away by the leadership of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the level of co-operation with our international partners, whether it is the G7 or IMF on the economic side, or the World Health Organization on the public health side. I have also been blown away with the level of coordination between federal departments through the government operations centre, which was triggered by public safety in recent weeks, as well as the Public Health Agency's coordination of the efforts between the provinces and territories with federal measures that have been put in place.
To those front-line workers who are diligently protecting the health of Canadians, so that my family and I can sleep soundly knowing that we are in good hands, I want to thank them for their professionalism and excellence throughout.
I want to recognize that despite the fact that it is primarily a public health issue, there are also economic challenges that obviously arise when we see threats of this nature. We do not have to have a crystal ball to see that there is an impact on commodity prices when a particular region of the world has such a dramatic drop in demand that it suddenly has an impact on the countries that produce those commodities. This is having a particular impact on the metals and oil and gas sectors that Canada's economy has depended on for a very long time.
We also see that the travel and tourism sectors can be significantly impacted whenever there are affected regions of the world that have travel advisories. It also can have an economic impact at home. My home province of Nova Scotia was set to host the international women's hockey championship in the coming months. Unfortunately, out of concern of public health and safety, that event had to be cancelled. That will have an unfortunate economic impact on the communities that were so looking forward to hosting that tournament.
There is also an economic impact on global supply chains. Canadian businesses that may not be able to secure the products they rely on for the manufacturing process, for example, may not be able to provide their products to their typical end customers or they may have to pay a higher price. It is not lost on us that the events that are global in nature can have a very serious impact on us at home and they can also impact the general business and consumer sentiments. They can cause them to change course in the spending decisions they otherwise would have made.
One of the things we are doing to monitor the economic impact of this outbreak is to make sure that we have the resources in place so that Canada can maintain a world-class public health response. We also want to continue to monitor the impact on businesses and workers and ensure the measures that we are putting in place are going to serve the interests of keeping the Canadian economy operating at capacity.
We have a plan to increase our risk adjustment in the upcoming federal budget to make sure that we are planning for the potential impact that this illness could have on our nation's economy. We can look recently at the blockades that were canvassed in a number of debates in the House in response to the protests tied to the land rights issue in the Wet'suwet'en territory in western Canada.
We have also taken measures to address the economic impacts of the rail blockades. If there is a lesson to be learned from the past few weeks, it is that there is no straight path to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Reconciliation requires dedication and hard work, and we have to recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done. This is a healing process that will involve good days and not-so-good days. We need to continue to show our determination.
Canada is a trading nation and we ship a lot of our goods to world markets by rail. Although it is too early to know the full impact of the blockades, we know that they were extremely challenging and frustrating for businesses and individuals. We have to keep in mind that many Canadians rely on rail transit networks to obtain basic necessities like food, to commute to and from work every day and to earn a living.
Thousands of workers were laid off, and many are still having problems. The situation is having real and immediate effects. Our government is working 24 hours a day to mitigate the economic risks of the rail blockades and to find a lasting solution.
From day one, we knew that we could not take shortcuts and that, no matter how difficult, dialogue was the best approach. Many people have criticized our approach, but it is working. For the most part, trains are running again. The people who were laid off are being rehired. Most of the blockades have been dismantled. In my opinion, the Prime Minister took the right approach even though other politicians proposed simple solutions to a very complex problem.
There is another emerging challenge for the Canadian economy. I do not know if I can even call it that, we have known about it for so long. I would be remiss if I did not raise the threat posed by climate change not only to our environment, but to our nation's economy.
The fact that we still have debates over whether human industrial activity is the primary driver of climate change is beyond me, and the fact that in the Canadian political context we still have debates on whether Canada can play a meaningful role in the fight against climate change is something that, as a representative who cares about this, I simply cannot accept. We cannot address challenges to our economy if we do not deal with the threats posed by climate change.
Canadians are feeling the effects today. We have seen storm surges in Nova Scotia, floods in New Brunswick, heat waves in Quebec and Ontario, droughts in the prairies, forest fires in the west and a glacial melt in the north. They are having a real impact on the traditional way of life of Canadians and on our economies.
Of course, there is also a direct economic impact. When representatives of the Insurance Bureau of Canada testified before the finance committee as part of our pre-budget consultations, they highlighted that in 1990, the losses associated with severe weather events was in the ballpark of $100 million. That number last year was in the ballpark of $2 billion, a twentyfold increase. I do not doubt that their motivations are pure, but I think they are motivated not only by the desire to do social good for our planet and environment, but also, as they represent the insurance industry, by the bottom line. If we follow the money, we can see that it costs more because life on planet earth has changed. We can address these challenges. They also testified that for every dollar in insured losses, three dollars in uninsured losses were being picked up by taxpayers today, whether municipal, provincial or federal. It is the same group of people who are now out of pocket far too much to deal with climate inaction over decades.
It is not just the cost of mitigating disasters or responding to floods that we need to deal with. There are also missed economic opportunities. When we look a the forest fires out west, we see that the impact they had on production, even in the energy sector, was immense.
Something that I am deeply concerned about, as I represent Nova Scotia, is what happened to the lobster fishery in Maine a few years ago because of high ocean temperatures. I fear that a similar kind of consequence will befall the lobster harvesters in Nova Scotia if we do not take action soon. I hope it is not already too late.
We also need to turn our mind to other things, not just the challenge facing our economy when we are dealing with climate change. There is a massive economic opportunity, according to Marc Carney, who is the former governor of the Bank of Canada and current governor of the Bank of England. He said there is a $26-trillion global opportunity.
The world is changing and we have to decide whether we want to change with it. If we choose to change and be a part of this transition, we will be at the front of a wave of economic growth that we perhaps cannot contemplate now.
In fact, we are seeing it already today. In my own community, the Trinity group of companies is helping with energy efficiency initiatives. It grew from a shop of about two people to dozens and dozens of employees. It helps homeowners reduce their power bills and emissions at the same time.
We are seeing investments in green infrastructure that are able to create jobs, put people to work and prevent the worst consequences of climate change for future generations. We are also seeing investments in research at St. Francis Xavier University, a university in my own backyard, to the Flux Lab, where Dr. David Risk has helped to discover a new gas leak detection technology that is helping energy companies reduce their emissions. It has put people to work not just in his lab, but at some of Canada's largest energy producers, which have now adopted this technology.
We have put forward the first national climate action plan, and we have introduced more than 50 measures. We expect to see growth in the green economy as a result.
However, while it is one thing to experience economic growth, it is another thing to make sure that it actually benefits everyday, ordinary Canadians. To grow the economy, we have made investments in infrastructure, which put people to work and strengthen communities, and in innovation through our universities, as I just cited. We have also triggered private sector investment.
We have changed rules around immigration to ensure that employers are not missing out on growth opportunities because they cannot find people in their communities to do the work. We have invested in trade to help grow the economy and are now the only G7 economy with free trade access to every other G7 economy.
We have cut the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%, making it the lowest rate of small business tax in the G7. We have also put new rules forward to accelerate the capital cost allowance right now for companies that are investing in ways to increase their production and put more people to work.
What is the result of these investments? There are more than 1.2 million new jobs in our nation's economy, including more than 30,000 last month. We are seeing record low unemployment, with more Canadians working now than at more or less any other point in our nation's history since we started keeping track of those statistics. However, it is cold comfort for someone living in poverty or who cannot afford the cost of raising a family to hear that there are a number of new jobs across Canada or that our GDP has, in fact, gone up.
That is why we have introduced policies like the Canada child benefit, which ended the practice of sending child care cheques to millionaires and puts more money directly into the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families. It is why the first thing we did when we came here after 2015 was advance a tax cut for nine million middle-class Canadians and raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of income earners. It is why the first thing we did when we got here in 2019 was put forward a measure to reduce taxes for 20 million Canadians and eliminate federal income tax altogether for more than one million low-income Canadians. It is why we have advanced OAS benefits, reducing the age of eligibility for old age security from 67 to 65. It is why we have increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10% for low-income single seniors. It is why we made enhancements to the Canada pension plan, which I am learning the Conservative party now opposes, to ensure our seniors can have a more dignified and secure retirement. It is why we are tackling the cost of education by improving the Canada student grants program, changing the timeline under which students have to repay debt they may have built up while studying, and why we doubled the Canada summer jobs program to put more young people to work.
What we are actually seeing, despite the clever use of statistics by some of the members opposite, is that the typical Canadian household, when we consider the totality of our body of work, is about $2,000 better off today than it was before we took office. More importantly, as we have seen recently, is that more than one million Canadians have been lifted out of poverty in the past few years. We have achieved the single greatest reduction in poverty over a three-year period in the history of Canada. About 334,000 of the people no longer living in poverty, who were living in poverty just four and a half years ago, are Canadian children. This is the kind of policy development that we should be shouting from the rooftops and sharing with the world to demonstrate how to successfully manage the benefits of economic growth to support Canadians.
The Conservatives' attack on the Canadian economy is not, in and of itself, an economic plan. What we have, when we look at the facts, is a rate of job growth that most would not have thought possible when the Liberals were coming into power at the end of 2015. More importantly, we have seen that Canadians writ large are sharing in the benefit of that growth, rather than it being concentrated among the wealthiest 1% of income earners. We have also seen more Canadians lifted out of poverty than almost any member of the House could have imagined four and a half years ago.
All of this has taken place while we have maintained a healthy fiscal framework that allows us to respond to the changing dynamics of the global economy. If members do not want to accept my word on this, I would invite them to read the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who confirmed this to be the case just a few short weeks ago.
Yes, the world is changing and yes, there are challenges. However, Canada is up to them now and will be as long as the we remain in government.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:56 [p.1777]
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Madam Speaker, I accept that the member feels embarrassed in asking his question, but it is not because of the comments coming from this side of the aisle.
What we are seeing is the Conservatives coming to the very boundary of accusing the Prime Minister of causing a global drop in oil prices. Are they next going to blame him for the spread of the coronavirus in Iran or Wuhan? It is becoming a fool's errand to even engage, but I will do my best.
We recognize that there are structural challenges facing the global oil and gas sector. I actually spent five years working in Alberta, oftentimes in the oil and gas sector. This is not something that has come lately to my attention. It is something that the federal and provincial governments should have been preparing for a very long time ago.
What we are doing is investing in the Canadian economy. That is going to allow us to achieve growth not just in one sector of strategic importance, but across the board. At the same time, we are trying to help position Canadians so they can weather the storm and are preserving a fiscal economic framework that allows us to respond to these challenges.
Right now the balance sheet of Canada is the envy of the G7. We have come down to about 31% of our debt-to-GDP ratio. We were more than double that in our nation's fairly recent history. If there is a developed economy in the world that is prepared to respond to the challenges raised in the global marketplace, it is Canada's.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 11:59 [p.1777]
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Madam Speaker, first off, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and for giving me French lessons at meetings of the Standing Committee on Finance.
I hope he will not mind if I answer in English.
The fact of the matter is that we are in the midst of Canada's very first national action on climate change. With respect, we recognize that the energy sector is still very much a part of the Canadian economy, and we are not going to flip the switch and shut down this industry of strategic importance overnight.
What does the transition look like to me? It looks like making sure we have a price on pollution so that those in the conventional oil and gas sector are not necessarily able to operate without dealing with the costs of the externalities that have been borne by the rest of Canadians. It looks like creating a market for the next generation of fuels by developing a clean fuel standard. It looks like investments in energy efficiency, including the $56 million for my home province of Nova Scotia, to help homeowners make their homes more efficient. It looks like subsidies in electrical vehicles, which have received a level of uptake that we frankly did not contemplate, with 50% of the three-year subsidy eaten away in just the first eight months.
It also looks like investments in protecting nature that will put people to work in restoring some of the most important critical habitat to fight the biodiversity crisis we are facing and protect our carbon sinks. Recognizing as a social fact that the energy sector is still of strategic importance to Canada does not exclude the idea that we can be investing in the transition.
Canada has never seen a government put so much effort into the transition toward a green economy. I would be happy to continue the conversation with my friend, who I know is a big supporter of the transition. If we work together, I feel we can help Canada lead the rest of the world as we transition to a net-zero future.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 12:02 [p.1778]
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Madam Speaker, it will take me a moment to unpack some of the different angles of that question.
With respect to COVID-19, yes, it requires a serious response, given the nature of the public health emergency we are dealing with. Respectfully, we have engaged the Government Operations Centre to make sure that all government departments coordinate their efforts. The Public Health Agency of Canada has coordinated efforts with all of the provincial and territorial health authorities to ensure that front-line care is meeting the quality of service that they would expect. We are coordinating our efforts with the World Health Organization.
We also recognize that there is an economic impact and, with respect, there will be details shared soon about support for those who have to deal with self-isolation to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
The member mentioned the significant drop in global oil prices as a result of the disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia in recent days. The fact is that we have been working on a transition and diversification of the economy for four and a half years. It is not the case that we suddenly need to respond because an emergency has popped up, though the situation does also require an acute response. The fact is that we have been diversifying the economy by investing in infrastructure and changing rules around immigration to bring a more talented labour force to Canada to fill needs when employers cannot meet the needs locally.
We have been investing in innovation to boost research, which is now paying dividends through the commercialization of new technologies that have been developed right here in Canada. We have been engaging in investment and trade to have new markets come to our country. We have been making the investments the member is now calling for during the past four and a half years and we are going to continue to make those kinds of investments because they are good for the Canadian economy and good for Canadians.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 12:04 [p.1778]
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Madam Speaker, I am glad to take this question.
The Conservatives often talk about the great recession, which was a real challenge and a global financial crisis, and how the Canadian economy was the first to emerge from that very challenging economic time, but what they never tell people is that we were the only G7 country to find ourselves, a few years later, in another recession that was driven by the Conservatives' failed economic policies of anti-growth.
With respect, the Conservatives racked up $150 billion of debt and had the slowest rate of economic growth of any government, and get this, since the Great Depression.
Over the past few years, what our government has done to preserve our fiscal health is make investments that grow the economy and have the benefits of that economic growth go to Canadians, all while monitoring a downward-trending debt-to-GDP ratio. This is sound economic policy, and I am happy to defend it any day of the week.
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-03-09 14:00 [p.1794]
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Mr. Speaker, in a province that once experienced the biggest explosion on Canadian soil, the Halifax explosion, residents of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, just recently were rocked by a 2.6 magnitude earthquake that shook homes and sounded like an explosion or a cannon being fired. Thankfully, there were no injuries.
The number one continuity safety issue for emergency preparedness is geographic separation and redundancy in communications. The recent earthquake is a prime example of why it is not wise to put all of our eggs in one basket, which is what the RCMP is proposing to do by moving the 911 call centre from Truro to Dartmouth. The rationale for this move seems less about safety and more about the fact that the RCMP moved into a headquarters that is too big for its needs.
I would urge the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to reconsider this action and protect the 100-kilometre geographic separation of these facilities for the safety and protection of all Nova Scotians.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 14:30 [p.1800]
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Mr. Speaker, my grandfather always warned me to never let anything as petty as the cold, hard facts get in the way of a good story, and it sounds like the hon. member has been speaking to my grandfather.
When I look at the argument he makes, it rests on false pretenses. Over the past few years, we have made investments in the Canadian economy that have seen 1.2 million jobs added, including more than 30,000 in the past month alone. We have also seen more than a million people lifted out of poverty.
If he does not want to take my word for it, I would direct him to the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who confirmed that we have enough space in our budget to respond with the firepower we need in the event of a downturn. These things do not happen by accident. They happen because we have been putting measures in place to grow the economy and support Canadians.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 14:32 [p.1800]
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Mr. Speaker, I find it fascinating that the hon. member has a new-found interest in debt and economic growth. If we look at the record, while he was sitting around the cabinet table in the previous government, it added $150 billion to our nation's debt and had the lowest rate of economic growth since the Great Depression. I could not make this stuff up.
Through the measures that we put in place, we have seen more than 1.2 million jobs added to the Canadian economy, more than a million people lifted out of poverty, including 300,000 kids, and we now have the healthiest balance sheet in the G7. This is what success looks like. I would invite the hon. member to take a look and enjoy.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 14:34 [p.1800]
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Mr. Speaker, my grandfather turns 99 in May, and he is one of the few people I know who personally witnessed a government with a slower rate of economic growth than the Conservatives under Stephen Harper.
The fact remains that we have the healthiest balance sheet of any G7 economy. This is because we have been investing in measures that create economic growth and we have been putting in place policies that actually make sure ordinary Canadians benefit from that growth.
We are going to continue on a path to deal with the very serious challenges facing the Canadian economy, but we are going to work toward achieving economic growth, and growth that works for everyone.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-09 15:04 [p.1806]
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Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the question is yes.
With respect to the coronavirus, I will let the hon. member know that our priority remains making sure that our public health system can provide world-class services and we will have support announced in the near future for those who have to self-isolate. I would invite the hon. member to take a look at the infrastructure plan that we have put forward, which is seeing hundreds of billions of dollars going toward projects that are actually going to create jobs in our communities and leave our communities strengthened as a result. I would be happy to carry on this conversation in more detail with the hon. member at her leisure.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-09 16:12 [p.1816]
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Mr. Speaker, what a privilege it is to rise today to speak to the opposition motion brought forward by the member for Carleton.
Let me start by giving credit where it is deserved. The member for Carleton is a great orator in the House, but listening to his remarks during question period and during debate on this motion, it is important to include facts on this government's economic and job creation record since we formed government in 2015.
There are many reasons I am proud to stand on this side of the House with the Liberal party, but it is perhaps our record on job creation and improving the lives of Canadians across the country which is why I am most proud.
I have mentioned before that my father was a truck driver and my mother was an administrative assistant at the local school. Simply put, I grew up in a family that was paycheque to paycheque. Therefore, I am sure members of the House can appreciate that when the Prime Minister spoke in 2015 about supporting Canada's middle class and those seeking to join it, his message resonated with me.
However, it has not just been a message; it has been a delivery for Canadians. Over one million Canadians have been lifted out of poverty since we formed government in 2015, including 334,000 children and 73,000 seniors. Poverty rates have decreased in all 10 provinces, and this is the largest three-year reduction in Canadian history. This has not been discussed enough in our debates today about Canada's economic status and our ability to improve the lives of Canadians.
We know more work needs to be done, but we have invested in Canadians and, as a result, it has helped drive a stronger economy.
I have spoken at length in the House about the stories I have heard directly on the doorsteps of residents of Kings—Hants of the benefits of programs like the Canada child benefit and the middle-income tax cuts and what they have meant for families and their ability to buy healthier groceries and to allow their children to participate in recreational opportunities.
I want to talk about job creation. Obviously, today's motion is premised on the idea that our government has not been focused on the economy and that there has not been success in the last five years. That is simply not true. It follows that when individuals have extra money in their pockets, and we just talked about one million Canadians having more money at the end of the month, they will spend it. Our investments in the middle class have created a strong economy that has been buoyed by significant job creation.
I have listened to some of my opposition colleagues criticize the economic performance of this government, but they do not seem to appreciate the fact that 1.2 million jobs have been created in the country since 2015. That is a significant number, and I stand here recognizing that there remain challenges.
I do not provide this statistic in anyway suggesting that our government is content or we do not recognize there remain challenges to ensure our growth in the days ahead. However, like we have in the last 5 years, we will continue to rise to the challenge to deliver for Canadians and work with the private sector to create opportunities for Canadians.
Again, I want to put some numbers on the record, on the Hansard, because the member for Carleton, and certainly earlier the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, has frankly a very elegant way of speaking politically to convey a point, but we are in the business of informing Canadians what is actually true. Therefore, I want to rhyme off some things that are actually true.
Unemployment in the country is at a near-historic low, in fact the lowest since 1976. That is not disputable; that is fact.
Foreign direct Investment in 2018 and 2019 increased substantially by 60% and 18.9% respectively. If people were in the House, they would not believe that to be true by some of the narrative coming from our members opposite. That is a fact.
In February 2020 this year, the Canadian economy added 30,000 net jobs, most of which were full time. Again, these are facts, and hopefully my Conservative colleagues will not get into the theory of suggesting Statistics Canada is somehow fake news.
Let us talk about Canada's marginal effective tax rate. It now stands at 13.8%, which is the lowest of the G7 countries. I am sure my Conservative colleagues would not deny that lower taxes are not beneficial for new growth. We have cut small business tax rate from 11% to 9%.
I want to contrast this against where we were before 2015. It is important to remind Canadians from where we have come. We inherited an economy emerging from a second recession within a decade and the unemployment rate was over 7%. Annual growth was stalled and investment in research and development was declining. As the parliamentary secretary for finance mentioned today, the Conservative government before us was responsible for the lowest economic growth rate in a generation.
I could go on, but the point is some of the members opposite may resort to rhetoric. This government has created a strong economy and has the room to respond to the global economic downturn in the days ahead.
Let us talk about the ability for the government to respond to the challenges in our global economy. Of course all Canadians, and indeed all parliamentarians, have been focused on the impact of the coronavirus and what we are seeing around the world.
Earlier today in question period, the member for Carleton mentioned cupboards and the ability for the cupboards to be stocked to respond to a global downturn. I have news for him that the cupboards are stocked and we are ready to respond. Our debt-to-GDP ratio, which is the debt to the size of our economy, is on a downward track, and that is a key measure. We know from economists that when we borrow we have to ensure that the economy is growing, which it has been.
Canada is one of the only 11 countries in the world with a AAA credit rating. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has concluded that current government spending is sustainable over the long term and that our fiscal plan gives us the room we need to confront new and evolving challenges to keep our economy growing.
The Minister of Finance has communicated that he will be tabling a budget that will ensure we, as a government, are ready to respond to the coronavirus and the challenges it represents.
I want to conclude with just a few points. Our economy is strong; it has shown strength over the last five years. Job numbers are up; unemployment is lower than when we formed government. In fact, it is the lowest it has been since 1976. One million Canadians have been lifted out of poverty. We are well positioned to tackle the global uncertainties that may result from the coronavirus.
The last thing I want to mention is that I welcome the opportunity to debate in this House our economic policy and the government record of creating jobs and meaningful conditions for Canadians across the country. However, when we look at the text of this motion, it asks for essentially every document related to the economy that has been in government hands since 2015.
While our government may respond and support this motion in the days ahead, it begs asking whether this is just pure politics. The men and women in our public service, who are focused on delivering for Canadians, would then have to spend time pulling these documents together. For what purpose, I am not necessarily sure, and I do not know if that has been well articulated by the members opposite today.
What a privilege it is to be able to speak on this topic today, and I welcome any questions from members.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-09 16:22 [p.1817]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to tackle a couple of the different comments that the member opposite put forward. He talked about the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and that if something is said often enough, somehow it will become true.
The statistics I put forward on job creation and the economy come right from Statistics Canada. I do not know if the member is somehow questioning the independence or the validity of some of the reports from Statistics Canada, but that is exactly where my information comes from.
I will move to the point on transparency. Of course our government is built on the premise of providing this information. The member asked directly whether I will support it. I suspect this evening, once I have the chance to contemplate it, I will, but again I go back to this being pure politics.
We can sit and debate in this House, but asking for documents going back to 2015 that have any relevance to the economy or to our government's response is just going to create a lot of work for public servants who should otherwise be focused on delivering services for Canadians.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-09 16:24 [p.1818]
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Mr. Speaker, for those Canadians at home who do not know, the member opposite has ties to my riding, having gone to Acadia University and as a member of the football team there, so we have a deep connection through Kings—Hants.
The member spoke about the challenges, in particular to those in his riding. Our government has been thorough in the last five years in terms of trying to support Canadians across the country. The Minister of Labour calls Hamilton home as well.
Speaking to the member's particular situation, I want to highlight the work that has been done. There are, again, the one million Canadians who have been lifted out of poverty. I want to focus on the fact that we have a shared interest in ensuring all Canadians can have access to basic necessities and in trying to improve their standing. That has been a mantra of our government. It will continue to be so, and I look forward to working with him collaboratively in the days ahead to make sure that happens.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-09 16:51 [p.1822]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to key in on a couple of things. I was doing my best to keep up with the member's French as I learn the language myself.
He mentioned infrastructure and said it has not happened, but will he recognize that there have been four times more projects built in the last four years than under the Harper government? He mentioned we could have created jobs. Will he recognize that we have created 1.2 million jobs? He talked as well about cuts under Paul Martin. Which cuts he would start with? He can tell Canadians where he would start.
Those are the three questions. He can answer any one of the three that he wants to.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-03-09 17:34 [p.1828]
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Madam Speaker, there has been a lot of conversation about cupboards, and I think that came from the member for Carleton, who has used that analogy. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that there are enough goods in the cupboards for us to weather the economic storm related to coronavirus.
Would the member opposite care to opine on this? Is the Parliamentary Budget Officer correct or does he somehow not have the right facts in front of him?
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-28 10:29 [p.1730]
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Madam Speaker, in the last Parliament, the opposition opposed our main estimates reform initiative. That is no secret.
Not only will this motion today delay government bills, but it seeks to change a fundamental balance that was struck way back in 1968 to give the opposition party time to debate motions of its choosing in exchange for an agreement to pass supply in one day. This balance and framework has remained intact for over half a century, until today.
Opposition days are very important when they bring to light an issue that is of material concern to the country, a province, a region or a group of Canadians. These are important debates that need to be had in this House. This is not that kind of debate. This is a blatant attempt to change the rules of the House of Commons in less than four hours.
In the last Parliament, the government brought forward what I viewed to be a sensible proposal to study certain rule changes. Instead of agreeing to the study, the opposition tried to shut down the House and disrupt the budget presentation, and all opposition parties cried foul. How things have changed. This is remarkable.
I thought the long-standing principle was to have this done by consensus. The procedure and House affairs committee is a proper place. I am curious if the hon. member of the opposition would like to describe why the opposition members are bucking this trend of building consensus. Why did they not do this in PROC, where it should have been done?
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darrell Samson Profile
2020-02-28 11:07 [p.1737]
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Madam Speaker, as we celebrate Black History Month, I want to recognize the 19 students currently enrolled in Irving Shipbuilding's Pathways to Shipbuilding for African Nova Scotians.
In June of this year, these students will graduate and start their careers as welders at Halifax Shipyard, where they will build the next fleets of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard. This program is a collaboration between Irving Shipbuilding, the Nova Scotia Community College, the government and community groups such as the East Preston Empowerment Academy. This program also creates opportunities for African Nova Scotians to learn a trade and establish long-term careers in shipbuilding, an industry in which these groups have been under-represented.
I invite all members of this House to join me in congratulating the 19 students, as well as the people who are involved in this special program.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-28 11:19 [p.1740]
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Madam Speaker, with respect, the hon. member seems to be ignoring the enormous success the Canadian economy has experienced over the past number of years.
I will remind him we are at record low levels of unemployment. We have added more than one million new jobs to the Canadian economy. We have more women working in the Canadian economy than at any point in our history to date.
If the hon. member would take a break from running down the Canadian economy, he might actually realize that foreign direct investment is up, more people are working and we are experiencing an economic growth record that the Conservatives would blush at.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-28 11:20 [p.1740]
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Madam Speaker, the hon. member has completely misconstrued the plan that has actually led to over one million jobs being created in the Canadian economy.
I will remind him of some of the measures we put in place to help this development become a reality. We have invested by reducing the small business tax from 11% to 9%. We have created a new and more effective regulatory regime that will help projects move forward more effectively. We have engaged in international trade negotiations, and we are now the only G7 economy that has a free trade agreement with every other G7 economy.
We have a million new jobs, more people working and growth that would make the Conservatives jealous.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-28 11:30 [p.1742]
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Madam Speaker, taking a question from the Conservatives on officers of Parliament is like taking a question about the well-being of chickens from Colonel Sanders. When it comes to the Office of the Auditor General, I will point out to the hon. member that the Conservatives cut $6.5 million from its budget and removed 60 employees.
As part of budget 2018, during the past Parliament we committed to investing more than $41 million in additional funding for the Office of the Auditor General.
I will start taking these questions seriously when the Conservatives step up with actions, not just words.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-28 11:32 [p.1742]
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Madam Speaker, again I find it rich to take questions on the adequacy of funding to officers of Parliament given the Conservatives' track record of cutting those resources in order to avoid scrutiny of the government when they were in power.
In budget 2018, our government beefed up the funding for the Office of the Auditor General by $41 million, which represents a 16% increase relative to the 2015-16 fiscal year. When it comes to ensuring that officers of Parliament have the resources they need, we are going to work with them to ensure they benefit not only our government but all Canadians.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-28 11:33 [p.1743]
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Madam Speaker, I have already given a detailed answer on both Conservative cuts to officers of Parliament by the Conservatives and the investments we made in budget 2018.
The fact of the matter is we remain committed to supporting the work of the Auditor General and other officers of Parliament. We are going to ensure they are able to have the tools they need to do their job to ensure Canadians benefit from their advice and Parliament can work to its greatest capacity.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-28 11:43 [p.1745]
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Madam Speaker, when it comes to money laundering, our government put in place a strong regime to make sure that we are watching out for this kind of irresponsible and, frankly, illegal behaviour.
We are working with the provinces so we can highlight the information for beneficial owners. We are going to continue to work with all parties of the House to ensure we are taking care of Canadians. I look forward to a follow-up conversation with the member to discuss this in more detail.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-28 11:48 [p.1745]
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Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Newmarket—Aurora for his question.
Almost every Canadian knows someone who has battled cancer. That is why we support prevention and treatment with over $50 million annually to organizations like the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and to cancer research, with $150 million from budget 2019. We are also working to reduce cancer risk factors like unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and smoking.
I want to thank the member for his work as a new member of the health committee and for his advocacy.
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-28 14:09 [p.1767]
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Madam Speaker, why are we here today, talking about this motion? Let me read the motion one more time. It states:
That, notwithstanding Standing Order 81, for the supply period ending March 26, 2020, three additional allotted days shall be added for a total of 10, provided that one of the additional days is allotted to the Conservative Party, one of the additional day is allotted to the Bloc Québécois, and one of the additional days is allotted to the New Democratic Party, and, if necessary to accommodate these additional days, the supply period may be extended to April 2, 2020, and no allotted days shall fall on a Wednesday or a Friday.
The motion is clear in that we as opposition members feel that our voices have not been heard , but will be heard more clearly due to the dates we have put forward.
I have heard what the member for Winnipeg North and other Liberal MPs have said about this They do not know why we are doing this. How dare we bring up such a procedural issue in the House of Commons.
It really boils down to the fact that the Liberals do not understand it. They still have that tinge of arrogance that they had prior to the last election. They still feel they are completely in charge and that the opposition is just a bother. The Liberals do not want to deal with us. The Liberals say that they want to collaborate with us, that they want to work together, because that is the message they heard from Canadians. That is not real at all. They want to collaborate when it is good for their agenda, when it involves things they want to do. They expect us to say okay. They expect us to collaborate and do as we are told. That is not right. This is about not that. This is about true collaboration on the floor of the House.
Arrogance is one word that we can use, but quite honestly it is just a misunderstanding. Government members have not quite received the message yet. It is a very tough lesson to learn and one I hope today, with this motion going forward, they will learn and understand that we have needs for our communities as well. We have constituents who have issues that need to be brought forward in this Parliament and we need the opportunity to do that. We need to know that the government is listening and that our issues will be moved upon.
I spent 16 years in the Nova Scotia legislature, many of those years as the house leader for the official opposition. There is nothing harder to deal with than a Liberal government, even a provincial one. Provincially it is the same thing. It is hard to believe. It is like déjà vu from one house to this House. I am seeing the same kind of discord happening.
I am new. I expected things to work a little differently here, but we have the same problems. The Liberals think it is all us. They think the Conservatives are against everything the Liberals do. How dare we oppose this or say that. They do not understand, particularly when we do not get the answers we want or they produce written answers to our questions that are incorrect.
We sat here through the Prime Minister's day. What a benefit that was for all of us. What wonderful answers we received from the right hon. Prime Minister.
On Wednesday, when I asked him the question about Trikafta, I have never been more embarrassed for a family to hear the kind of answer I received. I heard the member for Winnipeg North say that the government gave us the opposition day, that the government gave us the Prime Minister's question period, where he would answer all the questions. My goodness, if he actually answered a question, we might have been happy with it. Instead, we get platitudes, non-answers and we get blamed.
The other part I find truly disheartening on the floor of the House of Commons is that the Liberals blame everyone but themselves. The Liberals have been government for five long, hard, dark years and the country continues to get behind. It continues to fail because of the inaction of the government.
Look at the blockades. Pick a topic of today: Canadians are unhappy with the way the government is putting things forward. The government is trying to manage an economy it does not understand and issues it does not want to understand, and it will continue to blame everyone else.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 14:43 [p.1688]
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Mr. Speaker, at this time the risk within Canada remains low, but we do need to be prepared.
This is a rapidly evolving situation. Based on what is happening around the world, we are now preparing for a global spread of COVID-19. Our focus is now on limiting the impact within Canada.
We already have emergency response plans in place. We also have federal, provincial and territorial preparedness plans to respond to a pandemic situation.
Only the World Health Organization can declare an pandemic.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 14:45 [p.1689]
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Mr. Speaker, as we learn more about COVID-19, our public health officials are updating their advice for travellers. If someone has recently travelled to any jurisdiction with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and they are unwell or unsure, we are asking that they self-isolate for 14 days.
This is out of an abundance of caution. Our public health system is well prepared to handle cases of the virus in Canada, and we are taking every necessary precaution to prevent the spread of this infection.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 14:46 [p.1689]
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Mr. Speaker, at this time the risk does remain low, but we do in fact need to be prepared. This is a very rapidly changing situation, and based on what is happening around the world, we are preparing for a global spread of COVID-19.
We must focus on the impacts within Canada. We already have emergency response plans in place. We also have federal, provincial and territorial preparedness plans to respond to a pandemic situation. The health and safety of Canadians is our utmost wish.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 14:48 [p.1689]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to thank the front-line health care providers across this country. They have been seized with this issue from day one, have been paying attention and have been doing incredible work, and for that I am very thankful.
We are committed to protecting health care workers and patients from exposure to COVID-19. The Public Health Agency of Canada released interim guidelines from medical professionals on infection prevention and control of COVID-19, which were developed in partnership with our provincial and territorial partners.
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View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question and for his work to support fisheries in his riding of Acadie—Bathurst.
This morning I was happy to announce updated measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale. We are working in collaboration with industry as well as with our conservation experts, but I want to be clear that the measures and progress we are making are only possible because of the support, hard work and co-operation of our fish harvesters.
We are ensuring that our fisheries remain sustainable and that products are getting to market while we are protecting for generations this animal that is so important to all of us.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 15:08 [p.1693]
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Mr. Speaker, we are open to collaborating with members of the opposition. We are open to collaboration with members of the NDP. We will look very seriously at this bill. We will work toward coming up with things we can work together on to move forward for a national pharmacare for all Canadians.
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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-27 15:09 [p.1693]
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Mr. Speaker, the health of Canadians is a top priority for constituents in every riding from coast to coast to coast.
During the recent federal election campaign, we committed to put billions of dollars to support not just mental health, but to improve access to primary care, to implement pharmacare and to improve in-home care for seniors.
I look forward to continuing my conversations with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to implement a plan through our fiscal framework that will improve the health of all Canadians.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-02-27 15:11 [p.1694]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On Tuesday, we had a great discussion on Teck Frontier and the oil sands industry writ large in this country. I would like to thank the member for Lakeland for bringing that emergency debate so all members in this House could bring forward their thoughts, and I appreciated having that chance.
During the debate, I had a question for the member for Regina—Lewvan. I asked him about the 38 existing oil sands projects approved, representing 2.7 million barrels of oil, that could start tomorrow and he asked for the report. I have it here and would like to table it for the benefit of all members.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 18:12 [p.1720]
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Madam Speaker, medical assistance in dying, or MAID, is complex. It is a deeply personal and difficult topic, yet this past January alone, more than 300,000 Canadians took part in the online public consultation to have their say. Many others, including experts and family members of loved ones who received MAID, took part in round-table discussions.
We also heard how the legislation is working from many of the conscientious health care providers involved in delivering this service. Canadians are engaged and aware of the importance of bringing the compassionate, sensible measures contained within Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying).
This bill builds on the foundation laid by the current legislation on MAID, passed by Parliament in June 2016, and extends eligibility for MAID to persons who, while suffering intolerably, may not be at the end of life. This bill respects the Truchon decision and supports the autonomy of Canadians wanting to make an informed choice to end the suffering they face as a result of serious illness, regardless of whether their condition is life-threatening in the near term.
Respecting the autonomy of Canadians while protecting the safety of vulnerable people remains our central objective. That is why Bill C-7 proposes a two-track approach to safeguards, based on whether or not a person's death is reasonably foreseeable.
We have proposed to ease certain safeguards that had the unintended consequence of creating a barrier for someone accessing MAID whose death is deemed reasonably foreseeable, and we will introduce new and modified safeguards for eligible persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable.
Bill C-7 would permit the waiving of final consent for persons at the end of life who have been already assessed and approved to receive MAID, but who are at risk of losing their decision-making capacity before it can be provided. There was very strong support for this type of amendment from Canadians, experts, health care providers and their professional regulating bodies.
Our government recognizes the importance of data and science-based evidence in the decision-making process. That is why this bill proposes that we expand data collection through the federal monitoring regime to provide a more complete picture of MAID in Canada.
I would like to note that following the Truchon decision there has been widespread speculation about the potential for persons solely with mental illness to be eligible for MAID. However, many stakeholders in the mental health community have expressed deep concern about this possibility. They feel this option directly conflicts with important treatment principles, which are that there is always hope for recovery and that people can live fulfilling lives with a mental illness.
From the perspective of many health care providers and many health care specialists, assessing eligibility for such individuals poses numerous challenges. Mental illnesses are not generally considered to be incurable, which is a requirement under the current law. In addition, the trajectory of such conditions can be more difficult to predict.
In light of the multiple challenges we heard and the lack of support from the practitioner community who would bear the responsibility for conducting eligibility assessments, this bill does not permit MAID for persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness.
This decision was not taken lightly. It in no way implies that suffering associated with mental illness is any less severe or more tolerable than that associated with another medical condition, such as one arising from a physical condition. Rather, this decision reflects the many uncertainties underlying this question and a concern that allowing MAID in these circumstances could place Canadians at risk.
We recognize that there are proponents who support MAID eligibility for persons solely with a mental illness. However, in light of the Quebec court decision and the compressed time frame for legislative amendments, there is insufficient time to fully address this topic and determine whether a regime that allows access to MAID for persons whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness is viable.
For these reasons, we are adopting an incremental and cautious approach. It is our view that this issue should be explored as part of the parliamentary review process, which is expected to begin later this year.
It is easy as parliamentarians and as legislators to lose the human element of what we do and to focus on talking points and politics, but these compassionate and sensible measures have come from extensive consultation with Canadians, experts and folks who have lived with the unintended consequences of the original legislation.
These are folks like the late Audrey Parker, a Nova Scotian who wanted to spend just one last Christmas with her family but ended her life through MAID two months prior, while she could still give consent.
I want to take this time to read some of Audrey Parker's final posts into the record so they will be preserved in Hansard, because this legislation includes her amendment. As my colleagues in the House debate, discuss and study the bill, I want them to remember that there are many folks like Audrey across Canada who deserve this autonomy and this compassion.
She said:
“This is my last note to you. I can tell you I loved my life so much and I have no regrets. I feel like I’m leaving as my best self and I’m ready to see what happens when I die today. I’m hoping for something exciting to happen but I guess I won’t know until the time is here.
“The one thing I’m happiest about, is that I finally found ‘my people’ during my lifetime. I’ve even met new people that I already adore near the end of my journey so it’s never too late for anything in life.
“In the spirit of teaching and sharing, I’d like to leave you with some words that explain my position with MAID.
“When the MP’s debated MAID federally, someone decided to add late stage consent as a fail-safe to ensure no one dies at the hand of another.
“There are four categories of MAID candidates.... Of the four categories, the only one that is cut and dried is my category of Assessed and Approved. We are terminal, suffering outrageous pain and there is no time frame with using MAID. The kicker that makes it difficult is the late stage consent.
“As I near my death today, it is even more evident than ever before, that late stage consent has got to be amended and removed from MAID in Canada for my category of end users.”
“Dying is a messy business. I can’t predict when cancer will move into my brain matter or when something else big happens to make me more unwell. I and only I can make that decision for myself. It’s about living out every extra day that I can. No one including my doctor knows what the right day to die will be. Only I can know that as I wake each day. I’m not going to wait until I lose myself.... I wanted to make it to Christmas and New Year’s Eve... my favorite time of the year but I lost that opportunity because of a poorly thought out federal law.
“Had late stage consent been abolished, I simply would have taken my life one day at a time. If I noticed I was losing capacity, I would have taken control myself....and called my doctor to come assist me with my death. All I have to give is 24 hours notice so she can pick up the drugs from the drug store in my neighborhood. We were totally organized but the law tied our hands.
“This decision has to come from the patient. No one else. That’s why we the dying should be living day to day until we have to leave by invoking MAID.
“Be happy everyone and be kind to others.... Audrey.”
I ask that all members in the House support Bill C-7.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 18:23 [p.1722]
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Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member, who has spoken passionately about this matter. I heard you in the House in 2014 and now, and I thank you for that.
Someone in the House said that we should proceed with caution. Someone else, a very smart man in this room, said we did that in 2015, and people suffered.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-27 18:25 [p.1722]
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Madam Speaker, this is one of those things that is hugely complex and affects everyone differently. We all have different approaches and different beliefs in this room about how we should approach this issue. I do not know whether we can find common ground. I think we found common ground or at least met in the mushy middle in 2015, and we let people down.
I salute the medical practitioners in this country who are assisting Canadians with end of life, whether it be palliative care or MAID. It is important that we see everyone's side to this situation and respect everyone's thoughts and beliefs. I have constituents on both sides of this issue.
I had a very bad joke I used in 2015 when we were talking about this. There is no yes or no. I said there are 50 shades of grey. Only a couple of people chuckled at that joke, and no one got it clearly in this room either.
It is one of those very complex issues on which people do not fall on one side or the other. We could ask 100 people and have 100 different perspectives.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-02-26 14:21 [p.1602]
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Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate Black History Month I would like to acknowledge an African Nova Scotian hero from my very own riding of Kings—Hants, Petty Officer William Hall.
Born in Horton Bluff, Hall worked in the shipyards of Hantsport, building wooden ships during the golden age of sail. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1852. From there, the young Nova Scotian travelled the world with the Royal Navy, seeing the shores of England, Ireland, China, India and beyond. For his bravery during the siege of Lucknow, Hall became the first black person, first Nova Scotian and third Canadian to receive the Victoria Cross, the British Empire's highest award for bravery.
Now, William Hall's legacy is being commemorated as the namesake of the Royal Canadian Navy's fourth Arctic and offshore patrol ship being built at the Halifax shipyard. This is the first Royal Canadian Navy ship to be named after a black Canadian.
I hope that all members of the House will join me in celebrating our Canadian hero.
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-26 15:00 [p.1609]
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Mr. Speaker, today in Truro, Nova Scotia, a memorial service was held for 23-year-old Chantelle Lindsay. Last week, Chantelle passed away due to complications with cystic fibrosis. Of course, our condolences go out to her family.
Trikafta is a drug that treats CF, is available in the U.S., but is not available here in Canada. It could have saved Chantelle's life. Chantelle's father, Mark, said the government's chess game with the pharmaceutical industry cost Chantelle's life.
What is the Prime Minister going to do to make sure Trikafta and other life-saving drugs are available to Canadians who need them?
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-02-26 15:44 [p.1616]
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seconded by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, moved for leave to introduce Bill C-230, an act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism.
She said: Mr. Speaker, Wela’lin Al-Su-Sid.
An act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism could also be called, in short, a national strategy to redress environmental racism act.
Environmental racism can be defined as the disproportionate number of environmentally hazardous sites established in areas inhabited primarily by members of indigenous and other racialized communities.
The enactment would require the Minister of Environment, in consultation with representatives of provincial and municipal governments, indigenous communities and other affected communities, to develop a national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to redress the harm caused by environmental racism. It would also provide for reporting requirements in relation to the strategy.
I introduced a bill similar to this in Nova Scotia several years ago. It reached second reading and we debated it on the floor of the House, at which point people in Nova Scotia started to understand what exactly environmental racism was. Since then there has been a book written about it, called There's Something in the Water, by Dr. Ingrid Waldron, which has now been made into a documentary by Ellen Page that will soon be available on Netflix.
I look forward to hearing debate in the House, and I hope all parties will support this important bill going forward.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-02-26 18:17 [p.1638]
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Mr. Speaker, as members know, on September 11, 2019, the Quebec Superior Court's decision in Truchon struck down the eligibility criterion of reasonably foreseeable natural death from the medical assistance in dying, MAID, regime in the Criminal Code. It is my sincere pleasure today to join the second reading debate on Bill C-7, which is the government's response to this ruling and which includes a revised safeguard framework.
Bill C-7 proposes amendments to the Criminal Code that would work to ensure consistent application of the MAID law across the country and would adjust the safeguards for a MAID regime that is no longer limited to end-of-life circumstances. Specifically, the bill would create two sets of safeguards to be followed before MAID is provided.
One set would be for individuals who are dying whose death is reasonably foreseeable; in which case, most of the existing safeguards would continue to apply, with a few being eased or removed. The second new set of safeguards would apply to individuals whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. That is why we are here today, to talk about this legislation given the fact of the decision from the Superior Court in Quebec.
This approach to differentiating between MAID requests is consistent with the view that providing MAID to people whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable presents less of a risk and is less complicated than providing MAID to those who are not on a clear trajectory toward death. It is sensible and appropriate that the assessment of a MAID request should be tailored to these different types of cases to account for the different types of risk that could arise.
For people who have requested MAID and whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable, amendments to the safeguards in this legislation include the removal of the mandatory 10-day reflection period, which, of course has been discussed quite widely in the speeches here today; a reduction in the number of independent witnesses; and a change regarding who can be independent witnesses.
Existing safeguards, such as the need for two independent practitioners who verify the person's eligibility and the need for the person to confirm consent immediately prior to the provision of MAID, will remain unchanged for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable. The exception is in specific circumstances where consent is given in advance. I am referring to Audrey's amendment, which is something that is very important to me, and was certainly highlighted given the fact that Audrey Parker was from Halifax in my home province.
During the government's recent MAID consultations, stakeholders noted that the existing 10-day waiting period could result in the prolonged and unnecessary suffering of the patient. We can all appreciate some of the challenges that would present. Bill C-7 proposes to remove this requirement for people whose death is reasonably foreseeable. A patient who is in that situation and requesting MAID has likely thought and reflected about this particular decision for a considerable amount of time. Requiring the patient to wait an additional 10 days when his or her suffering is already unbearable is just unnecessary.
For both streams of the MAID request, it is proposed that the requirement for two independent witnesses to a patient's written request for MAID be changed so that only one is needed. The role of an independent witness is to attest to the fact that persons requesting MAID have signed and dated their MAID request themselves in a voluntary manner. The witness would not play a role with respect to the eligibility assessment, which is the responsibility of two independent practitioners, nor do witnesses confirm whether the safeguards required by the Criminal Code have been followed.
The current rules also exclude people like health care providers and personal support workers from being independent witnesses. This can create access barriers for individuals living in nursing homes or other residential settings who may have very few family or social networks.
Speaking from my own experience in my riding, that certainly can be the case, where individuals who are living in nursing homes or in these situations might not have a large family or friend network to be able to draw upon, and I think that is an important piece. Individuals who are paid to provide personal care or health care are likely to be among the limited number of personal contacts an individual living in a care institution may have, as I alluded to. The amendments to the MAID regime would allow a paid personal or health care worker to be an independent witness, which would increase access to MAID for this population. That is key.
For patients who are eligible for MAID but whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, the key piece of the Truchon decision, Bill C-7 proposes a separate set of safeguards in addition to the existing safeguards, such as written requests that are signed before an independent witness and confirmation of consent.
In situations where natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, there would be new requirements that focus on the need for additional time, expertise and information in these circumstances. I believe that is balanced in the way we move forward.
First, there would be a minimum assessment period of 90 days, which could be shortened if loss of capacity was imminent and the assessments were complete. Second, one of the assessing physicians would need to have expertise on the condition that is causing person's suffering.
There would also be two clarifications of the requirement for informed consent. First, the patient must be informed of the appropriate counselling, mental health supports, disability supports, community supports and palliative care options available to them, essentially outlining the availability of health care and supports that are there.
The second practitioner would need to agree with the patient that the reasonable means of alleviating their suffering have been discussed together and seriously considered, which is very important.
It is fair to say that the assessment of MAID requests by those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable can be more challenging, and can raise more concerns, than MAID requests by those who are dying or whose death is reasonably foreseeable. I think that certainly resonates with Her Majesty's loyal opposition and my colleagues on that side of the House.
For example, is their suffering caused by factors other than a medical condition, such as loneliness or lack of access to necessary supports? Are there ways of addressing the suffering, other than MAID? I think this really gets into the slippery slope in the sense that we are making sure that there are provisions in place to explore all options before an individual chooses to move forward with the process.
The new safeguards, the requirement of a minimum of 90 days and for one of the two assessors to have expertise in the source of a person's suffering, seek to ensure that enough time and the right kind of knowledge are devoted to exploring all relevant aspects of a person's situation, including whether there are treatments or services that could help reduce a person's suffering.
These are bolstered by the proposed requirement that practitioners discuss reasonable treatment options with the patient and be satisfied that the patient has weighed the risks and benefits of the available options. I think that is balanced and fair.
I think we can be confident that most of our practitioners, as part of their good medical practice, fully explore appropriate supports that are available and the available treatments in discussion with their patients. The proposed safeguards reinforce the importance of these good practices and will help to reduce risk to vulnerable persons, which I am sure we can all appreciate is a concern for members in the House.
I would like to conclude by stating that it is my belief that this bill strikes a delicate balance. We know that this is a challenging issue for many members, but it strikes a delicate balance between respecting personal autonomy and protecting vulnerable individuals.
MAID is a personal issue, and one that likely has or will touch many of us here today at some point in our lives. I, for one, am comforted by Bill C-7's proposed two-tier approach in terms of the safeguards. It is reasonable, and it is balanced.
Also, I want to go on record that I think Audrey's amendment makes sense. It was a gap under the former legislation. I have had many individuals reach out to my constituency office asking me to be a champion to make sure that Audrey's amendment was included in our revised legislation moving forward.
Other members have spoken to this, and I am certainly pleased to see that in there. If anyone knows Audrey Parker's situation, they would know of the challenge it presented to her and her family, and we do not want to have people in Canada who are forced to make that decision.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-02-26 18:27 [p.1639]
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Mr. Speaker, I have not heard that specifically. That is not to suggest that my constituents are not concerned about the thoughts the member has put forward.
He mentioned palliative care. My position is that of course we need to continue to support palliative care for the individuals who want to move forward in that process. This legislation ensures that individuals who are going through considerable suffering have the means available to them to make a conscious choice themselves. Our courts have said that this is the direction we need to go, and I believe this legislation strikes a proper balance.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-02-26 18:29 [p.1640]
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Mr. Speaker, the member opposite mentioned two-tiered health care. I will say on record that I do not support two-tiered health care. My remarks spoke to the two different safeguards we moved forward. I think that is important to note.
The member talked about the advance directive. I had cited Audrey Parker as an example. The member opposite's suggestion that there are no proper safeguards in place, in my mind, is not a fallacy, but there are provisions in the legislation that allow an individual to withdraw a prior advance requirement in this regard. They would also allow individuals who get to a non-verbal state to physically communicate and illustrate that they do not want to move forward with it. Again, it strikes a proper balance.
I would ask the member opposite to look into Audrey Parker's case. He should ask himself whether we should not be allowing people to make this conscious choice when they are going through so much suffering, enough to end their life early, that they get to the point they no longer have the capacity to make it. I think it is important they have a choice.
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View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2020-02-26 18:31 [p.1640]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the things he pointed out. He mentioned that, by and large, the constituents in his riding support this. We can all recognize that this is a delicate issue. It is an issue that many Canadians have different feelings about and is evolving over time. Even in the last five years, Canadians' values regarding this type of legislation have evolved.
To the member's question on the safeguards that are in place, as I mentioned in my speech, this legislation would ensure, particularly when death is not reasonably foreseeable, that there are multiple opportunities for practitioners and other individuals to consult with the people who are contemplating this to ensure that all other avenues are explored and all options are available before individuals make what is really a crucial choice.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-25 16:20 [p.1528]
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Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be here while you are presiding over this meeting. I want to thank you for the opportunity to stand and speak today about the government's plans in this area.
With respect to the suggestion on how savings from changes to the tax system could be used, I am pleased to talk about the government's commitment to strengthen health care for Canadians.
The mandate letter of the Minister of Health includes a commitment to support Parliament in studying the issue of dental care so that we can better understand what the government's role may be in helping to improve access to dental care in Canada. This debate provides an opportunity for members of Parliament to share their views on this issue.
Across the country, many Canadians have coverage for dental care through private employee health benefit plans, while many are supported by government programs. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, $15.5 billion was spent on dental services in Canada in 2017. Of this, 54% was covered through private insurance plans, 40% was paid out of pocket and 6% was publicly funded by a variety of federal, provincial and territorial government programs.
We know that oral health is an integral element of overall health. By the time they are adults, 96% of Canadians have been impacted by dental decay. It is largely preventable and disproportionately and more severely impacts our most vulnerable populations, such as those living with a disability, those from low-income households, those in marginalized communities and seniors.
Twenty per cent of Canadians have moderate to severe gum disease. This number is amplified in older adults and those with lower incomes. Not only can this cause tooth loss and related problems with eating, speaking and social interactions, it has been shown to complicate a number of medical conditions. Further, the Canadian Cancer Society advises that in overall cancer incidents in Canada, oral cancer ranks ninth in men and 13th in women, and the trend line is increasing. About 5,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with oral cancer annually, and nearly 1,500 will die of it.
That is why the government welcomed the Standing Committee on Health's recent decision to study the issue of dental care in Canada and stands ready to support the committee in its work.
At a national level in Canada, good data on unmet dental care needs does not exist. We know that three-quarters of Canadians visit a dentist at least once a year, higher than the OECD average, and that wait times for dental care are among the shortest in the world. Approximately two-thirds of Canadians report no dental needs. At the same time, we know that approximately one-third of Canadians are uninsured and that approximately six million Canadians have reported avoiding a visit to the dentist because of cost.
To address data gaps, the Canadian government has partnered with Statistics Canada to design an oral health surveillance component for an upcoming cycle of a Canadian health measure survey, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and in collaboration with leading researchers from all 10 of Canada's university faculties of dentistry and experts from the United States and the United Kingdom. This work will provide key information for those developing oral health programs and policies for Canadians.
In addition to improving data on dental care, the federal government provides dental care services for certain groups of people through the non-insured health benefits program delivered by Indigenous Services Canada. The government provides dental coverage for recognized first nations and Inuit. In addition, the children's oral health initiative provides dental coverage for many first nations children and their parents.
Through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the interim federal health program provides coverage for emergency dental care services for some refugee claimants and protected persons. In addition, the federal government provides members of the Canadian Armed Forces, some veterans and inmates of federal penitentiaries with dental coverage.
Alongside these federal programs, all provinces and territories fund and manage their own dental care services, which cover medically necessary in-hospital dental services for all residents. Many provincial and territorial programs also cover some dental services for certain groups of people, such as children in low-income households, people receiving social assistance benefits, people with certain disabilities and senior citizens. However, specific eligibility requirements, types of services included and the financial coverage levels depend on the province or the territory.
Provincial and territorial health care programs, including those with dental coverage, are supported by federal funding through the Canada health transfer, or the CHT. The CHT is providing $40.4 billion to the provinces and territories in 2019-20. This will continue to increase each year in line with the growth rate of the economy, with a minimum increase of at least 3% per year. Over the next five years, CHT funding to provinces and territories is expected to exceed $200 billion.
In addition to direct federal spending on dental services and fiscal transfers to the provinces and territories, assistance for dental care is already provided through the federal tax system. About two-thirds of Canadians receive dental coverage from their employee health insurance benefits. The federal government supports these Canadians by not including the value of these insurance plans in the taxable income of employees.
Forty per cent of dental care costs are paid through out-of-pocket payments by Canadians. The federal government provides assistance with these costs through an income tax credit called the medical expenses tax credit. This is a non-refundable tax credit for eligible medical expenses that can be claimed by taxpayers if the expenses exceed 3% of an individual's net income or $2,352, whichever is less, in the 2019 tax year. An additional refundable medical expense supplement is available for working individuals with low incomes and high medical expenses.
In addition to support for dental care, the federal government improves the oral health of Canadians at the national level through health promotion, disease prevention and professional and technical guidance. In the area of health promotion, and in consultation with the national oral health professional community, last year the government incorporated oral health considerations into the Canada food guide and into its ongoing information campaigns.
In terms of prevention, the government has worked with the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta to produce user-friendly online information on proper teeth cleaning for infants, children, adults, seniors and pregnant women, as well as for caregivers supporting older adults living with dementia at home. The government has also partnered with the University of Manitoba and collaborated with many key national health professional organizations to produce the Canadian caries risk assessment tool, which will now enable Canadian health practitioners to confidently assess their preschool patients and take the steps necessary to prevent early childhood caries and guide those patients into the appropriate care approaches.
The government has also worked with the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health to produce comprehensive knowledge products for community decision-makers on water fluoridation. Community water fluoridation remains a safe, cost-effective and equitable public health practice to prevent tooth decay.
In the areas of professional and technical guidance, the government collaborated with leading Canadian researchers in the areas of the oral health effects of cannabis and vaping to develop knowledge products for Canadian oral health practitioners to consider as they care for their patients who may be using these substances. The government has also partnered with McGill University to create and launch the Canadian Dental Connection website for rural and remote communities seeking oral health practitioners, and provide online training modules for these practitioners on cultural competency and trauma-informed care.
To support the improvement of the oral health of Canadians and fulfill our international responsibilities, the government works with partners and stakeholders nationally and globally, including organizations in the professional, regulatory and educational domains, such as the Canadian Dental Association and the Canadian Dental Regulatory Authorities Federation. We have also collaborated with international health and dental organizations, such as the World Health Organization, and oral health authorities around the world.
These initiatives demonstrate that our government is playing a constructive role in supporting access to dental care for Canadians. We look forward to participating in the study of dental care to be conducted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, of which I am proud to say I am member.
However, we know that dental care is only one aspect of the health care system for Canadians. The government has a strong interest in improving the health care system so that it can meet the needs of Canadians now and into the future. With an aging population, increasing rates of chronic disease and cost pressures tied to new drugs and technologies, our system must adapt if it is to deliver better care and better outcomes at a cost that is affordable.
Our government is committed to strengthening health care, including improving access to primary care, mental health services, home and palliative care, and implementing national universal pharmacare for Canadians. These commitments build on our actions over the last several years to improve access to mental health services, home and palliative care, and prescription drugs.
Our joint work with provinces and territories has been particularly successful and provides a good model for future joint work on health care. Federal, provincial and territorial governments reached an agreement on a common statement of principles for shared health priorities in 2017, which outlines key priorities for federal investments in mental health and addictions, as well as home and community care.
The common statement reaffirms our shared commitment to report on results to Canadians through common indicators; to improve the affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of prescription drugs; to support health innovation; and to engage with regional and national indigenous leaders on their priorities for improving the health outcomes of indigenous peoples. Under this agreement, federal investments of $11 billion over 10 years are being used by provinces and territories to address specific needs in our health care system, such as increasing the availability of home and palliative care and helping youth access needed mental health services.
We will continue to build on this progress as we work to implement the commitments outlined in the mandate letter of the Minister of Health, including improving access to primary care, setting national standards for access to mental health services, and continuing to make home and palliative care more available across the country. In this respect, the government looks forward to learning more about the challenges faced by Canadians in accessing dental care and will actively participate in the study of this important issue by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-25 16:34 [p.1530]
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Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of Minister Dix. However, another topic that we have talked about studying on the health committee, and I believe the member is also on the committee, is palliative care. These are things we are going to talk about in the future.
This is something that is extremely important to Canadians, and it is something that we as members of the health committee will be continuously looking at to see how we can improve palliative care for all Canadians.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-25 16:35 [p.1531]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member as well for her incredible contribution as former minister of health and the work that she did on behalf of all Canadians.
The member is absolutely correct. The number one thing we heard at the doors in Atlantic Canada was for better health care. In addition to the Canada child benefit, which has done incredible things for our country, one of the things I am most proud of is the $11 billion, in addition to the health care accord, that we have put in separate streams to go toward mental health care and home care. This investment allows the federal government to have a say in how that money is spent, and it comes with expectations on behalf of the provinces and territories to ensure those funds are spent in the proper way.
It is the first time that I am aware of that we have had federal health care transfer money go toward dedicated streams within health care funding. It is something that I found was met with lots of resistance when it was first negotiated with the provinces and territories. However, the provinces and territories did fall in line and did accept those funds. I think they probably look at those funds now and say that this was money well spent and that they will work with the federal government to show how they have invested those funds in their communities.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-25 16:37 [p.1531]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
The motion we are discussing today is on dental care for Canadians. What we have said from the start, and what we have seen in the mandate letter of the minister, is that we are willing to look at these things. We are willing to do whatever is necessary and whatever is possible to consider for the better health of all Canadians.
We have said from the start that we would take suggestions from other parties and from all parliamentarians in this House on how we can move forward for the better health of all Canadians. This is something that we take very seriously.
Again, going back to the health committee, all the members discussed the possible studies they would be able to do, and one of the ones that was mentioned first was dental care. The Minister of Health had this in her mandate letter as something that we have to look at within the terms of her mandate. It is something we are very proud to work on, and we will collaborate with all members in this House to ensure that we are working toward better health for all Canadians.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-25 16:39 [p.1531]
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Mr. Speaker, we cannot get where we need to go for Canadians if we do not collaborate and partner with all provinces and territories. We will not get national universal pharmacare if we are not able to work with the provinces and territories.
We cannot trample on jurisdiction. The provinces and territories need us as partners and we need them as partners. We need them to see how important this project could be and how important national pharmacare could be. Whether it includes dental or it does not, a national universal pharmacare program requires partnership and collaboration with every province and every territory in this great country.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-25 16:41 [p.1532]
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Mr. Speaker, in 2019 over $40 billion went toward health transfers. Almost $200 billion will go toward it over the next several years, and it is going to go up by 3% every year. We are making those commitments to the provinces.
Health care is provincial, but the federal government does have a role. I went over several of the things that we do and several of the things that past federal governments have done toward health care. There is a big role for the federal government.
The fact that I have mentioned a collaborative partnership has been commented on several times. We absolutely need to be a partner at the table and we need to collaborate with provinces and territories, recognizing that health care is indeed the jurisdiction of the provinces.
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View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-25 16:43 [p.1532]
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Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on the great work that Quebec does for health care. I look forward to perhaps using this as a model on dental care that we can study at the health committee. Maybe we can learn from Quebec.
Quebec has done many things to lead the country in the past. I look forward to the upcoming dental study and looking at the models that work in Canada and finding ways to make them work in other provinces and territories as well.
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