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Results: 1 - 15 of 33
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, Bill C-32 has more bulk than substance. My colleagues were right in saying so earlier.
Bill C-32 contains 25 different tax measures and a dozen or so non-tax measures. That may seem like a lot, but there are in fact two kinds of measures. Some are minor amendments, like the ones this Parliament adopts on a regular basis to comply with court rulings, treaties and new accounting policies or to correct an unintended effect of an act, while others were already announced in the spring 2022 budget but had not been incorporated into the first budget implementation bill in June.
Simply put, like the economic statement of November 3, 2022, Bill C-32 does not include any measures to address the new economic reality brought on by the high cost of living and a possible recession. It is a bill that does not do any harm but does not deserve much praise either. At the same time, it is not a total disappointment, because it does contain a few positive measures.
The Bloc Québécois takes issue with an economic update that mentions the inflation problem 108 times but offers no additional support to vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those who have lost their jobs. It offers no solutions, despite the fact that a recession is expected to hit in 2023. Quebeckers concerned about the high cost of living will find little comfort in this economic update. They will have to make do with what is basically the next step in the implementation of last spring's budget.
The Bloc Québécois asked the government to focus on its fundamental responsibilities toward vulnerable people, such as increasing health transfers, which I will come back to, adequately supporting people aged 65 and over, and immediately reforming the EI program, which is the best stabilizer in times of economic difficulty. The government dismissed our proposals. We can only denounce this as a missed opportunity to help Quebeckers deal with the tough times that they are already going through or may face in the months to come.
With respect to health care, there is an ongoing standoff between the federal government on one side and Quebec and the provinces on the other. The Bloc Québécois asked the federal government to agree to the unanimous request of Quebec and the provinces to increase health transfers immediately, permanently and unconditionally. Let us not forget that, in 1993, former minister Paul Martin decided to erase the federal deficit by cutting health transfers from 50% to 25%. The provinces were in crisis. Since then, no government has been interested in getting funding back up to that 50% over time. We would be happy with a boost to 35%, but the government has not only failed to restore funding to where it was, it has reduced it to 22%.
That is unacceptable. This injustice must be corrected. Sick people and health care workers are the ones suffering. ER doctors are warning that our hospitals have reached the breaking point, but the federal government is not taking action. Obviously, it would much rather prolong the health care funding crisis in the hope of breaking the provinces' united front so it can convince them to accept less than they are asking for.
I would remind the House that sections 92 and 93 of the Canadian Constitution state very clearly that the only role of the federal Parliament is to transfer money to the provinces without any conditions. When I look at the various political parties here in Ottawa, I often wonder if they are proud to be Canadian. I am very proud to be a Quebecker, and if there were a Quebec constitution, the first thing I would do to express my pride would be to respect it. At the federal level, the Constitution is abundantly clear about health transfers. Why, then, does Ottawa choose not to respect the Constitution? Are those members proud to be Canadian, yes or no? Anyone who is proud to be Canadian would respect the country's Constitution.
Let us now talk about the two classes of seniors. This is the first time we see an attack on the universality of health programs. People between the ages of 65 and 74 continue to be denied the increase in old age security, which they need more than ever before. Seniors live on fixed incomes, so they cannot deal with such a sharp rise in the cost of living. Seniors are the most likely to have to make tough choices at the grocery store, the pharmacy or the gas pump. The government continues to penalize those who are less well-off and who would like to work more without losing their benefits. Unlike the government, inflation does not discriminate against seniors based on their age. Currently, Canada's income replacement rate, meaning the percentage of income that a senior retains at retirement, is one of the lowest in the OECD.
The increase in old age security should prevent demographic changes from significantly slowing economic activity. Contrary to what the government says, starving seniors aged 65 to 75 will not encourage them to remain employed. That is done by no longer penalizing them when they work.
There are several solutions that could help seniors. I would like to quote from a letter I received from Robert Bernatchez, who lives in my riding. His proposal is very acceptable, very simple to understand and very simple to implement, but for the time being the government is turning a deaf ear.
His letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr. [MP], allow me to share with you an initiative that may help seniors 65 to 74. They do not benefit from the increase to old age security, since the federal government increased the age of eligibility to 75.
Whereas the 10% increase to old age security is reserved for individuals 75 and older and this is unfair to individuals who have not reached that age. It should be noted that we had a universal plan starting at 65 for the old age security pension.
Whereas there is currently no permanent government measure that allows retirees 65 to 74 to increase their income to cope with growing inflation.
Whereas the message sent by the federal and provincial governments to retirees 65 to 74 is that “if you want more money then get a job to help address the pressing labour shortage and/or to increase your income”.
Whereas many retirees 65 to 74 do not want to return to work or they would have already done so.
Whereas these are the same people who helped build the Quebec and Canada of today. They have made invaluable contributions and now want to receive some help.
We, retirees aged 65 to 75, are calling on the federal government to change the eligibility criteria for the guaranteed income supplement to include the following.
When inflation exceeds 3%, the following measures will apply:
Retirees aged 65 to 75 who earn less than $50,000 in income, as entered on line 199 of their income tax return, can withdraw up to a maximum of $2,500 from their RRIFs without any reduction to their guaranteed income supplement. This measure will apply for the 2022 tax year. An adjustment will consequently be made to non-refundable federal tax credits to increase the amount of deductible pension income to $2,500.
Sir, I hope you will defend this new measure like you defended the earnings exemption for self-employed workers in 2019....
I hope the government will get the message.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising those points.
You mentioned $2 billion, but when the government slashed transfers in half from 50% to 25%, that represented a lot more than the $2 billion you say you provided.
Let me remind you that the federal government's role is to transfer the money to the provinces, not to give that money directly or to opine that one type of care is better than another or that one type of collaboration is better than another. All the federal government is supposed to do is give the money unconditionally.
You say that the government has intervened in times of crisis, but the Constitution also says that, in times of crisis, the federal government has an obligation to step up and transfer funds for health care.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I talked about the health transfers that all the provinces have requested. Quebec and all the provinces are calling for a new cost-sharing arrangement with an additional $28 billion going to the provinces.
The federal government may say that this is not immediately feasible, but it could at least promise to do it in increments. It could make a two-, three- or four-year agreement to reach that 35% target. I would remind the House that health transfers to the provinces were 50% in 1993.
This is critically important. It is what the provinces are calling for, and it is becoming increasingly pressing right now. I read a document about Ontario, where the situation is critical. In Quebec, the situation is critical in all hospitals. We need the money that is owed to us.
The Constitution very clearly states that the transfers must be unconditional.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, when it comes to mental health, what is happening is terrible. Mental health problems have increased dramatically, so the amount of money that needs to be invested also needs to increase considerably.
Once again, this is a health-related issue, and health is a provincial responsibility. That is very clearly stated in the Constitution, in section 92. If the government wants to be generous, understanding and responsive to the provinces, it should simply transfer the money. Quebec has the knowledge to help people suffering from mental health problems.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to honour the memory of Bill Blaikie, a prominent figure in the New Democratic Party and, more broadly, the Canadian left.
When I was elected in 1984, Bill Blaikie had already been the MP for Winnipeg—Transcona for five years. He was a towering figure in the NDP caucus, both figuratively and literally, as he stood at least a head taller than his colleagues. With his loud, carrying voice, Bill Blaikie got noticed. When he spoke, the House went silent.
In 2011, when I sat in the Speaker's chair to open the session and preside over the election of the Speaker as the dean of the House, I thought about him. Before me, it was Bill Blaikie who carried out that role as dean of the House. Before that, as members will recall, the Speaker was appointed by the Prime Minister.
It goes without saying that I did not measure up. Bill Blaikie was almost a giant, but I tried to have the same upright character. Bill Blaikie was the embodiment of the original NDP, a party that grew from religious roots in the Prairies. Like Tommy Douglas, Bill Blaikie was a pastor and was almost nothing like the slick urban elites who now form the NDP's base. As he used to say, he was close to the little people, those I would describe as regular folks.
In 30 years, Bill Blaikie took on just about every role within the NDP, including House leader, interim leader, as well as parliamentary leader when Jack Layton was the unelected party leader. He was also Deputy Speaker, as the House leader was saying. When the NPD lost official party status after the 1993 election, Bill Blaikie was there, like an island of stability. I will never forget his forceful interventions to get recognition for his party, which did not have 12 seats at the time.
He and I did not always see eye to eye. Bill Blaikie was a centralist. His vision of Canada did not really embrace Quebec nationalism, much less a special status for Quebec.
In all his 30 years as an MP in Ottawa, I never once heard him utter a single word in French. I once asked him why. He jokingly answered, “I have too much respect for the French language to use it with my bad accent. I will leave that to my children, who are managing quite well.”
Our confrontations were always respectful when it came to ideas, values, principles. Bill Blaikie was a man of principle, a decent man, a powerful advocate, a person who was deeply respectful to those around him, and an expert on parliamentary procedure. When he had something in mind, he was so well versed in procedure that you better believe that the amendment would be adopted easily.
On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to offer my condolences to his political family, who owe a great deal to the man who helped them weather the storms over the years with his reassuring presence. I especially want to extend sincere condolences to his family, including his wife and children, in particular his son, Daniel, who currently serves as the member for Elmwood—Transcona, his father's former riding.
To my friend Bill, to tease you a little, I will end by quoting a great French author, Alexandre Dumas, who once said that those we have loved may not be where they used to be, but they are with us always, wherever we may be.
Farewell, Bill.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, we are winding up debate at second reading of Bill C-237.
This bill gives the provinces the right to withdraw when the federal government creates a program that should be the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. I found the term “exclusive” in the Constitution. When we speak of exclusive jurisdictions, we are referring to matters that fall under the authority of either the provinces or the federal government.
The term “exclusive” exempts Quebec from the standards and conditions that the federal government imposes before providing funding for health care. There has been a consensus in Quebec for 50 years on this position, which is the basis for the major constitutional crises that have occurred over the years.
This week's debate is taking place against the backdrop of the election campaign in Quebec. On Monday, Quebeckers will go to the polls and will have to make a decision about many things. I am thinking of the health care system, which the pandemic demonstrated was fragile and underfunded. One party says there should be more privatization, another wants to make seniors' homes the priority and yet another is counting on existing public services, home care and long-term care centres.
This has been top of mind during the campaign, and on Monday, Quebeckers will vote and decide. Usually, when the public makes a decision, that is the end of it. No matter what choice the Quebec nation makes, Canadians will have to agree because Ottawa is imposing all kinds of conditions. It is imposing its own standards on us and wants us to adopt its priorities.
I am talking about health, but this is true in all sorts of areas, such as housing, education, family policy and taxation. In fact, it is true in almost all areas. That is what it means to be a minority, even though this House recognized that we were a nation by a nearly unanimous vote a few years ago. The Bloc Québécois wants the right to opt out of federal programs in areas that should be the responsibility of Quebec instead of Ottawa because we want to be masters in our own house.
When I introduced Bill C‑237, I hoped to advance the autonomy of Quebec. We are currently being led by a minority government. The Bloc Québécois wants Quebec to be a country, but in the meantime, it wants us to be masters in our own house to the extent possible. That is only natural. The Conservative Party campaigned on respecting provincial jurisdictions. The NDP has its Sherbrooke declaration, which supports Quebec's right to opt out. Between the three parties, we can move Bill C‑237 forward.
However, I was bitterly disappointed when we were debating this bill. The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie says that he supports the right to withdraw, but only if Quebeckers adhere to the NDP agenda. The Conservative member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington says that she respects provincial jurisdictions, but only if the Liberals agree and grant a royal recommendation. If not, she is against the bill.
I want to point out that the Constitution gives exclusive powers to Quebec and the provinces. This means that the federal government must not interfere. This is set out in the Constitution that English Canada adopted, the Constitution that Quebec never signed. Now a Bloc Québécois member, a separatist MP, is standing up in the House and demanding that the federal government respect the Constitution. The Canadian parties are the ones not respecting it. It is all backwards.
However, it is not too late. Election platforms are not just documents to be used during an election campaign and then thrown away. I am appealing to the NDP and the Conservative Party to keep the promises they made to Quebeckers during the election campaign. Let Bill C‑237 move on to the next stage. That will give us time to convince the government to grant a royal recommendation.
If Bill C‑237 is passed, Ottawa will be free to do as it pleases in areas under its jurisdiction, just as Quebec and the other provinces will be free to act in areas under their jurisdiction.
Everyone would respect everyone else's jurisdictions. The key word is “respect”.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech.
At the beginning of his speech, he spoke a lot about the need for new housing. However, the housing announced in the budget will not be available for another two or three years, because housing cannot be built instantaneously. Still, there may be a way to help people find housing.
For example, in some regions, Airbnb has taken over 20, 25 or 30 housing units so that it can profit off of renting them out by the day or the week.
Would this not be a way to control these companies, to ensure that these units remain permanent rental units for residents?
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
moved that Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the Canada Health Act be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to speak to my bill, Bill C-237, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the Canada Health Act.
The bill addresses the root cause of the tensions and disputes between the federal government and the provinces, Quebec in particular, and that is spending power. The federal government has given itself the power to tell Quebec what to do in its own areas of jurisdiction, under the pretext that it is transferring money to the province.
Canada is supposed to be a federation. In a federation, the two levels of government are equally sovereign, but not in the same areas.
Section 91 of the Constitution confers powers on the federal Parliament and section 92 confers powers on Quebec and the Canadian provinces. Federal spending that encroaches on provincial jurisdiction calls into question the division of powers and Quebec's autonomy. That is what spending power is. It is the power to tell the other what to do in areas that fall under its exclusive jurisdiction. Respecting Quebec and its autonomy is not a partisan game in Quebec, and this is not new.
It was during the creation of the welfare state, as it was known, when the government started developing various social programs, that tensions arose.
During the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, Quebeckers clearly picked a side. They looked to the Government of Quebec to develop the social safety net, and they expected Quebec to be completely free to do that without having to take orders from Ottawa. Quebec Premier Jean Lesage's campaign slogan was “Maîtres chez nous”, masters of our own house, and that is what he was talking about. That is also what the great constitutional talks—Victoria in 1970, Meech Lake in 1987 and Charlottetown in 1992—were all about. In fact, that is what prompted me to get into politics.
When English Canada got itself a new Constitution without Quebec, I decided to make the leap. When I ran in 1984, I ran because I wanted us to be masters of our own house. It is for that same reason that I am now introducing Bill C‑237 38 years later.
The bill amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act in two ways.
On the one hand, it provides all interested provinces with the opportunity to opt out of a federal program that falls under the legislative authority of the provinces. In that case, the government can pay the province a transfer equivalent to the contribution that it would have received had it not withdrawn.
On the other hand, Bill C-237 adds that the government will only pay the contribution if the province has a program whose objectives are comparable to those of a federal program. This mechanism is quite similar to the one that exists in the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, for example.
If a province has its own program and withdraws from the federal program, it receives the same transfer that it would have received had it not withdrawn. The transfer is unconditional and goes into the province's consolidated revenue fund, but only if it has a comparable program. It can be comparable, but it does not have to be the same. There is no requirement to respect standards or criteria or to allow interference in our affaires. We have a fair amount of control in this kind of relationship. That is not currently the case under this government or under previous governments.
Bill C-237 proposes a second amendment to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act that applies only to Quebec. This amendment would exempt Quebec from the application of criteria and conditions set out by Ottawa in the Canada Health Act.
The federal government has announced that it plans to set conditions applicable to long-term care facilities, or CHSLDs. It is talking about a series of so-called national strategies, which we understand to mean “dictated by the federal government”, in such areas as mental health, seniors' health, reproductive health, pharmacare and dental care.
The federal government does not develop any services and, in fact, it would not be able to do so. The federal government does not deliver any services either, as it knows nothing about them. It will just transfer the responsibility to the provinces so they will do the work in its place. It is going to hire them like subcontractors, and it is going to use its spending power to tell them what to do.
Fifty years ago, Pierre Elliott Trudeau said that “there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”. Today, his son is saying that the state has its place in every room in the house, which is unacceptable to us. Our house is Quebec, and we do not want Canada deciding on the decor and furniture.
As I was saying, it is not a partisan issue in Quebec. I would like to quote Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's minister of intergovernmental affairs in Jean Charest's government, the same Jean Charest who is a Liberal in Quebec and a Conservative in Ottawa. It would be difficult to be any more transparent.
Benoît Pelletier said, “I have a great deal of difficulty in reconciling the values underlying the Canadian federation with the idea of a federal spending power that is in no way subject to the division of powers.”
The Séguin commission on the fiscal imbalance said the same thing: “The 'federal spending power' displays a singular logic in that the federal government intervenes every time in a field falling under provincial jurisdiction without having to adopt a constitutional amendment.”
The current government of François Legault, which was elected on an autonomist platform, is still calling for jurisdictions to be respected. Between autonomist François Legault and Jean Lesage's “masters in our own house”, it is very clear that Quebec does not want the federal government to tell us what to do in areas over which we have exclusive jurisdiction.
This is not a constitutional matter. It is, quite simply, a jurisdictional matter. The federal government does not manage the health care system and knows nothing about it.
In March, the Bloc leader held a press conference to demand that the federal budget include an increase in health transfers, with no conditions attached. He was accompanied by the entire Quebec health care community: unions, physicians' federations, various health care professionals, everyone. These people, the backbone of the health care system, are all asking for the same thing, and that is a boost in transfers, with no conditions.
These people make the health care system function, together with the Quebec government. The last thing they need is the federal government coming in and telling them what to do. This consensus goes far beyond the political parties in Quebec; it includes the entire health care community. I would like to reiterate that all the provincial premiers are unanimously asking for the same thing. That consensus is reflected in Bill C-237.
A few weeks ago, the Speaker ruled that my bill requires a royal recommendation. In other words, the House can vote on it at third reading only if the government agrees. We still have second reading, committee and report stage, which gives us several months to convince this government, which, I remind members, is a minority government.
Of course, the Bloc Québécois wants Quebec to be a country, but in the meantime, we want to be masters in our own house to the extent possible.
The Conservative Party campaigned on a platform of respect for provincial jurisdiction. The NDP had its Sherbrooke declaration, which supported Quebec's right to opt out. Together, the three of us can move Bill C‑237 forward. Today, I am calling on these three parties to do just that.
My people built a unique society on our part of the continent. Our distinct nature is evident in our language and our culture, but it is much more than that. Quebec has the highest rate of female labour market participation, the most advanced family policy on the continent, the best wealth distribution and the lowest poverty rates. Almost 80% of the population belongs to the middle class, compared to under 75% in the rest of Canada. How did we make that happen? We did it because we were free to do it. That is all there is to it.
The federal government wants to use its spending power to replace our freedom with conditional freedom. It cannot recognize the existence of a nation while simultaneously wanting to control it. Everyone here rejects that brand of paternalism toward indigenous nations, whose right to self-government we recognize. I expect the same level of respect for my nation, the Quebec nation.
That is why I urge all members to support my Bill C‑237 so we can have a little more mastery over our own house.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, my answer is very simple. It is well established in the Canadian Constitution that education and health are areas of provincial jurisdiction. Manitoba has full authority in education and health, as does Quebec. The federal government needs to stop meddling in these areas of jurisdiction.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
That is exactly what I said in my speech. Quebec's entire health care community, like every premier in Canada, is calling for health transfers with no conditions because it is the provinces that manage the hospitals, that organize them and the work. The role of the federal government is clearly stated in the Constitution. It consists solely of transferring money to the provinces so that they can provide quality health care services. Seniors in Quebec and everywhere are calling for this. The entire health care community, including doctors, unions, and health care workers, is calling for transfers with no conditions.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, that is not how I see it. My bill simply says that the federal government will transfer the funds.
It will still be perfectly possible to uphold the principles in the Canada Health Act, since they are quite general. This does not open the door to privatizing health care.
Since this is a provincial jurisdiction, it is possible that a democratically elected government may decide that one part will go to the private sector, but let us be honest: Even though there is a Canadian law, private sector involvement in health care is widespread throughout Canada.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, John William Bosley passed away last Thursday. He was the 31st Speaker of the House of Commons.
On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to offer my condolences to his wife Mary and daughter Yanette, his family and friends, and members of his political party.
Mr. Bosley was elected in 1979 as a member of the opposition, and he was re-elected in 1984 and 1988 as a member of the Progressive Conservative government of the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney. In 1984, Brian Mulroney placed his trust in him by appointing him Speaker at the age of 37. At the time, he was the second-youngest person to hold that position.
He presided over the House for two tumultuous years before resigning. I remember the speech he gave on that occasion, lamenting the indiscipline in the House. He feared that this indiscipline would erode public respect for the institution. Looking back, it may be worth asking if his message should be heeded today.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Bosley was the very last Speaker to be appointed by a prime minister. He presided over the very first election of a Speaker, his successor. This responsibility is now assigned to the dean of the House, and I have had the honour of taking on this task for the past five years.
I am the only sitting member of Parliament to have had the privilege of serving alongside him in 1984 when he was Speaker of the House. I remember him as an intelligent, cultured and compassionate person. He was passionate about finance and about order and discipline. He was personally disciplined but also disciplined in his interactions with his colleagues and in his role as Speaker.
I thank John for the many years he devoted to public life. May he rest in peace.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
Yesterday evening, Monday, February 28, the Speaker said:
I would encourage members who would like to make arguments regarding the requirement for a royal recommendation with respect to [Bill] C-237...to do so at an early opportunity.
I am rising on a point of order this evening in relation to that.
I admit that I was surprised by this statement. Royal recommendation is the mechanism by which a private member's bill cannot have any financial implications unless it is recommended by the Crown.
Financial implications refers to both new expenditures and reallocation of funds for other purposes. Bill C-237, which I am introducing, does not do either.
In my view, it is clear that Bill C-237 does not require a royal recommendation and has the potential to be voted on by the House at all stages and implemented, for the following five reasons.
First, it does not require any new spending.
Second, it does not change the transfer amounts, nor does it change the names of the beneficiaries or how the funding is allocated to them.
Third, it does not change the purpose of the transfer. The Canada health transfer will still be dedicated to paying for health care. The same goes for other transfers that are allocated to a province if it has “a program whose objectives are comparable to those of a federal program”.
Fourth, it does not force the executive's hand, which retains the latitude and margin of appreciation required to transfer the funds. That prerogative remains in place. The executive will decide whether the province has a comparable program and will determine whether the province is complying with the conditions in the Canada Health Act.
Finally, precedents are on my side. There have been many bills that have changed the normative framework without any financial implications. I actually found 31 bills that amend the Canada Health Act, and not one required a royal recommendation.
For all these reasons, I believe that Bill C-237 does not require a royal recommendation.
Let us examine it in detail. Bill C-237 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act in two ways.
It provides all interested provinces with the opportunity to opt out of a federal program that falls under the legislative authority of the provinces. In that case, the government can pay the province a transfer equivalent to the contribution that it would have received had it not withdrawn. This means that it is an equal amount or a zero sum.
The bill adds that the government will only pay the contribution if the province “has a program whose objectives are comparable to those of a federal program”. In short, the purpose of the transfer does not change either.
This mechanism is quite similar to the one that exists in the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, for example. If a province has its own program and withdraws from the federal program, it receives the same transfer that it would have received had it not withdrawn.
The transfer is unconditional and goes into the province's consolidated revenue fund, but only if it has a comparable program. It is up to the minister to determine whether it has a comparable program.
Without any conditions on how the province runs the program, the transfer still serves the same purpose, which is to ensure that students can access financial assistance.
This same principle is in Bill C-237, which I introduced. It does not change the amounts or recipients, the distribution of the amounts among them, or the purpose of the transfer. It simply reduces federal control over the management of provincial programs in the provinces' own jurisdictions. Again, this is about provincial management of provincial programs. That is the only thing that is impacted here, and it has little to do with the prerogative of the federal Crown.
Bill C-237 proposes a second amendment to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, this one just for Quebec. The federal government has announced that it plans to set conditions applicable to long-term care facilities and retirement homes. I assume that they will be included in the Canada Health Act, since long-term care facilities fall under the definition of “extended health care services” in the act.
Since Quebec was the only one to object, Bill C-231 would exempt Quebec, and only Quebec, from the Canada Health Act, much like the proposal by my colleague from Montcalm to exempt Quebec from the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in his Bill C-226 in the 43rd Parliament, which did not require a royal recommendation.
The Canada Health Act does not have financial implications per se. It sets out a normative framework, five principles for the government to consider in the Canada health transfer, which is provided for in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. It is the latter act that has financial implications.
My bill, Bill C-237, does not change the purpose of the Canada health transfer. It does not change the purpose of the transfer defined in section 24(b) of the fiscal arrangements act as “contributing to providing the best possible health care system for Canadians and to making information about the health care system available to Canadians”. Bill C-237 does not change this section of the act, which sets out the purpose of the transfer.
Under the Canada Health Act, the government is responsible for determining whether the provinces are in compliance. In Bill C-237, the government determines whether the province has “a program whose objectives are comparable”. Personally, I would have preferred not to include that clause in Bill C-237, but I realized that this would have changed the purpose of the transfers and could therefore have required a royal recommendation.
Bill C-237 has no financial implications in terms of the amounts, their destination, their purpose or the general conditions. Only specific conditions in the Canada Health Act are affected.
Madam Speaker, I hear a lot of noise in the House and I am having a hard time delivering my speech.
View Louis Plamondon Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate your intervention.
Only the specific conditions of the Canada Health Act are affected. The Speaker has ruled on many occasions that playing within these standards does not generate or reallocate an expenditure and therefore does not require a royal recommendation.
In the 27 years since the start of the 35th Parliament, when bills began to be tracked in the LEGISinfo parliamentary module, no fewer than 31 private members' bills have proposed amendments to the Canada Health Act.
All of them added new conditions. Some required the province to develop new services in order to receive the Canada health transfer. Others imposed requirements on how health services had to be delivered in order to receive the transfer. Others prohibited access to the Canada health transfer for provinces that provide certain free services, in this case abortion. I will let the members guess which party recommended that.
The Chair did not require a royal recommendation for any of these bills, not one. Of course, not all of them were on the order of precedence, so the Chair did not have to rule on many of them. However, in some cases, the Chair did have to do so.
Take Bill C-282, introduced during the 36th Parliament by the Liberal member for Ottawa—Vanier, the late Mauril Bélanger, a great defender of the rights of Franco-Ontarians. He introduced the bill in response to the crisis surrounding the Montfort Hospital, a francophone hospital in Ottawa that the Ontario government had tried to close.
The bill introduced a new condition in the Canada Health Act to set new language requirements for French-language services in the provinces and English-language services in Quebec. If the province did not meet these conditions, the minister could cut the transfer. The bill was placed on the order of precedence without the Chair indicating that it required a royal recommendation. It was subsequently debated.
If members consult the March 19, 2003, Hansard, they will see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health spoke on behalf of the Crown in the debate. He never made any mention of a royal recommendation. On the contrary, he asked members to refer the bill to the Standing Committee on Official Languages before second reading because “The federal government cannot and must not act unilaterally in a shared provincial jurisdiction. Any decision to broaden the scope of the Canada Health Act requires extensive consultations with the provinces”. In short, he asked the House not to pass the bill, even while recognizing that it had the right to do so.
I will give another example, that of Bill C-213, an act to enact the Canada pharmacare act, which was introduced by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby and voted on by the House at second reading on February 24, 2021. This bill basically creates a new transfer.
According to clause 4 of this bill, “The purpose of this Act is to establish criteria and conditions that must be met before a cash contribution may be made in respect of public drug insurance plans.” After setting out the specific conditions, the bill indicates that the minister “may” make a transfer to the provinces to fund a provincial drug program.
It is important to note that the bill does not set out a specific amount. I understand that it was specifically written that way so as to not generate any new spending and therefore not require royal recommendation. It worked. Even though the bill created a new transfer, even though it set out specific goals and conditions, it did not require royal recommendation because it did not generate any new spending.
If we apply the same logic to Bill C-237, we can come to only one conclusion. This bill does not require a royal recommendation.
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