An Act respecting additional COVID-19 measures

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2020.


Carla Qualtrough  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of June 10, 2020
(This bill did not become law.)


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

Part 1 amends the Income Tax Act to revise the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy in order to support those employers hardest hit by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Part 2 enacts the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19), which addresses the need for flexibility in relation to certain time limits and other periods that are established by or under Acts of Parliament and that are difficult or impossible to meet as a result of the exceptional circumstances produced by COVID-19. In particular, the enactment
(a) suspends, for a maximum of six months, certain time limits in relation to proceedings before courts;
(b) temporarily enables ministers to suspend or extend time limits and to extend other periods in relation to specified Acts and regulations for a maximum of six months; and
(c) provides for the transparent exercise of the powers it confers and for Parliamentary oversight over the exercise of those powers.
Part 3 amends the Income Tax Act to authorize the use by officials, or disclosure to Government of Canada officials, of taxpayer information solely for the purpose of a one-time payment to persons with disabilities for reasons related to COVID-19. It also amends the Children’s Special Allowances Act to authorize the disclosure of information for the purpose of that one-time payment.
Part 4 amends the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act to, among other things, enhance the administration and enforcement of the Act and allow a review of decisions made under the Act. It also provides that a worker is not eligible for an income support payment if they do not return to work when it is reasonable to do so or decline a reasonable job offer.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

May 2nd, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
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Alison McDermott Assistant Deputy Minister, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance

I'm happy to take that question.

Your question was about how the original payment authority, which was included in Bill C-17, was essentially—I think to answer that in simple terms—just merged into this new bill so that when this bill receives royal assent, the government will have the authority to make those payments.

You then had some questions about what the requirements were. The government wanted to provide this funding to help municipalities deal with the revenue shortfalls associated with the public transit ridership declines that occurred during the pandemic. They wanted to do a little bit more in terms of incenting provinces to support housing construction as well. So, there are a couple of broad requirements that were asked of provinces in order to be eligible to receive the funding. There is a requirement to match the federal contribution. There was a requirement to allocate more or less according to transit ridership among their municipalities, so it's to pass on that funding to municipalities to achieve the objective of the payment. That was meant to be used towards transit operating shortfalls or could be used towards investments in transit capital or investments in housing.

There was an understanding or a request that provinces agreed to undertake to work with their municipalities to accelerate their efforts to improve housing supply in collaboration with those municipalities.

May 2nd, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you.

In respect of measures in the act that are essentially assuming the burden of what was in Bill C-17, there's health transfer money there for surgery backlogs, and also some money for a combination of housing and transit. It's not exactly clear the terms and conditions under which that money is supposed to be provided to provinces and, therefore, I think it's kind of hard for parliamentarians to know what they're being asked to authorize in that provision.

Can someone from the department give some character to how they see funds rolling out—I think it's $750 million total in that package—and what the plans are for reporting on that money and what's been secured with that money?

Government Business No. 1Government Orders

September 28th, 2020 / 12:35 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, what an honour it has been to have the opportunity to represent the people of Elmwood—Transcona throughout the course of a very challenging time in our history.

I was elected not quite a year ago with the general mandate to defend the interests of working people here in Ottawa and to try to make Parliament work for people. That has been foremost in my mind and in the work of the NDP throughout the course of this pandemic, which could not have been foreseen at the time of the last election. Nevertheless it is our responsibility as public office holders to deal with it, in the best way we possibly can.

Many things have been called into question about the way we did things before the pandemic. There are many urgent questions about how we deal with the particularities of the pandemic and the challenges it presents.

We have heard a lot from other opposition parties today about the challenge to parliamentary process. Is that the main thing that the people we represent are concerned about? It is certainly something that is important. It matters how things work here. It matters that we are able to hold the government to account, but is it the main thing that ought to preoccupy us on a day when the income support program that has been sustaining Canadian households throughout this pandemic expired yesterday at midnight? I think not.

I think it is incumbent upon us to be a little flexible in our understanding of parliamentary process at this time. We can continue to talk about the role that the government played in creating this situation, where Parliament has not had more time. Nevertheless, we find ourselves here and have to respond to that situation. I hope Canadians will have been paying attention to the way that the government manufactured this sense of urgency and judge its members appropriately at election time.

We can talk about the economic crisis. It was severe. There is a lot that Parliament and the government need to do to avoid the economic threats that the pandemic presents. Of course, the CERB has been a very important part of heading off those threats to the economy. It has helped the economy continue as best it can in very difficult circumstances by ensuring that people have money to pay their landlords to stay housed, by ensuring that people have some money to put food on the table, and by ensuring that people have some money to spend in their local economy to help businesses that are struggling.

Those are all things that are very important, but first and foremost what we are called to respond to is the very real story of human tragedy that the pandemic has given rise to. We know that what people are struggling with, and what is top of mind for them, is a sense of fear because they have lost their jobs. In some cases people have gone back to work, which is great.

For other people, their entire industry has been called into question, with the future of their industry being on the ropes. Not only are they not back to work, but they are not sure if there will ever be work to go back to, in the industry that they worked in before, in the way that they knew it prior to the pandemic.

We know people have been overtaken with grief at the loss of loved ones, particularly in personal care homes. They were not able to go to visit someone at the height of the first wave. We are concerned as we enter into a second wave that families will find themselves in that position again, or that families will be limited to one visitor or none at all for a relative in a hospital. It may not be that someone is sick with COVID-19, but because they have another issue that has landed them in the hospital, concerned family members are challenged by not being able to see them.

We can think of people living in indigenous communities who have been abused for far too long. They worry about systemic problems that have led to overcrowded housing and a lack of clean drinking water, and what it will mean for their communities, families and loved ones if the virus enters their community. There have been travel bans put in place. It has made life hard for people.

These are the things that people are really worried about and they have been foremost in the minds of the NDP members and our work.

What can Parliament and government do to support Canadians as they deal with all of those consequences of the pandemic, on top of the challenges that they already had in their lives? As they try to manage that stress and they try to show compassion and care for the people around them, what can we do to ensure that we do not pile additional unneeded stress, particularly financial stress, on top of all those many concerns?

That is what the Canada emergency response benefit was meant to do. It was something that we had to fight for, initially. I remember sitting here, in this very place, prior to the initial lockdown, listening to the NDP leader question the Prime Minister about what they were going to do to support families as we headed toward lockdown. I remember, very distinctly, the Prime Minister talking about tinkering with the employment insurance system, a system that has long been broken and not serving Canadians well who have paid into that insurance program to support them when they are out of work. We knew that was not going to be enough. We knew that playing at the edges of that broken employment insurance system was not going to support Canadians through it.

New Democrats pushed for a basic income for all Canadians during this time that would be taxed back from those who did not need it at the end of the fiscal year, as a way to get help out as quickly as possible to as many Canadians as possible. We negotiated with a government that was determined to have an exclusionary approach to income, to decide who was deserving and who was not deserving. That is how the CERB was born.

Then, in the subsequent months, we spent a lot of work championing the cause of many different groups of Canadians who were left out by that exclusionary approach. I am thinking especially of persons living with disabilities, because we did, through multiple rounds of negotiations, finally convince the government to make some income support available for persons living with disabilities. It was not the kind of support we wanted to see. It was to be a one-time payment. It is shameful that that money has not yet been delivered. It was meant to be an emergency support payment, and people living with disabilities in Canada are still waiting.

Seniors were left out. It could be that the income of some seniors who have the good fortune of having a defined benefit plan did not change, but their circumstances changed. The support networks that they knew, the friends and family who would come and help them to do laundry and get groceries, were now being asked not to go to their parents' place or their grandparents' place. That meant that in order for seniors to replace the work that was done in that support network, money was required for laundry services, for grocery delivery, for whatever it may be.

We fought hard to try to get support for seniors as well. That payment was made, but it was only a one-time payment. We know that this pandemic is going to last a long time. That is why we need better solutions that build towards a better Canada that supports its seniors and that supports its people living with disabilities.

We fought for students who were left completely out of the CERB, notwithstanding the fact that we all knew that their summer employment prospects were not going to be the same as they had been before and that finding a job that could support them in paying their tuition in the fall was going to be impossible. Also, not every student is a kid living in their parents' basement. That is the impression we got from the government, while negotiating for the student benefit. That is simply not true. A lot of students are supporting themselves and supporting families as they go to school. They have to pay rent and put food on the table, and they were not able to get employment.

The government finally, after New Democrats pushing for students to be on the CERB, set up an entirely separate benefit that paid less. One of the reasons the government said it was justified in paying students less and having a whole separate administration, bureaucracy and program for students was because they were going to have an excellent summer work program that was going to top up students' benefits. That came to be known as the WE Charity scandal. That money has not flowed to students in any way, shape or form. That employment was never created. In fact, we found out that that money really was a targeted benefit for certain wealthy and well-connected friends of the Liberal Party, including their own family members, to the great shame of the government.

Part of the reason why we are in the urgent scenario that we are in is because they did such a terrible job of that. It was so obscene that the Prime Minister felt he had to prorogue Parliament just to escape scrutiny from it. That meant that Parliament did not have the time it ought to have had, and could have had, if Parliament had not been prorogued.

The economic challenges of the pandemic are not going away. They are not going to go away until we get back to normal, and that is going to take a significant amount of time. As I said earlier, the CERB expired yesterday at midnight, so we now find ourselves in a position where a significant portion of the over four million people who were still on CERB now do not have anything in place. We heard some discussion of this earlier in the House, and I think everybody is quite right to feel a great sense of frustration at the government that it came to this point. The NDP had negotiated a series of summer sittings, once every two weeks, partly to check in and make sure that the government was not misappropriating funds or spending them on its friends in inappropriate ways. It is a good thing we had those summer sittings, because we learned a lot about what the government was doing behind closed doors.

However, we did not get to have the last one, during which we could have done one of two things.

First, we could have considered legislation for the government's new program. We know that they knew the details, because they announced all of the details of the program the day after the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament. The idea that this was not ready to go or that we could not have had that discussion in August is simply false. We know they were ready to have that conversation, but they decided not to for reasons that had to do with their own political interests and nothing to do with the public interest. I submit that in that moment the government lost sight of the real stories of human tragedy that the pandemic has engendered and the importance of the role of government in supporting Canadians through this time. Had that been foremost in their minds, they would not have prorogued Parliament. They would have brought this legislation to us then.

Second, the NDP called for Parliament to resume earlier, for an earlier Speech from the Throne. Anybody familiar with Liberal election platforms for the last 30 years could have mocked up that Speech from the Throne on the back of a napkin in about half an hour. There was nothing special in that Speech from the Throne; there was nothing new. There was nothing even particularly eloquent about it. There was no good reason to wait on this important work for that Speech from the Throne, so we could have gotten that done. They could have done that a lot sooner. It was a canned speech as far as I am concerned. We could have been dealing with this and subjected it to more and appropriate scrutiny.

However, there is no doubt that there is an urgent need for this help, because we find ourselves where we find ourselves. We can play the blame game, but I think Canadians want us to move beyond that. Assigning political blame should not be a recipe for paralysis in a crisis.

We do need to move forward. We do need to have something to replace the CERB. Finally, after weeks of no communication, the Liberals got serious about talking to opposition parties, and we were able to push them to stop the cut that they announced in August to the CERB benefit, from $2,000 a month to $1,600 a month, and get them to maintain that benefit level for Canadians who needed it. That was a real, productive outcome of those negotiations, even if they happened late.

Likewise, we were able to secure improvements to the government's sick leave plan, a sick leave plan that, incidentally, the government was opposed to for a long time. The NDP had to make it a real priority in our negotiations with the government to get a commitment to paid sick days for Canadians in the context of the pandemic. Then it took months for the Liberals to announce a plan, and when they finally announced it, they prorogued Parliament. There has been delay after delay after delay, but I think we have shown that when the government is finally ready to work, we are there ready to get to work right away. We are ready to make improvements to these measures on behalf of Canadians.

I will say once again that when it comes to laying blame for the situation that we find ourselves in, although this is not a recipe for us to not ensure there is something in place for Canadians, in a democracy the ultimate mechanism for accountability is an election. Even though we are going to do our job and make sure there is a program for Canadians in their time of need, I do hope that Canadians remember at election time, whether it is in a month from now, a year from now or three years from now, that the Liberal government was prepared to play political games with their futures and, if nothing else, even if this legislation passes expeditiously, to rob them of the time to plan for what the replacement would look like.

We know in this minority Parliament that it takes negotiation among the parties to get something passed. Canadians know that. They are not fools. Notwithstanding whatever the government announced in August, Canadians did not know what they could rely on until this moment, until there had been negotiations, and they will not know until the legislation is passed. That makes it very hard for them to plan for their futures.

That has been a theme of the government: It has been ragging the puck and making it hard for Canadians to plan month to month. We saw it with a couple of eleventh-hour extensions of the CERB. The government wasted that time instead of using it to come up with something that could have either replaced the CERB or extended the CERB for a longer period. We saw month-to-month extensions and then an extension over the summer, but that time was not properly used to develop an alternative that Canadians could rely on.

Despite the fact that we are prepared to support these measures as a matter of urgency, the paid sick leave provisions are not what Canadians deserve. Canadians, like workers in many other jurisdictions internationally, should have the right to 10 paid sick days from their employer on a permanent basis, regardless of what the illness is. In the bill the Liberals presented before, Bill C-2, we saw a very restrictive approach to these sick days and know they are only temporary. When the new bill is tabled, I am hoping and expecting very much to see expanded eligibility that makes it easier for Canadians to avail themselves of this sick leave, which is not quite COVID-specific. I hope it is just a stepping stone to get to the point where Canadians have permanent sick leave.

It is also relevant to the pandemic. What we want to do is take as many barriers off the table for Canadians that would cause them to question whether they are eligible for this benefit or not, because we saw this in the story of CERB and the attestation, as well as with the concern over the fraud provisions in Bill C-17. Canadians are honest, by and large, and they are deeply concerned about applying for benefits that they are unsure they qualify for. What was really important when it came to sick leave was to ensure that Canadians had the maximum level of comfort to be able to avail themselves of those provisions. Let us remember why these sick days are such an important tool for the pandemic. It is so that when Canadians wake up and are feeling sick, whether they are sneezing, coughing, have a headache or feel sick to their stomach, they can make the call to not go into work to protect their colleagues and their communities from the spread of a virus that we know is spreading rapidly. This is what we are asking people to do to prevent the spread of the virus, and they need the tools to be able to do that. Paid sick leave is an important tool.

We have pushed to try to make this as easy to access as possible in the context of a government that does not want to see 10 permanent sick days allocated to Canadians as a matter of right. That is unfortunate, but it is a battle we will continue to fight, notwithstanding supporting this legislation today. What we are doing today is getting something in place that can serve Canadians now. It is not building back better. It is not what we would like to see when it comes to having immediate solutions that build toward a brighter future. It is a band-aid solution, but one that is badly needed in the circumstances.

I hope one day Canadians will have a government that is willing to respond to a crisis in a way that sets us up to have a better future beyond the crisis, rather than just limping through. That is something Canadians can count on the NDP to continue fighting for here in this chamber.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 1 p.m.
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Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

Bill C-17 included the CERB, but the government decided not to include it in Bill C-20. The wage subsidy has been extended, which is good for new businesses. However, many businesses in my riding are having difficulty getting back on track. They are upset that employees want to stay home because they are comfortable with the CERB. This would have been an opportunity to change the CERB by including work incentives in the bill.

I would like to know why the CERB was not included in this bill and what is going to happen with this benefit.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 11:25 a.m.
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Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very detailed and precise speech.

I would like to ask a question about direct assistance for people with disabilities. The number or percentage of people with disabilities who are eligible for this additional $600 has increased compared with the previous Bill C-17. However, the bill still falls short of covering all people with disabilities. I know there are differences between how the federal and provincial governments consider these data.

Could my colleague make a commitment, as a member of the Liberal Party, to do whatever is necessary to increase this assistance so that all people with disabilities can be helped, as called for by the NDP?

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 11 a.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, members bring their personal experiences to the House of Commons. I am here to represent the people of Quebec and my riding. I am also the critic for families, children and social development.

I want to talk a bit about my experience. There is a lot of talk about what is being proposed in Bill C-20, and it is clear that the matter of accessibility is a sticking point. I am a mother of three children, one of whom has a disability.

For several weeks now, I have heard people talking about the bill that was tabled and that would make certain things possible. I, of course, see the bill from a parliamentary perspective, but also from a personal perspective, as I think about people who are living with a disability and who are vulnerable. The government is implying that everything is easy and available and that these people were taken into account, but all along it has been dragging its feet and taking its time.

Today, listening to the questions being asked in the House, it is unclear how the assistance for people with disabilities will be provided. The government is unable to tell us whether the $600 they get will be taxable. In my opinion, we are far from a comprehensive, clear proposal and from providing assistance for those who need it most.

I wanted to mention that, not only is this measure long overdue, but there is still the matter of accessibility. That is why debates and committees are an important part of the process of perfecting bills, as my hon. colleague from Joliette mentioned earlier. Of course, for the Bloc Québécois, the goal is to help the most vulnerable.

I mentioned that it is too late and that it is unclear, and I feel the same way about the Canada emergency wage subsidy. I have spoken to a number of people and entrepreneurs in my riding who did not have access to the CEWS. Now the government is trying to improve it, apparently so that more people can have access to it.

I went to Gaspé, where I spoke to entrepreneurs. Applying for the wage subsidy is a burden for companies large and small. It is not an easy task. Some were ineligible, and now the government has made some adjustments based on other criteria that are so convoluted as to be almost incomprehensible. Once again, my concern is that the subsidy will not be accessible to people who cannot apply themselves or who cannot do so properly, since the program is so convoluted, as I was saying. We need to clarify and simplify things if we want people to benefit, and the same goes for the $600.

Are we really providing assistance if people are unable to apply for it? In the case of the disability benefit, will people with disabilities be able to receive the whole amount, or will we only be sending them half? Once again, it is too late.

I would like to know if businesses that were not entitled to it may be entitled and may qualify. This could be good for those who were unable to before. The reason it is being adjusted is that we know there were problems with the emergency wage subsidy. Will businesses have retroactive access? Those are my suggestions for this bill.

There are other problems the government could have fixed. Members were talking about vulnerable people earlier. That brings to mind employment insurance sickness benefits. People who are sick now, people with cancer, for example, need money to keep fighting. My colleague from Salaberry—Suroît actually introduced a bill to extend the benefit period for these people, who really need it.

I had hoped that we would be able to add this element. That was what happened with Bill C-17, which included several elements. There are three elements here as well. This is something the government could very easily have done, and that people would have applauded, because they have been waiting a long time.

I will come back to the stories of other vulnerable people in my riding, in particular in seasonal industries where people are still waiting. We are halfway through summer, and we have not yet begun addressing their situation. They are wondering what is going to happen to them in the fall. The emergency wage subsidy is all well and good, but it does not apply to seasonal industries when people are not working.

We need to find something for them. We are being told that something is coming. However, when a seasonal worker knows that he is going to lose his job in the forestry or fishing industries, or in tourism, which has been struggling in many areas back home, he needs to know if he will be able to feed his family in the fall, that he will be able to keep working in his field and supporting his community, and that he will be going back to work in 2021.

We want our communities to retain their vitality and to bounce back from COVID-19. These people truly need help. I want to see this happen fast; I do not want to wait for summer to be over. Once again, we are falling behind on getting assistance to the people who are most vulnerable and who bear the brunt of COVID-19.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 10:55 a.m.
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Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I really liked what he had to say.

I think Bill C-20 would have been a good opportunity for the government to simplify to some degree the fairly complex measures introduced in Bill C-17. It is still complex. It is written in very complex jargon. We are afraid it might prevent some businesses and individuals from getting the help they need, which is what happened with the emergency commercial rent assistance. We realized that applying for it was so complicated, people just gave up.

Does my colleague think Bill C-20 would have been a good opportunity for the government to simplify the process?

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 10:55 a.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government chose to introduce Bill C-17 as one bill made up of four different parts that could not be amended.

The part regarding support payments for people living with disabilities had the unanimous consent of the House. Had the government chosen to seek unanimous consent to pass that part of Bill C-17, it would have immediately gotten that consent. Every party publicly expressed its support for that part of the bill, so there would not have been any problem with that.

The government said no. The parties had to take the whole bill or leave it. That is the problem that we are once again seeing in this catastrophic approach to urgently passing bills imposed by the government. The part of Bill C-17 that helps people living with disabilities would have excluded the poorest members of that group because it was poorly written. The government is short-circuiting the usual process for passing bills in the House. That is what I have a problem with.

I hope I have made that clear to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. This way of doing things needs to change. We have been doing things this way for four months and that is too long.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 10:45 a.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Manicouagan. I would like to take this opportunity to invite all members of the House to visit that magnificent region this summer. It might be far, but it is worth the trip.

Bill C-20 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It is the embodiment of everything I most abhor about this federation. It is a reminder that my people, my nation, is still controlled by the nation next door. I am sure my colleagues will have understood by now that I am referring to the Bill C-20 that was passed just over 20 years ago, the clarity act, which set out the majority threshold and was tabled by Stéphane Dion. This bill reminded Quebeckers that Quebec would be ruled by the will of the Canadian majority to the very end. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons applauding that. That is just pathetic.

Twenty years ago, this Parliament came out and said that Quebec is not the master of its own house, so much so that its neighbour decided to give itself a say and even veto power not just over the next referendum, but also over the very definition of a majority, since it felt 50% + 1 was not enough for a majority anymore. So much for a people's right to self-determination. Quebec does not know what is good for it. There are echoes of Lord Durham's lamentable report here. This gets applause to this day.

As for Bill C-20, which is being debated today, the Bloc Québécois will obviously support it. Our logic is straightforward. Quite simply, since the bill is good for Quebec, the Bloc Québécois will support it. However, I would like to address the manner in which the bill was introduced and will likely be passed.

Over the past four months, the pandemic has shaped our daily lives. That is true for all of society and also for this Parliament. Its usual operations were suspended because of health guidelines. For four months, this Parliament and its legislators have no longer carried out their roles as they should. That is also true for the study of this bill. We will pass it with a sham procedure, ramming it through without being able to study it properly. I completely understand that it is urgent that we help those paying the economic price of health measures, namely our workers, businesses and people with disabilities. However, after four months, I feel that it is time to strike a balance and to put an end to this travesty of democracy, I would even say, this quasi-dictatorial government.

I will explain. Here is how it works. The government presents its bill to each party under embargo and then, just a day or two later, it introduces the bill in the House and insists that it be passed as is. In so doing, the government is short-circuiting the usual analysis and study process. We do not have time to examine the bill in detail, but, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. What worries me the most about this flippant approach is that, for the past four months, we have been passing bills without even giving members the opportunity to hear from the individuals and groups that are affected by those bills. The current process is too rushed. It does not make any sense.

I would like to give an example to illustrate this problem, that of Bill C-17. There was a section in Bill C-17 that sought to provide support to people living with disabilities. That support was intended for people who applied for the disability tax credit. However, since this was a non-refundable tax credit, many low-income people did not apply for it because they do not pay taxes. They were not going to fill out all the paperwork for something that did not apply to them. We know that far too many people with disabilities are living in extreme poverty. As written, Bill C-17 excluded the poorest people from the support program. Those who needed help the most were excluded, which was outrageous. This type of problem is usually fixed during the legislative process when committees have time to hear from the groups concerned and provide recommendations on how to improve bills.

In fact, it was groups like those who contacted us to complain about that aspect of Bill C-17. The bill affected their members. They are in the best position to analyze it, and they must be given time to take a close look at it and analyze it so that the government can hear what they have to say and make changes accordingly. As I have said before, the whole process that is crucial to passing good laws has been on hold for four months. That has to change. We need to get back to a democratic process. Let me just remind everyone that the government was unequivocal: Bill C-17 had to be passed as it was, and there was no room for improvement.

Even though it is in a minority situation, the government is behaving like a dictator. That is unacceptable. We said that we were in favour of Bill C-17, but that we needed time to study and analyze it. The government refused, saying that there would be no changes, and it chose to withdraw the bill and pout.

Fortunately for Canadians living with disabilities, just over a month later, Bill C-20 corrects the mistakes of Bill C-17 by adding three flexible elements.

First, individuals receiving a disability pension from the Quebec pension plan, Canada pension plan or Veterans Affairs will be entitled to the payment, even if they have not applied for the disability tax credit. However, this does not include those who receive a disability pension from the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec following an automobile accident, or the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail following a workplace accident. That could be improved.

Finally, individuals who apply for the disability tax credit within 60 days will be entitled to the payment, even if they did not previously claim it. This flexibility was not found in Bill C-17.

I would also like to talk about another point concerning the assistance for people with disabilities, which my colleague was asked about earlier. In his announcement on June 1, the Prime Minister talked about a refundable tax credit. However, Bill C-20 talks about a payment paid out of the consolidated revenue fund. It is not inconceivable that this could mean the payment is considered taxable income for taxpayers. I would like the government to clarify this.

Mr. Speaker, I want to appeal to you and to my colleagues from all parties here, in the House. We need to change how bills get passed. This chamber, its elected officials, its legislators and its committees must be able to actually do their jobs. We need to find a way that complies with health guidelines, but it is possible.

The government is comfortable governing without Parliament, but that infringes on our democracy. This has been going on for four months, which is far too long, and it needs to change.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 20th, 2020 / 5:25 p.m.
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Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard my colleague mention the increased support for Canadians with disabilities, which she welcomes.

For example, persons with disabilities, including those on veterans pensions, can receive the subsidy even if they have not applied for the tax credit. She also stated that she would have liked to see this type of amendment in the last iteration of Bill C-17, which was introduced in June.

I agree with her that it was urgent and it is even more urgent today to help persons with disabilities. My question is simple.

Had these changes been included in the last iteration of the bill, would my colleague have agreed to have unanimous consent to fast-track the bill at that time?

Government Business No. 8Government Orders

July 8th, 2020 / 3:35 p.m.
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Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Chair, I know that my colleague from Joliette is very familiar with the living conditions of people with disabilities. Day after day, they have to adjust to life, and it is not easy.

The Bloc Québécois proposed that the government introduce just a part of Bill C-17 today to deal specifically with the benefit that could be given to people living with disabilities.

Does my colleague feel reassured after reading the economic snapshot presented here today?

Does he really think that the government will finally see the light and give benefits to all those living with a disability?

Government Business No. 8Government Orders

July 8th, 2020 / 3:30 p.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Chair, I thank my colleague for his comments and question.

This $343 billion is almost virtual, not because it will not have to be repaid, but because it is a minimum. I am willing to bet that on March 31 of next year it will be more than $343 billion.

The announced $343 billion seems to imply that between now and next March the government is not going to spend a nickel more than what is set out in Bill C-17. What will happen if there is a second wave? Stimulus measures will be needed. We can think of all the important sectors of the economy and the green economy. Indeed, I am convinced that my colleague agrees that it is important to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. It could be an investment in the economy of tomorrow. I see that my colleague is nodding.

It will be more than that, but, as they say, it is the lesser of two evils in the current situation. If this money stimulates the economy and creates a good foundation for building the economy of the future, let us move forward, but it has to be done right. We will be keeping an eye on them.

Government Business No. 8Government Orders

July 8th, 2020 / 3:10 p.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Chair, we have been asking for this fiscal update since May, as have the other opposition parties and the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Finally we have it.

Once again, the government chose to notify the finance community before informing the House. As everyone knows, the news was announced by Bloomberg.

To be honest, the Bloc Québécois did not have particularly high expectations concerning today’s fiscal update. However, we were still disappointed by the economic portrait presented. Basically, the document lists the measures announced and their impact on finances. That is about it.

We made several requests concerning the fiscal update. First, we asked for an unconditional transfer of $14 billion to the provinces and to Quebec. We did not get it. The $14 billion is there, but so are the conditions.

We then asked that changes be made to the Canada emergency response benefit to encourage workers to return to work. We did not get that, either. We also asked for changes to the Canada emergency wage subsidy so that it would include seasonal industries such as tourism and culture. We did not get that, either.

From reading the economic snapshot, one would think we are still in April, but we are in July. Businesses have started reopening. The economic recovery is now under way. It is time to adjust the programs. Today’s fiscal update was a golden opportunity to introduce these types of changes, but that is not what happened.

Take, for example, the Canada emergency response benefit. In my opinion, the CERB is a public health measure. We asked people to stay home and not go to work. In return, the government would pay them $2,000 a month. However, as businesses begin to reopen and the economy starts picking up, the government needs to change its message. It is high time we amended the Canada emergency response benefit.

Right now, workers who earn one dollar more than the allowable $1,000 are ineligible for the CERB. Right now, we are at the economic recovery stage, not the economic stimulus stage, and yet people who earn one dollar more are not entitled to the CERB. That makes no sense.

Here is the situation: The unemployment rate is around 12%, which is very high. If health measures were put in place, many people could go back to work. The chambers of commerce have told us that their members are having a hard time finding employees because the government still has not made any changes to the Canada emergency response benefit. Basically, the message the government is sending is that workers should still be staying home, as they were doing in April. It makes no sense.

We have been asking the government to make changes to the CERB since March. Earlier, the leader of the Conservative Party said that he was the one who first made that proposal. When an idea is good, it should be spread far and wide, regardless of who thought of it first.

The principle behind the CERB should be the same as the one behind employment insurance. In the progressive EI system, if a person earns more than $1,000, that person does not lose everything. For example, Canadians could keep $0.50 for every additional dollar earned.

It has been almost four months now that the government has been telling us that that is too complicated. This type of excuse can work for one or two weeks, maybe even three, but four months is much too long. That does not fly.

The same is true for the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The government needs to change it. If an employer is losing 30%, it is entitled to the wage benefit. However, if it is losing 29%, it is no longer entitled to it. It makes no sense.

We understand that, in the early days, we needed to establish certain criteria, given the urgency of the situation. We even changed the percentage to 15% for the first month. It has been this way for a number of months now, and it is time for a change. We need to enhance, improve the measures.

We also need to change the Canada emergency wage subsidy to give seasonal industries, such as tourism and culture, access to it. The solution is simple. In fact, the solution is so simple that the government itself proposed it a month ago, but still has not done anything about it. The solution was to pay out the wage subsidy based on last year’s salaries rather than on those earned in February when seasonal industries were obviously not operating. That was part of Bill C-17, which was tabled in the House a month ago but still has not been passed.

Why was Bill C-17 not passed?

Bill C-17 was not passed simply because the government chose to sulk. The government wanted the House to pass the bill immediately as it was, word for word, or it would not introduce the bill. We did not have the right to amend it or even debate it. Nothing. Nada. We had to either take it or leave it. It had to be done. This minority government wants to play the dictator's apprentice. It is ridiculous. On a personal note, I want to say that, when a person is asked what country or regime he admires and he answers, “China”, that may be a sign that person wants to play the dictator's apprentice. That is what we are seeing here.

We are still waiting impatiently for the government to make the changes to the wage subsidy, including the change needed for Airbus to have access to it, even though some of the money invested in that project comes from the public purse. We know that things are not going well for the aerospace industry. We need to change that.

While entire sectors of our economy do not have access to the wage subsidy, the Liberal Party has both hands in the cookie jar. In this case, I would have to say that the pandemic is being used as an excuse. It is a terrible ethical issue. While the Liberal Party is benefiting from the wage subsidy, it is dragging its feet. Things have been dragging on for a month for entire sectors of our economy. It is shameful and it needs to change.

What we see in the document is somewhat contradictory. The government still has not passed Bill C-17, but it has chosen to take today’s economic update into account in its financial valuations. It is high time that we debate Bill C-17. Like my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands of the Green Party was saying earlier, on page 20 there is a list of assistance measures for people with disabilities. As we know, this is one of the population groups that have been most affected by the pandemic. The government acknowledges that in its document.

Since we have a duty and a right to study Bill C-17, when will the government submit it for debate so that we can make the necessary amendments and pass it? We have been waiting for a month.

Another subject keeps coming up: the overpayment of benefits. There have been cases of fraud, and the government said that it would be recovering those amounts. There is not one line about this in today’s fiscal snapshot. There is a story I would like to tell. It is a powerful one, so I would advise members hang on to their hats. During the technical briefing the government gave to the opposition parties earlier today, I asked a question about this. I was met with silence, and someone exclaimed, “What the fudge!” That is what we got as an answer. Not the best answer ever, I dare say. This is not a joke. The Liberals wondered whether they had forgotten to address the issue. What happened? Another missed opportunity.

As we expected, the document confirms that we have an enormous debt. The deficit so far is $343 billion. That is what it will be on March 31, 2021, if no further funds are voted, there is no second wave and no other measures are put in place between now and then. That is the minimum. That is where we are, and it is obviously troubling.

There is a shocking and interesting bit of information in this document. Servicing the debt, or the interest payments on the debt, goes down because the interest rates dropped as a result of the massive support from the Bank of Canada and all the central banks in the world that have done this with their economy. In the short term and in the long term as well we hope, we are talking about 10- to 30-year bonds that will help lower the interest payments.

Like the other G7 and G20 countries, the government went into serious debt to support the economy during the pandemic. As they say, it was the least bad solution.

That kind of deficit could be justified if we spend the money properly. That is what we are asking for: proper spending. Let me explain. I spoke about this earlier in my speech. An unconditional transfer of $14 billion would be proper spending. Changing the Canada emergency response benefit to include an incentive to work would be proper spending. The government must do this as soon as possible. We were expecting to see that in today’s document. Also, the Canada emergency wage subsidy should be extended to seasonal sectors such as tourism and culture.

Given our historic deficit, the government is offering a simple, perhaps even simplistic, solution: government bonds. As I said earlier, these are significant, long term bonds, over 10 to 30 years. We are not talking about income growth.

In the document, the government says that it will not do anything more about tax evasion or tax avoidance or to make web giants GAFAM pay their share of taxes and fees. The government’s message today is clear. Web giants, banks and multinationals that do not pay their share of taxes will not have to start doing so, and the record debt we are seeing will not change a thing. It is a serious issue and it needs to change. The Bloc can be counted on to continue bringing pressure to bear.

The government based its economic forecast on private sector forecasts and is telling us that there will be a 6.8% decrease in activity this year, offset by 5.5% growth in 2021. At the end of next year, when we compare these numbers, we still will not be where we were before the COVID-19 crisis. That is what economists call the inverse square root. What does that mean? It goes down, it goes up, but then it stalls at a lower level than before. It is troubling. The government should have reduced uncertainty as much as possible by immediately announcing changes to its assistance programs, like we have been saying all day. Another important measure would have been to extend the assistance over a longer period for economic sectors we need to support and that will be in difficulty for a longer time, such as aerospace and culture. We need to reduce the uncertainty.

In its fiscal snapshot, the government acknowledges what businesses have been telling us. Its rent assistance program is not working. How many applications for rent assistance have been filed across the country? Only 29,000. When we compare this with the $40,000 emergency loans, that is almost $700,000. The rent assistance program is used almost 25 times less often. That sends a very clear message. The government published the numbers in its document. We need to review and enhance the program, since it does not make sense that it would be used 25 times less often.

Given the spike in health care costs, Quebec and the provinces will be hit with quite a bill. The $14 billion announced will cover only some of the new costs. The conditions imposed in this situation have no other purpose than to further centralize power in our federation by undermining the provinces’ jurisdictions.

The health care system was already underfinanced before the pandemic. The Parliamentary Budget Officer demonstrated that very clearly. As always, the power lies with the federal government, even if Quebec and the provinces are spending huge amounts. Since Lester B. Pearson in 1964, there has not been a single transfer of a single tax point from the federal government to the provinces, despite the fact that the most costly sectors, namely health, education and social services, are under provincial jurisdiction.

The federal government negotiates agreements piecemeal. It systematically infringes on provincial jurisdiction by imposing conditions. It has been reducing transfers while increasing conditions and its interference. This has to stop. It does not work and it has gone on long enough. We see it on the ground: Our public services are gasping for air, and the federal government is doing nothing to help.

Ottawa's handling of this crisis is amplifying centralization and it needs to stop. Again, we are calling on the government, as a gesture of good faith, to remove the conditions attached to the $14 billion and to transfer the money as soon as possible. That would be a step in the right direction.

June 22nd, 2020 / 3:50 p.m.
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Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Debbie Douglas

I think we need to be very careful that we don't demonize and stigmatize folks who needed to access the CERB program, especially those who are immigrants, refugees or other migrants, and especially those who are racialized.

Bill C-17 sounds very punitive. Our concern is that it will end up punishing those who may have in very good faith thought they were eligible, applied, got the funds, realized they weren't eligible, and never went back. Others went to CERB when they should have been on EI.

Especially when the government talked about putting this very flexible program in place to support Canadians and not wanting Canadians to fall through the cracks, in the end to turn around and penalize what may very well have been good-faith mistakes is a dangerous slope to start going down.

June 22nd, 2020 / 3:50 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

One of the issues that is before us is Bill C-17. The government has tabled legislation to penalize people for “fraud” in accessing CERB. As we know, there was a lot of confusion about the program itself. People were encouraged, even by parliamentary secretaries who were encouraging people to apply and to interpret the government's rules liberally.

To that end, what are your thoughts on the sections in part 4 of the bill that deal with the penalties with respect to CERB? Do you think that they should be withdrawn?