An Act respecting further COVID-19 measures

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 amends the Income Tax Act to revise the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) in order to support those employers hardest hit by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It also extends the CEWS to November 21, 2020, with the ability to extend the CEWS by regulation to no later than December 31, 2020, and provides a revised calculation of the CEWS for the fifth and subsequent qualifying periods. Finally, it makes amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations to ensure that the CEWS operates effectively.

Part 2 amends the Pension Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, the Children’s Special Allowances Act and the Veterans Well-being Act to authorize the disclosure of information for the purpose of the administration of a program to provide a one-time payment to persons with disabilities for reasons related to COVID-19. It also 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 that one-time payment. Finally, it provides that any amount payable in relation to the administration of the program to provide that one-time payment is to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Part 3 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.

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.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vimy, who will be giving her maiden speech in this venerable House.

It is an honour for me to be in the House today and to speak on behalf of the residents of Davenport.

It is also an honour to join my colleagues to participate in this important debate on Bill C-20, which includes three key parts. The first part makes a number of adjustments that will expand the eligibility criteria around the Canada emergency wage. Part two covers a number of changes that must occur in order for us to provide a one-time payment to persons with disabilities for reasons related to COVID-19. In part three are a number of appropriate changes to certain acts that will provide some flexibility to certain time limits that were difficult or impossible to meet as a result of the exceptional circumstances produced by COVID-19. I will be talking to part two.

This bill would allow information sharing among several federal departments and agencies and Employment and Social Development Canada, so that a one-time payment can be made to support persons with disabilities during this pandemic. We have to allow for information to be shared among several departments in order to deliver this one-time payment as soon as we possibly can.

This one-time payment of $600 will help approximately 1.7 million Canadians with disabilities who are recipients of the disability tax credit certificate, CPP disability or QPP disability benefits and/or disability supports provided by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Bill C-20 is just one part of a much larger plan that our government has dedicated to supporting Canadians with disabilities. Today I want to talk about the evolution of our plan, the actions we have undertaken and our government's next steps toward creating an inclusive and barrier-free Canada.

In 2015, our government named the first-ever cabinet minister responsible for persons with disabilities and promised Canadians that we would pass legislation aimed at removing barriers to inclusion. This signalled our commitment to doing things differently in order to ensure that all Canadians have an equal chance at success.

One of the key milestones on this journey was the National Disability Summit that we held in May 2019, in the days prior to COVID. The summit provided an opportunity for participants to exchange best practices and to create and build on partnerships. It allowed us to understand the next steps to truly realize an inclusive and accessible Canada.

At the same time as the summit was taking place, the federal government's landmark legislation for the Accessible Canada Act was being finalized, following the most comprehensive consultations with the disability community in our country's history. More than 6,000 Canadians and 100 disability organizations shared their views and ideas about an accessible Canada. As we know, the act received royal assent on June 21, 2019 and came into force in July of that year.

The legislation builds upon existing mechanisms and ensures compliance and accountability. The Accessible Canada Act takes a proactive and systemic approach to identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility in key areas within federal jurisdiction. The goal was to ensure that the act was based on safeguarding human rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The act also created new entities such as Accessibility Standards Canada, which creates and reviews accessibility standards for federally regulated organizations.

I am proud of this legislation because it sends a clear message to Canadians that persons with disabilities will no longer be treated as an afterthought. From the start, systems will be designed to be inclusive for all Canadians. This is because it is our systems, our policies, our practices and our laws that need to be fixed, not our people.

I also want to point out that in the mandate letter of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, a number of important additional measures will continue to ensure that we promote disability inclusion. These include, among other measures, undertaking initiatives to improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities, targeting barriers to full participation in the labour force including discrimination and stigma, raising public awareness, and working with employers and businesses in a coordinated way.

As the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion has said, we move from “Nothing about us, without us” to “Nothing without us”, because everything in society touches the lives of Canadians with disabilities.

The Government of Canada is leading the way in ensuring communities and workplaces are accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities. It is the largest federal employer. It is also the single-largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, and provides vital programs and services to Canadians. As such, we have committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years in the federal public service. We are also committed to applying an accessibility lens to government procurement and project planning.

Over the last five years, our government has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities. I wish to share some of the highlights over our two mandates, which began in 2015.

Our government applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs such as the Canada child benefit, the national housing strategy and the infrastructure program. The result is that families of children with disabilities receive an additional amount under the CCB. For example, from 2017 to 2018, 1.75 million children benefited from the disability supplement.

Under the national housing strategy, there is a commitment to promote universal design and visitability. This includes a requirement that public and shared spaces meet accessibility standards, and that at least 2,400 new affordable housing units for persons with developmental disabilities are created.

In the area of infrastructure we have approved nearly 800 accessibility projects, including almost 500 new para-transit buses and improvements to 81 existing transit facilities to make them more accessible to Canadians. This was made possible by ensuring that accessibility was an eligible expense in public transit projects. In just one year, almost $800 million was invested into our public transit systems to make them more accessible.

We have also increased our investments in existing programs such as the enabling accessibility fund, the social development partnerships program and the opportunities fund. All three of these programs were significantly enhanced, allowing people to keep doing the good work they are doing to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities.

Current COVID-19 supports have been amply covered by my colleagues over the last 24 hours, but I want to bring them to mind briefly. Since the pandemic was declared, our government has taken a disability-inclusive response to the pandemic. This included adhering to the principle of “Nothing without us”, from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the creation of the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group to bring the lived experience of persons with disabilities to our government's response to the pandemic.

We provided additional support to students with permanent disabilities and the one-time payment that is part of the debate today. We invested in mental health for the Wellness Together portal. We launched calls for proposals under two components of the enabling accessibility fund, and created a national workplace accessibility stream of the opportunities fund to help people with disabilities find jobs right now. Finally, we added funding to the social development partnerships program to enhance accessibility communications during this crisis, and invested $1.18 million in five new projects across the country through the accessible technology program to help develop dynamic and affordable technology.

In conclusion, from the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know Canadians with disabilities are underemployed compared with the general population, a situation made worse by this pandemic. As the economy opens up again, this represents an opportunity for a vast and largely untapped pool of talent: people who are available to work, who want to join the workforce and who are ready to apply their innovative ideas to our new normal.

In the meantime, I call upon my colleagues to quickly pass the legislation before us so we can get support out to the people who urgently and immediately need it.

I am now ready to take questions.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the speech from my colleague, who sits on the Standing Committee on Finance.

I am going to ask her a somewhat technical question. I should probably ask the government, but I will see if she can answer. It is about support for people living with disabilities as drafted in Bill C-20.

In his announcement on June 1, the Prime Minister mentioned a refundable tax credit. However, Bill C-20 calls it a payment out of the consolidated revenue fund. On closer scrutiny, it seems like the payment could be considered taxable income for the taxpayer.

Does my colleague know whether this tax credit is taxable?

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

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 21st, 2020 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

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 / 11 a.m.
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Bloc

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 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the opposition has the right to disagree with the government. I think that is one of our freedoms, however modest it may be.

I have here an excerpt from the June 1 announcement, in which the Prime Minister mentioned a refundable tax credit. However, Bill C-20 talks about the payment being paid out of the consolidated revenue fund, which indicates just a possibility. It it not stated explicitly, but it is also not ruled out. If I do not see something explicitly stated in a contract, I want to clarify it and have it stipulated. If that is truly what the government intended to do, why did it not just write it down?

I do not want to mislead people. I am simply being a responsible member of Parliament and I am asking questions that, I think, are of interest to my constituents and to the people of Quebec and Canada.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 11:10 a.m.
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Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Greg Fergus LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and to the Minister of Digital Government

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to discuss, in particular, part 3 of Bill C-20 that would enact an act respecting the suspension or extension of time limits and the extension of other periods as part of the response to the coronavirus disease 2019.

As members are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges on several fronts, not only for individual Canadians and businesses, but also for the operations of federal and provincial governments. Governments are working hard to respond to the pandemic and protect the well-being and safety of Canadians. Today, I would like to speak about one particular set of challenges that we are proposing to address with this legislation.

This issue has important implications on the rule of law, as well as significant practical implications not only for our justice system but also for the federally regulated sphere in which individuals are governed and businesses operate. I am referring to the issue of fixed statutory deadlines.

Members may wonder what these deadlines are. Canadians normally rely on the certainty of knowing that, if they have a decision from a court, there is a limited time to bring an appeal. They want to know that if they are in a process of trying to comply with a requirement, such as working with creditors, they will not be in default and subject to serious consequences, through no fault of their own, if they continue to follow the steps set out in the law.

Overnight, the certainty offered by fixed time limits became an obstacle rather than a comfort. If an act provides no discretion to extend time limits, there could be serious consequences for Canadians.

Let us take the example of someone who wants to challenge the terms of a divorce settlement ordered by a judge. Suppose this person has lost their job and is caring for the children at home. If the current situation prevents the person from filing an appeal within 30 days as required by the Divorce Act, that person is out of options.

Let us also consider employees under federal jurisdiction who work in essential sectors like transportation and need valid certification. The pandemic could be making it hard or even impossible for them to renew their certification. Can we expect businesses to continue to operate without that certification, potentially putting themselves at risk?

The measures in this bill will provide a level of certainty that will enable individuals, businesses and the government to focus on maintaining or resuming operations in the context of the pandemic.

I am therefore pleased to present a series of measures grouped in one act, an act respecting the suspension or extension of time limits and the extension of other periods as part of the response to the coronavirus disease 2019. The short title of this act is the time limits and other periods act with regard to COVID-19.

The act would apply to two categories of problematic time limits that require immediate attention: first, time limits in civil proceedings, and second, legislative time limits and periods set out in federal acts and regulations.

With respect to civil litigation, should deadlines not be extended, it would risk forcing people to choose between ignoring public health advice and protecting their legal interests for preparing for or attending court. This risk is highest for self-represented litigants, who many not know where to go or what to do to secure their legal rights in the current circumstances. Chief justices have done as much as they can within their powers and have asked for a more complete solution from the federal government. Other stakeholders, such as the bar associations, have also called for the federal government to act quickly.

A number of federal laws include deadlines, and failure to meet these deadlines could have serious and irreversible consequences for Canadians and for Canada as a whole. Even government activities have been affected by the pandemic. A large amount of resources is being allocated to the fight against COVID-19, which prevents us from supporting other activities and meeting certain deadlines.

Under the Food and Drug Regulations, the sale of drugs intended for clinical trials is authorized by default unless Canada sends a notice of refusal before the specified deadline. If we cannot meet these deadlines, Canadians' safety could be at risk. In addition, many companies and organizations will now have more time to hold their annual meetings, without having to ask the courts for an extension.

These are only a few examples. There are many others. If Parliament does not take action and find solutions, Canadians will soon feel the real-life consequences. It is important to point out that several provinces have recognized the need to extend legal and regulatory deadlines and have acted accordingly.

British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have taken measures to suspend or extend time limits in proceedings under their emergency legislation. In some cases, these provinces have also extended deadlines not related to proceedings. Of course, no provincial measures can resolve the issue of time limits in federal legislation. Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba have also passed legislation giving them similar powers.

Our government also received feedback from various stakeholders and parliamentarians on this legislative proposal and considered their comments, as members will see from changes to the bill resulting from those considerations.

The purpose of the bill is clearly set out. It is to temporarily suspend certain time limits and to temporarily authorize the suspension and extension of certain other time limits in order to prevent any exceptional circumstances from making it difficult or impossible to meet those timelines and time limits. It also aims to temporarily authorize the extension of other periods, for instance the validity of licences, in order to prevent unfair or undesirable effects that may result from their expiry in the current circumstances.

It is clearly stated at the outset that the bill is to be interpreted and to provide certainty in legal proceedings and ensure respect for the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I want to emphasize that the bill would not apply in respect of the investigation of an offence or in respect of a proceeding respecting an offence, nor does it apply in respect of a time limit or other period that is established by or under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The bill is divided into two substantive parts, one dealing with civil litigation and one dealing with a limited number of regulatory deadlines. For civil litigation, the new act would provide for the suspension of civil limitation periods established in federal legislation. These include time limits for commencing a civil proceeding before a court, for doing something in the course of proceedings, or for making an application for leave to commence a proceeding, or to do something in relation to a proceeding. These provisions would apply to any court referred to in federal legislation.

The suspension is for a maximum period of six months, which starts on March 13 of this year and ends on September 13 of this year, or an earlier day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. Even though the suspension of limitation periods will be automatic, the legislation is flexible in nature. Courts will be empowered to vary the length of a suspension when they feel it is necessary, as long as the commencement date of the suspension remains the same and the duration of the suspension does not exceed six months. They will also have the power to make orders to remedy a failure to meet a time limit that is later suspended. In addition, to deal with the possibility of unintended consequences, the Governor in Council may lift a suspension in specified circumstances.

Once again, the duration of the suspensions or extensions cannot exceed a maximum of six months. It is important to point that out. This also includes renewals. The orders do not apply in respect of a time limit or other period that ends on December 31, 2020, nor can they be used to extend a time limit beyond December 31, 2020. What is more, the suspension provided for by an order cannot allow a time limit to continue after December 31, 2020.

However, ministerial orders can be retroactive to March 13, 2020, and can include provisions respecting the effects of a failure to meet the time limit or of the expiry of a period that was then suspended or extended. In order to provide some flexibility, orders may provide that a suspension or extension applies only with the consent of the decision-maker in question or that the decision-maker can refuse to apply the order or make changes regarding its application.

We recognize the unique nature of this legislation. As such, numerous safeguards have been built into the bill right from the beginning. First and foremost, the bill clearly indicates that the powers to make orders cannot be used after September 30, 2020. It also ensures that no order can remain in effect after December 31, 2020. The bill would also give the Governor in Council the power to make regulations restricting or imposing conditions on the power of ministers to make orders regarding time limits and other periods.

What is more, in order to ensure full transparency and ensure that Canadians are being kept informed of what is being done, the new law will require that a ministerial order or order in council regarding suspensions or extensions, together with the reason for making them, be published on a Government of Canada website no later than five days after the day on which it is made for a period of at least six months. It must also be published in the Canada Gazette within 14 days after the day on which it is made.

That is very important. It is a way of ensuring that all parties and all stakeholders are made aware of the extension or suspension of the provisions of this act.

As is clear from this overview, our proposed legislation is targeted, flexible and transparent. It provides the certainty that all Canadians deserve when dealing the legal system, while promoting the rule of law and giving needed flexibility in key regulatory areas. At the same time, it ensures that needed protections are in place and it recognizes the key role that Parliament plays in holding government to account.

For these reasons, I hope we will find support, not only from this side of the House but from the other side of the House, to make sure that we provide the needed flexibility that Canadians deserve during the pandemic, and to also make sure that they get that information to understand why we would need to prolong or suspend the measures that are applicable in this law.

I look forward to questions from hon. members.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier today, I raised the issue of how complex this bill is. Many questions are left unanswered. For instance, Bill C-20 expands access to include seasonal businesses, businesses that were not eligible for assistance before.

There are several questions in my mind. Will the assistance be retroactive? Will it also apply retroactively for those who have been receiving it for months or for new businesses? This could change a lot of things for a business, helping it survive. Being able to get retroactive financial support could be good for a business. I am wondering if that will be on offer.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-20, which seeks to provide new support for Canadians in need, and to make my voice and that of my Conservative colleagues heard. We have repeatedly asked the government to make changes to the tax programs and support programs for the forgotten members of our society.

Before I begin my speech, I would like to extend my condolences to anyone who has tragically lost a loved one, or loved ones, to COVID-19. I would also like to thank all of the essential front-line workers and those who are still working to help anyone who is vulnerable and sick because of this terrible virus that has left us all powerless.

Summer is here, but unfortunately, the time for resiliency is not over. We are still facing a lot of uncertainty as a result of new pandemic-related setbacks. Canadians old and young have had their lives, their health and their well-being upended as they face an uncertain future. While I support the measures set out in the bill before us today, I am still outraged. I would be remiss if I failed to mention my indignation against the Liberal government, which was slow to close our borders even though we pushed for it to do so at the first sign of the virus.

We also had to demand a mandatory quarantine for foreign nationals arriving in Canada. That was non-negotiable for our own protection. The Conservative members were the first to support increasing the wage subsidy from 10% to 75%. The Conservative members were also the first to say that the CERB should be opened up to include volunteer firefighters and other low-income earners who were slipping between the cracks. The Conservative members were also the first to say that the agricultural sector should be designated as essential infrastructure.

Members will remember that the previous economic crisis in 2008 happened under a Conservative government, which, I would point out, succeeded in balancing Canada's budget while stimulating economic growth and bouncing back from a crisis that hit Canada harder than any other G7 country.

Faced with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, many of my constituents are so worried about what lies ahead for themselves, their children and future generations that they do not know where to turn. I certainly understand how they feel.

This minority Liberal government has been on a spending spree since 2015, although we were in good shape at the time. We have therefore had to work hard and work together to reach a consensus and expose any possible fraud or potential risks in the various programs being announced. We demanded that any infrastructure projects that were ready to go in Quebec get started right away to help with the economic recovery.

We pressured the government to support local media. We also advocated for high-speed Internet access throughout the regions, which the Liberals have been promising for five years now. We are keeping a close eye on the public purse, and always will, for we can no longer afford Liberal extravagances that are unjustified or reserved for their close friends and donors.

The Conservative members of the official opposition are paying close attention to both the reasonable measures that need to be implemented and the unthinkable ones. We are involved in policy development via video conference. We are taking part in many virtual advisory committees and sharing the concerns of Canada's small businesses, which are struggling to survive. As one might expect, a good many sectors have been overlooked.

We are all rising to the challenge of doing things differently and changing the way we live and protect ourselves. For many of us, not being able to go to work every day has shown us how proud we are, how independent we are, and how much our daily work plays into our sense of identity. Bolstered by our values, we are going back to work, in solidarity, to help create wealth and economic prosperity.

The Liberal government's economic and fiscal snapshot showed a massive $343-billion deficit, and total federal debt this year will hit more than $1 trillion. That will be a deep hole to climb out of.

Canada has never fallen so far. It has the highest unemployment rate in the G7. It is the only G7 country that has lost its AAA credit rating. Worse yet, it is the only G7 country without a recovery plan.

While we plan on supporting this assistance, we are well aware that we cannot trust this Prime Minister to lead Canada's recovery.

The government’s excessive taxes, wasteful spending and massive deficits put Canada in an incredibly weak and precarious position even before the pandemic started.

Conservative members want to help Canadians who need assistance. We proposed the back-to-work bonus, a plan to make the Canada emergency response benefit more flexible and more generous, so that workers could earn more as businesses gradually reopened. We are on the road to economic recovery. The Conservative official opposition is responsible for the financial future of my grandchildren and all future generations of Canadians and it is focused on finding concrete, effective solutions for our industries that create jobs, our workers who pay taxes and the growth sectors that generate revenue for Canada. We all know that the Conservative Party is the only party that can replace the current government, but this is not the time for such decisions, because we are convinced that we can continue to work together to face the critical months of the second wave of the virus.

I have the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. The pandemic has obviously not affected the Prime Minister’s overwhelming desire to flout the law and the rules of ethics and transparency.

I can tell you that on Friday, July 17, 2020, I would not have wanted to be a Liberal member of Parliament. My pride would have been seriously wounded, having to deal with the Prime Minister’s third major instance of wrongdoing and the Liberal members’ filibustering. The Liberals had a lot to say before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. They systematically obstructed the committee's work, preventing Canadians with serious questions about the close ties between the Prime Minister and WE from finding out what is really going on. It is Canadians’ democratic right to know the full truth about this new Liberal scandal. Transparency is important in the deliberations of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Although I seriously doubt it, will the Prime Minister waive cabinet confidence this time and finally tell us the truth? Media reports indicate that three members of the Prime Minister’s family were paid $300,000 to attend WE Charity events, some of which took place during the Prime Minister’s first term. Since 2016, the Prime Minister’s mother has spoken at approximately 28 events and received $250,000. The Prime Minister’s brother spoke at eight events and received about $32,000. The media also reported that the current Finance Minister did not recuse himself from the Liberal cabinet review of the WE contract despite the involvement of two members of his immediate family in the charitable organization, one of them as a paid contract worker.

We should also note that the Minister of Natural Resources and the Prime Minister's chief of staff apparently also helped raise $400,000 for the charitable organization in 2010 and 2011, before the Liberals took office.

During a pandemic, we need to implement exceptional measures. We are certainly not going to let this Prime Minister, his family and friends receive or give preferential treatment to take advantage of the situation and profit from it. This Prime Minister, like a spoiled child who only apologizes when he gets caught red-handed, will be watched very closely and continually to make him accountable, and will have to continue to work with us to plan our country's economic recovery. He sometimes seems to forget that he has a minority government.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.
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Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Madam Speaker, I am absolutely delighted to be here this afternoon to talk about Bill C-20 and the government's response to COVID-19. I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional lands of the Algonquin people.

Before I go on, I want to take a moment. Usually we never meet in July, and this is a very important week for me personally, and the entire Tamil community, so I want to just take a moment to acknowledge the horrific events of Black July, which started on the evening of July 22, 1983. Mobs armed with an electoral list of Tamil homes went door to door in Colombo, Sri Lanka, beat and killed over 3,000 Tamils, and looted their homes and businesses.

This period, known as Black July, sparked an armed conflict and the mass exodus of Tamils out of Sri Lanka. The anti-Tamil pogroms forced many, including my family, to seek refuge in Canada. The government of Pierre Trudeau at that time enacted a special measures program to assist over 1,800 Tamils to settle in Canada. Today, this community is over 300,000 strong, and I am so very proud to be part of this community from coast to coast to coast.

With that, I want to take a moment to reflect on the most vulnerable in our society, particularly as a result of COVID-19. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the refugees who are in many camps around the world, struggling in cramped conditions in UNHCR tents or displaced altogether. There are over 80 million displaced people around the world and over 30 million refugees. I want to recognize them and all those who support refugees, both abroad and in Canada, and particularly those who are vulnerable in Canada, who have come in search of freedom but are unfortunately struggling with COVID-19, as are all of us across the globe.

This pandemic has had a very profound effect on all of us, but none more than our seniors. I want to talk about long-term care homes in my province of Ontario, and also locally at the Altamont Care Community in Scarborough—Rouge Park. We lost 52 residents and one staff member to COVID-19, so we have lost 53 people as a result of COVID-19. This is just in one home. There are four other homes: Orchard Villa in Pickering—Uxbridge, Holland Christian Grace Manor in Brampton South, Hawthorne Place Care Centre in Humber River—Black Creek, and Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke Centre. All five MPs who correspond to these homes have written to Premier Doug Ford, as well as the Prime Minister.

We are asking the premier to initiate a public inquiry, similar to that of Ipperwash, to make sure that we do not make the mistakes that we made in long-term care homes. Some 80% of deaths associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are a result of people living in long-term care homes. These are our seniors, and it is a national shame. I would say that we have failed our seniors, those who are in long-term care homes, and I am saddened to stand here today to even talk about it. The report from the Canadian Armed Forces, who were deployed to these five care homes, really does shed light on what we need to do, and I want to emphasize and ask the Premier of Ontario to make sure that we do right and get to the bottom of this.

Equally, the five colleagues, including myself, wrote to the Prime Minister seeking national standards for long-term care homes. I realize that there are challenges, in terms of jurisdiction. As a federal government, we are not directly responsible for long-term care homes. Nevertheless, as a government that is responsible for Canadians and to Canadians, it would be incumbent upon us to take some leadership and make sure that we have national standards of care for all those who are in long-term care homes. As a government, we regulate everything from plastic bags to toothpaste and all kinds of consumer products, and, for the life of me, it is hard to imagine why we cannot have some form of minimum standards set for long-term care homes.

I think it is long overdue, and that conversation needs to take place. I look forward to working with the government, as well as our friends across the aisle, to ensure that this does not happen again.

I also want to note that the government recently announced $19 billion toward a safe restart program. This is part of our government's response to COVID-19. This $19 billion will go, in part, toward supporting long-term care homes, especially the deficiencies that are outlined in the report by the Canadian Armed Forces. We are hopeful that the immediate response, in case there is a second or third wave, will be mitigated by the additional financial support that our government is giving to the provinces and, in turn, that should filter in toward long-term care homes.

I also want to address another issue that has been quite troubling to me, and that is the issue of systemic racism. I have spoken about this many, many times in this House and with many of my colleagues, including colleagues from across the aisle. I want to acknowledge that a couple of weeks ago many of us got together and wrote a letter that was signed by many members, led by the member for Hull—Aylmer and of course supported by people like my friend from Hamilton Centre, where we highlighted the need for the government to address the issues of systemic racism.

One thing that COVID-19 has shown us is that it has an impact on racialized people. Whether it is people working on the front lines as workers at hospitals, working as cashiers or working in the restaurant industry, for example, there is a significant impact of COVID-19 on racialized people.

In places like the United States and England, we have specific numbers that speak to this racial divide, but in Canada we do not keep those kinds of statistics. I believe that one of the things we really need to do is gather that information and make sure that we connect the dots between race, poverty and health services. I hope that this is an opportunity for us to learn and, again, mitigate in terms of a second wave.

With respect to overall systemic racism, it is very clear that racism affects many people and it affects them differently. Anti-black racism is profound in our history. It continues. The social results are very obvious. The numbers kind of speak for themselves. Whether it is with respect to the social determinants of health, issues of incarceration or issues of education streaming, there is a profound impact on Canada's black community, as well as indigenous peoples, who, since Confederation, have been rendered to be second-class citizens in all aspects.

This conversation was sparked by the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, but of course in Canada we have seen our share of these tragedies, including the brutal attack on Chief Allan Adam at the hands of the RCMP, and the death of Chantel Moore.

We have seen calls for governments at all levels to reimagine what policing looks like, to reimagine how interaction between police and individuals is, especially those who may have mental health issues and those in racialized communities. I think the moment is now for us to seize and make sure we address the systemic issues that have led to these devastating results. I hope that we will be able to work collaboratively to advance these issues in the months to come.

Support for Canadians with disabilities is something our government has been trying to do from the beginning. There have been a number of measures we have put in to support all Canadians, and I will speak to that at the end. However, with respect to this legislation, it will directly assist people with disabilities with a non-reportable payment of $600 to all eligible individuals who receive the disability tax credit.

We have worked hard since the start of this pandemic to provide support for vulnerable Canadians and to ensure that the response plan leaves no one behind. We need to make sure that Canadians with disabilities who are facing additional costs related to the pandemic get the support they need. This payment would also flow to those who are eligible for other disability benefits or supports, such as the Canada pension plan disability benefits, the Quebec pension plan disability benefits or one of the disability supports provided by Veterans Affairs Canada. This would benefit approximately 1.7 million Canadians with disabilities who are facing additional expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the 2017 Canadian survey on disability, 22% of Canadians aged 15 and over identify as having a disability. The rate goes up with age, with 38% of Canadians over 65 and 47% of Canadians over 75. We know that among working-age Canadians with disabilities, more than 1.5 million, or 41%, are unemployed or out of the labour market entirely. Among those with severe disabilities, the rate increases to over 60%.

These Canadians face challenges each and every day, and they do it with determination. They deserve the support of their government. Our government has worked closely with the disability community during this time of crisis, including the COVID-19 disability advisory group, which is advising the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. The group has shared details about the lived experiences of persons with disabilities during the pandemic, along with disability-specific issues, systemic gaps and potential responses. Our government will continue to work hard to increase accessibility and remove barriers, and it remains committed to a disability-inclusive pandemic response and recovery.

I want to take a minute to acknowledge some of the incredible organizations in Scarborough that have been working to address and support people with disabilities during this pandemic. I want to start by thanking the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre, which does magnificent work with young people with autism who are on the spectrum. The Wellspring Centre, which I was able to visit last week, is a respite care facility that just reopened. I was able to meet with its team and some of its clients. It is a relatively new organization, but one that is very promising and that will really support a lot of people with disabilities.

Community Living is another one. Many of us in Parliament have very important Community Living locations in our ridings. There are several in my riding, and I am always awed by the work they do and the level of commitment their staff and volunteers have in supporting those with disabilities. TAIBU Community Health Centre is located in Scarborough North, adjacent to my riding. It is the only black-focused community health centre in North America. They do some great work, especially supporting those with sickle cell disease and other issues related to the black community, and I want to thank them for their work.

The next aspect of my discussion today is about broadening the Canada emergency wage subsidy. It is now one of the pillars of the government's COVID-19 economic response plan. The Canada emergency wage subsidy was introduced to prevent further job losses, encourage employers to quickly rehire workers previously laid off because of COVID-19, and help better position the Canadian economy as we transition into the post-pandemic recovery.

The Canada emergency wage subsidy can continue to protect jobs by helping businesses keep employees on the payroll and encouraging employers to rehire workers previously laid off. We are already seeing lower unemployment numbers because people are being rehired. It offers more flexibility to employers so that a large number of them can benefit from this subsidy. Employers of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy may be eligible.

Since we launched this program this spring, about three million Canadian employees have had their jobs supported through the Canada emergency wage subsidy, and that number continues to grow. To help support these Canadians, our bill would redesign the Canada emergency wage subsidy and tailor it to the needs of more businesses. This bill would extend the program to the end of 2020, with the intent of providing further support until the end of the year.

The wage subsidy would be made more accessible by making the base subsidy available to all eligible employees who are experiencing any decline in revenues. This would allow businesses, small and large, that have been struggling throughout this pandemic to get access to the support for the first time and help more Canadian workers get support as a result. This would remove any barriers to growth for firms currently using the Canada emergency wage subsidy program. By removing the threshold for support, they will know that they have support as they work to grow, invest and re-hire workers.

Our government is also proposing to introduce a top-up subsidy for eligible employers that have been most adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The redesigned wage subsidy would help position employers and workers for a strong rebound in the post-pandemic recovery.

I want to talk about this program in relation to my experience in the 2008 financial crisis. At that time, I had opened a law firm a couple of years earlier. I had about a dozen staff, and one of the toughest things I had to do at that time, because the economy was contracting, was to lay off staff. I lost a couple of really good people whom I was never able to get back.

From my experience, making sure that companies are supported in keeping their staffing levels is critical to the long-term viability of our economy. It is so important that Canadians be able to continue to work and receive a paycheque, because, ultimately, that is the best form of support any government could give. I am very pleased to say that this program has helped dozens of organizations in my riding and, I am sure, across many of my colleagues' ridings as well.

This is just part of our overall response to COVID-19. Here I want to say a thing or two about the restart program. I know that the city councillor in ward 25, Dr. Jennifer McKelvie, John Tory, the mayor of the City of Toronto, and others have been speaking to us over the last several weeks about their challenges with the city budget and that the $19 billion the federal government is giving to the provinces will inevitably support them with their restart. I really want to thank them for their advocacy.

The other programs we have, as we know, are the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency student benefit, the GST rebate back in April, the OAS and GIS top-ups, as well as the Canada emergency business account. These are all supports that we have given individual Canadians to make sure they can sustain the financial challenges they have incurred over the past four months.

I want to conclude by thanking all of those who have been working on the front lines, who have been heroic in their efforts. They never set out to be heroes, but they are our Canadian heroes. I want to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for the work they did in my riding, the front-line workers at the hospitals and in all of the different areas, including trucking, cashiers at grocery stores and, of course, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the medical officer of health for the City of Toronto, for her tremendous leadership.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today with mixed emotions, because the last time I had the honour of providing a statement to the House, I believed that we could have done better by Canadians. During our debate, as we looked at how we were going to proceed over the summer, I tried to put forward what I thought was a compelling argument to ensure that no one would get left behind in this country.

I have mixed emotions because on one hand, I am proud as a New Democrat that we were able to ensure that the Liberal government removed the penalties in Bill C-20 related to CERB for people who are struggling to get by, and that we at least increased the amount for people with disabilities by adding the CPPD in the sections on disabilities.

I am proud that we have been given some kind of grace period to allow more people to apply for the disability tax credit because, at almost every step along the way, it seems that the response of the government has been an unnecessary obsession with means testing instead of universality, which continues to leave important people behind.

I am here today representing the constituents of Hamilton Centre. I have mentioned in the past that my riding has the third-lowest average household income. We also have a disproportionate number of people who are living with disabilities and are struggling to get by. In the evolution of the supports that we had during COVID-19, the first response of the Liberal government was to come up with a patchwork EI system that left so many people out. The panic in this crisis, and the prospect of facing the end of the month without the ability to pay the rent, was not just something felt by people living in poverty, but people who were facing poverty perhaps for the first time.

We remember that the Liberals tried to tie the disability tax credit to a program that would only account for 40% of the population living with disabilities. That leaves out the vast majority of the people in my riding. I suggested to the House that I had a moral obligation, and we all had a moral imperative, to ensure that the most vulnerable people in the country were not left behind, regardless of their citizenship, regardless of their ability to work, regardless of how long they had lived here or where they had lived.

However, here we are, back with Bill C-20. It has had an incremental improvement but still leaves far too many vulnerable people behind. The very definition of disability under the disability tax credit is far too restrictive. It is a non-refundable tax credit, and the lowest-income people living with disabilities do not make enough income to benefit from it.

What I found perverse in the discussion of people living with disabilities was the approach to seniors. The argument put forward by both Liberals and Conservatives was, “What have they lost, in terms of their income?” I say it was perverse because it is very apparent now that our most vulnerable people had absolutely the most to lose.

I shared yesterday that it is not just people infected by COVID-19 who are impacted. I think about my friend, Michael Hampson, who at 58 years old has lived the last part of his life struggling with disabilities and trying to get income support in Ontario. For a brief time, he had hope with the guaranteed basic income. For the first time in his life, he would have said that he could live with dignity because he was not living in the legislated poverty of the Ontario disability support program. Many of my constituents are sentenced to live in poverty under ODSP rates that have been set by both the Conservatives and the past Liberal governments in Ontario.

We come back here and ask what they have to lose, when they have literally lost lives. Seniors were sentenced to live in subpar, substandard long-term care facilities. We know the vast majority of people who died from COVID-19 were connected to these facilities.

When we argue and debate this bill, it is not just about what is in the bill but also about what is not in it. Who do we continue to leave behind? Why are we still trying to do this piecemeal incremental approach, which we heard by the admission of the previous speaker is designed to get as many people as it can, but not everybody?

Why can we not have universal supports? Why can we not have a government, in a country as prosperous as Canada, that can take care of every person living here?

We look at the $740 million to support one-time costs over the next six to eight months for measures to control and prevent infections in long-term care facilities that have a growing number of infections. We are not out of this crisis. We have only just begun. At $740 million, the reluctance from the Liberal government to take national leadership on the state of health care for our seniors in long-term care is the tragedy of this crisis.

There have been scandals in this crisis. I would suggest that WE is a scandal, but it is not the true scandal. The true scandal remains the ineffective way in which the Liberal government delivered or managed the national emergency stockpile supply. We ought to have had millions of pieces of critical PPE that would have protected Canadians at the onset of this. We took direction from medical professionals in the beginning that masks were not required. In my gut, I wondered why that was put forward. At the same time, the Liberal government threw out millions of pieces of critical PPE. I raise that today because we are not going to sit again for quite some time, and we are not out of this thing.

As the provinces continue to open up for business, what the Liberals have done is open us up for a second wave. I talked about the moral imperative to plan for the future. The future is going to be the new normal. COVID is not going away. People will continue to get infected and will continue to die. The question remains: What we are willing to do about it? What can we do to ensure that, next time, someone like my friend Michael Hampson is not found dead in his apartment after four days? How do we make sure we have a health care system that provides enough support to make sure people can check in on our most vulnerable people?

We have the ability to do this. We have the wealth in this country to deliver for all Canadians. It does not have to be piecemeal. We need to recognize that this does, in fact, impact our most vulnerable, and that throwing a $600 one-time payment to a very narrow section of people living with disabilities is quite frankly not good enough.

We are in a scenario over these next few weeks in which I support this legislation, because it is as good as the government is willing to do, but we deserve better. The people of Hamilton Centre deserve better. The people who are sentenced to live in legislated poverty deserve better. The question always becomes what would a New Democratic government have done differently?

What we would have done differently is that we would have done everything we said we were going to do in the beginning. We would have provided supports for people on EI. We would have provided housing for people and we would have had a just and fair transition for people into this new economy. We would have had a just recovery.

We have not heard any of those things. While it takes the Liberal government four days to put $750 billion out to Bay Street, we are stuck in the House still dealing with the government's scandals. Like many Canadians, I want to focus on the things that matter in here, which are the lives that have been lost. That is who I am here for. That is why I am here. When the Liberals make decisions on policy, I encourage the members who are on the opposite side and have all the power to not knowingly leave people behind. The $600 that is going to come as a one-time benefit is going to leave 40% of the population, the most low-income and vulnerable population, behind.

I invite questions from the government and the opposition to figure out how we can, in the House, support everybody throughout this crisis and into the next phase.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about Bill C-20, an act respecting further COVID-19 measures.

Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and through Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan, our government has done its best to support Canadians and their businesses.

The measures and programs introduced since March have given Canadians a sense of security and have provided them with financial security during a time of total uncertainty.

Many of my constituents have contacted me to say how satisfied they are with our government's pandemic response. They have asked me to thank the Prime Minister for his daily updates and for all the financial support we have provided during the crisis.

Canadians may have been quarantined and isolated, but they have not felt alone during the pandemic because we have been with them from the start.

The Canada emergency response benefit, more commonly referred to as the CERB, allowed those who lost their jobs because of COVID-19 to continue receiving an income in order to pay for life's necessities. This taxable amount of $2,000 per month was offered to Canadians because in these extraordinary times, they should not have to worry about being able to feed their families, about possibly losing their homes and about paying their bills. Millions of dollars went toward food banks, homeless shelters and women's shelters across the country to help the most vulnerable during these times, as not everybody was eligible for the CERB.

In order to encourage businesses to keep their employees on the payroll and to avoid more job losses, our government introduced the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the CEWS. So far this subsidy has allowed three million Canadian workers to stay on their employer's payroll.

Although this program has already helped millions of Canadians, part 1 of Bill C-20 proposes changes to the Income Tax Act to make the CEWS accessible to even more Canadian businesses, in order to help employers that have been hardest hit by this virus. Part 1 also extends the wage subsidy program until November 2020 and gives the government the possibility of extending it again until the very end of 2020.

Some may argue that as the economy is beginning to reopen and businesses are starting to rehire workers, this program may no longer be necessary. However, it is important to note that our businesses and workers are still facing significant challenges and uncertainty.

The changes that our government is proposing to the CEWS would provide better-targeted support to those who need it most. These changes would extend the subsidy until December 2020, ensure that all eligible employers facing a loss in revenue can qualify, introduce a top-up subsidy to those who have been the hardest hit by the pandemic and ensure that those who are currently using the program can continue to do so and receive support even as they recover.

The redesigned CEWS, the wage subsidy, would help employers rehire workers quickly as the economy improves and better position themselves for the future. Many of the business owners in my riding have relied heavily on the Canada emergency wage subsidy, and they need it to continue for the next while, until they have a better idea of what the second wave of the virus will look like. Businesses thrive when there is stability, and the CEWS provides some level of stability to our economy.

I want to take some time to talk about another part of the bill, part 2, which is very important to me. Part 2 of the bill would amend the Pension Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, the Veterans Well-being Act and the Children's Special Allowances Act to authorize the disclosure of information in order to administer a program that would get more help to people with disabilities, in the form of a one-time, tax-free payment of $600.

This is part of a series of measures to help Canadians with disabilities to pay additional expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

When this additional support for persons with disabilities was first announced, only people eligible for the disability tax credit would have been entitled to these payments.

Bill C-20 seeks to extend the scope of those who can receive this payment, allowing 1.7 million Canadians to have access to this benefit.

Recipients of the disability tax credit, CPP disability or QPP disability benefits, or disability support provided by Veterans Affairs Canada will be eligible for this payment.

Recipients of the disability tax credit, CPP disability or QPP disability benefits, or disability support provided by Veterans Affairs Canada will be eligible for this payment.

The Department of Employment and Social Development has the authority to issue a one-time payment to these groups, but strict confidentiality rules prohibit the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and others from sharing any information with other government departments. That is why amendments to these acts are required. If the proposed legislation is enacted, eligible Canadians would receive the payments automatically.

Canadians with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable and are often the first to be let go in times of economic hardship. The government will invest in projects and programs that help make the workplace more accessible in the coming months.

Other parties feel just as strongly as I do about people with disabilities and want to help as many people who need it as possible. That is why the bill reflects some of the concerns raised in previous legislation and strives to include everyone who needs the supports.

The third and final part of Bill C-20 enacts legislation on time limits and other periods in relation to COVID-19. This provides the flexibility needed with respect to certain time limits and other periods that cannot be met because of the exceptional circumstances caused by COVID-19. Specifically, passing Bill C-20 will suspend certain time limits regarding court proceedings for a maximum of six months. In addition, the bill will temporarily allow ministers to suspend or extend time limits regarding specific laws or regulations for a maximum of six months. This is extremely important, since failure to comply with those time limits could have a significant impact on individuals, businesses and the government.

Flexibility is necessary to ensure that Canadians are not penalized for things that are out of their control during these extraordinary times. In these exceptional circumstances, Canadians and businesses may be unable to meet the numerous time limits currently set out in federal legislation, including those for civil court cases and some key regulatory matters. Of course, giving such powers to the government does not happen in usual times, which is why these powers would have a limit. They are to be used only in the context of COVID-19, would no longer apply after September 30, 2020, and would no longer have any effect after December 31, 2020.

At the end of the day, Bill C-20 would help the government better help Canadians, and Canadians have never needed help more than they have during this pandemic, at least not in my lifetime. We must continue to support Canadians as they try their best to make it through these tough times, and we must help our businesses survive so that people have jobs to go back to once this pandemic is over.

I hope the bill gets the support it deserves from members across all party lines so that we can continue to be better and be there for those who need us during these unprecedented times.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

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 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I really appreciated what he said about his riding. I add my voice to his. In my riding too, many employers called me to tell me about how they are having difficulty recruiting workers. Even employers for community-based organizations told me that they were having trouble getting their employees to come back to work.

I would therefore like to ask my colleague whether he agrees with the proposal made by my party to include employment incentives in the Canada emergency response benefit. I want to ask him whether he believes it would have been worthwhile for Bill C-20 to include employment incentives related to the CERB.

Further COVID-19 Measures ActGovernment Orders

July 21st, 2020 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I am happy to be in the House with my colleagues. Once again, it was quite a journey to get here, especially on short notice, but I know there is important work to be done.

I have been supportive of the government as we navigate COVID-19. I also want to thank fellow opposition members for their hard work and for getting things done. I am honoured to be a member of the 43rd Parliament and am proud to be Canadian.

I do have one regret: partisan politics. Quite simply, it has made a mockery of our institution. It has allowed us to perpetuate systemic issues within the House and has pitted us against each another. It inflames hatred and fear, the type that one can read about in the manifestos of domestic terrorists.

I want to offer my sincere concern for our Prime Minister and his family, as well as the Governor General. I think we should all reflect very deeply on what has occurred at Rideau Hall and commit to doing a better job of teaching love in our communities.

Our system sees its members fighting for credit and recognition, and tearing each other down at every available opportunity. It is the people of this country who are suffering. I think of all the Canadians who are eagerly awaiting the one-time payment for persons with disabilities that was proposed in June. It was poor planning and political posturing that has left these Canadians an extra month without aid.

I too have been made to draw lines in the sand where I did not want to. There is no definitive wrong or right side. If we are truly here in the best interests of Canadians, the taxpayers who elected us, then I must ask us all, what are we doing? Why pour our energy and resources into one-upping each other?

This is in no way to say that we are not to disagree, seek clarification, challenge evidence or hold the government to account. On the contrary, what I am calling for is increased participation and collaboration. I am calling for respect. Call it decorum or call it human decency.

On that note, I would like to speak about some of the specifics of Bill C-20. The most important thing we can be doing right now and in the coming months is to ensure that Canadians have the resources they need to meet their needs. I applaud the move by the government to support wages for Canadians. I question the complexity of the system it has devised and I am particularly concerned that the ongoing lack of clarity about the details of this program will make business owners vulnerable to audits and investigations to come.

It is essential that one year from now, or seven years from now, we remember that these programs were evolving in real time and that Canadians who accessed the wage subsidy, the emergency response benefit, the emergency student benefit, etc., did so in good faith based on the information they had available to them at the time. Heavy-handed, retroactive penalties will be the wrong approach.

I am pleased to finally see the one-time payment for persons with disabilities being passed, hopefully. My own province has the highest rates of disability in Canada, and many of those with disabilities live in rural communities. The nature of New Brunswick as Canada's only bilingual province means that many francophones living with disabilities are also trying to find adequate resources in their mother tongue. This funding is a step forward, but it should never have taken this long.

I would like to read an excerpt from a letter to the minister responsible for disability inclusion from a newly formed group, the New Brunswick Coalition for People with Disabilities:

...day after day during his daily briefings, the Hon. [Prime Minister] hardly ever even mentioned people with disabilities. Then, when a promised payment of $600.00 failed to get approved at the House of Commons, we told ourselves maybe we should "let the adults hash it out". But then, we said no. No, we will not sit quietly anymore. This is what has been expected of people with disabilities for too long.... Let's be honest here. [The Prime Minister] said that Covid19 had exposed some "uncomfortable truths" about how we look after our seniors. The truth of the matter is, should we not also be embarrassed of the way we have been treating people with disabilities in this country? Here we have a group of people who live below the poverty line month after month, year after year. With no chance of EVER going back to work.... And we sit in the sidelines, watching as the Prime Minister of our beloved country decides that $2000 per month is the amount needed to get by in this country. And yet... We are asking people with disabilities to get by on so much less. And then, in a time of crisis, we tell them—by not saying anything at all—that we will deal with them last. And when we do decide to help them with a one-time payment of $600.00, well...it doesn't go through. The only financial aid during this whole Covid nightmare that does not go through.

It is the responsibility of those with power to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are receiving the support they need. Many Canadians were already struggling to make ends meet, particularly because they could not access employment before COVID. For those relying on provincial social assistance programs, CPP or the disability benefit, their regular activities have been terribly interrupted by COVID.

The precariousness of housing, loss of community kitchens, closure of public spaces and limitations on public transit have all had financial consequences for people who are already living on the edge. These citizens should have been among the first to receive aid. Instead, most of them have still received nothing and those living with disabilities have waited five months for a one-time benefit. It is not good enough. There are two weeks before the House is scheduled to sit again and I encourage my colleagues in cabinet to come back to us in two weeks' time with a meaningful pitch to support all Canadians who are the most financially vulnerable.

I am also encouraged to see that the Canada-China relations committee will be able to continue its work. My hope is that we will be brave enough to be outspoken about China's occupation of Tibet and its treatment of religious minorities, including the Uighur concentration camps, and about the recent security law in Hong Kong.

I am also pleased to see the commencement of virtual meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We have incredibly important work to do as parliamentarians, and the more we enable this activity virtually, the better served each of our constituents will be.

I look forward to seeing how we address the question of virtual voting, especially as we expect a second wave of the pandemic to occur this fall. It would be irresponsible of us to become vectors of transmission in our communities. However, there is no question that we must get on with the regular business of the House to debate and pass important legislation.

This brings me back to my opening comments about partisan bickering hurting Canada. I encourage all members of the House across party lines to consider how we can work together to ensure that the needs of our constituents are best met, rather than the various partisan interests we represent. We have all been experiencing the pandemic as parliamentarians and as individuals. I wish my colleagues well. I hope they are all doing okay.

I know how this experience has affected my family and friends, my staff and their families. There is a collective struggle occurring across Canada and the globe. In this time of crisis, we need to tear down the barriers inherent to our ideologies and find ways that we can align. We need each other. We cannot get through the next phase of this virus without supporting each another as Canadians. We are stronger united. We must be able to have discussions, to challenge norms and stigmatization, but let our example of human decency in the House set the tone for the respect, kindness and compassion we want to see in communities across this country.