COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act

An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

Sponsor

Carla Qualtrough  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of Sept. 24, 2020
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

Part 1 enacts the Canada Recovery Benefits Act to authorize the payment of the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit to support Canada’s economic recovery in response to COVID-19. It also makes consequential amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations.

Part 2 amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things,

(a) amend the reasons for which an employee is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19, and the number of weeks of that leave that an employee may take for each of those reasons; and

(b) give the Governor in Council the power, until September 25, 2021, to make regulations in certain circumstances to provide that any requirements or conditions, set out in certain provisions of Part III of that Act, respecting certificates issued by a health care practitioner do not apply and to provide for alternative requirements and conditions.

This Part also makes related amendments to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act to ensure that employees may continue to take leave related to COVID-19 until September 25, 2021. Finally, it makes related amendments to regulations and contains coordinating amendments.

Part 3 amends the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act to limit, as of October 1, 2020, the payments that may be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund under that Act to those in respect of specified measures related to COVID-19, up to specified amounts. It also postpones the repeal of that Act until December 31, 2020.

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.

An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

November 29th, 2021 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am trying not to lose my train of thought.

I was saying that, in 2020, a similar bill, Bill C-2, an act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19, also sought to urgently pass economic measures. We were being asked to take urgent action because the House had been prorogued, not just for a day or two, but for five weeks. We therefore found ourselves in a situation where the House had to rush to support businesses and workers. In that case, we did not have enough time because we had wasted time on ethics issues.

Now, in November 2021, we have before us a similar bill with the same number, Bill C-2. Once again, we are being asked to urgently pass measures. This time, it is because the Liberals called an election rather than allowing us to continue our work in the House, even though there was nothing preventing us from doing so since the opposition parties were co-operating appropriately on the issues being examined. The Liberals decided to call an election anyway, which I think was useless and irresponsible.

We also had to wait two months before the House resumed sitting. In fact—

An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

November 29th, 2021 / 1:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by sincerely thanking the constituents of Thérèse‑De Blainville for placing their trust in me again in the last election. I also want to thank my team, the wonder team, and my volunteers for their tremendous support during this campaign. As I say to my constituents of Thérèse‑De Blainville, I am always on the go and proud to be a strong voice for them here in Ottawa.

I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C‑2 before us. Since the beginning of the pandemic and during the last Parliament, as the critic for employment, labour and skills development and inclusion of persons with disabilities, I have stood many times on issues that directly affect businesses, shops, overcoming this crisis, but also workers and their employment situation.

The government is telling us that Bill C‑2 is essential. I agree. It is also urgent. When it comes to the urgency of the matter I feel like I have seen this film before. We are told about the urgency, but we are not upstream of the questions being asked because it is past the eleventh hour. We are behind. The situation has become urgent because the measures in place came to an end. We are being asked to hurry up and adopt new measures to ensure that there is no interruption. I feel like I already saw this scenario play out because in September 2020, Bill C‑2, An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID‑19, proposed three new economic benefits in addition—

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

March 12th, 2021 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, workers across Quebec and Canada are waiting with bated breath to see whether the House will pass Bill C-24, which is currently before us.

These people are holding their breath because they are desperate to know whether they will receive EI benefits. The number of weeks of benefits they were entitled to have run out, and phones are ringing everywhere as people try to find out what tomorrow holds.

Bill C-24 answers that question by extending the EI regular benefit period to 50 weeks. The bill will also fix something that we, the Bloc Québécois, have been calling on the government to fix since December by creating an exemption so that people will no longer be able to claim the $1,000 Canada recovery sickness benefit when they return from a non-essential trip. That is the essence of the bill.

Once again, we think it is regrettable how often since the beginning of the crisis we have had to rush back to the House to ram through bills that make all the difference for workers who are waiting with bated breath.

Some members may recall that I spoke in this chamber on September 26, 2020, when the House resumed after prorogation. For weeks, we had been urgently calling on the government to pass Bill C-2, the purpose of which was to make the EI program more flexible and implement the three new benefits we are all familiar with, namely, the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit.

Back in September, I began my speech with these remarks:

Sometimes the saying “better late than never” applies, but not here since it is too late for the bill before us. In fact, the three economic support benefits in this bill, which affect thousands of workers and were announced by the government on August 20, are still not in place, while the CERB ended yesterday.

That is the situation we find ourselves in and it is utterly deplorable. I am outraged.

Bill C-24 changes absolutely nothing. We have time; we would have had time to reflect on and think about the best measures to put in place for EI, this enormous program, so that workers, people who are ill and people on maternity leave will not be left wondering what will happen to them from one day to the next. We are simply putting off the problem every month through these temporary measures, when we should be introducing the permanent, structuring and useful measures that reflect the true reality of work for the people concerned.

I am outraged. My colleagues know me and may be sick of listening to me, but I am not done. Since my work in the House began, I have probably uttered the term “employment insurance” 200 times. I was thinking that perhaps I should start saying “unemployment insurance” and maybe that term would resonate with people.

I often say that we must be open, as legislators, to settling once and for all the issue of permanently increasing sickness leave benefits to 50 weeks.

I have been calling for this from day one for a reason. I strongly believed that the government would rise to the occasion during this crisis for which our EI program is inadequate. It could have taken the opportunity to change EI instead of viewing it as a threat and taking a piecemeal approach. The government had that mandate.

The pandemic is a convenient excuse for everything, and we are told that the crisis needs to be managed. That is what we are told when we point out that there needs to be a significant increase in the old age security pension. There has never been a measure brought in to permanently and predictably increase the pension. Temporary measures are brought in instead. The same goes for the Canada health transfers.

This same government had a mandate in 2015 to review the EI program. It has received countless reports and solutions for making the program suit the reality of the workforce and to address the fact that many people are ineligible.

This is unacceptable for a so-called social program designed to protect workers. The government had that mandate.

The minister found the mandate a bit too late, after the throne speech. The government claims to be working on it, but we know that the bill before us is another temporary measure that will expire on September 25, 2021, if I am not mistaken. It is March now, so there are six months left.

What is the government's plan beyond September 25, 2021? Has the government calculated that the job market will have recovered and that the existing EI system will be adequate?

The answer to that question should be “no”, because the system is inadequate. The system is based on the number of hours worked, which clearly needs to be changed.

I gave the House some examples on Monday. With the system that is now in place, women who hold what are increasingly non-standard, part-time jobs are finding it difficult to qualify for EI. Women take maternity or parental leave, using up their weeks of benefits, after which they cannot qualify for EI. If they lose their jobs, they are refused regular benefits. This flaw must be addressed.

Seasonal workers suffer a loss of revenue between periods of employment and end up without EI because of the gaps during which they were not working. This is also something we have to put an end to. No worker should have to go through that.

For them and for sick, suffering or injured workers for whom 15 weeks are not enough, temporary measures are insufficient. There needs to be a real system that will guarantee them 50 weeks of EI benefits.

That is the mission of the Bloc Québécois, a mission that outlines a vision, is promising and takes the reality of the people we represent into account.

In Quebec and Canada, workers are the lifeblood of our job market. We see how essential all of these people are in the health care, social services and other sectors. They are essential because they contribute to our economic strength, our social strength and the strength of our labour market. There has to be a balance, and we need permanent changes. I cannot emphasize that enough.

We will vote in favour of Bill C-24 because, as I said on Monday, we have no choice. Is there any other choice?

If we do not vote in favour of this bill, workers will find themselves without any income tomorrow morning. What is more, many people have reached out to us via telephone, press release and other methods to tell us just how necessary these measures still are.

That is why we are going to vote in favour of Bill C-24. It is not because we like the way the government is forcing us into this. On the contrary, I think that the government could and should do things differently. It has everything it needs to present a much more permanent and strategic vision in the future. I am calling on the government and urging it to do just that, when it has the opportunity to do so in the very near future in the next budget.

My Bloc Québécois colleague's bill, Bill C-265, could really make a difference by increasing EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks. That was yet another opportunity for the government to take action because it was an election issue last time around. There were plenty of commitments, promises and mandate letters, but nothing was done because the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and action had to be taken. The thing is, taking action during a pandemic does not mean doing the same thing forever after. It means thinking about what the future should look like and coming up with much more strategic measures. That is what people expect.

That is why I am working so hard and with such determination to make sure nobody else falls through the cracks. I also want to make sure that, in the course of our very important legislative work, we are never again called upon to rapidly approve a government bill to meet needs and achieve goals. We condemn that approach.

Even so, we support the bill because we would never abandon thousands of workers whose EI benefits will come to an end tomorrow morning and who will be left without an income to make it through this crisis.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2021 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a pleasure to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents. We are here today to discuss Bill C-24. Because of the government's failure to manage the House of Commons effectively, we are seeing its has created a crisis through its mismanagement. Once again we are up against a hard deadline, with benefits expiring for Canadians, and the government not managing the House calendar or its legislation so we can consider this fully. The bill before us today would expand the spending of the government by $12.1 billion. Because of how this is going to go, with members debating it for about six hours, that is about $2 billion an hour for every hour we will be able to discuss and review it here.

As has been said, this would fix a problem that is a result of the government's first attempt to provide benefits to Canadians, Bill C-2, which was rushed through the House at that time to meet a deadline the government knew about, but failed to plan for or to present legislation in a timely fashion to the House to address. That because the Prime Minister prorogued the House, shut everything down, eliminated all of the legislation that was on the Order Paper because of the WE Charity scandal. Things were getting a little too hot on that at the time, and it was time to shut down the investigations into the Prime Minister and his involvement in the WE Charity scandal, so he prorogued Parliament, which created this rush to get legislation before an October deadline when the CERB would end.

The bill was rushed through and Liberals did not realize that they had provided in that legislation a $1,000 bonus to people who had gone on leisure vacations outside of the country. People could apply and get $1,000 for the time they were at home during their 14-day quarantine after international travel. The bill passed, as has been said, because we needed to get the benefits to Canadians whose CERB was expiring, but there were no committee studies or debate in the House because of the government's mismanagement of this file. It saw a deadline, it did not care, and it rushed and made mistakes. That is indicative of the government's approach.

We are seeing it again today not only in this debate, but also in another important debate. I would argue that one of the most important debates the the House will have in this Parliament is on Bill C-7 and the Senate amendments to it. That debate is being cut short because of the government's failure to plan or provide legislation and opportunities for parliamentarians to intervene on behalf of their constituents. We have a situation where, later this day, debate will be shut down on Bill C-7 and the Senate amendments, which call for the expansion of medical aid in dying to include people who only have mental illness or disabling conditions and who will now have access to medical aid in dying, something that has not been studied by this Parliament or in committee.

Because of the government's mismanagement and failure to respond in a timely fashion to court decisions and legislative deadlines, we now have a situation where yet another bill, in addition to this one, is jammed up against a deadline. The Liberals are forcing parliamentarians to address complex issues, in this case, life and death issues, with almost no time in the House because of their failures and mismanagement. People in my riding are very concerned about this. They are concerned about the government's inability to manage the House and debate on legislation in a way that addresses their concerns.

People have written to me about it, and there is one organization in particular from my riding that I want to highlight. The Chilliwack Society for Community Living signed an important letter from the Vulnerable Persons Standard, calling on members of Parliament to do better. It says, “Bill C-7 sets apart people with disabilities and disabling conditions as the only Canadians to be offered assistance in dying when they are not actually nearing death.... Bill C-7 is dangerous and discriminatory.... Canadians with disabilities are hearing MPs and Senators arguing that lives just like theirs featuring disabilities just like theirs are not livable. This is harmful and hurtful and stigmatizing.”

It goes on to say:

Take your time, start over, and get this right. As you do so, be careful to heed the advice of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: "Listen closely to the most directly affected. Their antenna is highly attuned to ableism. When they see it, you should pause and reflect before proceeding."

Bill C-7 is not the answer.

This is another example, as is Bill C-24, of a government failing to take the time to allow Parliament to deliberate to get something right. If we had had the time to deliberate on Bill C-2, if the government had not shut down Parliament and rushed that up against the CERB deadline, I am sure that someone along the way, either in debate or as a witness at committee, would have identified this failure to focus the benefits where they were meant to be focused: on people who had to take sick leave because of COVID-19, not on those who needed to take a vacation. Had we had proper debate, that failure would have been identified.

Here again today, with just six hours of debate, it has to be rushed. After two hours, we are accused of being obstructionist and failing to do our job on behalf of Canadians. Only a Liberal government would think the solution to the problems it created by rushing a bill through Parliament previously could be solved by rushing another bill through Parliament again. That is the failure of the government.

What are we doing here? There is $12.1 billion to extend benefits to Canadians, which we have supported. All along we have supported the benefits going to Canadians who, through no fault of their own, have found their workplaces closed and their opportunities eliminated and have been forced into restrictive lockdowns. When governments force people out of their jobs and bring in conditions that restrict them from going to work, they have an obligation to provide them with an alternate income, but this cannot go on forever.

Here we are, and we are again extending it. The Conservatives support extending benefits to the people who need them, but what we also need is a plan to get past this, a plan to address the lockdowns, a plan to show Canadians there is hope for the future. That is why we have been calling on the Prime Minister to present that plan to Canadians. We have introduced a petition. The member for Calgary Nose Hill has called on the Prime Minister to use the tools we have gathered in the last year to help us get past this. We are calling on the Prime Minister to immediately present a clear plan to get Canadians safely out of lockdown. We are calling for it to include data-driven goals, a plan of action, and a timeline to achieve those goals and ensure the plan is articulated to Canadians so that they can have hope about when life and business will return to normal.

We know there have been some problems with vaccine procurement and rollout. We know there have been issues with conflicting advice being given to Canadians during this pandemic. Today we are a year into it; we have commemorated the lives that have been lost, but we also need to think about the lives that are being severely and permanently impacted right now. Some people are experiencing extreme mental health concerns. Others are not getting the health screening they need for cancer and heart disease. Other people are unable to join with others to worship freely, as is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We need to plan forward so that we are not coming up against deadlines again and again, as the government has, to extend these benefits over and over again. We will be there when Canadians need us, but we also need to start talking about a plan and the way forward to ensure that these are not permanent benefits. The next benefit is to help our economy grow and help people get past these restrictions safely while listening to public health advice. We need a plan from the government, and we have not received it. All we have seen from the government is incompetence, mismanagement of the House, and mistakes being made time and time again. We need to do better.

Opposition Motion—Measures to Support Canadian WorkersBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 9th, 2021 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place to speak on behalf of the people of Chilliwack—Hope and on behalf of Canadians. We are here today debating a motion put forward by the Conservative party. We are talking about things that we would like to see included in the next federal budget.

Of course, it has been over two years since the government has deigned to present its financial plan through a budget to Canadians. It is the longest time in Canadian history that we have gone between the presentation of budgets in the House, and that is quite shocking. Yes, we are in a pandemic, but this is a country that has gone through two world wars. We have managed to have budgets presented in the House where the government laid out its plans, priorities and the fiscal situation in the country. We now have a situation where we are over two years, the longest time in Canadian history, where no budget has been presented.

I would submit to the House, and we heard today from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, that it is because the Liberal party holds this place in contempt. The way that it has operated over the last year has shown that it does not view what we do here as important, that it views the work of Parliament as a nuisance and that, when we are debating and trying to improve government legislation, we are filibustering, we are standing in the way and not doing what Canadians want us to do. If we look at the record of the government, from day one of this pandemic, it has treated this place with contempt.

The first bill the Liberals brought forward to deal with a crisis like we had not seen in generations gave Bill Morneau and the Liberal Party power over spending, taxing and all the rest of it. They wanted to strip Parliament of its power for 21 months. That was the initial foray of the government in this pandemic, to strip away the rights of members of Parliament to hold the government to account and to improve legislation that our constituents needed to see pass, but the Liberals knew best. They have known best this entire time. Any time we have raised any concerns, we have been condemned as standing in the way, because they view Parliament as a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister's Office.

We heard this from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader when he accused the Conservative Party of filibustering a bill. The bill was introduced yesterday at about 3:15 p.m., debated for about three hours and that was enough time. That is too much time for the Liberal government to have scrutiny placed on its legislation. We are clearly not in it for Canadians, if we are not passing that bill. Why did that bill have to come forward? Because the government messed up the bill that created a loophole that allowed travellers who went to Hawaii to come back and collect $1,000 from the government because they had to quarantine.

I got so excited at the beginning, Madam Speaker, I forgot to say I will be splitting my time with the member for Oshawa, and I know he has some excellent things that he too would like to say.

The Liberals brought in Bill C-2 late in September, after they had shut down the House. Members will recall that they shut down Parliament rather than face an ethics and finance committee review of their WE charity scandal. We have learned quite a few things about WE charity as a result of the studies that have happened at committee. The Liberals tried to shut that down. They truly did filibuster that. When they could not shut it down, they padlocked Parliament. They shut this place down for weeks and weeks on end as the deadline came for the Canada emergency response benefit. When that deadline started to come in October, they deigned to bring back the House. Then the Liberals said that we needed to pass Bill C-2 immediately or else we would be putting Canadians out on the street. As we have done throughout this pandemic, the Conservatives have worked to get benefits to Canadians. We have expressed our concerns, and we got the benefits to Canadians.

We pointed out the problem with returning travellers getting $1,000 from the government because they had to quarantine at home, and now we have Bill C-24, which seeks to address that. Another deadline approaches, March 28. and the government did not bring in the bill at the start of this session. It waited a month or so. Then after it brought it in, it told us, after three hours of debate, that if we did not pass it, we were the ones who were holding up relief for Canadians. What a joke. That is how the Liberal government is treating this Parliament. It has done it throughout.

The government should have learned its lesson. Every time it introduced legislation, it treated Parliament as if it was something that should receive the back of its hand, a nuisance that was not worthy of a response and was not worthy of sitting with its full powers. We can obviously do it in a hybrid format, but the powers were stripped away for months. I talked about that first bill that took away the rights of Parliament to scrutinize budgets.

We also had the original wage subsidy, which was only a 10% subsidy, not the 75% subsidy on which we had insisted. The government finally relented and provided it.

We talked about promoting the wage subsidy over the CERB, but the government took so long to get it right that it was less advantageous for employees to stay with their company right at the start of the pandemic, which was a huge mistake.

The original rent assistance program, which called upon a landlord to make the application directly for someone renting from them, was very poorly designed and had hardly any uptake, but the government did not care. It had not consulted with the other parties. It knew best.

That is what has happened here throughout. We just heard it again from the member for Surrey—Newton. People who raise concerns about their specific sectors should just be grateful for what they are getting, because the government knows what they need. If they are calling for more support, it must mean they do not understand the brilliance of the government. This is not as it should be.

We heard about the original CEBA accounts. That is mentioned in our motion. Those that had personal accounts with a bank, not a business account, were ineligible. A number of small businesses, farmers, etc. were not able to access those guaranteed loans.

Startups were not able to access the government programs because they could not show a loss of revenue. People who had just started, pouring their lifesavings into their work, were told, sorry, the government was not here for them.

All of these problems were identified, but the government did not listen because it knew best. It is time that it starts to put Parliament back to work, that it starts to take into account that there are 338 of us here who are all working for our constituents who have been devastated by this pandemic. We all have good ideas. We all represent people who are suffering, who want this to be over as soon as possible and who want the government, and expect the government, to be there for them when they need them.

We were elected to hold the government to account. When there have been good measures, we have supported them. However, we cannot just simply rush everything through. We cannot say that the new posture is that a bill is tabled and on the same day it is expected to be passed at all stages, no witnesses, no committee study, no one who will be directly impacted being consulted.

That is a folly of the government, and it is time that we start to put Parliament back at the centre of government in the country. We need to stop treating this institution with contempt. That starts, quite frankly, at the top. Press conferences have replaced Parliament for the Prime Minister since day one.

It is time that Parliament took the central role and that we all take back the roles that we have been given to hold the government to account, to scrutinize legislation, to propose solutions that will help our constituents. We are not a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister's Office. We are not an afterthought. This is an essential service and we should start to treat it like that. We should not be an afterthought for the Liberal government.

There is a number of things we have identified in our motion that call for sector specific changes. If the government had listened from the start, programs would have been better, more Canadians would have been better served. It is time for the government to start treating Parliament with the respect it deserves.

February 25th, 2021 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

My apologies, Mr. Burns, but I think I misspoke.

We don't have much time.

My question was meant to find out whether, according to you, the foreign money coming in will have an impact in Canada. I am talking about American or French bettors, among others, who would be placing bets in Quebec or in Canada if Bill C-218 was passed.

February 16th, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

I just think that for many of the members we see sitting here, we all knew, as we've indicated, that they were essential programs that were helping Canadians each and every day, like the CERB and all of these benefits that were helping businesses, and they were all coming to an immediate stop. The government introduced Bill C-2, which then became Bill C-4, and now we're back and having to do another bill. I think it might be Bill C-20, but I know that it still hasn't been tabled.

There continue to be these bills that need to be introduced because of the lack of programming or planning on this. I'm not saying that it's an issue because of bureaucrats, but these are some issues.

My last and final question for you is this. When we talk about the writing of the speech—and you indicated the first two paragraphs are always done by the Governor General—was it the work of the senior bureaucrats or the work of the PMO that finalized the speech?

Opposition Motion—Support for Health Care WorkersBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2020 / 4:50 p.m.
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Milton Ontario

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Sport)

Madam Speaker, I rise today and am jubilant, actually, because I heard my colleague opposite, the member for Carleton, possibly do a full one-eighty on something that I have seen him stand in the House to advocate against.

I recognize that the member's message today was about jobs. However, the premise was focused on the opioid epidemic and this is something that I care deeply about. I also recognize that the previous government, the government in which he served as minister, staunchly opposed any evidence-based measures to support those suffering from opioid addictions.

I have a quote here. It is, “Should Bill C-2 become law, it will be extremely difficult to open a supervised injection site anywhere in Canada”. This was a bill that the member supported and defended. It was the Respect for Communities Act in 2015. An adviser to the previous Harper government, Benjamin Perrin, had a full about-face on this issue just recently, when he began advocating for safe injection sites across the country and a more compassionate way to deal with the opioid epidemic.

My question, while not specifically about jobs, is this. Has the member had a one-eighty, and does he now support safe injection sites in Canada and a more compassionate way of dealing with opioid addiction as a disease and not a crime?

November 24th, 2020 / 6:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Okay.

There was obviously no time for anyone on the federal side to meaningfully liaise with the provinces when Bill C-2 became Bill C-4, rewritten at the eleventh hour in September as a result of the confidence vote concessions to the NDP, which included the two-week paid sick leave. I've heard concern in recent weeks from some Ontario small businesses that the paid leave provisions are so broad, they fear—they haven't yet experienced it, or at least no one's told me they have—possible future unwarranted absenteeism.

Have the provinces accepted specifically the two-week paid sick leave, which overrides some provincial private sector sick leave provisions, or are you leaving provinces to decide whether or not it applies to the private sector?

October 6th, 2020 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much.

I really appreciate Mark's comments, but I think public trust is what was lost on August 18 in the first place. I think if we're going to use those lines, we should reflect on the government's actions prior to that. Let's not talk about public trust as though we've lost it fully, especially on the Conservative side.

I can tell you that back in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, on this motion put forward, I had people calling me saying thank you, saying we need to hold this government to account. Perhaps they're not calling you in Kingston, but I can tell you that the constituents in Elgin—Middlesex—London are saying bravo and that we need to hold them to account.

There are a couple of things we're talking about. First of all, there is the mandate of this committee. We understand that under Standing Order 32(7), this issue will be coming to the procedure and House affairs committee. As indicated, in some committees people will do a little prestudy. Now, a lot of times that may be moot if this is voted on and doesn't come to the procedure and House affairs committee, but this will not be voted on. We know that this will be referred to our committee. It's not voted on in the House of Commons. It is automatically sent to us at procedure and House affairs. There's not a vote to say that our prestudy is going to be a waste of time.

Actually, when we're talking about documents, well, these are documents that were requested, as I recall, back in July. I wouldn't want to put anyone at risk, but let's not kid ourselves: They've been working on these documents since July 1, when they were requested, and we're now into October.

“Paralyzing of government” is a terrible choice of words. Perhaps it was the paralyzing of Parliament, because that is exactly what this government did with prorogation on August 18. It's fine to say that the government will not be able to do any work because we'll be paralyzing this committee, but I will remind the honourable member that 338 members of Parliament were paralyzed on August 18 due to the prorogation in the first place.

With all of these things, I understand that it took eight days. I understand that this motion was very complex, but we do know that it will be coming to this committee. We are expecting lots of documents, because that is what we've asked for. Prorogation in the middle of a pandemic was absolutely not in the best interests of Canadians. We saw that last week, as we voted at 2:30 in the morning. We needed to have Bill C-2 and Bill C-4 passed. We knew that all of the programs had stopped the weekend before. There is a gap in these programs, and people will only be able to apply on October 11 for these programs. I find it very rich of this member to think that we paralyzed it. The only one who paralyzed the government was the Prime Minister and his staff. I'm very concerned with this.

When we're looking at this, all we're asking is to be able to prestudy the information that will be coming to our committee anyway. I'll also remind you that the only way we're not going to be debating this is if the government decides to prorogue before October 28. Really, at the end of the day, it's either coming to us or it's not. It seems like you're just trying to say no to the inevitable. It's going to happen.

The fact is that if on August 17 and 18 you had asked Canadians why they thought the government prorogued.... I will tell you that in my riding, I had maybe one person who did not think that it was over some of these issues that we have brought up and to do with the WE scandal. We know through finance and ethics and languages that there were lots of issues coming up because of WE. At that time, with the pressure and the heat that was happening in the PMO, that is why government was shut down.

I shouldn't say that is why; maybe prove me otherwise. I shouldn't say that, because obviously some members of the government believe that was not the case and that the prorogation happened because they were resetting.

I'm laughing because we're coming back to Bill C-6, to Bill C-4. We're coming back to a bunch of bills that were actually on the table and were going to start to be debated. There's nothing new from this reset. We are coming back to medical assistance in dying. We are coming back to conversion therapy. We are coming back to things that the government had already pre-tabled in the first session of the 43rd Parliament. We are rehashing what happened in the first session of this Parliament. There is nothing new. Perhaps the member can share with me that we actually had a reset, that we actually did a 180.

That's not what happened. We are starting with the same old, same old. By closing the door on August 18 for the parliamentary committees to ask these tough questions, the government was able to have a break and hope that Canadians had a break and would move forward.

I recognize that none of us wants to put staff members at risk. That is not the plan. We also know that they've been working on these for three months, so let's not use that.

On the cost to produce these things, it's the first time I've ever heard the government say “the cost to produce”. We're asking it to produce documents on a billion-dollar program that was announced—a billion dollars—so don't talk as if this is nickels and dimes here. We're talking here about big dollars that this government was wasting. Being held accountable is exactly what should happen.

I appreciate that the member thinks this is out of order, but at the same time, according to Standing Order 32(7), it is the mandate of this committee to study the prorogation when it comes to procedure and House affairs.

Thank you.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 6th, 2020 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to enter into the debate on the throne speech and to express some very serious concerns I have with it.

The throne speech, at least in English, was nearly 7,000 words, with many catchphrases and talking points but very little substance.

I would like to address two themes. The first is why the government felt that it was even necessary to have a throne speech. Second, I would like to point out some specific challenges I have with the throne speech itself.

Regarding the prorogation of Parliament, I find it incredibly disturbing that the government felt it should shut down Parliament, and not just with the prorogation. The last eight months were bad enough, but in the middle of several concurrent investigations into the Prime Minister's conduct, Parliament was shut down. It shut down committees, members of Parliament and Canadians, truly. There is one place in the country that allows all the voices of Canadians to be heard, and that is within the hallowed walls of this chamber. The Prime Minister, in an extraordinary abuse of executive authority, used a legitimate parliamentary mechanism to shut down investigations into his own conduct, and that is shameful.

Unfortunately, but not surprising, after several months of denial and flip-flopping, when the government finally figured out, I think on March 13, that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was actually serious and it changed course and we saw the first bill for some emergency relief measures brought forward, even though members of my party had brought up concerns about why there were no increased measures at airports or other actions being taken to ensure Canada would be better prepared to deal with the threat of this global pandemic. However, instead of it being simply about emergency relief, it was about an incredible abuse of executive power. We saw an attempted power grab, unlike anything I have seen in the country's history. The government wanted unlimited spending authority for more than a year and a half. In what democracy would that ever be deemed acceptable to even propose let alone justify it in the midst of a global pandemic? When Canadians deserved and needed help, the government looked out for nothing other than its own power. It is unbelievable.

For members opposite who are curious about some of the aspects of parliamentary procedure and who say we need this to be a legislative reset, I asked a question of one of the members from the Liberal Party here just a few minutes ago. He somehow suggested that the six weeks was necessary to ensure the Liberals could consult with Canadians on the throne speech. It is interesting that he mentioned a few examples about how he did town halls and whatnot. He also suggested other members were not talking to their constituents, which is insulting. I was asked to respond, but since I did not have a chance during the questions and comments I will respond now.

It is unbelievable and speaks to the Liberal elitist mentality to suggest that somehow their prorogation allowed them to have an inside track on influencing the future of the country in a minority Parliament. They should well know that it is this place that allows all voices to be heard, not simply Liberal Party voices. The Conservatives received more votes in the last election than the Liberals. The Liberals had a significantly reduced mandate after the last election, yet it seems they have refused to accept the will of the Canadian people when it comes to their place in Parliament and the fact that Parliament is truly an essential service.

My last point on the concerns around why we have a throne speech today is that the government seems to play quick and fast with all aspects of how it does business, such as manufacturing urgency with the passing of Bill C-2.

We could have been debating this for weeks. It could have been passed weeks ahead of the deadline, yet the government waited until the eleventh hour and showed up at a press conference. Then the Liberal House leader tweeted out that this was a confidence motion, that it must be passed or we could go to an election and Canadians would suffer as a result. It was circumstances manufactured by the government. That is typical Liberal elitism.

I digress in that regard and will move on to some of the serious concerns I have with the throne speech. I summed it up simply to my constituents when they asked me to describe in a sentence or two my feelings on it. I said that it was vague, expensive and Ottawa knows best.

On the vague aspect of it, there were few concrete measures. The Liberals talked about their four pillars of a recovery. They have a lot of catchphrases and slogans. If there was an award for catchphrases and slogans, the government would get it. It seems to be copying from various campaigns, even other election campaigns from other democracies around the world. It throws in these catchphrases and hopes that people will somehow believe they will get the job done. On this side of the House, we know that is not the case.

It is unfortunate that most of the aspects of the throne speech are simply recycled Liberal promises. I point to one example, which is its promise to plant two billion trees. It promised this in the last election, yet in the year that has passed, it has planted zero trees. However, we have an oil sands company that has planted millions. This speaks to the bigger context of the throne speech. Many promises were recycled. The Liberals seem to think that making these grand promises and having no plan for delivery somehow serves the best interests of Canadians, and that is simply not the case.

That is one of many examples. What could have been an opportunity to see many specific concrete paths forward for our country, we saw very few. This is unfortunate. It was a huge missed opportunity.

Further, it seemed to be a vanity project for the Prime Minister. He prorogued Parliament for six weeks and had the Governor General read a throne speech, a significant aspect of our parliamentary tradition that takes the focus off the politics of the country and allows our head of state to outline an agenda. However, that was not good enough for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had to have his face on television to continue his sorry trend of cottage chronicles, to have a televised address that simply repeated things.

I have much more to say, some of which I have addressed in other speeches, like the unity crisis. The fact is that we are six months into a fiscal year. I know many people who work in the Jim Flaherty building down the street, named after the former Conservative finance minister. There are incredibly intelligent and capable finance people in the department, yet the Minister of Finance said yesterday that it would not be prudent to estimate what the deficit would be. I know many of the people in the Finance Department have a good idea. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Liberals are scared of what Canadians will think when they find out the cost and lack of accounting associated with their spending. At a time when all Canadians know we need to support those who need it, doing so without a plan is very unfortunate.

My last point is this. The Ottawa knows best mentality is best represented on page 18 of the throne speech. In talking about a national pharmacare strategy, the Liberals use a word when they talk about working with provinces to develop a pharmacare plan, of which there is no detail. They say that they will only work with “willing” provinces and territories.

When it comes to the government, it is clear that it is only willing to work with those who are willing to fall in line with its narrow ideology and perspective on what the future of our country should look like. That is driving in wedges across our country that are harming the capacity and capability of Canadians—

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

September 30th, 2020 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

I am most pleased to speak on the throne speech. I do believe this throne speech, and the legislation and policy that will flow out of it, will put Canada on the right track going forward.

We are in a pandemic that seems to be gaining ground again. This is the time for leadership. The Prime Minister has shown leadership day after day. Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said, the Prime Minister and his government were in communication with all members of the House, and having meetings at night in conference calls with the bureaucracy. Everybody put in ideas, but the government showed that it was willing, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, to make changes that would improve policies for individuals, businesses, organizations, provinces and territories, day in and day out since the pandemic began.

The Prime Minister developed the programs. He worked with the provinces, and the provinces have congratulated the Prime Minister, time and again, on his willingness to work with them during this pandemic.

He has certainly shown leadership in terms of working with all Canadians. I heard the Leader of the Opposition say that he only wanted to work with some. No. The Prime Minister has worked with all Canadians, with all organizations and with all provinces. The Prime Minister is showing he is the leader that is needed in this time for this country to move forward. This is the direct opposite of what the Leader of the Opposition had to say.

This throne speech sets out a blueprint for where we need to go in the future. There really is no shortage of ideas. The purpose of a throne speech is to lay out the blueprint in the House of Commons and to have other ideas and criticisms come forward, certainly. I believe that, in the way that Parliament is structured, other ideas can come forward to improve on the blueprint that the government has laid out, although it is a very good blueprint.

The finance committee, in fact, heard hundreds of suggestions from Canadian organizations and individuals between April 3 and the end of June. I want to qualify that. This was a criticism that I do not believe was valid. I want to qualify that a key point made by witnesses before the finance committee is that, while future spending is essential, it must be done in a fiscally responsible way, and the Minister of Finance should certainly, at the earliest opportunity, lay out an economic growth plan. That is what witnesses were saying. I agree with that approach, and I think that would show Canadians how we are going to get there in terms of meeting the needs of the pandemic but also meeting the needs of the economy going forward.

Witnesses before the finance committee, and in my own riding and across Canada, spoke very favourably about several programs that will be continued as a result of the throne speech and the legislation flowing out of it.

The Canada emergency wage subsidy offered a 75% subsidy for businesses, and it will be extended right through to next summer. Although it is a wonderful program, I would note that it needs some tweaks. Many new businesses, start-ups, or expanding businesses that are buying out other businesses and therefore have different business account numbers with the CRA, do not qualify for the program. We have to fix that problem. Those businesses are important to our economy. They are the backbone of our economy, and we need them.

The second major program announced in the throne speech is the Canada emergency response benefit. It was very important to ensure that families had the funds to put food on the table, and had some security for their families, after jobs were lost as a result of COVID-19.

That program is rightly being rolled into an improved EI program, and is absolutely necessary, going forward. That is a commitment made by the Government of Canada in the throne speech. In fact, legislation has already been put in this House through Bill C-2 and Bill C-4 that ensures that the benefits of CERB will remain as we work to restart our economy.

For those in the tourism industry who were only able to find limited work this summer, the reduced hours, as announced, that will be required to gain EI is extremely important. The throne speech mentions it and legislation passed through here once on the Canada recovery benefit to support workers who are self-employed or not eligible for EI, the Canada recovery sickness benefit for workers who must self-isolate due to COVID-19, and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit for Canadians who must take care of a child and are unable to work. That is extremely important for people, moving forward, to help them out.

Another area we heard a lot of positive feedback and comments on is CEBA, the Canada emergency business account. The throne speech states:

This fall, in addition to extending the wage subsidy, the Government will take further steps to bridge vulnerable businesses to the other side of the pandemic by:

Expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account to help businesses with fixed costs;

Improving the Business Credit Availability Program;

And introducing further support for industries that have been the hardest hit, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries like the performing arts.

It is important we do that, and we welcome that program, but I want to also put a slight caveat on CEBA. A number of us from all parties have been saying that the Canada emergency business account must allow personal accounts to qualify, not just business accounts. When I was farming I did not have a business account with a bank; I had a personal account and I was running about a $2-million operation. I can give an example of an individual in my riding. This construction guy with a $900,000 operation puts out three T4s and can show income tax going back years, but he does not qualify for CEBA. That is wrong. It should not just be through the bank business account. We had to fix that so that the people with a personal bank account qualify as well.

As an aside, there was the regional relief and recovery fund, established through the regional development agencies, that is basically the same as CEBA but is in the rural areas for businesses that may not qualify through the banks system. That program has run out of money. I am asking the Minister of Finance and the government as a whole to put some more funds into that RRRF so that people who actually deal with those agencies can qualify. That needs to happen.

I understand time is running down for my remarks, but I want to say I am looking forward to the work of the Government of Canada in accelerating the universal broadband funding. This is critical. We have seen through the pandemic that it needs to be done.

I am encouraged by what the throne speech said about the Atlantic loop in terms of energy between Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and how that may flow throughout the system.

We really used Canadian resources to help Canadians and build Canadian industries. I am really pleased on the environmental side that the throne speech outlines a number of opportunities for retrofitting homes and businesses, and more.

We have learned through this pandemic that we have to supply ourselves locally, and we need to move forward on that as well.

COVID-19 Response Measures ActGovernment Orders

September 29th, 2020 / 10:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Repentigny.

I am pleased to rise in the House this evening to speak on behalf of my constituents in Manicouagan. I wanted to say that because, as we all know, every time I speak in the House, I do the same thing: I think of the people of the North Shore, for they are my motivation, the reason for all my speeches in the House as the member for Manicouagan.

We should always bear in mind the fact that we are in this place to represent tens of thousands of people. In a sens, it is as though they speak through us, and so I speak on behalf of my people in this place in the hopes of securing our well-being. At the risk of sometimes seeming naive, I believe we can accomplish this by striving to live up to an ideal that I think is expected of us. I try to live up to that. What I do as an MP, I do on behalf of my constituents. I act on behalf of my people and what I do, I do for them, the Quebeckers, the people of the North Shore, the Innu and the Naskapi.

My plan is to address two aspects of Bill C-2: the underlying principle, or what it intends; and our responsibility as elected representatives. Social justice, the redistribution of wealth and de jure and de facto equality are all principles the Bloc Québécois holds especially dear. We want some degree of security for all of our people—children, workers and seniors—during these tough and uncertain times.

The duty to care for oneself and others was and seems to be the underlying principle of the Canada recovery sickness benefit, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit and the Canada recovery benefit, which picks up where the Canada emergency response benefit left off with a more flexible employment insurance regime.

The Bloc Québécois is an opposition party that makes proposals, and back in April, we were already calling for an enhanced CERB that would meet people's needs and include an incentive to work designed to support our economy. We had to strike a balance between the needs of workers and those of employers. We needed to take into account the present and the future.

Although the Bloc Québécois would have like to have seen this change to the measure five months ago, we are satisfied that now, as we enter the second wave, the government heard and understood our proposal to help workers, who can now earn more, and business owners, who can now get the human resources they need. This just goes to show that the opposition is essential, as is the necessary democratic dialectic.

This brings me to the second topic I wanted to discuss, which is the responsibility of elected officials. I believe that it was unacceptable for the government to prorogue Parliament, because a crisis is inherently urgent. At a time when there were dire needs, when the public was asked to pitch in, to make sacrifices, to set an example and to demonstrate a sense of duty, the government shut down Parliament and disappeared. Why? Why were they hiding? What were they concealing? Why did they vanish? Did they just want people to forget?

Shutting down Parliament is not pitching in. It is not making sacrifices. It is not stepping up and demonstrating a sense of duty. It is not self-sacrifice. On the contrary, it came across as an act partly—if not fully—driven by selfishness, by blind partisanship, in an attempt to make people forget what certainly appears to be nepotism.

Shutting down Parliament for several weeks in the midst of a pandemic, in the middle of an emergency, as we were coming up with ideas, is not what the public could and should have expected from its elected officials, especially when prorogation need not have lasted more than a few hours.

Just as it did with the emergency wage subsidy, the government served itself instead of serving others. Now, when we have so little time and people are still coming up with ideas, proroguing and imposing gag orders is not what people can and should expect of us. That is the sign of an arrogant and complacent government that is trying to give the impression that Canadians are its primary concern, when in reality its main concern is its own interest and getting people to forget about the WE scandal, which is still ongoing.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the measures set out in this bill that will support our own, the people of Manicouagan. However, we must consider not only the substance of the bill, or its meaning, but also its form. When that form involves a gag order, that has meaning as well.

The government failed in its duty by depriving elected representatives, voters, the people of Quebec, of democracy, all for what I wish were good reasons. If I were a Liberal MP, which, with all due respect, seems like science-fiction or even personal dystopia, and I had to go through the exercise that I spoke about at the beginning of my speech, namely thinking about what motivates me and the reason behind all of my speeches, I would do my job based on that motivation, which for me is the people of the North Shore. If I were a Liberal MP, I would realize how problematic my inconsistency was.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

September 29th, 2020 / 7:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-2, an act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19.

For more than six months, we have been living through the worst health and economic crisis of our lives, the worst in the history of Canada and the world, in fact. The pandemic has affected every aspect of Canadians' lives, from their health, jobs and family life to how they can see their friends and family members. Businesses have had to close, supply chains have been disrupted, and children have had to stop going to school. Many individuals and families have experienced a drop in income. The past few months have been difficult for many people and businesses.

Fortunately, from day one, our government took extraordinary measures to protect Canadians and our economy. Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It represents 15.8% of our gross domestic product. Our plan has helped Canadians, and it continues to help Canadians. It has protected millions of Canadian jobs, supported families and kept businesses afloat across the country.

Things are starting to look up. The Canadian economy has recovered almost two-thirds of the jobs lost in March and April. More Canadians are working and schools have reopened, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us. Although two-thirds of jobs have been recouped, that means that one-third have not. Unfortunately, many Canadians, including many women, self-employed workers and workers in the gig economy, have not been able to go back to work.

COVID-19 is still here. We are in the middle of the second wave. We have not yet overcome the pandemic. It is still a threat to the health of Canadians and to our country's economy. That is why everyone must remain vigilant and listen to public health experts.

That is also why the government must continue to support Canadians and businesses. To help create more than one million jobs and return to pre-pandemic levels, we need to make investments. We need to help workers learn new skills, and we need to create hiring incentives for employers. That is what we are going to do.

We are seeing a gradual reopening of the economy, but a full recovery will take time. Now is not the time for austerity. I repeat: Now is not the time for austerity. We need flexible programs, programs that will help Canadians get back to work and that will also allow us to adapt to new waves of the pandemic.

This bill therefore proposes to create new programs, such as the Canada recovery benefit, which will replace the Canada emergency response benefit, the CERB. Self-employed workers and those who do not qualify for EI, and who are not working or have lost 50% or more of their income due to the pandemic, will be able to receive $500 per week for up to 26 weeks.

A similar program, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit, will be available to individuals who cannot work because they have to take care of a family member or because their child's school is closed due to the pandemic. These individuals would receive the same amount, namely $500 per week for up to 26 weeks.

Finally, the Canada recovery sickness benefit will provide $500 per week for up to two weeks to workers who are unable to work at least 50% of the time they would normally have worked in a given week because they are sick or self-isolating due to COVID-19.

These programs will be available for one year, because we know it will take a while for the economy to fully recover. The bill lays the foundation for what lies ahead, but we also need to ensure that the transition happens seamlessly.

Let us take a look back. In March, Parliament passed the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act. It is an important part of Canada's response to COVID-19, authorizing the government to make payments to Canadians and Canadian businesses affected by the pandemic.

Take the CERB, for instance. Millions of Canadians received this taxable $2,000 benefit every four weeks. This act also enabled us to implement the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program for small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and the lifeblood of Canadian communities. It is largely thanks to the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act that we are able to assist those who need it, help businesses and support our economy.

As I said earlier, the act was passed in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, and it included a provision stating that the act would remain in effect until the end of September. Six months later, we know more about the virus and its impact on our economy and our everyday lives. The bill proposes extending the application of the act until the end of the year, which is important. This would ensure that there is no interruption to the final payments under existing programs, such as the CERB, and enable us to begin transitioning to the new programs. It would also enable us to continue helping Canadians who need income support.

This may be the worst health and economic crisis of our generation, but it will not last forever. One day it will end. In the meantime, we will support Canadians for as long as the crisis lasts. We will get through these difficult times, and we will do it together. We will build a stronger, more resilient country, a country that works for everyone. That is why I am calling on all MPs in the House to support this bill.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

September 29th, 2020 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to speak in the House for the first time since March, however disappointed I am with the circumstance, namely that the debate is on Motion No. 1, which has been accurately characterized as a “guillotine” motion. The motion would provide a mere four and a half hours of debate in respect of a comprehensive, complex piece of legislation, one that not only has many moving parts, but that also comes with a very large price tag. When one looks at the three new temporary COVID benefits, the cost is somewhere in the range of $40 billion. In addition to that, there is myriad additional spending amounting to approximately $17 billion. What we have is four and a half hours of debate in respect of legislation that has a price tag of nearly $60 billion. Let me repeat that: $60 billion.

To put that in some context, one needs only to go back five years, to 2015. In 2015, total federal spending amounted to approximately $250 billion. Now, within the span of four and a half hours, the government seeks to ram through a piece of legislation that equals approximately a quarter of the total federal government spending a mere five years ago. One would think that, in the face of such a consequential piece of legislation, the government would welcome input and provide an opportunity for vigorous and thorough debate in this place.

In order to carry on today, I should note that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies.

One would think that would have been the case. Instead, what we have is a motion that shuts down debate, shuts down scrutiny, shuts down the ability of all members of Parliament collectively to do our jobs and turns Parliament into nothing more than a rubber stamp.

Members of the government opposite have said they had no choice. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were governing, as the Prime Minister so famously said, “from the heart outwards.” They were governing with the best of intentions, and they had to do this $60 billion of spending in four and a half hours because they had to get the money out the door into the pockets of Canadians.

In response to that, I say how cynical and disingenuous it is on the part of those Liberals. It need not have been so. The Prime Minister knew full well the CERB and other benefits would expire, as they did two days ago. Indeed, he set the expiration date. He knew there was a need to fill the void arising from the expiration of CERB and other programs, and he knew that would have to be legislated upon.

What did the Prime Minister do in the face of that? Did the Prime Minister consult the opposition parties? No. Did the Prime Minister engage with parliamentarians? No. Instead, the Prime Minister shut down Parliament. Why in the world would the Prime Minister shut down Parliament when all of these substantive matters needed to be addressed that had a profound impact on the livelihoods of millions of Canadians?

The answer to that is very simple and deeply troubling. The Prime Minister was caught in a summer of scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars that went out the door to the Prime Minister's friends in the WE organization. It was an organization that had personally enriched his family, that had let the former finance minister and his family travel around the world and that had financially benefited the former finance minister.

The government was rocked by hearings in which it became increasingly clear that the Prime Minister had acted corruptly. Just by coincidence, on the eve of 5,000 pages of documents being disclosed in relation to WE, the Prime Minister saw fit to shut Parliament down. This shut down three committees, including the committee I sat on, the finance committee, which was undertaking extensive hearings and had a lot of questions arising from the 5,000 pages of documents and testimony that it had heard, but obviously the Prime Minister wanted to change the channel.

Here we are. He shut down Parliament to cover up his own corruption, rushed legislation immediately after the Speech from the Throne and now says it is a fait accompli. If Canadians are going to get the benefits they need in this time of unprecedented crisis, we are going to have to ram it through in four and a half hours.

We on this side of the House have made every effort to try to work with the government. Even despite the Prime Minister's attempts to shut us down, we tried, when Bill C-2 was introduced, to work over the weekend, but the government rejected our efforts. The government rejected all efforts to provide an opportunity to call witnesses, to ask questions of ministers, to go through a clause-by-clause process. All of that is gone.

I have to say it would be troubling if it was just this one instance, but what we have seen is a troubling pattern on the part of the Prime Minister in terms of shutting down opportunities for accountability and oversight. This is a Prime Minister who brought forward time allocations 63 times in the last Parliament, despite saying in 2015 that his government would never, ever think to bring forward time allocation. This is a Prime Minister who shut down the justice committee that I served on in the last Parliament when it was getting to the bottom of the government's corruption with SNC Lavalin.

This is a Prime Minister who, at a time when the government has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars, has seen fit to shut down Parliament through most of the spring and summer. If ever there was a need for Parliament to sit, it surely would be at the time of this current health and economic crisis.

I have to say it is ironic that, as the government continues to pour out hundreds of billions of dollars with very little oversight and very little accountability, it has seen fit to stop the Auditor General from following the money and has refused to provide the Auditor General with $11 million. There are hundreds of billions of dollars going out the door, but not $11 million—