An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19

Sponsor

Status

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

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

Dec. 16, 2021 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19
Dec. 2, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19

Opposition Motion—Rules and Service Levels for TravelBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2022 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always a great privilege to rise and speak in the House of Commons, and in particular today on the opposition day motion from the member for Thornhill. I consider the member for Thornhill a friend. She is someone I have had the opportunity to get to know in the last few months, and I thank her for her work.

Before I begin my formal remarks, I would like to put into context the role of government in our society, noting Adam Smith's work about what governments should and should not do. The first thing a government should do is protect the health and safety of its citizens. In fact, the most important role of government is to protect the health and safety of its citizens, whether it is through delivering the services of health care, ensuring that all people have health care and access to health care or ensuring that we have a proper defence system in place and are protected. Those are the fundamental duties of government, as is ensuring public safety. Those are the duties I look to in what a government's role is in society.

During the pandemic, our government has done a lot and continues to do a lot. As we say, our government has has the backs of Canadians. It has had the backs of Canadian workers, families and businesses as we have gone through the pandemic and as we are exiting it. I am proud of our government's record on many facets of the pandemic. I offer my prayers and condolences to the many Canadians who have unfortunately had loved ones pass away due to COVID-19. We must always remember what happened during that two-year period and what continues to happen, though maybe at a more gradual pace.

I am happy to participate in the debate today on the Conservative motion and to have the opportunity to discuss the government’s commitment and efforts to ensure the recovery of Canada’s tourism industry, including wait times at Canadian airports. Tourism is important to every region and every province. It is an inclusive industry, providing jobs and opportunities to newcomers, women, youth and indigenous people. These are specific groups that have experienced some of the worst impacts of this global pandemic.

The tourism industry is the engine of family-owned and family-operated businesses in communities from coast to coast to coast. Virtually all tourism businesses, some 99% of them, are small businesses. They are the backbones of communities across all 338 ridings in this beautiful country we are blessed to call home.

The Government of Canada understands the important role that these businesses play in our communities. They are the lifeline of Canada’s economy and employ nearly two million people across the country. That is approximately 9% of our workforce.

We recognize that pandemic restrictions have placed an economic burden on businesses. Since day one of the pandemic, entrepreneurs have adapted and taken on the challenge of remaining viable. That is why the government introduced financial support for employees’ wages, subsidies for rent and loans to provide liquidity relief to ensure business survival through to the recovery period. As a result of the programs we put in place, tourism businesses across Canada are in a better position to recover.

COVID-19 has impacted the tourism industry, its businesses and entrepreneurs in particular, as demand has been affected by the required public health restrictions. The government understands the impact on the tourism industry, and for that reason, it has put a number of targeted measures in place to help these businesses outlast the pandemic.

For the tourism, arts and culture sectors, businesses and non-profit organizations have received over $23 billion through federal emergency support programs. Budget 2021 introduced a three-year, $1-billion commitment for the sector. This included a $500-million tourism relief fund, which was created to help Canada’s tourism businesses not only survive but come back better. Of that, we earmarked a minimum of $50 million specifically to support indigenous tourism. It also included $100 million for Destination Canada marketing campaigns to help Canadians and other visitors discover and explore the country, $48 million of which is expected to be spent this fiscal year.

Last October, when the overall economy bounced back and general relief measures expired, the government introduced targeted wage and rent subsidy programs in Bill C-2, another bill the opposition party voted against, even though it was for supporting tourism businesses and their workers across the country. We have also invested $4 billion in the Canada digital adoption program, announced this month, which will help upwards of 160,000 small and medium-sized businesses to expand digital capabilities and adopt digital solutions. This is especially important in the tourism industry, where success hinges in part on the capacity to motivate visitors from around the globe.

This year, budget 2022 proposes to provide $20 million over two years in support of a new indigenous tourism fund to help indigenous tourism recover from the pandemic and to position itself for long-term, sustainable growth. It also announced a commitment to develop a new federal tourism growth strategy focused on recovery, stability and long-term growth.

The federal government will work with tourism businesses, provincial and territorial counterparts and indigenous tourism partners to plot such a course. On May 18, the Government of Canada launched the formal engagement period to develop this new strategy, and the government wants to hear from Canadian tourism stakeholders from coast to coast to coast as it charts the path forward for the sector.

Furthermore, to help restore Canadians' confidence in the safety of air travel and to support the recovery of Canada’s air and tourism sectors, the government invested in COVID-19 sanitization and testing infrastructure at airports and in the development of advanced technologies to facilitate touchless and secure air travel. This April our government also lifted testing and quarantine requirements at international borders for fully vaccinated travellers, including for unvaccinated children under 12.

The health and well-being of all Canadians have always been the Government of Canada’s priority during the COVID-19 crisis. Canada’s continuing requirements are based on the latest and evolving scientific evidence. The government is committed to seeing the tourism industry thrive once again, and this funding has played a role in keeping businesses open during the past two years.

Prior to the pandemic, tourism was a growing, high-potential sector that supported almost two million jobs across Canada. Last month, tourism gained almost 40,000 jobs. We are seeing the beginning of the recovery. We are moving in the right direction. With our high vaccination rates and the ebb of the omicron variant, we are confident that the summer 2022 tourism season will outpace that of summer 2021.

While there is no denying that the tourism sector has been deeply affected throughout the pandemic, I believe there is much built-up demand and we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to come back stronger. As international travel reopens, tourists' pent-up desire to visit friends and family is being realized. I believe that in one week, two or three weeks ago, over one million arrivals and departures came through Canada's international airports, which is great to see.

Canada has much to offer: wide open spaces, beautiful vistas, bucket-list adventures, welcoming people and authentic indigenous tourism experiences. These are the kinds of meaningful and sustainable experiences that today’s travellers, from both Canada and abroad, are craving. Canada also holds a strong appeal for those seeking to learn more about first nations, the Inuit and the Métis, and for those seeking an inclusive experience or a francophone language and cultural experience.

Canada is also of great interest to people who want to learn more about first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and to those looking for an inclusive experience or a francophone linguistic and cultural experience.

We know that Canadians are currently experiencing long lines at airports, and we are working closely with our partners and CATSA to address the wait times and make sure the travel industry continues to bounce back.

Canada has a huge advantage due to its high vaccination rates, and I encourage all Canadians to get their vaccines if they have not or to get their boosters. We are focused on health and safety, and with all governments in Canada working together collaboratively, we will make sure the rest of the world appreciates this advantage, sees Canada as a destination of choice, particularly in the coming summer months, and visits all parts of Canada from east to west, from B.C. to P.E.I. to Newfoundland and Labrador, and all the beautiful places in between that all 338 members of Parliament get to call home.

May 12th, 2022 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Hopefully, we keep a relatively full room here this afternoon.

Mr. Chair, I did say last time that I am always short but I will be brief. Today I'll be at least one of those, and hopefully maybe two.

The political climate we're in isn't really lending itself well to some collaboration. I don't think that's a surprise to anybody. There are obviously things happening outside of this committee room that are affecting our ability to get some work done. I do find that regrettable, because I think we've actually done some really nice work together as a committee. If you think back to Bill C-2, we did have an amendment that was passed. Although it was on recorded division, it was an amendment that was agreed to in principle by all members of this committee. Frankly, I thought it was a success that we were able to collaborate to get that done.

On Bill C-8 we talked about a potential amendment on banning non-resident purchasers of real estate. Again, there was a recorded division and it was unsuccessful, but I believe it was that discussion that led to its being included in the budget. As I understand it, it was a late amendment to the budget. That was work that this committee did.

It does look like we're on a bit of a collision course now, which makes it a bit of an unfortunate situation where we may look to a House instruction to have this committee report the bill back to the House. I'd like to avoid that.

This is also some of my favourite work in Ottawa. Of course, I enjoy very much being in my constituency speaking to my constituents, but as work in Ottawa goes, this is my favourite part of the job—and seeing you, Mr. Chair, all the time. You might say, “Gee, Adam, life is short. You'd better get one,” but I do truly enjoy being here.

On the amendment and the subamendment, I think Mr. Ste-Marie was on the right path with respect to engaging other committees. They should be bearing some of the brunt of review of the legislation, because it does touch on a lot of other committee work, potentially, or other committee legislation. I'd like to thank him for his suggestion. Perhaps it was inspired by, or maybe it inspired, the Senate committee, because they are also doing a similar proposal with respect to separating out the bill and sending it to other committees.

On May 4 the Senate committee adopted a resolution. I won't read it word for word, but I will go through some of the highlights. The Senate committee adopted to engage the committee on aboriginal peoples to look at divisions 2 and 3 in part 5; the banking trade and commerce committee to look at divisions 5, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 and 30 of part 5; foreign affairs and international trade to look at divisions 9, 18 and 31; legal and constitutional affairs to look at divisions 1, 21 and 22 of part 5; national security and defence to look at divisions 19 and 20; and the standing committee on social affairs, science and technology to look at divisions 23, 24, 26, 27, 29 and 32.

This is clearly a fairly substantive bill. We all know that. It's one of the larger bills we've seen. It's not the largest ever, but it is very large. I do think it would be worthy for us to continue to consider that.

The point I would make on the Senate committee motion is that the reports from the other committees need to respond by “no later than June 10”. June 10 is far later than the date that is proposed in the subamendment of, I think, May 20, which is substantially less time than June 10.

I'm not obviously permitted to move an amendment to the subamendment but June 10 sounds like a great day to me, Mr. Chair, for perhaps consideration by my government colleagues. That's where we are with respect to some of the dates. I do think June 10 would give us plenty of time to have the House review the legislation. By the way, the government still holds, in its power, some additional options with respect to House instruction and closure, etc.

I just think I have some challenges in accepting May 20 as the date, in addition to the date of May 30 in the main motion. The issue is that I just feel uncomfortable about agreeing to a set timetable before we've had the benefit of listening to some witnesses. Yes, I know we are delaying getting to some witnesses now, but I don't think we can agree to set a timeline before we hear some of the concerns.

Just in case we don't hear from witnesses, I heard from a few already, stakeholders who are concerned about the bill.

Today representatives from the charity sector visited me. I know we have MP Lawrence here, who is instrumental in a private member's bill, and I'm sure he will speak to that later, so I won't steal much of his thunder other than to say the budget indicated that the budget implementation bill would include the spirit and substance of the private member's bill that had been considered in the House. The view of the charitable sector is that it does not, and in fact it creates some additional concerns that they have. I hope these stakeholders have the ear of our government colleagues and can make some representations to them about how the budget bill would need to be changed. We have some proposed amendments, which, of course, we would be happy to bring forward, but I don't believe the timeline that we've set for ourselves would enable some of these changes to be fully considered, and even put on the floor to amend the budget bill. I think we all know what happens when we get into a situation where we pass legislation very quickly.

I'll let MP Lawrence speak to maybe some other issues in the charitable sector later.

There are proposed amendments with the Competition Act and I did speak about this last meeting, but we're paraphrasing or just summing up that there's a wide view within the competition bar and those impacted by the Competition Act that they were not consulted. In fact, the Senate committee heard from some of them yesterday. Professor Quaid from the University of Ottawa, I believe, said, “It is important to modernize the act. But if we do it poorly and without consideration of the bigger picture as well as the technical issues, we risk simply changing the law without making competition policy any better”.

Benjamin Dachis from the C.D. Howe Institute, a very reputable organization and a reputable fellow, says, “I would say that the government skipped a couple of key steps when the consultation the senator conducted went right to legislation.” That's the consultation that Senator Wetston completed.

There's a lot in between in terms of talking to potentially affected stakeholders, stakeholders who knew they would be affected, but also others who are only going to find out when they start getting class action lawsuits sent their way. There are a lot of implications across the overall economy in areas we know and in areas that we don't have a clue about in the future, and I think many of us agree that the Competition Act, at its base level, needs to be changed.

Oligopolies affect our daily life in many key industries. I think it's welcome to consider how we can change our competition policy to make it better, but those proposed amendments, I think, ought to be consulted on. The benefit is that we have a budget implementation bill coming in the fall. We should consider consulting on those in the summer—not this committee, of course, because we have much other great work to do—but industry, led by Minister Champagne, should be leading a consultation on those proposed amendments before they become law.

Because I'm an equal opportunity offender, it is not the first time that the Competition Act was changed in omnibus legislation without consultation. It happened in 2009 under the previous government. However, there were some slight differences in the context. At the time, that was the largest budget deficit ever brought forward, but that was in the midst of the global economic recession. It was also in the midst of the coalition crisis in 2009. Some may not call it a crisis, but at the time it felt that way. The budget bill was the only opportunity to pass legislation because it was clear that almost no legislation was going to pass the House.

Now we have a little bit of additional time and some certainty. We have a supply and confidence agreement between two parties in the House, which almost guarantees the passing of certain pieces of legislation. It would also guarantee a House instruction.

With respect to the luxury tax, we've already heard witnesses both publicly and privately express some concerns about no economic impact study. The government's admitted it hasn't done as much. It will affect jobs and have some lost revenues. I think we need to figure out how that balances off against what the projected revenue savings are or increase in revenues for the government.

As it goes back to the subamendment of this date of May 20 and also the amendment of the date of May 30, we went back and checked the report stages from previous budget bills. Last year, the budget bill was reported back to the House on June 21. That didn't leave very many days to pass the budget bill, but it did get passed before the House rose. In 2019, the budget bill was reported back on June 5. In 2018, it was reported back on June 4. In 2017, it was reported back on June 6. That's not much longer, but a little bit longer than what we're proposing here.

We're agreeing to a programming motion that's just going to set us on autopilot, regardless of being able to uncover some challenges. It also raises for me that what we are proposing to do is probably not the most efficient way. I think we're probably failing stakeholders and Canadians to some degree.

I don't think it's a surprise to most people, but the pre-budget process that we do has little influence on the actual budget. I mean, we got the pre-budget submission to the Minister of Finance maybe a few weeks before the budget. Most budgets are kind of done and in the can well into January, so I'm not sure much changes then.

Perhaps over the summer, a team-building event would be to figure out how the calendar could work next year, where we perhaps shorten our pre-budget consultation period and figure out how we can devote a significant amount of time to the study of the budget bill, if we're not going to be able to get away from omnibus budget bills. I don't think we are. That's just not the climate we're in now.

I think it was the good suggestion of, I believe, the NDP to support a pre-budget study. I think maybe that should become the norm. We know that these bills are not getting any smaller despite the fact that it was a direct promise of this government not to do omnibus legislation. Maybe we should consider making that commonplace and devote a set amount of time to studying the budget bill, which could be extended on the consent of the committee or by passing an amendment.

There's probably some meeting organization and hygiene we could do to make this place run a little bit better. I'd be in favour of that. I'm not necessarily in favour of fettering all kinds of discretion, but I do think we could come together to do that, perhaps on a consensus basis.

I would point out a quote on omnibus bills: “I'd like to say that I wouldn't use [omnibus bills], period. There will always be big bills, but they need to be thematically and substantively linked in all their different pieces so that they form a piece of legislation. The kitchen-sink approach here is a real worry to me.” For those of you following at home, that was then-member of Parliament for Papineau, Mr. Trudeau, who said he would not use omnibus bills.

In another quote, we have, “This is yet another massive omnibus budget bill, which is 414 pages in length with 516 separate clauses”. Well, this budget bill is 500 pages in length. I don't know how many different clauses there are, but it's significantly larger. It continues, “It is simply too big for Parliament to consider properly in just a short period of time. The [government's] counting on us rushing this through at record speed and they are trying to avoid real scrutiny in this Parliament.” That, my friends, was Scott Brison, excellent member of Parliament Scott Brison. He was responsible for—I see I'm losing some people already, but I think they will return because it's going so well—the SNC scandal, as I understand, but he was right on the money with respect to omnibus legislation.

You know, if we can't get away from omnibus budget bills—and it doesn't look like we can—then maybe we should have more of a rigorous process, or a set agreed-upon process, that would allow committee members to fully scrutinize the bill, to bring forward reasonable amendments and to work with technical stakeholders, especially with respect to some of the tax laws, competition laws—those who live this stuff every day—to help educate us in making sure there are no mistakes.

In fact, this current budget bill we're looking at is fixing some mistakes from previous budget bills, especially with respect to some of the issues around CERB. That's a significant challenge for us. We're being asked to rush something through. At the same time, we know what happens when we don't give ourselves enough time; we end up with some mistakes.

It wasn't until July, from the good work of the NDP in the summer, that we realized we made a mistake with respect to GIS clawbacks. However, it was too late. I submit that had we had a longer time to review that budget legislation last year, the NDP probably would have been able to bring forward their concern sooner. The result and the consequence of that rushed legislation meant we had to spend time, in this committee and in the House of Commons, debating a separate piece of legislation to fix that inequity.

Those are my primary concerns with the dates in the motion. I know there will be some objections to my intervention that will come, obviously, that we are delaying hearing from witnesses. However, we moved last meeting, and I would offer to do so again if it is appropriate, to adjourn this debate to a later time. We can have this discussion later. The government, which has a lot more tools at its disposal, can bring forward other motions at any time or an instruction from the House, if they feel we're not moving it along.

We would welcome moving into witness testimony. I believe it's restrictive on rights of parliamentarians to have such an aggressive timeline without seeing any witnesses and hearing some testimony first.

I know that some will say that a delay will result in a harm to taxpayers because the carbon tax or climate-incentive payments will be delayed. I would caution my government members before they make that assertion, as they did, along with CRA, on the delaying of Bill C-8 as it related to teachers receiving rebates on their taxes. There was a significant amount of misinformation, and dare I say disinformation, because it was knowingly false for government members, and even the CRA, to tell Canadians that they could not administer their taxes because they were waiting for the bill to pass Parliament.

As evidence of that, I would like to point out a couple of points from the CRA directly in recent years.

In 2017, the government made some changes to GST treatment of supplies of naloxone. The CRA responded, “suppliers [could] stop charging GST/HST on supplies of naloxone in accordance with the proposed amendment as of March 22, 2017”, and that the proposed measure was subject to parliamentary approval.

It further advised that “consistent with its standard practice,” it would administer “this measure on the basis of the proposed amendment.” That is, they would administer the tax code on the basis that it was proposed and not passed by Parliament.

Even further, just last year, CRA, I believe in a response to a question in the Senate, responded that, for their part, taxpayers usually chose to self-assess tax and claim benefits on proposed legislation because it might offer more favourable treatment, avoid negative consequences such as liability for interest, ease their compliance burden or any number of other reasons.

In any other words, even though there is no legal requirement to do so, there are good reasons why both taxpayers and the CRA choose to act on the assumption that proposed legislation will eventually be enacted. Any assertion that any delay of either this bill or even C-8 delays the ability for taxpayers to get their money isn't just false. It's intentionally misleading, and there is significant precedent for CRA to administer tax changes before they receive royal assent.

Mr. Chair, as I come to nearing a close, some items I hope the government considers or some things that I would find persuasive would be to align the dates with the Senate study of June 10. Since we have significant changes to the CBCA and the Competition Act, we should invite Minister Champagne to appear before this committee just for an hour. I know he's a busy man, but these are significant changes. I think we should test with him, either at this committee or perhaps at the industry committee, as to why consultation wasn't done, why they feel comfortable this is the right approach, so that he may be held accountable for any of these changes if there are challenges with them in the future.

Finally, I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister would return to this committee and fulfill the inflation study requirement for her to come for three hours to talk about inflation. It is one of the most important issues facing Canadians today. Certainly as a domestic issue it is the most important.

I respect the minister very much. I think we all benefit from having her here at committee. Her presence is always welcome, as well as that of ministers from other departments. I think it helps us do our jobs appropriately. It says lots of great things about ministerial accountability. I will not move a motion, but as inflation is well outside the control range, it might be appropriate to have the minister and the governor return to committee on a very regular basis until we get inflation back under control.

These are some of the concerns I have with the subamendment. If we're open to moving the May 20 date, which is less than two weeks away, to June 10, I could be persuaded to feel comfortable, or more comfortable. The clause-by-clause ending by May 30 is just too aggressive in my view.

Mr. Chair, I am an eternal optimist. Hope springs eternal. I'm hoping for a miracle. I think we can do some great work here. Just in case, I was prepared. My socks have flying pigs on them, so it can happen.

I think we can get to a collaborative approach. I think we could punt this discussion on the timing to a future date. We can hear some witnesses now, and then we can all decide with a little bit more information whether we feel the timeline is too aggressive. I think the government has within its power a lot more flexibility and optionality, especially with the supply and confidence agreement. If it felt that we were not doing proper work or that we were intentionally delaying a bill leaving committee, it could figure out a way to get the bill out of committee. The kind of collision course we're on now is that we're not going to hear from any witnesses despite our liking, at least on this side, to move to that now.

I welcome some of the comments from the government members. I've had a wonderful experience so far in collaboration with them, and we have done some great work.

Even on the Emergencies Act, where other committees got significantly more heated and tense, I thought we kept to the facts very well. I think we could do some great work with stakeholders here.

Mr. Chair, I've gone on almost as long as it seems. Perhaps if the folks outside of this committee could work and collaborate, like we have done in the past, this place might be a bit better for everybody. I have full faith that we can make some progress, and I'm waiting for that to happen. We're here to move on, and hopefully, hear from some witnesses.

I understand these games sometimes get played from time to time. Hearing from some witnesses, doing this right and maybe punting this more difficult discussion for a week for two, might be the best thing for everybody.

Mr. Chair, I'll yield my time to the next speaker on the list. I see a couple of hands up there. I appreciate your allowing me to start again here. That was very kind of you.

If you want to adjourn the debate, we'd be open to that, of course. If not, I'll yield to the next speaker.

Thank you.

May 9th, 2022 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It seems to me that there are at least two issues entangled here in our discussion about the study on the budget bill. On the one hand, there's the question of the timeline and how much time we're going to take to study the bill. Then there's the question of how we're going to proceed with the study, whether we're going to endeavour to study everything at this table or whether we're going to break it up and send some aspects to other committees, presumably where—and I take Mr. Ste-Marie's point—members have been immersed in a subset of issues that have to do with some of the things in the bill and may very well be able to conduct a more efficient study. I believe Mr. Albas made some comments to that effect as well, in terms of subject matter expertise. I think sometimes certain members' objections to the timeline of this study are maybe getting entangled with the question of how we study things.

I think Monsieur Ste-Marie does have.... If we understand ourselves to be working on an expedited timeline, and I think we are, then realistically, if the budget bill is going to pass by the end of June, it does need to make its way out of the House in order to have enough time to be studied in the other place.

Mr. Chambers earlier raised the example of Bill C-2, which did manage to pass relatively swiftly once it had come out of committee, but I would raise the example of the bill on the fall economic statement that just passed last week. We saw an incredible appetite on the part of the Conservative caucus to speak to that bill. It was part of the reason New Democrats worked to try to provide a mechanism for extended sittings in May. It was in order to have members of the opposition parties who wanted to say more on that bill and others to have the time to be able to do that, but I wouldn't say that the culture around here is one of expeditious passing of legislation once it comes out of committee. Bill C-8 certainly proved that, I think, beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Beyond any significant and demonstrable change in the culture, I think there is a legitimate concern that if this bill were to come out of committee late in the game, so to speak—and there's not that much left to go before summer, regardless of what we do at this table—then I think it does make sense to try to hasten the study of the bill while also providing for a lot of time to study it. If we look at the main motion, we see that the goal here is to have about 20 hours of study, which is on par with the last budget implementation bill and the study, frankly, of many budget implementation bills going back some time.

I see an attempt here to try to make sure that there's enough time to do the study of the bill well by having extra meetings, similar to processes that have unfolded for similar budget implementation bills in the past. I see this effort at trying to enable other committees to take a look at it, understanding that we're on a tight timeline, as an act of good faith to try to accommodate concerns that have been brought forward.

I think, if memory serves, that the subamendment even provides for other committees to let us know that they don't intend to study these provisions, which gives us enough time to try to arrange for some witnesses at this table so that there is still study of those provisions.

I'm also mindful of the fact that we're talking about.... Well, maybe I'll just leave it at that, Mr. Chair.

All that is to say that I think we have a proposal here to try to accommodate a concern by an opposition member that has been brought forward in order to try to access the expertise of other committees in order to try to help us do a better study in an expedited time frame. We do have an expedited time frame. It's hard to talk about that without making reference to the culture that has been unfolding in the House of Commons around the obstruction of legislation or members not feeling any need to let legislation pass or to allow us to come to a vote with debate collapsing, so I think the subamendment is reasonable.

I thank Monsieur Ste-Marie for the amendment itself as a way to try to have some back and forth and negotiation about how we can do a better study in the time we have, and I'm supportive of the main motion, which I think is trying to recognize that for the budget bill to pass, it has to get out of committee with enough time for the House and then the Senate to deal with it. We're really talking about three weeks. A week and a half in each place before the end of June is what I would call a relatively tight timeline around here, unless people are of the view that the budget bill doesn't have to pass before summer and that we can drag it out the way the fall economic statement was dragged out.

I'm not of that view. I noticed what happened to teachers, for instance, when debate on BillC-8 was prolonged. They were told by the CRA that they wouldn't get their tax filing back because there was still legislation pending, and a number of items will bear on a number of different industries in this bill. We're hearing from stakeholders that they want to know, one way or the other, how those things are going to land, whether it's the luxury tax or other items, so it does behoove us to try to deal with the bill swiftly.

That's why I'm supportive of the main motion and also supportive of the amendment and subamendment that have been proposed. That's what it looks like when parliamentarians try to take the concerns of all parties at the table seriously and find the best path forward in the difficult circumstances in which we often find ourselves working.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

May 5th, 2022 / 12:40 p.m.
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Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General

Karen Hogan

My brief answer would be that you can measure the value of money invested in our organization in many ways, and it's not just in the number of audit reports. One audit report could be very large, for example, the efforts on Bill C-2 that we will do. If we do that, it would probably be seven or eight individual audits, but it will come out as one.

I caution just calculating the number and not necessarily looking at the impact of the value in other ways.

Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021Government Orders

May 3rd, 2022 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-8 and Bill C-2 before it were meant to provide help for businesses struggling to get through the pandemic. They were both drawn up before the omicron variant hit and extended the pandemic by months and months.

We have had calls from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada to extend the benefits that were there before to help businesses that have struggled to stay alive until now. Even a few months would help some of them get through this pandemic alive, yet we are seeing the government abandon those programs. The Conservatives, as we just heard, are not trying to support businesses and workers.

Why did we not help those businesses get through the summer at least?

Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021Government Orders

May 3rd, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Hochelaga.

I appreciate the opportunity to take part in today's debate on Bill C-8, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021 and other measures. This bill is about making sure we have the tools we need to protect Canadians.

For two years, Canadians have been grappling with COVID-19. Two years ago, this pandemic triggered the steepest economic contraction in Canada since the Great Depression. At its worst, it cost three million Canadians their jobs as our GDP shrank by 17%.

Today, even in spite of ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, we are on a strong footing. Canadians have put saving lives first. This has meant one of the lowest mortality rates in the G7. As of March 25, over 85% of Canadians five years and older are fully vaccinated.

The Canadian economy has seen the benefits of prioritizing our health. The Canadian labour market rebounded strongly from the omicron wave in February. We have already more than recovered lost jobs, a healing that took eight months longer than after the much milder 2008 recession. In fact, as of February, we have recovered 112% of the jobs lost during the pandemic period, compared to just 90% in the U.S., and faster than after any other recession. Encouragingly, growth was broad-based, supported by solid underlying fundamentals and an ongoing rebound in sectors hit hardest by the pandemic.

However, even with these encouraging signs, we know that businesses, especially small businesses, continue to need support. That is what Bill C-8 delivers, support where it is needed. Many small businesses continue to feel the impacts of the pandemic. They are playing a critical role by making sure their workers and clients are safe. They understand that proper ventilation makes indoor air healthier and safer, helping reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Many continue to make further improvements to their indoor air quality, to protect their workers and customers. However, they are finding that investing in equipment to improve ventilation can be costly. That is why Bill C-8 is proposing a refundable small business air quality improvement tax credit of 25% on eligible air quality improvement expenses incurred by small businesses. This measure would make it more affordable for them to invest in safer and healthier ventilation and air filtration.

Businesses would receive the credit on eligible expenses incurred between September 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022 relating to the purchase or upgrade of mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and the purchase of stand-alone devices designed to filter air using high-efficiency particulate air filters, up to a maximum of $10,000 per location and $50,000 in total. That is not just a good deal for businesses; it is a good investment in the health and safety of Canadians.

Our government has delivered significant fiscal policy support to Canadians during this pandemic, with $8 out of every $10 spent to fight COVID having been spent by the federal government. This has contributed to a rapid and resilient recovery so far.

The vast majority of the government's recovery plan is targeted towards growth-enhancing and job-creating initiatives such as the Canada emergency business account, which has been one of the key government supports for small businesses throughout the pandemic.

The CEBA program has provided interest-free, partially forgivable loans of up to $60,000 to small businesses to help recover their operating costs during times when their revenues have been reduced. In total, the CEBA has provided over $49 billion in support to nearly 900,000 small businesses affected by the pandemic.

In January, our government announced that the repayment deadline for the CEBA loans to qualify for partial loan forgiveness is being extended from December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2023 for all eligible borrowers in good standing. This extension would support short-term economic recovery and offer greater repayment flexibility to small businesses and not-for-profit organizations, many of which are facing continued challenges due to the pandemic.

Repayment on or before the new deadline of December 31, 2023 will result in loan forgiveness of up to one-third of the value of the loans, which means up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness. Bill C-8 would set a limitation period of six years for debts under the CEBA program to ensure that CEBA loan holders are provided consistent treatment no matter where they live.

The new measures in Bill C-8 would also build on the significant support for businesses that became law with the passage of Bill C-2 in December. Bill C-2 was built on the understanding that with the spread of the omicron variant, public health restrictions had to remain in effect in certain regions across the country to contain its spread, and that many of these restrictions would have an impact on businesses. With Bill C-2, our government made sure that economic support was available to them if and when they needed it.

While lockdowns have now eased across the country, the application period for the local lockdown program remains open to provide wage and rent subsidy support of up to 75% to employers who have had to reduce the capacity of their main business by 50% or more.

To expand access to the program at the height of the recent restrictions, we temporarily lowered the revenue decline threshold for eligibility from 40% to 25%. Expanded eligibility for these wage and rent supports ran from December 19, 2021 through to March 12, 2022.

For businesses facing other pandemic-related losses, support is also available through the tourism and hospitality recovery program and the hardest-hit business recovery program. Many tourism-related businesses in Bonavista—Burin—Trinity were able to take advantage of that support, and I am told many tourism businesses across the entire country were able to take advantage of that support.

By supporting businesses through these challenges, these programs are protecting people's jobs and allowing people to stay connected to their employers. As the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance said, this keeps people strong; it keeps families strong and it keeps businesses strong. That is what we need to keep our economy strong.

In conclusion, like all Canadians, we hope that lockdowns and capacity restrictions will continue to become a thing of the past. We know that Canadians are tired of COVID-19, but the unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 is not quite tired of us. We put supports in place so that public health authorities could make the right, albeit difficult, decisions, knowing that the federal government would be there to support workers, small businesses and other employers in their communities when needed.

That is why Bill C-8 is so important. It would continue to do what is necessary to sustain the recovery and provide help where it is needed, to create jobs and set the stage for strong growth for years to come.

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I remember back in December when the Bloc Québécois decided to support Bill C-2 and fast-track it to committee. It negotiated with the government. We could have said that the Bloc had sold its soul, but we understood that even if we did not agree with its position on Bill C‑2, the Bloc had negotiated for something it felt was important.

We did the same. We negotiated for our priorities. We were unable to have all of our priorities adopted by the government because it is a negotiation, not something that we could do unilaterally. I therefore do not see how the expression “sell one's soul” applies in our case, given that the Bloc is prepared to do the same thing when the opportunity presents itself.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

April 8th, 2022 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are facing multiple crises, both current and looming, so we expected this budget to put forward concrete solutions to address the risks associated with these crises.

First is the public health crisis. After living with the pandemic for over two years, we are now entering yet another wave.

Next is the inflation crisis. For months now, inflation has been higher than expected. That seems unlikely to change for quite some time and will probably even go up. People are very worried.

Of course, there is the war in Ukraine, which is directly victimizing the Ukrainian people, who are being subjected to bombings and unspeakable atrocities. This conflict is impacting the whole planet, and we are feeling the repercussions here too.

Finally, there is the environmental crisis, which is causing all the climate catastrophes we have been witnessing.

As the crises multiply, so do the risks. These are uncertain times, and the budget was the best opportunity to protect us from all those risks. This budget, however, despite listing virtually all the problems in detail, addresses virtually none of them. What irony.

What we see in this budget, as we did in the previous budgets and in everything the government does, is a federal government that is more centralizing than ever. The government is once again using the budget as an opportunity to further centralize the federation's power. This is a real pattern. The bulldozer is moving forward slowly but very surely.

Here is one example. The government wants to tackle the housing issue, but it is making threats. It is telling the municipalities that it will cut infrastructure funding if they do not build enough housing. The federal government is once again infringing on other jurisdictions. It is once again centralizing. Once again, paternalistic Ottawa wants to be the be-all and end-all. They want to make all the decisions and tell everyone what to do. That is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for Quebec.

The irony is that, although the House recognizes my nation with its words, the government is trying to force the Quebec nation into the Canadian mould it has created. We can no longer live in our own way. This budget is a reminder of that. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do things our own way.

The best example of that is clearly health care funding. Ottawa has failed to include in the budget any commitments to review its funding for the next five years. We are in the midst of a health crisis. Our system is under maximum pressure. Health care workers are at the end of their rope, and we have had it. Rather than funding the health care system within its means, know-it-all Ottawa is telling us that we are not doing enough, even though it is not providing adequate funding.

While Quebec and the provinces are asking for increased funding with no strings attached, the feds are telling us that they only want to talk about the strings, not the funding. For instance, on page 155, the English version of the budget document reads, “Any conversation between the federal government and the provinces and territories will focus on delivering better health care outcomes for Canadians”.

This means more standards, without funding, even though the Parliamentary Budget Officer points out each and every year that transfers need to be set at 35% to restore the fiscal balance between Ottawa and the provinces. The Conference Board and the Council of the Federation both agree. This is what Quebec wants, what the provinces want and what the Bloc wants, but know-it-all Ottawa says no. Ottawa says we will get nothing except strings.

Transfers are currently set at 22%, and the Minister of Finance justified her inaction by citing a tax point transfer from the 1960s. She has dismissed decades of cuts and ignored all the serious studies on the subject. This is called being arrogant, in a big way.

Now let us talk about seniors. The cost of everything is going up. The cost of food is going to skyrocket because of the war in Ukraine. Seniors are always the first to suffer as a result of inflation. Seniors often live on fixed incomes that are not indexed to inflation. The budget should have done more to help them out, but the feds decided not to do that.

The Minister of Finance then adds insult to injury. In her budget she presents a graph showing that seniors are much wealthier than the rest of the population and that the feds have already done enough.

Groups representing seniors feel betrayed: We now have two classes of seniors and the government is not responding to the needs. The minister presented her little graph saying that seniors have nothing to complain about, they already have plenty of money. That is what we see.

As for inflation, with all the crises that are unfolding, high inflation is especially worrisome. The government should be lending a helping hand to seniors and the least fortunate, but it is doing little to nothing to help.

It should be lending a hand to SMEs, which are the hardest hit by high inflation, including family farms, taxi drivers and bus drivers. There is nothing for them. The feds describe the problem of inflation in the budget, but do not offer any help.

I want to give you a real example showing that Ottawa identifies the problems but does nothing about them. In the budget, there is one paragraph on the problem of the semiconductor shortage. There are specialized businesses in Quebec that we can be proud of and that have existed for several generations. These businesses repurpose trucks into ambulances and armoured trucks, for example, or add custom cargo boxes. That is a Quebec specialty.

As a result of the semiconductor shortage, major truck manufacturers are not getting product out and our specialized businesses are having trouble procuring trucks. We have been telling the minister about this for months.

In December, we even supported Bill C‑2 because she told us that the shortage would be resolved imminently, and she would even send us the figures to prove it. We believed her and we acted in good faith. Nothing was done and we never saw the figures. It was completely false. The problem has only worsened since then.

Businesses now run the risk of going bankrupt. We might lose for good specialized industries that have been operating for generations. The government's role is to support businesses and get them through the crisis.

Businesses joined forces and reached out to the government. They asked to meet with the minister. The Bloc has been waiting for a meeting about this for months, but we have not heard a peep.

The minister mentioned the problem with the semiconductors, but did not offer any solutions. She is not doing anything to save this sector, which is so important to Quebec's economy. All she said was that the government will look into photonics to see whether Canada could manufacture its own semiconductors. There was no indication of when, however.

That is actually not the problem. The government needs to help the companies that are going to shut down, because Ford and GM are manufacturing very few trucks as a result of the semiconductor shortage. These companies just need a little help until the American giants resume production. Has Ottawa abandoned these specialized industries because they are in Quebec? If they were in Ontario would the feds have stepped in? That worries me.

There has been one crisis after another, but the most important one right now is the environmental crisis. The climate is undergoing disruptive changes and we must now take drastic measures if we want to avoid disaster.

Even as the IPCC is saying that we need to drop any new oil projects if we are to stand a chance of avoiding disaster, know-it-all Ottawa goes and does the opposite. It sends its Minister of Environment and Climate Change to announce a one-billion barrel project. This minister is the same person who founded Équiterre with Laure Waridel and climbed the CN Tower for the environment when he was at Greenpeace.

With one gesture, one decision, he has dealt a terrible blow to the planet. Very few humans will have done this much damage to the climate. With this gesture, he undid all of his past work and turned his back on his values and commitments. He threw all that away to serve the federal government, which is a petro-state and an environmental embarrassment.

Elsewhere in the world, environment ministers have resigned for far less than that. From now on, this is how this minister is going to be remembered. I would like to remind the House that Marshall Pétain is not exactly remembered for winning the battle of Verdun.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, or the pollution minister, chose to make his announcement the day before the budget, just before the House rises for two weeks. That was intentional.

I thought that the government would include some extraordinary environmental measures in the budget to try to compensate for this terrible compromise, but it did not. Instead, the budget mainly contains measures that are vague and weak, such as a future public-private fund like the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is a flop.

All the concrete measures in the budget support the fossil fuel industry. The budget allocates billions of dollars for carbon capture projects for the oil sands, a technology that is underdeveloped and that will cost a fortune, if it is ever actually implemented. According to the International Energy Agency, if the private sector were to cover the cost of such projects, it would quadruple the price at the pump.

Furthermore, the feds have announced that they will support the development of small mobile nuclear reactors to allow the industry to extract more oil and sell the gas they save. This is the government's plan for the environment, despite all the risks and health concerns.

To wit, on Wednesday, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced a project that will extract a billion barrels and, the next day, the Minister of Finance announced more support for the oil and gas sector. That is Ottawa's plan for the environment.

Illustrating just how far Ottawa is going in the opposite direction of the IPCC report, journalist Philippe Mercure, from La Presse wrote the following:

This report contains lengthy passages about the risks of “lock-ins”, meaning building new infrastructure that will pollute for decades and undermine our efforts.

One would have thought that UN Secretary-General António Guterres was speaking directly to the Minister of the Environment when he presented the document on Monday.

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” he said.

Now more than ever, being part of Canada means choosing to be an environmental imbecile in the world's eyes.

The Bloc Québécois had five demands, five unconditional expectations, and called for a suite of more targeted measures. The first four of our five unconditional expectations are not in the budget: health, seniors, green finance and an acceptable transition, and concrete measures to address inflation.

At least the budget addresses first nations housing. That was one of our five demands. It is in the budget, so now all we have to do is hope that, for once, that earmarked money will actually flow and improve the lives of indigenous people. What we have seen to date is that the Liberals vote to put up cash but do not spend it. That causes all kinds of problems, such as lack of access to drinking water, that never go away.

The budget contains housing measures, but the Bloc Québécois obviously does not think there is enough money in the budget for social housing. Housing is a major problem, and the solution is increasing supply. The budget talks about 6,000 affordable housing units, which apparently means a two-bedroom apartment for $1,200 a month. That does not fit with the Bloc Québécois's definition of social housing. The money is there, but much more needs to be done.

As I said at the start of my speech, we are grappling with numerous crises. The government is aware of them and names them in the budget, but does not actually do anything about most of them. Any solutions it does put forward are poorly conceived. That is a problem.

In addition, what we are seeing is an increasingly centralist state that interferes and wants to impose its own model and make everything fit a certain mould. The feds are taking a father-knows-best approach and telling the provinces and Quebec, “All right kids, here is what you need to do and how you need to be.” That is unacceptable.

The EconomyOral Questions

April 4th, 2022 / 2:30 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the opposition is raising the issue of affordability, so let us go to the facts.

Our government lowered taxes on the middle class and raised them on the wealthiest 1%. Conservatives voted against that. We created the Canada child benefit and indexed it to inflation. The Conservatives voted against that too. We provided seniors 75 years of age and over a $500 payment last summer. The Conservatives voted against that. They voted against Bill C-2, and they are on track to vote against Bill C-8. Why do they not just double down on affordability and vote with us on Bill C-8?

The EconomyOral Questions

March 30th, 2022 / 2:30 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question on the need to build a more just and more inclusive economy for all Canadians. That has been the focus of our work ever since we formed government.

We only have to look at all the measures we have taken to make life more affordable for Canadians: We provided support to Canadians during the pandemic with Bill C‑2; we raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% and we cut them for the middle class; we increased the Canada child benefit. That is making life more affordable.

The EconomyOral Questions

March 30th, 2022 / 2:30 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, building a fairer, more inclusive economy that works for all Canadians has been a central focus of our government from the beginning, and while we appreciate the intent behind the previous NDP motion and the hon. member's question, let us remember all the things we have done for the middle class. We provided more pandemic supports for Canadians and businesses in Bill C-2, and the NDP voted against it. We raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% and lowered them for the middle class. We stopped the Canada child benefit from going to millionaires and it benefited nine out of 10 Canadians.

There is much that we have done for Canadians on affordability. We will keep doing more.

COVID-19 Economic MeasuresAdjournment Proceedings

March 28th, 2022 / 6:55 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, there are a few things to correct. New Democrats actually opposed Bill C-2, and we did it because we did not feel that the financial support was going to be adequate. We felt we should heed the advice of many public health officials that new waves of COVID were going to come, and that turned out to be true. In fact, the government had to modify the conditions of the program just days after Bill C-2 passed because it was already clearly inadequate to the task of addressing the omicron wave.

What is also going to be inadequate is having no meaningful increase in the OAS for seniors aged 65 to 74, which is why I will ask again if the government will change its tune and apply the OAS increase to all seniors, rather than only those aged 75 and above.

COVID-19 Economic MeasuresAdjournment Proceedings

March 28th, 2022 / 6:50 p.m.
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Windsor—Tecumseh Ontario

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I think all of us agree that, during the pandemic, so many of our most vulnerable Canadians and constituents were severely impacted and, of course, seniors are at the top of that list in terms of the challenges that they faced. However, contrary to what my colleague is suggesting, the financial support needed by more vulnerable Canadians remains available and has been there from the start of the pandemic. From the onset of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has been implementing measures to help those who need it most.

Today I am going to focus on an additional program available to provide temporary income support for the most vulnerable in Canada. This additional support came through Bill C-2, which we tabled in December 2021 and was promptly passed, thanks in large measure to the NDP. This bill enabled us to provide benefits to Canadian workers whose employment was impacted by COVID-19 in designated lockdown regions. In light of the omicron surge, Bill C-2 proved to be very forward-looking. Among other things, the bill introduced the new Canada worker lockdown benefit. It also extended the weeks available for the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit.

I am not going to go into too much detail, but I will briefly explain what the new Canada worker lockdown benefit is. The benefit provides income support of $300 per week through to May 7, 2022, to eligible workers who are directly affected by a public health lockdown order related to COVID-19 in their respective region. Eligible workers can apply within 60 days of the lockdown in their designated region to receive the benefit retroactive to October 24, 2021. In December 2021, in response to public health restrictions brought about by the omicron variant, we temporarily expanded the Canada worker lockdown benefit definitions so that more workers would be eligible. This temporary definition ended on March 12, 2022.

My colleague's question implies that the government is using financially vulnerable people as the basis for economic recovery and that assertion is false. The truth is that some beneficiaries received overpayments because of, for example, the Canada emergency response benefit advance payment. We are in the process of identifying those overpayments, and we will proceed with recovering them. By the way, flexible repayment options are available to prevent undue hardship for recipients.

Canadians are at the very heart of every decision this government makes and, yes, financial support is there for more vulnerable Canadians.

Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021Government Orders

March 25th, 2022 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I cannot sing, but it was still nice to hear my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, with whom we form the opposition in the House.

We are here today to talk about Bill C-8, of course. This is not long before we are actually going to be presented with the next budget, so I think it is very important that Canadians evaluate the past performance of the NDP-Liberal coalition before deciding to even consider approving the next budget.

I want to start by saying that my colleagues and I, here in the official opposition, have been very positive in our spirit of collaboration in the last couple of years as we have gone through the difficult time of the pandemic, but we also certainly have our limits, as individuals and groups must have their limits, in terms of what they are willing to accept.

I look at the beginning of the pandemic, when we passed, in November of 2021, Bill C-2, the first COVID relief package, worth $37 billion. There was certainly a lot of funding there. We went on to pass other legislation in the House with significant price tags, including Bill C-3, which went through the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. That was a $7-billion price tag.

In December 2021, we also had Bill C-8, which we are debating here today, with additional spending of $71.2 billion. These are not small amounts.

I will say that we certainly have done what was necessary throughout the pandemic. Everyone in the House, certainly on this side of the House, supports Canadians and wants to see Canadians get the help they need, but it has certainly become incredibly excessive and even growing, perhaps, with this new NDP coalition. We have to be wary about the items that we are seeing in the new NDP-Liberal coalition, which will cost billions upon billions of extra dollars, potentially.

At the same time that we saw the House helping Canadians, eventually leading to overspending even beyond what was necessary, we can go further back than that to something that I brought up today in question period: the destruction of the natural resources sector. This is something that did not start two years ago. This started seven years ago, when we saw the initial election of the NDP-Liberal coalition government, which continues to play out today.

To start, we saw it in November of 2016, when the northern gateway pipeline was rejected by this coalition. We look to October 2017, when TransCanada cancelled the energy east pipeline project as a result of pressure from this coalition.

This is something that this NDP-Liberal coalition likes to do. They create impossible environments for industry, whereby industry has no other choice but to abandon these projects. Then the NDP-Liberal coalition says that it is not their fault because it was abandoned by industry, when they have made conditions impossible to complete these projects.

We cannot forget January 2017, when the Prime Minister said he wanted to phase out the oil sands. He said, “You can't make a choice between what's good for the environment and what is good for the economy.... We can't shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Right there, we see the Prime Minister had committed to his continued path of destroying the natural resource sector, with the help of the NDP-Liberal coalition. This, of course, led to April 2018, when Kinder Morgan halted the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion because of “continued actions in opposition to the project”, which was not surprising.

In May of 2018, we saw the NDP-Liberal coalition buy the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion, but it again created impossible conditions for the project to be completed, whereby Kinder Morgan eventually abandoned the project. Once again, the government created impossible conditions for this industry.

Of course, I cannot help but mention Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium, and of course Bill C-69, which were both passed in June 2019 and completely destroyed that sector. We often refer to C-69 as the “no more pipelines” bill.

Therefore, I find it very rich that I hold in my hand here a Canadian Press article from March 20, 2022, which indicates that Liberals may find extra spending room in the budget created by rising oil prices. It is reported that it is a position similar to the one the Liberals found themselves in last December when a rosier economic picture gave the government $38.5 billion in extra spending room. Guess what. The NDP-Liberal government quickly ate up $28.4 billion with new expenditures. This extra funding, as a result of the natural resources sector, could be up to $5 billion, but we know that the NDP-Liberal government will eat that up in a moment before spending even more than that.

In fact, the former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said, “It would be a policy mistake for the government to assume that higher-than-anticipated inflation will create extra fiscal room which could be used to deficit finance longer-term programs,” many of which we are seeing in the NDP-Liberal coalition. That is very interesting.

We see that the government has a habit of spending any money we give it. It will not pay down the record debt or the record deficit. Instead, it will spend it, so why should we trust it and give it more money? Why should we not look at this upcoming budget with scrupulosity and hesitancy?

More insulting than the government's spending what it does not have, and spending it on the back of the industry that it has destroyed entirely, is that it announced yesterday that now it plans to boost oil exports 5% in an effort to ease the energy supply crisis. This was an announcement that the Minister of Natural Resources made yesterday, following the second day of meetings at the International Energy Agency's annual ministerial gathering in Paris.

He said that Canadian industry has the pipeline and production capacity to incrementally increase oil and gas exports this year by 300,000 barrels per day, comprising 200,000 barrels of oil and 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in natural gas. The Alberta natural resources minister had a response to that. She said:

We can increase production if we can get more infrastructure built and I think that's what was missing in the conversation.... It's really not ambitious to talk about a short term potential of 200,000 barrels when we sit on top of the third largest [oil] reserves in the world.

In addition to that, we have seen a labour shortage. The NDP-Liberal government fired hundreds of thousands of workers when it set out to destroy the natural resources sector, so this sector has been struggling with a lack of workers since last year, according to a Canadian Press story, when rebounding oil prices first spurred an uptake in drilling activity in the Canadian oil patch.

In conclusion, on this side of the House, we have tried to work with the NDP-Liberal coalition. It has shown it cannot handle funds responsibly, time and time again. Now it is turning to the industry it destroyed. Now it has decided it is time to step up given that Ukrainians and Europe are suffering, while Canadians have suffered for a long time under this coalition.

Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021Government Orders

March 25th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, as today marks the first time in the 44th Parliament that I am exercising my privilege to rise to speak on a government bill, I want to take a brief moment to acknowledge those who have helped to get me here to stand alongside my hon. colleagues and once again represent the people of Richmond Hill.

I want to thank the volunteers who put in countless hours to spread our message, as well as friends and staff who helped mentor and guide me, and helped further connect me with the community. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not thank my wife and my two children, without whom I would not have had the emotional support to continue this work. Lastly, I thank my larger family. They are the people who have trusted me to work for their best interests: my dear constituents in Richmond Hill, whose engagement and community leadership has consistently impressed me for the past six years. Indeed, my constituents will be the beneficiaries of the bill that I will be discussing today.

I feel privileged to rise in the House to speak on Bill C-8, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021, and other measures. In my riding of Richmond Hill, there are over 5,000 small businesses, with labour participation of over 64%. Richmond Hill is home to many of the workers who helped establish the foundation and growth of our economy. Many of them also constitute the membership of my community-led small business council, where I meet monthly with my constituents to hear their concerns and feedback on our government's support for their businesses.

First, let me acknowledge that Richmond Hill's small businesses have shown immeasurable resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While our federal government has played a key role to the provision of critical supports so far, we know that it is vital to continue this assistance to ensure a continued strong recovery. Our efforts in providing crucial financial assistance to, and collaboration with, the provinces and territories ensure that the health and safety of Canadians are an utmost reflection of the priorities of our government on this front.

Since the onset of COVID-19, we have implemented income support, we have issued direct payments to families and seniors, we have helped businesses keep their workers and we have helped workers keep their wages. Bill C-8 is yet another manifestation of these priorities: it serves as an extra, supplementary tool in our tool box. The bill is constituted of seven parts, each of which addresses a key and prominent issue within our national and local communities, starting with the funding for the procurement of rapid tests and investment in therapeutics, moving to the protection of our children's health and safety in school, and leading to a re-emphasis on critical and targeted support for workers and businesses that will protect their financial and physical well-being. This is a well-rounded piece of legislation with a comprehensive, but targeted, approach.

With the onset of the pandemic, businesses in my riding stepped up by introducing new measures that enabled them to continue serving Richmond Hill safely and in alignment with public health measures. They fought COVID-19 head-on by enforcing vaccine mandates and reducing capacities to encourage social distancing. Many even installed protective barriers within their spaces to maintain the safety of staff and customers alike. Now, as provincial jurisdictions begin authorizing an easing of restrictions, we know that COVID-19 and its impact still persist, which is why our federal government will continue to support businesses in their safe operation.

In December, our government's Bill C-2 received royal assent. Within this bill, we acknowledged the spread of the omicron variant and its potential for further disruption to small businesses. As such, we integrated key economic support, including the extension of the Canada recovery hiring program, the establishment of the Canada worker lockdown benefit and further extensions to the Canada recovery caregiving benefit and the Canada recovery sickness benefit. These initiatives, among others in Bill C-2, have been and will be instrumental in keeping Canadian businesses strong and resilient in their recovery from COVID-19.

The new measures in Bill C-8 would add to the line of supports that become law by the passage of Bill C-2 in numerous ways. Proper ventilation and improvement to indoor air quality are key components of the continued fight against COVID-19, but this is also a costly endeavour.

Bill C-8 would alleviate this by proposing a refundable small business air quality improvement tax credit of 25% on incurred, eligible air quality improvement expenses. This tax credit would be for eligible expenses taken between September 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022. It would make safety against COVID-19 affordable for small businesses.

That is not all that Bill C-8 proposes in order to support businesses. Our government recently announced the extension of the repayment deadline for the Canada emergency business account loan. All eligible borrowers in good standing would qualify for partial loan forgiveness. The interest-free and partially forgivable loan provided by the CEBA has helped our small businesses, nearly 900,000 of them, stay afloat during one of the biggest economic challenges for our country.

This extension would facilitate short-term economic recovery for small businesses and greater repayment flexibility for those who had received support from CEBA. Nonetheless, businesses that benefited from CEBA are still burdened by the impact of the pandemic, and our government wants to help mitigate some of the financial stress.

Repayments on or before the new deadline of December 31, 2023, would result in a loan forgiveness of up to a third of the value of the loan. This can translate to about $20,000 in loan forgiveness. Bill C-8 would take this a step further, as it would invoke a limitation period of six years for debt due under the CEBA program to ensure CEBA loan holders are provided consistent treatment regardless of where they live.

Through all of the realms in which our federal government has provided pandemic-related supports, one theme consistently emerges, which is our focus on the health and safety of Canadians. That theme is extremely apparent in Bill C-8, as we build on previous initiatives to keep students, teachers, staff and families healthy by authorizing payments for the purpose of supporting ventilation improvement projects in schools.

This expands on our government's supply of over $3 billion in direct transfer payments to the provinces and territories for testing and contact tracing through the safe restart program. In fact, $4 million of this funding directly benefited my constituency of Richmond Hill, as it ensured we had the resources to safely restart the economy. We also made significant investments in empowering the provincial and territorial health care systems to strengthen their testing capacity by purchasing and shipping over 80 million rapid tests to them at a cost of over $900 million.

As the demand for rapid tests persists, Bill C-8 seeks to allocate an additional $1.72 billion to the Minister of Health for the procurement and distribution of rapid antigen tests to provinces and territories and directly to Canadians. This initiative, combined with the funding through the safe return to class fund, demonstrates how the government is helping to keep our communities healthy and safe.

Today, I have touched on just some of the components of Bill C-8 that would deliver real results and crucial supports for Canadians. Bill C-8 would mean a safer and stronger Canada, and for my community it would mean a safer and a stronger Richmond Hill.

I strongly encourage my hon. colleagues to consider these key supports that their constituents would rely on for their financial, physical and mental health and well-being. I invite members to join me in supporting its passage through the House so we can continue having Canadians' backs.