COVID-19 Emergency Response Act

An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19

Sponsor

Bill Morneau  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 implements, as part of the response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), certain income tax measures by

(a) introducing a one-time additional payment under the GST/HST tax credit;

(b) providing temporary additional amounts under the Canada Child Benefit;

(c) reducing required minimal withdrawals from registered retirement income funds by 25% for 2020; and

(d) providing eligible small employers a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months.

Part 2 enacts the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act to authorize the making of income support payments to workers who suffer a loss of income for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019.

Part 3 enacts the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act, which authorizes payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in relation to public health events of national concern. It also provides for the repeal of the Act on September 30, 2020.

Part 4 amends the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act to allow the Minister of Finance to increase the deposit insurance coverage limit until September 30, 2020.

Part 5 amends the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act to authorize the Minister of Finance, with the approval of the Governor in Council, to make payments to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of increasing the Corporation’s capital.

Part 6 amends the Export Development Act to broaden the purposes for which Export Development Canada is established and to permit the Minister of Finance, until September 30, 2020, to determine the amount of Export Development Canada’s authorized capital as well as the amount of certain limits applicable to Export Development Canada. It broadens the transactions for which the Minister of International Trade, with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance, may grant an authorization. It also provides for the suspension of certain provisions of the Export Development Canada Exercise of Certain Powers Regulations.

Part 7 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to authorize additional payments to the provinces and territories for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2019.

Part 8 amends Part IV of the Financial Administration Act to authorize the Minister of Finance, until September 30, 2020, to borrow money under that Act for certain payments without the authorization of the Governor in Council, and it also amends that Part to extend the time for the tabling of the report on that Minister’s plans in relation to the management of the public debt. It also amends Part IV.‍1 of that Act to authorize that Minister to make payments to an entity and to procure the incorporation of a corporation or establish an entity, other than a corporation, for the purposes of promoting the stability or maintaining the efficiency of the financial system in Canada. Finally, it makes related amendments to the Borrowing Authority Act and a consequential amendment to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act.

Part 9 amends the Food and Drugs Act to, among other things, authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations

(a) requiring persons to provide information to the Minister of Health; and

(b) preventing shortages of therapeutic products in Canada or alleviating those shortages or their effects, in order to protect human health.

Part 10 amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things, create a regime which provides for a leave related to COVID-19 of up to 16 weeks. It also amends that Act to provide for the repeal of that regime and to provide for a quarantine leave under the medical leave regime.

Part 11 amends the National Housing Act to increase, for a period of five years, the maximum total for the outstanding insured amounts of all insured loans.

Part 12 amends the Patent Act to, among other things, provide that the Commissioner must, on the application of the Minister of Health, authorize the Government of Canada and any person specified in the application to make, construct, use and sell a patented invention to the extent necessary to respond to a public health emergency that is a matter of national concern.

Part 13 amends the Canada Student Loans Act to provide that, during the period that begins on March 30, 2020 and ends on September 30, 2020, no interest is payable by a borrower on a guaranteed student loan and no amount on account of principal or interest is required to be paid by the borrower.

Part 14 amends the Farm Credit Canada Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to determine the limit on the amounts that the Minister of Finance may pay to Farm Credit Canada out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Part 15 amends the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to provide that, during the period that begins on March 30, 2020 and ends on September 30, 2020, no interest is payable by a borrower on a student loan and no amount on account of principal or interest is required to be paid by the borrower.

Part 16 amends the Business Development Bank of Canada Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to determine the limit on the aggregate of the paid-in capital — and any related contributed surplus — of the Business Development Bank and any proceeds prescribed as equity.

Part 17 amends the Apprentice Loans Act to provide that, during the period that begins on March 30, 2020 and ends on September 30, 2020, no interest is payable by a borrower on an apprentice loan and no amount on account of principal or interest is required to be paid by a borrower.

Division 1 of Part 18 amends the Employment Insurance Act to give the Minister of Employment and Social Development the power to make interim orders for the purpose of mitigating the economic effects of COVID-19.

Division 2 of Part 18 provides that every reference in any provision of the Employment Insurance Act and of regulations made under it to a certificate issued by a medical doctor or other medical professional or medical practitioner or by a nurse practitioner is deemed to be of no effect and that any benefit that would have been payable to a claimant had such a certificate been issued is payable to the claimant if the Canada Employment Insurance Commission is satisfied that the claimant is entitled to the benefit.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 is a challenge unlike any other we have ever faced. Canadians are worried about their health and the health of their loved ones. I understand what people are going through in one sense. Two of my own loved ones are facing this disease right now: one of my sisters who lives in Europe and a godson in the United States. They are both doing well and I know they will get through this, but it is a reminder once again of how this disease is impacting so many people.

We are all in this together. Canadians are worried about the economic impacts as well, keeping a roof over their heads and putting food on their tables. While we do not yet know the full economic impacts, I want to tell Canadians that our government is prepared to do whatever it takes to mitigate the impacts.

Last week, our government announced significant economic measures to support Canadians and ensure that no one is left behind. With the bill introduced today in Parliament, we are taking the next steps to implement our plan to protect Canadians and the Canadian economy during this period of uncertainty.

This legislation aims to provide timely support to Canadians and to make sure that we all have the tools necessary to support them, as well as businesses, as things continue to rapidly evolve in these very uncertain times.

I would like to outline how this will help Canadians worried about their health and their ability to pay their bills.

Canadians' health is our top priority. The bill gives me and the Minister of Health the power to request funds to support the federal government's efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.

This legislation proposes to provide one-time funding of $500 million through the Canada health transfer for provinces and territories to ensure that our health care systems across the country have the resources they need.

My colleague, the Minister of Health, has been in constant communication with her colleagues. We are in this together. We must continue to work together. This means ensuring that our health care systems have the funds they need to treat patients and continue to deliver world-class care.

We also know that many Canadians do not have access to benefits when they are sick. No Canadian should have to choose between buying groceries and taking care of his or her health. It is not good for that person or for our communities.

We are proposing the new Canada emergency response benefit. It is a simpler and more accessible version of the previous two benefits, the emergency care benefit and emergency support benefit. We want to ensure that all Canadians who cannot work because of COVID-19 and who do not have access to paid leave or other income support get the support they need in a simple and rapid way.

This approach supports any Canadian who finds themself in a situation in which they lose all of their income due to COVID-19, and supports every Canadian business by protecting every employee. It is a wage subsidy delivered directly to people.

Canadian workers who are sick, self-isolating or quarantined, looking after a sick family member or who have been furloughed or terminated because of COVID-19 would be eligible. This includes workers who are still employed but are not receiving income because of work disruptions related to COVID-19. This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times and make sure that they can quickly resume operations when the time is right. It would also support working parents who have to stay home with their children without pay because schools and day cares are closed.

For workers eligible for employment insurance sickness benefits, we are also proposing to waive the requirement for claimants to provide a medical certificate.

For low and modest-income Canadians, we are proposing a special top-up through the GST credit by early May. This would double maximum GST credit payment amounts. On average, for those benefiting, this measure would put almost $400 more in the pockets of single individuals and $600 for couples.

For families with children, our government has proposed a temporary increase to the Canada child benefit. Parents will receive an additional $300 per child, starting in May.

Our government is proposing a six-month moratorium on Canada student loan repayments, with no interest, for those now making payments. This will give nearly one million Canadians an additional $160 a month for this entire period.

Canadians who owe personal income taxes and Canadian businesses that owe corporate income tax will not be required to pay it until August 31. This would free up $55 billion and keep that money circulating in the economy.

We need to help our businesses weather the storm, keep Canadians employed and make sure Canada's economy remains strong and stable.

On top of our direct support to people, which would benefit every business that must furlough employees to maintain operations, this legislation proposes a wage subsidy for small organizations for them to help Canadians working.

We also understand that businesses may require more liquidity during this time, so we are leveraging the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to work with private sector lenders to coordinate financing solutions for Canadian businesses. They are highly capitalized and well positioned to respond.

With this legislation, we would be making amendments that would give us the necessary flexibility to help businesses, through EDC and BDC. These changes would also allow BDC to provide more financial support to Canadian businesses and give EDC the flexibility to deliver financial and credit insurance support to affected Canadian companies. This important legislation would provide these two institutions with additional resources to respond to the needs of businesses as necessary.

We know that access to financing is crucial right now for businesses across the country.

On top of these changes, the government has implemented the business credit availability program. Through this program, the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada will work closely with private industry to coordinate financing solutions for Canadian businesses.

This program will be particularly helpful to businesses in sectors facing serious short-term challenges, such as the tourism and the oil and gas sectors.

Through this program, Crown corporations will make more than $10 billion in additional support available to businesses of all sizes that are struggling with credit.

The Canada Account is an important tool that can support Canadian companies with financing and guarantees. With the potential economic impact of COVID-19, there could be an increased demand for Canada Account financing. We are proposing to strengthen our ability to act through the Canada Account.

We also recognize that farmers and the agri-food sector will need access to financing. We are proposing to strengthen Farm Credit Canada to support the sector during these times.

The government is also taking action to help the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation increase liquidity in the financial sector by providing stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders to support continued lending to Canadian businesses and individuals. This work is absolutely critical. To this end, the government is launching an insured mortgage purchase program to purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through CMHC.

The proposed actions announced today represent direct support to Canadians and Canadian businesses to help protect jobs and to ensure that Canadians have the money they need during this challenging time.

I should point out that Canada is in a very good position to make these investments. Canada has the strongest record in the G7 and has the financial capacity to support its economy throughout this difficult period.

By working together, we can face up to this global health and economic crisis from a position of strength, give confidence to markets and help Canadians receive the support they need to weather the crisis.

I am asking my hon. colleagues from all parties to support this legislation. There can be no delay. I am confident that all parliamentarians will rise to the occasion. Canadians are counting on us.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, if I could take off my partisan hat for just a moment, we all recognize what a difficult time this is for the country, the world and the Canadian government of any political stripe. This is a very heavy load to bear. I am glad we can be here together, not always agreeing, but agreeing on one thing, that we are putting the needs of our fellow Canadians first and foremost.

My question has to do with small businesses. They seem to have been neglected in the finance minister's bill. Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. Whether it is small restaurants, coffee shops or nail salons, these are folks who employ one to three people. They have been neglected. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance what the Liberals are going to do to help small businesses right now who need some support?

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important question. We are trying to make sure that we support small businesses through this very challenging time. We know that many if not most small businesses are employers. They may be sole proprietors, but they may be employers. That is why we are delivering a wage subsidy directly to their employees if they are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. We know that this will support their ability to maintain that employment as we come out of this. That is critically important. The employees who keep working will have a 10% wage subsidy. Of course, we are making sure that they do not have to pay pay their taxes until August 31.

We remain open to considering additional measures, because this is a very dynamic situation. That is something we continue to work on to make sure that we are supporting people during this challenging time.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:40 a.m.
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NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity to discuss this bill and debate it in the House today and at a later period of time.

I would like to echo the comments of my colleague just now and ask the minister about small businesses. I have heard from so many in my riding of London—Fanshawe that a 10% wage subsidy is simply not enough. Knowing what small business owners put into their businesses, it is their dream and everything that they have in many cases, they want to save their employees and not to have to lay them off.

Therefore, will the government at this time at least consider the 75% wage subsidy that our party has introduced?

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear that any employees of these small businesses that do not have revenue as a result of COVID-19 will be getting direct support, which is a wage subsidy directly delivered to the employee. For the employees who are still there, of course that is also important.

We are trying to ensure that this is something that employers have the capacity to manage through. That is the reason we have been working so hard to make sure that the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada have access to capital and can deliver that access through the business credit availability program and the current banking relationship that the small businesses have.

We know these measures, in tandem, will support people through a difficult time. We are going to continue to think about ways we can support Canadians, the people who are off work and businesses, through this challenging time.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to echo the sentiment that these are very trying times, and it is very reassuring to see this House come together and to see all parties working collaboratively together.

There is no doubt that right now, out there, there is a lot of anxiety and worry. The minister has mentioned a number of individual items that he is proposing in this legislation.

I would like to ask him more broadly what his message is to people out there, such as small business owners or individuals who are feeling that anxiety right now. What is the message he wants to deliver to them from the government?

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost the message I want to get out to Canadian businesses is that we have a strong and resilient country. We have a tremendous starting point: Our health system is strong, our financial situation is strong and we have a banking system that is literally the best in the world. These are important assets as we face this challenging time.

The reason it is so important to have a strong financial position as a country is that in a difficult time, such as the one we are facing right now, it means we have the capacity to act and to continue to act, because that financial capacity allows us to face today's challenges and the continuing challenges that we will have to face together. Therefore, we have put forward measures that are very significant. They include $55 billion in tax deferrals, direct support to individuals, and support to businesses. We will continue to think about additional measures we can take as we face this situation. We do not know the severity of the situation and we do not know the duration, and that is why we are maintaining our ability to address a dynamic situation with dynamic measures.

We know our approach will get us through this time. It will help Canadians bridge this time to a better future.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:45 a.m.
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Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I know that I speak for all parliamentarians when I say that those Canadians who are affected by the COVID-19 virus are in our thoughts and prayers at this time. I know that our actions, whether on the government side of the House or on opposition benches, must continue to be guided by our shared desire to protect the health and safety of all Canadians and to support them through the global pandemic.

These are unprecedented times, warranting an unprecedented response both from governments and the Canadian people.

We know that this crisis is affecting Canadians across the country.

Almost a million workers have already been laid off, stores and restaurants have been told to close their doors and Canadians have been asked to stay at home.

We also know that our economy is taking a hit in this crisis and that the coming months will be very difficult.

While we are all aware that more needs to be done, and we have all heard of isolated incidents of people not following public health advice, overwhelmingly Canadians have risen to the challenge and have shown the care and compassion for which we, as a country, are so well known.

In these trying times, now more than ever, we see the strength of our communities and appreciate our true Canadian heroes: truck drivers, farmers and factory workers keeping our supply chains running at all times; companies stepping up, ensuring workers get paid, even if their doors are closed; grocery stores, pharmacies and cleaning staff working to keep shelves full and doors open; and restaurants offering takeout and delivery to those who need a hot meal.

Perhaps most importantly as we consider the health crisis, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, public health officials and first responders working around the clock to keep us all healthy and safe.

I had an opportunity to speak with the president of the Ontario Medical Association last week about what doctors urgently need from the government in fighting this pandemic. Those needs must be met.

The president mentioned the need for greater information-sharing tools so that tracking of cases can be done more quickly, so that when someone has a positive test result, the medical and health agencies can work backward and find out who that person was in contact with and do it through a much faster response mechanism. He also spoke to the need for equipment that must be procured now, before the number of cases escalates. I hope the government takes those concerns very seriously.

Our researchers in the scientific community will also play an essential role in fighting this pandemic and ultimately developing a vaccine.

I also want to acknowledge the leadership shown by provincial and municipal elected officials across the country. While the federal government took its time, the provinces acted quickly, taking advantage of their constitutional powers on health and education, particularly through the police and local services. Each province has tackled its own challenges and proposed new, innovative approaches.

Canadians are worried. They are worried for their health and the health of their loved ones, for their jobs and for their futures, and they are looking to us for action.

Conservatives have been flexible in our approach, while also continuing to ensure government oversight. When we agreed to the extraordinary suspension of Parliament, Conservatives insisted that the government be subject to substantial accountability measures, including the condition that the Auditor General would audit any new spending and that parliamentary committees would be able to review all of that spending when Parliament resumes.

We also agreed to bring back the House of Commons this week with only a small number of members present. We were prepared to quickly pass the measures that the Prime Minister had announced to date.

What we were not prepared for was the government's attempted undemocratic power grab. The Liberals shamefully tried to use a public health crisis to give themselves the powers to raises taxes, debt and spending without parliamentary oversight. However, after hours of negotiation, the government now has backed down from that position, and Conservatives have secured the following concessions.

We demanded that the government remove the section that would have allowed it to raise taxes without parliamentary approval, and the Liberals have agreed.

We demanded that the government walk back its unlimited spending powers and that special warrants expire on June 23, 2020, instead of September 30, 2020. The Liberals agreed.

We demanded that the government include explicit reference to putting taxpayers' rights first, and the Liberals agreed.

We demanded that the government must put sunset clauses in its legislation, a point that only the Conservative Party raised.

We demanded a sunset clause to ensure that the new powers will not remain in place for several more years.

We demanded that the government be accountable to Parliament through regular reports to the House of Commons health and finance committees, and that the finance committee have the right to recall Parliament if we identify any abuses, and the Liberals agreed.

Our effective opposition has also gotten the government to reverse course on other policies.

Let us remember that it was just a short while ago in this House that Conservatives were calling for stronger action to protect our borders. We were the ones who were asking tough questions as to why flights coming into Canada from hot spots around the world were continuing to be allowed. We proposed the idea of restricting travel much earlier. The government's initial response was that closing borders and restricting travel was not an effective way to fight this virus. It turns out that this was exactly what the Liberals were forced to do, just a short while after making those statements.

We asked about the impact of the border closure on the temporary foreign worker and seasonal agricultural worker programs, and the government made exemptions.

We demanded that the government put an end to illegal border crossings, in particular Roxham Road, and it is only thanks to us that the government has listened.

We have also called on the federal government to increase support for small businesses and workers, and I remain hopeful that the government will implement our suggestions.

Conservatives are focused on putting forward constructive solutions to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. We will also continue to ask questions on behalf of Canadians and ensure that the government's response includes clear timelines so that Canadians know when they can expect to start receiving support.

Many of us are looking at models around the world, and we hope that the government can look to countries that had effective measures at the front end and were then able to relax some of their restrictions on the economy much more quickly. I know one of my hon. colleagues has already raised the examples that we can look to in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, where there were a large number of tests being done, as well as rapid information sharing and rapid tracking of individuals who had tested positive so that they could identify who in the community was exposed. Those are some of the measure that we needed to see implemented much more quickly so we could quickly get to the point where our economy can get back on its feet.

While the government is looking for ways to do exactly that, I again want to urge it to do everything that it can.

I know that the Minister of Finance said earlier that the Bank of Canada is independent of government. While that is true to many degrees, there are ways that the government can take steps to ensure that quantitative easing is not an option that the government is looking at. Every time that has been tried in the past, it has led to many negative consequences for years longer than the economic crisis that justified those moves. We know that there is a huge crunch right now in the credit markets and we know the government will be looking to ways to address that, but simply printing more money is not the way to do it. I hope the Liberals take that into account.

We are here to be co-operative as they look to provide support to individuals and to help people pay their mortgages, pay their rent, pay their utilities and put food on the table.

We will be there to help and to propose solutions to ensure that Canadians can keep their homes. We will work with the measures that provide direct assistance to the Canadians affected by this crisis.

I want to thank all my colleagues for being here throughout the day.

I again remind the government that the assistance part of this legislation could have been passed 12 hours ago, but we will acknowledge the progress that has been made and the spirit of co-operation that I see in the hon. government House leader. I want to thank him for all his efforts throughout the day. It has been a lot of hard work and there have been a lot of moving pieces in a lot of ways. Those of us who have been here since the start of the day are grateful that this assistance will be able to flow into the hands of Canadians.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the co-operation that we are seeing throughout the House truly is remarkable.

I would suggest, perhaps in contrast to some of the comments from the Leader of the Opposition, that we saw the government bring forward a plan. It was a plan that the government thought was in the best interests of Canadians. I realize that the opposition had some issues with some aspects of that plan. They made their concerns known, and I think that was really important. What we should take from this is that in a time like this, even with the circumstances that we are in, democracy works. The opposition can do its job and push back on the government, but we can come to a compromise and move forward. I do appreciate that.

Earlier on in the debate today, the Leader of the Opposition questioned the 10% subsidy that was going to be given to small business employers specifically. He suggested that maybe that should be increased slightly. Can he expand on that and suggest where he sees that going?

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 4:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify something. It is not the fact that the Conservatives had issues with what the government proposed, grabbing for itself unprecedented powers: it is that Canadians had a massive problem with what the government proposed.

While we may be thankful that we have arrived at a place where we can allow this legislation to go through, I would suggest to the hon. member to do everything he can with his colleagues to point out that there was a tremendous amount of goodwill throughout the last few weeks. If the government had proposals and ideas of how it would like to have greater flexibility to address this crisis as it unfolds, to do so through the normal channels of conversation that had already been established would be far preferable to surprising the opposition in the short amount of time that we had before the House was coming back.

I just leave that with the hon. member. I hope he can take that message back to the rest.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 5 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader of the Conservative Party for his speech. I would nevertheless remind him that raising doubts as to the independence of the Bank of Canada twice in a matter of minutes is not the right message to send to the markets.

As far as his intervention on Roxham Road is concerned, I would remind him that the Conservative Party is not the only one to have spoken up about this. The Bloc has been on this from the start.

The same goes for the negotiations that led to this bill. When I compare this morning's version of the bill to the one we had 12 hours later, I see that some changes were made, but they are minor. For example, when the leader of the Conservative Party talks about changing the date from December 31, 2021 to September 30, 2020, the end of this summer, that change was already included in this morning's version of the bill.

Was this a case of much ado about nothing, or were we dealing with a paper tiger all along?

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 5 a.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has it all wrong.

His leader left the negotiations. He gave the government free rein. Maybe he decided to go out for a meal instead of representing his caucus and his constituents.

We made a different choice. We decided to stay here to ensure that we have a better bill for Canadians.

There are a lot of differences between—

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 5 a.m.
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NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, we all acknowledge that the COVID-19 crisis is going to put a lot of Canadians in a difficult position, particularly when it comes to housing. The government suggested that voluntary measures on the part of banks to defer mortgages is good enough. Does the member agree with the government that this is going to be good enough?

We believe that we need to go further and mandate that mortgages be paused and that there be a break on rent to ensure that people are not evicted during this crisis.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 5 a.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, we certainly agree with the objective of what the hon. member is talking about. In the best course of action now, I believe we are talking about an unprecedented involvement in many aspects of the economy that the government has never tried before. Even the most ambitious previous Liberal governments that would have loved more control over the economy did not try it.

In the situation we are facing, there very well may need to be short-term solutions to keep people in their homes. We agree with the objective, and I think now is the time to have our colleagues on the finance committee look at some of the tools that can provide a short-term benefit to allow the government to get in to help people through this crisis and then to get out so that we can return to a normally functioning economy.

COVID-19 Emergency Response ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2020 / 5 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite the hour, this is a very important time in the House. We are facing an unprecedented health crisis, one I never would have imagined in my lifetime. It is a global pandemic. An extreme situation such as this demands extreme measures and that is what we are talking about today.

Above all, I am pleased that the approach being taken to deal with this global crisis puts health above the economy. The economy is extremely important, but this new virus will have a devastating impact on public health and result in countless deaths if nothing is done about it. I commend the fact that we have decided to join in solidarity to get through this crisis and minimize the number of deaths by putting health ahead of the economy. The Bloc and I commend that.

Obviously it takes courage to make this decision because the consequences to the economy are severe. We can do all the analyses once this is over. Let us hope that this ends as quickly as possible. I am confident that once COVID-19 is contained and dealt with the economy will bounce back quickly. I am sure of it. Until then, let us bring in support measures, extreme measures. No one should be left behind. No one should be abandoned. No one should be forgotten.

In that regard, I applaud a number of the measures set out in this bill. We were worried about workers who did not accumulate enough hours to have access to employment insurance, but there is something for those people. Obviously, there are measures for everyone with health problems or those who have come into contact with someone who may have contracted COVID-19 or is in quarantine. These are important measures. The same is true for self-employed workers who did not register for employment insurance and who therefore do not have access to it. These people will be covered. Many such measures are being put in place.

People's biggest concerns, what we are hearing about in the media and through the calls we are getting at our offices, have to do with efficiency and timelines. People are really worried. They heard about the measures that have been announced on the news, but they were not told when or how those measures will be implemented. It is more complicated. Obviously, if a million people file a claim for employment insurance, Service Canada offices are going to be extremely busy and the phone lines will certainly be jammed. However, I think that we really have the duty to rise above partisanship and find ways of improving the process to provide more information, shorten wait times, reassure people and ensure that they get their first cheque as quickly as possible.

There are also measures for businesses. I am thinking of the lines of credit that the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada can provide. That is important. I am also thinking of the banking systems agreement. I hope that Mouvement Desjardins, Quebec's largest mortgage lender, will be included in the agreements. That is extremely important for Quebec's economy. All of these things will enable financial institutions to ensure cash flow, to make agreements with businesses and individuals who are finding it difficult to make payments in the short term. Let us hope that the six-month deferral period will be enough. If not, we can revisit that issue during the second phase of our plan.

Obviously, I am concerned about entire sectors of our economy. In the agricultural industry, our farmers are very worried. One measure was announced on Monday, but for now it does not seem to be enough to reassure the agricultural community. Everyone is anxious right now, and feeding the population is fundamental. That obviously goes hand-in-hand with health. We therefore need to ensure that our farms get through this crisis without any problems.

In that regard, it was suggested that the government enhance the agri-invest program by 5% without requiring businesses to match those funds. That would give businesses liquidity without making them go into debt. Earlier, in committee of the whole, I got the impression that the government is not going to move forward with that measure for now. I am asking the government to reconsider.

We need to think about the major sectors of the economy. I am particularly interested in Quebec's major industries. We cannot underestimate the importance of the aerospace industry. I was pleased to hear the finance minister recognize it as a strategic industry. This means that, if ever that industry is in trouble, assistance plans will be put in place, as they are for all strategic industries.

It is really important to make sure no one is left behind and to reassure the public.

We are facing an extreme crisis that is creating an extreme economic crisis. We all hope we can get through this as quickly as possible. We will have to create an array of new tools to help us with that.

We know that income support is important during an economic crisis. Businesses need support. They are having a lot of problems. We must therefore continue to innovate in order to get through this crisis as quickly as possible.

As a general rule, economists will say that every crisis is an opportunity to shape the economy of tomorrow. I hope that we will take this opportunity to transition toward a greener economy more quickly.

Our thoughts are with everyone directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic.

I hope that we in the House can set partisanship aside and work together even better than we usually do.