An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, to authorize certain payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and to amend another Act

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



Second reading (House), as of March 25, 2021
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to authorize additional payments to the provinces and territories. It also authorizes payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in relation to Canada’s COVID-19 immunization plan and infrastructure and amends the heading of Part 9 of the Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act.


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

June 1st, 2021 / 6:50 p.m.
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Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

It is relevant, Mr. Chair, because remember that this payment or this backfill arrangement is extending this agreement to 2023. I believe 2023 is assumed to be the end, because the Sable Energy Offshore Project has expired.

I have a second question. With regard to Bill C-20, why are we duplicating legislation? Bill C-20 specifically addresses this, and now is it being superseded by the BIA. We saw this happen, I believe, with Bill C-25 as well. We have these different pieces of legislation, and then the BIA comes along and basically supersedes them. Is that correct?

June 1st, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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Director, Governance and Reporting, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Eric Malara

Thank you for your question.

I think that Bill C-25 was covered by Bill C-30. Both are the same, but now we're talking about Bill C-30, rather than Bill C-25.

June 1st, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB


Our analysts flagged that this change is in both Bill C-25 and Bill C-30. Is there a difference between what's contained in those bills, or why is this change apparently in both bills?

May 20th, 2021 / 4 p.m.
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The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

That's a good point to end on.

To you people in the health care field, my wife is a retired nurse, and I get my ears burned every day. Thank you for your points.

Ann, we heard your thoughts on Bill C-25 and we will put those forward as well, not before our committee but before another one.

In any event, thank you to all the witnesses. This was a wide-ranging discussion during this panel, as many of them are. There were good questions and good responses, and that's what we like to hear. There's not always agreement in this committee, as you can see, but a good debate makes for better policy. Thank you very much.

For the committee, we will go to our fourth panel of the day right now.

Thank you to all the witnesses again.

The meeting is suspended for one minute.

May 20th, 2021 / 3:15 p.m.
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President, Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Ann Collins

We are very pleased with what we saw with the introduction of Bill C-25 and the $4 billion one-time CHT top-up to address the backlog created by the first and second waves of the pandemic, but we know there are going to be higher costs. As I stated earlier, it is yet unknown what the true cost of the backlog will be from the first, second and third waves. We know that public health has been stretched by the pandemic and will need further support. As has been alluded to already, Canadians will have increased needs for mental health care as a result of the pandemic, and beyond that, whatever the needs are of COVID patients going forward.

Added to that is what we've mentioned, that there is no plan in budget 2021 to address the implementation and ramping up, if you will, of primary care access, which really is so critical to meeting all of those needs. That's a common thread throughout those issues. There will be increased costs going forward, and we very much look forward to being at those tables—and here I speak on behalf of the CMA—with the federal, provincial and all levels of government in discussing how those needs can be met going forward.

May 20th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.
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Dr. Ann Collins President, Canadian Medical Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am Dr. Ann Collins. Over the past three decades, I have taught family medicine, run a full-time family practice, served with the Canadian Armed Forces and worked for 20 years in nursing home care. Today it is my privilege to speak to you as president of the Canadian Medical Association, representing the sentiments and convictions of our 80,000 members.

Since inception in 1867, the Canadian Medical Association has advocated on matters of national health. The pandemic has showcased the enormous strengths and tenacity of the professionals who are at work delivering the nation's health care. It has also shown us how quickly our resources can be overwhelmed. Our country's recovery hinges on the recuperation of our health networks, because economic security cannot exist without health security.

Of the significant investments announced in budget 2021, we are pleased to see the attention paid to better care for our older adults and the communities most impacted by structural inequities. We can create a more dignified provision of care in long-term care facilities and support age-in-place strategies. We can address social determinants of health and invest in the battle against climate change. These commitments will fortify the equitable health security of Canadians.

The CMA especially welcomes the federal government's commitment to provide the provinces and territories with $4 billion through a one-time top-up to the Canada health transfer. This will support health systems with the capacity to clear the backlog of delayed procedures from the first and second waves. Bill C-25 is the lifeline to Canadians' immediate health needs. It must pass without delay.

Canada's job now is to address equitable access to primary care teams. Thirteen per cent of Canadians lack access to a family doctor or a family care team. That's an astonishing five million Canadians.

Primary care is the front door of health care. It is affordable, it fosters equity, and it will be essential in supporting Canada through and out of the pandemic, but the door is broken and off its hinges. It's struggling to remain upright.

The federal government has long expressed commitments to invest in the expansion of primary care, with good reason. Expanding primary care will help ensure that every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary care provider. Every person in Canada, especially those most impacted by structural inequities, deserves the attention of a primary care team.

At present, much of our care exists in a vacuum. One discipline is completely severed from another. We don't accept divisiveness in any other aspect of life. How can we accept it in our health care system?

Primary care is a team-based model that is rooted in the networking of health professionals. They work in concert, just as a healthy body does. Primary care is the infrastructure with which to deliver mental health services and make virtual and remote care a reality. I think we can all agree that making a distinction between physical health and mental health is antiquated. The time has come to work towards parity in the resources needed to treat Canadians, regardless of their illness.

The future of sustainable health care is housed in the success of primary care. Our younger physicians and physicians in training seek to practise under this model. It is the means that will prevent greater illness and further strain on our health care systems. This is the time to support the future of medicine, the future of care, the future of Canadians' health.

The CMA appeals to parliamentarians to deliver this critical health care resource in budget 2021. There's still time. An infusion of federal funds in the amount of $1.2 billion over four years would expand the establishment of primary care teams in each province and territory.

We are equally intent on seeing an increase in federal funding for health care to the provinces and territories in the long term. It is the truest signal of collaboration.

Mr. Chair, let me thank the committee for the invitation. The CMA is grateful for the opportunity.

April 23rd, 2021 / 2:10 p.m.
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Dr. Ann Collins President, Canadian Medical Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It's my honour to appear before you today. My name is Dr. Ann Collins. I am a retired family physician. I taught family medicine. I ran a full-time practice. I've served with the Canadian Armed Forces, and I've worked in nursing home care. Just yesterday, I was called back into service to administer much needed vaccines to people in my rural home community.

Mr. Chair, I am honoured to appear before you at this time in the pandemic representing the physicians of Canada and the people they care for. I am joined today by my colleague, Dr. Abdo Shabah, CMA board member and emergency physician serving on the front line during the pandemic in Quebec.

As president of the Canadian Medical Association, I am gravely concerned about the state of the pandemic in Canada today. In particular, in hotspot regions where we are facing extreme circumstances, I applaud the federal government for its unrelenting leadership and unprecedented action in leading our national response.

The pandemic has been unrelenting in challenging the physicians and health providers on the front lines, and the third wave is hitting hard. The CMA is deeply concerned about the toll COVID-19 has taken on the people who will steer us out of this health crisis. Emergency doctors are working 12-hour shifts and then being required to work another four hours, day after day. Fatigue and anxiety are high, threatening burnout, yet there is no relief in sight.

Medical professionals are being trained on critical care triage protocols, which may be enacted to respond to the lack of resources. If enacted, physicians will be in the untenable position of making the difficult life-and-death decisions about who gets care and when. The moment we have dreaded and feared, when the pandemic's grip is surpassing resource capacities in some regions, is here.

The CMA implores provinces and territories to continue to act in the spirit of collaboration to ensure that our resources are deployed where they are needed. We must work together for the common good to prevent loss of life wherever possible. Some areas of risk have already benefited from the aid of resources shared by the premiers—most important today is critical care staff. To call these actions laudable is an understatement. The CMA commends the federal government for its leadership in encouraging and facilitating this deployment of national resources.

Canada's recovery is contingent on the recovery of our health system. We vigorously applaud the recent commitment of $4 billion to resolve the backlogs of the first and second waves. I cannot stress too profoundly the incredible urgency for Parliament to pass Bill C-25 without delay.

Still, more is needed. Today, five million Canadians do not have access to a family doctor or a family care team. That's 13% of the country. If our health care systems are a house, primary care is the front door. The drafts are increasing. There's no security when the front door is off its hinges.

Primary care is affordable, it fosters equity and it will be the cornerstone of health care supporting the people of Canada through and out of the pandemic. Expanding primary care will help ensure every single Canadian has access to a family doctor. The right to access health care must not be subject to our status or postal code. Every marginalized and susceptible person in Canada deserves the attention of a primary care team.

Our nation has never been in more dire need of health security. The CMA appeals to Parliament to deliver this critical health care resource. There's still time. The pandemic has exposed the weaknesses, the shortages and the lack of capacity of Canada's public health care systems. We must begin to chart the course in reimagining public health and health care. The long-term mental health impact of COVID-19 on frontline health care workers is coming. We must prepare for it.

All of this will require a commitment to increased and sustained funding from the federal government. The CMA welcomes the Prime Minister's pledge to engage the provinces and territories in a continued and collaborative plan to address the future of our health systems.

The financial commitments the federal government has made to support Canada's pandemic response are exemplary. Investments to date will improve lives. They will save lives. But there are still some missing steps that lie before us. Completing them will allow all Canadians an equitable opportunity at health security. Completing them will sustain our frontline health care workers in the fight they face today and in the care they must provide in the future.

In conclusion, Mr. Chair, let me thank the committee for the invitation to share the convictions of Canada's physicians. The CMA and its 80,000 members will be there to fully support the government in addressing the stability of Canada's health systems.

Thank you.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2021 / 4 p.m.
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Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by mentioning that I will be sharing my time with my hon. neighbour, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

I feel very bitter as I rise to speak in the House today about the budget tabled on Monday, April 19. I first want to point out that as the critic for the status of women, I can only be delighted that it was tabled by the first female finance minister. Another glass ceiling has been shattered. As a feminist, I can tick that off the list.

On Monday evening, some of the headlines were saying that Ottawa supports seniors. The next day, disillusionment quickly set in, especially because the federal government is not addressing our two main demands: adequate, recurrent funding for health, which is the only formal demand from the Quebec government, and an increase to old age security, or OAS, for those 65 and older.

In my speech today, I will focus on the lack of support for seniors and the total lack of health transfers, and I will close with comments about a few good things in the budget.

When it comes to seniors, the government is keeping its election promise to increase old age security for people over 75. This increase amounts to roughly $766 a year, or $63.83 a month. This increase will come into effect in 2022 only and will require legislation in order to be implemented. For now, in 2021, the government is only committing to making a one-time payment of $500 this summer, just for people 75 and up. In short, Ottawa is not honouring our request to avoid creating two classes of seniors and is not formally committing to anything other than a one-time measure before the next election. The FADOQ thinks that is an odd coincidence and that something smells fishy. Essentially, it is still an election promise, as it was in 2019.

From day one of the pandemic, I have repeatedly said that seniors are the primary victims of COVID-19. Overrepresented in the number of deaths, they are also the ones who are hardest hit by the virus: isolation, anxiety, and loss of their spending power. Old age security, which is meant to keep all seniors out of poverty, is missing the mark. Indexing the benefits by a measly 0.1% for the October to December 2020 quarter will not address cost-of-living increases that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

It is estimated that food prices in Quebec in 2021 will rise faster than inflation. Our parents and grandparents, who built the Quebec we live in now, deserve better than being forgotten by the federal government. The FADOQ said that the increase of October 1, 2020, the International Day of Older Persons, represented on average just $1.50. That is not even enough to buy a Tim Hortons coffee; it is another slap in the face.

The pandemic has exacerbated the decline in seniors' purchasing power. In 2019, and I am not going to go back earlier than 2019 now, the Liberals promised a 10% increase to old age security for seniors aged 75 and over, but that promise has still not been fulfilled with budget 2021. The budget mentions that a bill will be introduced, which is fine, but when? Seniors will have to wait until the end of summer 2022.

Around 6.4 million people aged 65 and over receive old age security. The Liberal's promise for people aged 75 and over, which they reiterated in budget 2021, would leave half of all recipients, aged 65 to 74, out in the cold.

Let us set the record straight. When it was time to change course and significantly increase benefits over the long term, all the Liberals really did for seniors during the pandemic was to provide one-time assistance. They gave seniors who were eligible for old age security benefits a one-time cheque for $300 and seniors who were eligible for the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS, an extra $200, for a scant total of $500. The special one-time payment through the GST credit came out to be an average of $375 for seniors living alone and $510 for couples, which is where we get the figure of almost $900 for a person living alone. However, seniors were not the only taxpayers who were able to benefit from this special payment. The Liberals added another one-time election-minded cheque for $500. I am not the one saying it. We heard that from a journalist who interviewed seniors. They are not fooled and they are tired of being used as pawns. The Liberals are demonstrating a real lack of compassion by not keeping their promises at a time when seniors continue to be hit hardest by the pandemic.

Some Liberal members have even personally accused me of fearmongering to scare seniors. In politics, people sometimes make petty, shameful accusations. It is very frustrating. This outrageous and unwarranted accusation made by some Liberal members is completely appalling. We are not trying to scare seniors. We are advocating for a real increase in their purchasing power. My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I are simply trying to give them a voice.

The real value of the old age security pension has been dropping for years. In 1975, it covered 20% of the average industrial wage. Today, it covers about 13%. We are asking the government to raise OAS coverage to 15% of the average industrial wage over three years and to keep it at that level.

It is not just Bloc members who are saying this. As I said, the FADOQ has denounced the fact that this measure is creating two classes of seniors and it reiterated that people aged 65 and older must be included.

The organization would have liked to see the Liberals at least honour their commitment to increase old age security now, rather than offering a one-time $500 cheque. The FADOQ applauds the Liberals' intention to help seniors financially, but it believes the government has discriminated against one class of seniors by increasing regular old age security payments by 10% in 2022 for those aged 75 and over, effectively creating two classes of seniors.

As for health transfers, something many seniors' groups talk to me about regularly, we get nothing but radio silence. There is nothing planned for the next five years and the government will not even talk about it, despite its unprecedented spending.

What we need to remember is not so much the size of the deficit, but rather the fact that the Liberals continue to invest everywhere but in health care and that they are failing our seniors. The government is sticking to the $4 billion already committed unilaterally and separately in Bill C-25, even though the deficit is lower than expected.

The deficit is around $354 billion, rather than $382 billion. That is a difference of $28 billion, which happens to be the exact amount of additional funding for health transfers that Quebec and the provinces are asking for this year. The quicker pace of economic recovery is creating the federal fiscal room to meet this demand. It is a political choice not to do so.

Meanwhile, Ottawa is investing $3 billion over five years in standards for long-term care facilities starting in 2022-23. This is definitely interference that Quebec opposes, and it serves no purpose since standards already exist. Instead of spending these billions of dollars on standards, it would be better to put them into health transfers in order to hire health care workers and comply with the existing standards.

In the middle of a pandemic, it is unthinkable to spend so much money without making a permanent increase to health transfers as Quebec and all the provinces are demanding. This is just a piecemeal approach consisting of small and even symbolic measures. Ottawa is saying yes to everything but health transfers, despite the consensus of all of Quebec and all the premiers.

The pandemic inflicted lasting wounds on our health care systems that will take years to heal, but the recovery will only happen if the federal government invests heavily in those systems.

By refusing to increase its health care contribution, the government is knowingly turning its back on patients and sending them the message that their health is not a priority, that their cancer diagnosis can wait, that their stress and anguish will not be relieved. The Bloc Québécois believes that is unacceptable, and that is why we are demanding increased health transfers now. We have to make up for time lost due to the pandemic and address the roots of this systemic issue.

Our under-resourced health care systems are being propped up by their overworked staff, yet the federal government is abandoning health care workers. The system was already stretched thin before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the added workload has serious consequences for Quebec's nurses and health care workers. For patients, this means lower-quality care and a greater risk of post-operative complications. Nurses are at risk of burnout and higher stress, and some want to leave the profession because the conditions are unacceptable.

Things have been getting worse for nurses since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. We are hearing more and more devastating stories from health care workers. Many health professionals had chosen to work part time to avoid being overworked, but they were unilaterally forced to work full-time hours to deal with this crisis. As a result, the health care system is struggling to retain nurses, who are quitting in droves in Montreal. More than 800 nurses have quit because of the overwhelming workload.

The provinces and Quebec are unanimous in their demand, which rarely happens. The decision is unanimous across Quebec and Canada. The premiers of all the provinces and Quebec, the major unions, the Quebec National Assembly and the Parliament of Canada, which passed a motion, all agree.

The Liberal government is alone in this. It needs to get with the program and increase health transfers. The government is also alone in its refusal to increase OAS as of age 65.

The Bloc Québécois moved two amendments to the budget in order to add our two main demands and give the government one last chance to listen to reason. In voting against our amendments, the Liberals have all but guaranteed that the Bloc will not support this budget.

In closing, I would like to say that the emergency wage subsidy was a good thing for my riding and that there are some good measures in the budget. There is money allocated for the environment, which we will have to keep an eye on because the devil is in the details. That is true for many measures, from agriculture to support for tourism and culture. Many groups, including seniors' groups, also support the Bloc's recommendations for this budget.

I will conclude by sharing what a young man wrote to me yesterday: “My name is Samuel. I would like to know how to present a petition to the House of Commons to pressure the Liberal government about the old age security cheque on behalf of my grandparents.”

Well, Samuel, out of respect for the dignity of seniors, let us take action so they can not just survive, but thrive.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

April 20th, 2021 / 5 p.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the budget presented by the Minister of Finance. It is certainly a historic budget, since this is the first time that a female finance minister has presented a budget in the House of Commons.

The budget is 739 pages long. It is a lot of work to read through it all. The budget contains many new elements, measures and programs. In fact, it contains nearly $150 billion worth of new elements since last fall's economic update.

The Bloc Québécois tries to meet with as many people and business owners in every industry across Quebec as it can. We ask them what their needs are and what they think should be included in the budget. We try to compile that data and present it.

Since budgets are usually presented in March, we shared our expectations with the minister in February. I should also mention all of the work that was done by the Standing Committee on Finance, which also engaged in similar exercise.

Reading through the document, we can see that it reflects many of the Bloc Québécois's demands, and we applaud that. Aerospace is one example. This is probably the first time the government has explicitly recognized the importance of this industry to our economy, and it has included various measures, which we are very proud of. The budget also includes a number of measures for transportation electrification and for the environment.

Because we are going through a pandemic, this budget extends measures to support entrepreneurs who have lost revenue. These measures include the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy.

The budget also includes a stimulus plan with a number of measures that set the stage for future post-pandemic growth.

It also includes measures for the pharmaceutical industry and vaccine production capacity. I would remind the House that Quebec championed this in the 1990s and early 2000s. When Ottawa stopped supporting the industry, one major pharmaceutical company after another basically left Quebec. Now the sector is practically in ruins, but we must find a way to rebuild it.

Another interesting element of this budget is the fight against tax avoidance and evasion. What is being proposed is not revolutionary, but it is the first time that we see a clear indication that the government is going to fight against those who do not pay the taxes they owe. These are often legal, but definitely unethical, schemes. We have much to do to solve the problem, but a step in that direction has been taken. Several interesting measures have been proposed.

Naturally, if I were a Canadian outside Quebec, I would be pleased with the key measure in this budget, subsidized child care. Quebec implemented this family policy more than 20 years ago. It is more comprehensive than what is in the budget, and it works very well. It allows women to have a much higher labour force participation rate than before and higher than that of other provinces. It is a feminist policy that will stimulate the economy. I want to once again acknowledge Pauline Marois's initiative. She worked very hard to implement this measure in Quebec. It shows that having female finance ministers can lead to the implementation of very useful policies.

Earlier I was talking about our budget demands, which we submitted in February. There was nothing terribly surprising in there, but we did make two key requests. Much like the Government of Quebec, we called on Ottawa to fund health care according to the means it has available, in other words by covering a bit more than a third of the cost, or 35%.

The federal government is currently funding just 22% of health care expenses. If nothing changes, that will go down to 17% or 18%. We are in the middle of a health crisis. Health is more important than ever. This is the ideal time to correct this imbalance. Despite our calls for funding, we find nothing in this budget to fund health care. The only stop-gap measure is in Bill C-25. There are also standards for long-term care facilities in Quebec that will come with an envelope in a few years.

The budget is also missing everything we requested to protect the dignity of seniors. Over the past few years, there have been many policies to support every segment of the population except for seniors, who rely heavily on old age security. This pension has not been indexed for a very long time and it is time to make up ground. Many seniors live in poverty, and four out of ten seniors get the guaranteed income supplement. In other words, they do not have money to spare and rely on public supports.

We wanted there to be just one class of seniors, namely people aged 65 and older. In the budget, however, the government has created two classes of seniors, those 65 to 74 and those 75 and over. We do not agree with this. We wanted old age security to be increased by $110 a month to keep up with inflation and restore seniors' purchasing power.

We know what seniors are worried about because we went to visit them before the pandemic. We cannot wait to see them again. In the meantime, we speak with them over the phone or, sometimes, on a tablet or similar device.

Seniors do not complain, but rent prices are skyrocketing, whether in seniors’ homes or elsewhere. Seniors' purchasing power makes it difficult for them to make ends meet. The cost of food, utilities and basic necessities is increasing and we need to restore the balance. This is what we have been calling for, but the budget sadly does not have much in it, as my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles pointed out.

Upon reading the budget, we see that, in August, a one-time payment will be made to seniors aged 75 and up. That gives us a good idea of when the government plans to call an election, if that is what the Prime Minister wants. The government will therefore make a payment in August and then call an election.

The budget also provides for a 10% increase in old age security benefits for those aged 75 and up. However, this increase will be implemented in a future bill and will come into effect not this summer but the summer after, as though this is something that can easily be put off until later. In my opinion, that problem should be dealt with right now, but that is not what is set out in the budget. Also, I would like to once again remind members that these measures should apply as of age 65.

In that regard, an economic analyst for Radio-Canada, Gérald Fillion, wrote a very interesting article that was published this morning on the Radio-Canada website. It said, and I quote: “Two questions come to mind. First, why not increase old age security by 10% as of this year? Second, why do these measures apply only to seniors aged 75 and over? Why not those aged 65 and over?” Those are very legitimate questions that we too want to ask the government. The FADOQ network and seniors' groups in Quebec also spoke out against this approach.

Gérald Fillion made a number of points. He noted that, in Canada, people's income drops precipitously when they retire. The technical term is net pension replacement rate, which was 50.7% of pre-retirement income in Canada in 2018. Across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, the rate is seven percentage points higher. In the European Union, it is 63%.

These data are from a study of 49 countries, among which Canada ranks 32nd, well behind countries such as Italy, India, France and Denmark, and just slightly above the United States, where inequality is surging. These statistics are alarming, so we must take action. Seniors were the first victims of the pandemic, but there was already inequality before the pandemic.

In his conclusion, Gérald Fillion said that, considering Canada's poor showing in the OECD ranking, it would have made sense for the 10% increase to begin this year and apply as of age 65 and for this issue to be free from electioneering. I could not have put it better myself.

The other thing we wanted to see in the budget, which Quebec also requested, as I was saying, is health care funding. It is not there, and that is plainly a political choice. It is not for lack of money.

In the budget, the government announced a $354-billion deficit for a slew of programs. It was entirely possible to get the money needed to fund health care properly out of that amount, so it is a political choice not to have done that. In the fall economic statement, the deficit was $382 billion. In the budget, it is $354 billion, which is a difference of $28 billion. That is the exact amount Quebec and the provinces are asking for in increased health transfers this year. That shows that it was entirely possible to do that, and it is a political choice not to.

As far as the debt is concerned, let us not forget that the federal government's financial situation is temporarily weakened right now because of the pandemic. We have astronomical numbers in front of us, but we see that the ratio will improve fairly quickly. For example, in the last years of the budget, in 2025-26, the ratio should return to 1.1% of GDP. The analysis does not go any further.

However, a Conference Board of Canada study found that the federal government's deficit would be cut in half by 2030-31. That is a significant decrease, but the Conference Board of Canada also points out that the opposite will happen to the provinces, which is troubling. The Conference Board of Canada, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the finance ministers and the premiers are all saying there is an urgent need to act.

Ottawa is running a huge deficit during the pandemic, but it will recover quickly. However, the exact opposite is true at the provincial level, because of the explosion in health spending and costs. This is putting the provinces in an untenable situation, and there is an urgent need to act.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Conference Board of Canada and others have calculated that health transfers must be increased to 35% to balance the cost burden with projected tax revenues. It is simply a matter of increasing transfers to 35%. It has to be done. That was deliberately left out of the budget.

This omission is deplorable and completely unacceptable, but I believe it is part of a deliberate logic. When we read the budget, listen to the speeches and look at where the government is headed, everything points in that direction.

Ottawa seems to delight in ultimately putting the provinces in a position of dependency and ensuring that their position becomes increasingly insupportable.

At the same time, we see Ottawa saying that it will fund, support and back the provinces, but it will impose standards and have the final say over how things are done. The federal government is telling the provinces and Quebec that they will no longer have the flexibility to follow through on policies, but that it will. This means that if the provinces want to receive cash from Ottawa, they will have to yield to its way of doing things. They will become Ottawa's subcontractors, and Ottawa will determine the priorities. That is what is happening to long-term care facilities.

With regard to the child care system, Quebec is being told that there will be no conditions, but how long will that last? There were no conditions for health care, but now we have conditions and are getting peanuts. Gaétan Barrette, Quebec's Liberal health minister, once accused the government of “predatory federalism”, which is a serious thing to say.

What is in the budget? The budget contains a number of measures that create an infrastructure and enable the government to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. It contains a framework for mental health care, a framework for women's health and a framework for reproductive health. These things are all the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. There is also a framework for the extraction of the minerals critical to the green transition. Moreover, the government has once again brought up Canada-wide securities regulation, against the wishes of Quebec. The budget also talks about a federal office for recognizing foreign credentials, which is something that Quebec and the provinces have done. There is also mention of a Canada water agency that would be responsible for water management, as well as a federal framework for skills training. People talk about how good Quebec's skills training program is all the time. The Quebec National Assembly implemented a program modelled on what was done in Germany and other European countries. This is one example to learn from. As the leader of the Bloc Québécois said earlier today, students do not tell teachers how to correct their work, which is what the government appears to be trying to do.

This is all very troubling. All of these measures, frameworks and policies do not represent significant amounts in the budget, but they reflect the government's intention to set up the infrastructure to keep moving in this direction. The government's vision is to control specific areas that, according to the Constitution, fall under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government has the power to spend, and that enables it to stick its nose into everybody's business, but as a result, we are becoming less and less of a federation with provincial autonomy and more and more of a centralized country where everything happens in Ottawa. The federal government could not care less about the provincial autonomy that Quebec holds so dear. It is draining resources away from the provinces. Given the increase in health care spending, the provinces have no more room to manoeuvre. If they want some breathing room, they need to turn to Ottawa, which will tell them how to do things. That is very troubling.

Earlier, I quoted what Gérald Fillion had to say about that. I would now like to quote Antoine Robitaille. This morning, he wrote a very interesting column in Le Journal de Montréal, where he said the following, and I quote:

However, as is often the case in Canada, when something seems necessary and desirable, the federal big brother ignores the constitutional rules and takes the lead.

A Canada-wide child care program obviously infringes on an area of provincial jurisdiction.

As I said, for now, Ottawa says it will not impose any rules on Quebec. We wonder how long that will last.

A little further on, Antoine Robitaille referred to the dissenting opinion of Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Rowe in last month's decision on the constitutionality of the carbon tax. Rowe was quoting constitutional expert Peter Hogg.

According to the latter, if in a federal nation paramount central power “completely overlapped regional power”, then that nation stops being federal.

In such a system, the provinces can exercise their jurisdiction as they please—“as long as they do so in a manner that the federal legislation authorizes”!

It is hard for a nation like Quebec to continue evolving in accordance with its own choices when this kind of dynamic prevails.

Antoine Robitaille uses the subsidized child care program as an example to expose the government's attitude and how it likes to do things here in the House. This is very worrisome for Quebec, which wants to have autonomy and do things its own way. I introduced a bill in the House a few weeks ago regarding a single tax return administered by Quebec. In committee, the Liberals told us that it was out of the question, that they could accommodate Quebec if they wanted, but it was too complicated and everything would be managed here, because that is how it works. Quebec will become a subcontractor. This is an unacceptable approach. Several aspects of the budget set the stage for continuing to move towards a country that is less a federation and more a central state. Obviously, for Quebec, this is completely unacceptable.

In closing, I just want to say that this is a difficult time for autonomists.

HealthOral Questions

March 25th, 2021 / 2:25 p.m.
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Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, today the Liberals are finally recognizing the need to increase health transfers to Quebec and the provinces. After years of effort by the Bloc Québécois, Ottawa is finally acknowledging that the federal government is underfunding health care. It is a first step.

Unfortunately, the amounts in Bill C-25 are not recurring and they are seven times lower than what Quebec and the provinces are asking for. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, even the longest journey must begin with a first step.

Will the government commit to recurring health transfer increases, up to 35% of costs?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActRoutine Proceedings

March 25th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario


Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance