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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

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 12:15 p.m.
See context


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, today, we are talking about a motion to see Bill C-2 move swiftly through the House. On behalf of the New Democrats, we recognize the urgent need for many people, in the face of the pandemic, to receive help. It is true that some of those people will receive some help through Bill C-2. That is why the New Democrats have not tried to filibuster or obstruct the passage of the bill, but we have not tried to hasten it. We have laid out very clearly a path through the NDP to try to expedite the passage of the bill.

We talked about the problem of benefit clawbacks, not just with respect to the guaranteed income supplement but the Canada child benefit and Canada worker benefit. We talked about the need for a CERB low-income repayment amnesty. We talked about some of the people who were seriously affected by the government pursuing them for debts they had incurred, sometimes without much choice, such as foster kids in Manitoba. They were told by the provincial government they had to apply for CERB or they would not be eligible to apply for social assistance in the province of Manitoba.

Other people took the government at its word when it said to apply if they really needed help in the struggle of the pandemic, not only because of employment loss but also because of sudden increased costs, such as hiring a laundry service because family members or their support network could not go into their place of residence to assist with those things or having groceries delivered. There were a number of other costs.

When we raised the problems with the CERB and folks not being able to access any financial assistance because they had not necessarily lost employment, members on the Liberal benches exhorted people to apply for the CERB, highlighting that it was a no-fail application process. Unanimous consent motions were passed in this place, which meant not one member in the House objected to them, saying that if people really needed help and applied in good faith, they should not be punished or persecuted. That was why we felt it was very important to have a CERB low-income repayment amnesty.

We also talked about the fact that if the government was willing to clawback benefits from the most vulnerable in Canadian society because they were not entitled to them, we wanted to see it take action on clawing back benefits from the largest corporations, which were obviously in a good financial position because they were able to pay dividends to their shareholders. We know that while many businesses have struggled, some businesses have done exceptionally well, much better financially than in the years preceding the pandemic. Therefore, we have been calling for some action on that.

The government chose not to negotiate with us on the passage of this bill. That is its choice. This is not a case of sour grapes. It chose to negotiate with the Bloc. We are here to stand up for the people who were left out with respect to Bill C-2. The government had a choice. It could have worked with the NDP, in the name of the people for whom we are here to fight. It could have worked with the Bloc on the concerns its members chose to raise, or it could have worked with both of us. These were not mutually exclusive options. The government chose not to work with us or negotiate with us, so it is hard for us to expedite the passage of a bill that leaves too many people out, and the government has not worked with us to try to address those legitimate concerns.

I think there was a perception by the government in the last Parliament that somehow, because we are a responsible party and we knew Canadians did not want an election during the pandemic, it could take our support on things for granted. That was never true; it was not something to be taken for granted. It was true that we wanted to avoid an election. The leader of the Conservative Party did not think we should have an election during a pandemic and was not prepared to trigger one. The Bloc Québécois members did not want an election during a pandemic, that it would be irresponsible and they would not trigger one. The New Democrats voted accordingly and the Prime Minister broke faith with all of us in the House who had said we should not have an election.

The Prime Minister got past June 2021 without having this place vote non-confidence in him. We wanted to get through the summer without having an election, so Parliament could come back in a timely way in September and deal with some of the very real issues with which Bill C-2 purports to deal. It does deal with some of them but not enough.

Instead of honouring the real effort that parties in this place made, despite many of the shortcomings of the government, to preserve that Parliament, in August, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to call an election anyway, an election that nobody wanted, an election for which the House of Commons had not called. He did it under a pretense that was not a product of the summer months.

If the Prime Minister thought there were big decisions his government needed to make, that was not news at the beginning of August. He would have known that by June and he could have been honest about it in this place. Instead, he denied that he wanted an election. People on all sides of the House were glad to hear it. We behaved accordingly and he broke faith with this place and with Canadians by calling that unnecessary and unwanted election.

I said “pretense” earlier. Why do I call it a pretense for an election? Because the Prime Minister said big questions had to be decided and the government may need to implement some major new initiatives. He took his sweet time and we came back late after the election. Then when we got back here, we had a Speech from the Throne that had nothing new to offer in terms of a change in pattern or major new policy direction by the government in the face of the pandemic.

Bill C-2 is not a big, bold move except to the extent of abandoning hundreds of thousands of Canadians in the midst of a continuing pandemic and difficult economic times. However, he did not ask for a mandate for that. In the election, he said he would have the backs of Canadians. He never did go to Canadians in the election and he never was honest with them about the real turn he was going to take.

It turns out that the reason for the election was a pretense. While the Prime Minister tried to contrast himself with the Conservatives on the pandemic recovery during the election, on October 21, just a month after the election, he would take their advice and cancel the Canada recovery benefit with just two days' notice for people who were on the program, almost 900,000 of them.

There was nothing really new in the Speech from the Throne. The big job, agreeing with the Conservatives on how to handle the pandemic recovery, had already happened in October before the Prime Minister even had the decency to reconvene this place. The Speech from the Throne was not where he was going to make good on his commitment to Canadians to announce the new direction for which he needed a new mandate.

Maybe it would come in the fall economic statement, which happened this week. I am sorry to report that I do not see anything particularly new, bold or exciting. In fact, we did not even see a commitment to urgently implement some of the campaign promises the Liberals made.

What we did see the day before was the Prime Minister, who had an election to get a mandate to distinguish himself from the Conservatives, taking their advice to renew the mandate of the Bank of Canada, without any larger discussion as is happening in some other countries.

We know the United States has a dual mandate, employment and inflation. We know that New Zealand recently introduced its concern for the cost of housing in the mandate of its central bank. We know that the U.K. has recently asked its central bank to consider the impact of monetary policy on the battle against climate change.

Our allies, who are themselves competent financial managers, are talking about different ways to rebuild their economies coming out of the pandemic. However, the Liberals decided to take the advice of the official opposition after causing an election, because they said there was a huge difference about how they were going to handle things.

We stand in this place with a Prime Minister who broke faith on not having an election during a pandemic. We stand here with a Prime Minister who went to Canadians, saying he needed a mandate for something very different between he and his Conservative opposition. Then he proceeded to largely take their advice on the basic core elements of the pandemic recovery, something that is represented in this bill.

We stand before a government that has decided not to work closely with the NDP to address some of those things. However, we know the bill will pass quickly and the people who can get help through this little bill will get it, because the government chose to work with somebody else, as its right, However, if the government wants our support on things like this, then its members need to sit down and talk to us. They need to talk to us about the people who we are here to represent and fight for, and that means seniors.

We have talked a lot about the guaranteed income supplement. The government made an announcement on Tuesday. We had been asking for a long time what it planned to do. The Liberals have told us, along with everybody else, in the fall economic statement, and there are a lot of questions about the adequacy of that solution. We would have been very happy on this side of the House to provide some feedback in advance of the announcement to ensure it would work for more people.

We will not get everything we want until we are in government, but I will give an example: the payment for people living with disabilities. This is a one-time payment, but it should be an increase in a regular benefit, something the Liberals went on to promise, but we have not heard anything about how they plan to deliver that. The Liberals initially announced that it would apply to people who received the disability tax credit. We had an opportunity to negotiate that, because we knew that was not good enough.

Not all people living with disabilities receive the disability tax credit. There are a bunch of reasons for that. First is that it is expensive and difficult to get certified for the disability tax credit. A lot of people living with disabilities live in poverty. They do not have the $20 to $40 for the administrative fees at the doctor's office to get a successful application for the disability tax credit.

Beyond that, a lot of them do not have an income that would allow them to benefit from a tax credit. They need to have enough income to pay taxes to benefit from a tax credit. Unfortunately too many people living with disabilities do not have enough income. Therefore, it was a bad way to deliver help to the people who needed it most.

The second problem was the one-time payment disproportionately would go to the people living with disabilities who had the highest incomes. That did not make sense from a policy point of view, because the money would not get where it was really needed and it would not get there quickly. Then there were long delays in that payment. My point is that we were able to expand the number of people who received that payment and help get it to more of the people who really needed it.

Now we have a situation where the government has announced another one-time payment to fix the GIS problem. It sounds like there is going to be another long delay in getting that help to people, people who are already homeless and do not have months to wait. We could have talked about a solution to that and have more assurances it would work well and work quickly. That did not happen

I am glad the government responded to public pressure. I am proud of the role the NDP has played in putting that pressure on the government. While I am also glad the government felt the need to respond, responding to public pressure and pressure of a political party in the House are not the same as negotiating a solution in the context of a bill.

We are not just here for seniors; we are here for workers. Many workers are being let down right now by the employment insurance system. The Liberals have said they will fix it, but we do not know when. There has been no clear signalling about when a fix for EI is going to come. Our constituency offices are hearing from people who are applying to EI and it is not there for them. The system cannot keep up with what is going on in the economy. That is why we needed exceptional pandemic benefits, the benefits the government just cancelled without having done the work of reforming employment insurance.

I was just talking to my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona about constituents who she was hearing from in her home province of Alberta. They cannot get financial assistance through employment insurance, despite having worked hard and paid their dues to the employment insurance system. They have been unable to access it when they need it.

We are here for people living with disabilities who are getting short shrift from the government. The Liberals say a lot of words, but they do not have a lot of action that will really help people in a timely way.

We have been here to advocate for students. The Canada emergency student benefit was not something the government was even contemplating, except for the pressure and the negotiation of the NDP.

Folks in this place might remember that the Canada emergency student benefit paid less than the CERB. Our position was to make students eligible for the CERB like everybody else. Students needed to pay their tuition in the fall of 2020, and they were not going to be able to get jobs in the summer. The government thought that students were naturally lazy: it could not just have them sitting around at home. It was not going to pay them to sit around and do nothing, so the government was going to pay them less than the CERB, but would create a phenomenal jobs program that would hire them in the summer.

Does anyone remember, in the lead-up to the summer of 2020, the jobs program that the Liberals were contemplating? That program came to be known as the WE Charity scandal. The money never got out the door, which was a good thing in hindsight, because we had no idea how they were contemplating rolling out that program. The point is that the program for students never happened. The jobs never came and they continued to have a reduced benefit on the false pretense that there were going to be jobs coming to them that would help them make up the difference and pay their tuition in the fall. That never happened.

There have been moments of co-operation in this Parliament, and we are willing to co-operate in expediting legislation when it reflects the priorities of the people we are here to represent. For folks in the LGBTQ2S community, we worked with the government to expedite passage of the bill banning conversion therapy. This is something that Sheri Benson, who was elected from Saskatoon alongside me in 2015, first brought to the House. My colleague for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke has done a lot of excellent work in advancing it. Where there was something for the people that we are here to represent, and the government was doing it in a good way without leaving out a whole bunch of other people, we were happy to co-operate, just as we have been happy to co-operate on a bill that would finally bring 10 paid sick days to workers across the country.

Again, it is not a perfect bill. We think that there should be 10 paid sick days for workers across the country, but the bill says that a person would collect one sick day a month, so a person would have to wait 10 months to get those paid sick days. We are in a pandemic. The idea behind giving sick days was that if people were not feeling well, they would not have to go to work. The idea was not to have them work sick for 10 months while they accumulated the time they needed to protect themselves and everybody in their workplace from COVID-19. The idea was to give them that time so they could do the right thing and protect everybody in their workplaces and in their communities.

Nevertheless, we have been working with the government to quickly pass that legislation, because we recognize that, while it is not how we would do it, it is the best on offer and we have been fighting hard to make it better. We presented amendments in committee that would have found a compromise position on this long, 10-month wait. It would have made sure that workers had at least four days up front so that they could do the right thing. However, it was voted down by the Liberals, so we know that this is as good as we are going to get for now and we recognize that it has to be in place quickly. At least there was some discussion and negotiation around that.

This is all to say that New Democrats are here to fight for the people we represent. We are here to fight for seniors. We are here to fight for students. We are here to be a voice in this place for people living with disabilities across the country. We have been fighting for women, such as the women in the travel industry who were left out of Bill C-2. We are here for independent travel agents who work for themselves and have been doing work for their clients: First, at the beginning of the pandemic, they helped them to figure out cancelled trips, vouchers and rebates, and now they are doing bookings as people, in a sense of optimism, are starting to book travel. However, they are only going to get paid when people take those trips, and of course omicron is calling that into question. We are here to speak for them.

When the government is willing to work with us to make sure that those people are not left behind in the bills that it presents, we will be there to try and make sure that the legislation advances quickly. When the government chooses other partners, that is its business, but it is leaving a lot of people behind in Bill C-2. I wish there was more time to fix it and leave fewer people behind, which is why we are not voting to expedite the bill, knowing full well that it will be expedited according to the program that the government has chosen by choosing its partners. We invite government members to work with us in the future to create better legislation and leave fewer people behind, but it just does not seem to be the approach that they are taking so far in this new Parliament.

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / noon
See context


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my excellent colleague from Joliette, who is also the finance critic. He is doing a fabulous job of handling this file, and I would like to congratulate him for his work.

I rise to speak during this second reading of Bill C-2 in a collaborative spirit. Like my colleague, I will begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C‑2, which introduces new targeted assistance programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we know, the pandemic is far from over.

Having been elected in 2019, just before the pandemic started, I have seen collaboration happen. Since the beginning of the crisis, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I have proposed dozens of improvements to the federal aid programs, particularly regarding business loans and the emergency wage subsidy. The emergency wage subsidy was very helpful for businesses in Shefford, allowing them to get through the crisis. For example, 70% of businesses in the Granby industrial park used the subsidy.

We have always made sure that the measures being taken increasingly meet the diverse needs of individuals and economic sectors and that they get adapted as the pandemic evolves. We will continue that work.

We have always insisted that we need to provide assistance for sectors that will take continue to feel the effects of the pandemic for longer, until business goes back to normal for them. The tourism, cultural, restaurant and event sectors are but a few examples. It so happens that these sectors are very important economic drivers that put Shefford on the map.

We made this request several times, including during the recent election campaign. It is now more urgent than ever given the current spread of the virus, which has resulted in many cancelled bookings. Since yesterday, restaurants, hotels and the tourism sector have been seeing numerous cancellations.

We believe that Bill C‑2 must be passed as soon as possible, since it ensures the continuity of the emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy. Some businesses are still fragile, but they will be able to get through the crisis thanks to the tourism and hospitality recovery program, the hardest-hit business recovery program and the lockdown support measure. The problem is that these programs are a bit harder to access and less generous than the previous iterations. However, these three new programs will provide a baseline level of support for SMEs that are still hurting from the pandemic.

I would like to remind the House that many SMEs are still having a hard time even though the economy is taking off again in every region. We will need to monitor the spread of the omicron variant. According to a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 58% of SME owners reported lower-than-normal sales. Like my colleague from Joliette, I can only lament the fact that a useless election delayed the implementation of these new programs.

Let us be very clear: The government had no valid reason to call an election. Its claim that Parliament was not running smoothly was just a pretext. It was not true at all. As I said before, the Bloc Québécois was collaborating with the government. The Liberals called an election for the purely egotistical reason that they wanted a majority. They failed miserably, because we still have a minority government. The rapid passage of the bills implementing the pandemic assistance programs shows just how well parliamentarians collaborated during the last Parliament, the 43rd Parliament.

The number one priority of every member should have been to be there this fall to respond to the pandemic. The Liberals chose to call an election. The result was a delay in discussions and work leading to the new iterations of these programs. These programs should already have been adopted by now. The delays are the fault of no one but the Liberals.

I would like to reiterate the three conditions set out by the Bloc Québécois for Bill C‑2.

First, the government must immediately commit to contributing to the Artists' Foundation to support self-employed workers in the arts and culture sector. This is a call that the government appears to have heard. We will monitor the situation closely. In my riding, artists are asking for help. As I said before, this is a very important sector in my riding of Shefford. We also need to continue monitoring certain definitions regarding the tourism sector in order to make sure no one is forgotten. Even suppliers of goods and services related to the tourism industry should have access to support.

Second, before the election campaign, we asked that the government stop penalizing working seniors who receive the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, by considering the CERB as employment income in calculating the GIS. In my opinion, this is a key condition. One of the solutions we thought of was to allow for a recalculation of the GIS regardless of whether the request was made by Service Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency, in addition to allowing debts to be repaid over three years rather than one. We proposed solutions.

As the seniors critic, I have often risen in the House and asked for these solutions. I can point out that the minister announced this week in her economic update that she would fix this next May. That is all well and good, but with Christmas around the corner, seniors are poorer than ever. They were already in dire straits financially before the pandemic, and since July, things have gotten even worse. They will not get any gifts for new year, Valentine's Day or Easter either. May is way too far away.

In response to the economic update, my colleague from Joliette has already said that we will continue to work to get this problem solved faster. Obviously, we cannot help but notice that the months of pressure from our party have had some impact and that there would not have been any compensation if we had not been there. We must not forget that working seniors are bearing the brunt of these cuts to the GIS, even though they were legitimately entitled to claim the CERB during the first wave.

We also need to remember that those receiving the GIS are the most disadvantaged seniors, and that the federal government has been depriving them of hundreds of dollars every month since July. They no longer have the financial wiggle room to get through the next five months without having to make some tough choices, such as stopping certain medications or selling their possessions, given that inflation has pushed grocery prices up by 7%.

That is why the government needs to speed up the process. We will continue to demand that it reverse its ridiculous decision to create two classes of seniors, since the current financial situation of seniors proves that poverty does not start at age 75, that health problems do not start at age 75, and that the OAS must be raised by $110 a month starting at age 65, because the government is completely overlooking seniors between the ages of 65 and 74.

Last week, I replaced a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. As we were questioning officials from the Canada Revenue Agency, I was astonished to discover that, in 2021, a country like Canada is unable to find technological solutions more quickly. The CRA knew since the summer of 2020 that problems would crop up. Its officials told us that there were still too many technological challenges to address the issues of either seniors or workers in the cultural sector.

Our third condition is that the minister confirm that she intends to use the power to adapt the assistance measures in Bill C-2 by regulation in order to meet the needs of other industries that are currently excluded from federal support, including the aerospace industry, if a need is demonstrated. As the crisis continues to evolve, there may be still more upheaval ahead.

In conclusion, we definitely need to monitor the situation, and the programs will have to be flexible. Bill C‑2 makes it possible to help some sectors during this crisis by extending the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy. However, as my colleague from Joliette mentioned, nothing is being done about other serious problems affecting our businesses because of supply chain disruptions. Consider the microprocessor shortage, for example. This supply chain disruption is causing stoppages in several production chains in Quebec.

There is one final aspect that I would like to address. The government cannot claim urgency as an excuse when it is the one that delayed the work associated with the adoption of the new programs by calling the most expensive election in history just as the fourth wave began. We should already have addressed these issues affecting SMEs and businesses.

We need to adopt Bill C-2 because one thing is certain: The current situation being what it is, we cannot feel at ease rising for the holidays without passing this important bill. Let us work together for business owners and workers. Let us take action.

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, first, I would recognize that the Bloc is supporting the passage of Bill C-2. It is important to recognize that because the bill would provide ongoing support. In particular, I always appreciate the focus that the Bloc puts on the arts and cultural communities, something I personally believe in very strongly.

As has been pointed out, the bill would not resolve all the problems out there, but it is important that it ultimately pass because it supports many people and businesses today. Supporting Canadians in a broad sense means not only doing it through legislation, but through budgetary measures as well. To focus on this bill, it is a positive bill supporting certain aspects of our economy. Would the member agree with that?

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 11:45 a.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague and friend, the member for Shefford.

Bill C-2 came back to the House after being examined and even improved in committee. I want to explain to the House why the Bloc Québécois supported the principle of the bill and voted in favour of it. As the omicron variant has unfortunately reminded us, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and many sectors are still struggling. From the outset, we collectively decided to support those sectors, knowing that we would need those workers and businesses when the pandemic was over.

Bill C-2 extends the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy, but in a more targeted way, in order to help sectors that are struggling, such as the tourism and hospitality industry. I am thinking here about the challenges facing large hotel groups, since international conferences and other such events have been put on pause. The bill also targets another sector that is very important to us, the arts and culture industry, and it contains measures for businesses in other struggling industries. The bill also proposes support for individuals who have to care for a sick person quarantined at home because of COVID-19, as well as support measures for provinces or regions if they have to go back into lockdown. We are in favour of all of that.

When we read the first version of the bill, we and many of our colleagues in the House noticed that self-employed workers had been overlooked, since the bill did not set anything aside for them after CERB ended. We wanted to ensure that self-employed workers in these struggling sectors would be supported.

The first question I asked the Minister of Finance was about the absence of support measures for these individuals in the targeted sectors. She replied and repeated publicly that the program, the government and the department were not in a position to provide targeted support in those sectors, and officials appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance to confirm this. My colleague from Elmwood—Transcona also raised that issue at committee, as did my colleague from Shefford.

This is all very disappointing. After nearly two years of the pandemic, the government and its departments have not been able to evolve, move in new directions, be more flexible and better adapt the existing tools, especially by targeting certain sectors. This was done for the wage subsidy, but not for self-employed workers in the same sectors. It makes no sense.

Nevertheless, we negotiated and were guaranteed that there would be a support program for self-employed workers in the arts and culture sector. The Minister of Finance came to committee to tell us that, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage went into great detail explaining what it would look like, referring to the Quebec model in particular. In Quebec, the government supports foundations, which in turn support the self-employed workers in the sector. Since we found it unacceptable to leave out self-employed arts and culture workers, the guarantees we got suit us fine, and we are okay with things on that front.

The Bloc Québécois asked the government and the Minister of Finance for something else. The original version of the bill gave the minister and the Governor in Council sweeping power, in legal jargon, to change all of the terms of the bill and meet any new needs that might arise. According to the criteria, a businesses had to have lost 50% of its sales, or 40% for businesses in a targeted sector, during the qualifying periods in order to be eligible. Are those good percentages? Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore these issues in depth due to the short timeframe we were given.

The Minister of Finance and government officials confirmed that Bill C‑2, as written, gave the minister the power to make changes by way of regulation and to adjust support levels for targeted sectors.

That is a crucial element for the Bloc Québécois. During a pandemic, the situation and the circumstances can change fast. Some sectors that we feel need support because they play a crucial and strategic role in our economy may find themselves struggling. We need to do something about that. We actually got confirmation on that from the Minister of Finance.

The Bloc Québécois will be there to remind her. Quebec's manufacturing sector has approached us about this. Because of the pandemic, there is a huge shortage of semiconductors, and major Quebec companies that use semiconductors have seen very uneven or slowed production. The Minister of Finance told us that the numbers show the situation is not as bad as we feared, and she promised to give us those numbers. I would like to remind her that we are still waiting for those numbers. It has been a week, and we have not received anything. She could certainly do better on that front.

What the Bloc Québécois likes about Bill C‑2 is that, if the Minister of Finance needed to better support this sector, she would have the power to do so through regulations. This could be done quickly. The same goes for the aerospace industry. We are committed to talking about this at length when we come back to the House to see where things stand and how the needs have evolved. Again, the Bloc Québécois will be there to remind the Minister of Finance of the power she has and to remind her to use it for the good of the economy.

I will address another issue that is missing from Bill C‑2. It is an incredible injustice that has to do with a serious crisis. I am talking about the situation with seniors who had to rely on various forms of emergency benefits during the pandemic and who are now getting part of their guaranteed income supplement taken away, because the Canada emergency response benefit is not considered working income; their file was processed by Service Canada, which prevented them from proceeding with a new calculation for the current year; or they were required to make a repayment in the same year instead of in installments over a few years.

I am sure that my colleague from Shefford will speak to this in detail in her speech. The Bloc Québécois considers this a serious problem. We contacted the Minister of Finance and the respective ministers in Quebec about this both during and after the election campaign, urging them to act because this was important. We asked again in relation to Bill C‑2. The Minister of Finance promised to deal with the situation in the days to follow. We were led to believe that it would be in the economic update. We finally got $742 million. That is not what we were looking for, but it seems promising. We are waiting for the details before we make up our minds.

The big problem, however, is that the money would not be available until May 2022. Seniors have been living with reduced incomes for months now. The poorest seniors, the ones who receive the guaranteed income supplement, already have limited purchasing power. We are now struggling with inflation, but the fix would not come until next May. That is unacceptable. The Bloc Québécois will keep reminding the government that it needs to speed up the process.

We needed more time in committee. We were rushed, and it took the government two months to recall the House after an unnecessary election. Thus, we were unable to improve the bill as much as we could have.

However, I would like to remind members that we adopted an amendment proposed by my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona. That amendment does improve Bill C-2. I imagine that my colleague will speak more about it during his speech. An amendment moved by the member for Carleton was also adopted. However, the study of a bill requires more time.

In closing, I want to thank my colleagues who supported me at the Standing Committee on Finance. I am thinking of the member for Drummond concerning arts and culture, the member for Terrebonne, who is interested in pandemic-related assistance programs, my colleague from Shefford, who is interested in seniors, and my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, who also supported me.

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, we came forward with Bill C-2 in response to what we heard on the ground. I have been speaking to businesses and workers. The tourism industry needs the support that is found in Bill C-2. I have been speaking to caregivers, as I am sure others in the House have, and they need the supports that are also found in Bill C-2. We are also extending sick leave benefits through this bill. I do not need to remind the House how incredibly important that is with this new wave of omicron.

Before the House adjourns for the holiday season, we must pass Bill C-2 so we can be prepared to support Canadians in their time of need.

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, back on October 21, the Prime Minister and the government announced that, as a priority, they would be coming out with ongoing support programs. That is the essence of this bill.

Could my colleague provide her thoughts on why Bill C-2 is so important, as we want to continue to support people and businesses?

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 10:55 a.m.
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Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his concern and his dedication to the tourism sector and to independent travel agents and advisers.

As I mentioned in my speech, Bill C-2 will be open and they will be eligible to apply for supports. I also note that we did extraordinary work to support Canadians when they had to cancel their travel plans last year at the height of the pandemic.

We will be there to support Canadians, as I know this is a volatile period. Of course, many plans are being changed right before the holidays. However, this is the right thing to do. We must keep Canadians safe. We do not know what other countries around the world may do. They may close their airspace, and we certainly do not want Canadians to be stranded abroad. That is why we have issued the travel advisory. We will continue to do everything necessary to continue to keep Canadians safe.

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 10:55 a.m.
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Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member, in her capacity as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism, about the 12,000 independent travel advisers across the country who are suffering because of a lack of supports within Bill C-2. As the member may be aware in her capacity as the parliamentary secretary, many of these travel advisers had their commissions clawed back. They were not earning zero income; they were earning less than zero income and had to pay money back to the airlines. With the latest travel advisory, there will be more cancellations, and my understanding is that they are not eligible under Bill C-2 at this point.

Government Business No. 4—An Act to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19Government Orders

December 16th, 2021 / 10:40 a.m.
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Outremont Québec


Rachel Bendayan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, with the rising threat of the omicron variant, it is absolutely crucial that Bill C-2 pass in order to bring in the supports that Canadian businesses and workers need.

What we have learned over the past 12 months is that the most important and effective economic policy is one that protects the health of Canadians.

I would like to remind the Conservatives and the NDP, who voted against the bill, that we are still in a pandemic, and our entrepreneurs and workers continue to face significant challenges. This is certainly not the time to let them down.

In these troubling times of rapidly increasing cases of the omicron variant, the federal government is ready to act, and we have the resources to do so.

In the economic and fiscal update presented earlier this week, our government announced the following investments: $2 billion to procure COVID-19 therapeutics and treatments that will save lives and help prevent hospitalizations, $1.7 billion to procure rapid testing supplies in order to identify infections earlier and break the chain of transmission, and $7.3 billion to procure vaccine boosters.

We are facing a serious threat, but we are prepared. Responding to this threat is obviously going to be the federal government's top priority.

Let us take a step back for a moment. When the pandemic hit us, our government rapidly rolled out a full range of effective, broad-based programs to support Canadians through our country’s greatest economic shock since the Great Depression. These actions were necessary and unprecedented in our lifetime.

A mere weeks after the start of the COVID-19 health crisis in Canada, we moved to introduce the emergency recovery benefit to ensure the Canadians who lost their jobs could keep food on the table and a roof over their head. We also introduced the emergency wage subsidy to help our businesses, particularly our small businesses, but also to help our workers and those working for our small businesses.

These supports have been absolutely critical, both for our economy and for our health. As the IMF recently said, “Government budget support measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have saved lives and jobs.”

It is therefore not a coincidence that we, here in Canada, have the second lowest COVID death rate out the G7. It is also no coincidence that we have the second strongest job recovery in the G7. This is a direct result of the resilience of Canadians, but it is also a demonstration of the impact a federal government can have when it puts people first.

Conservative members in this House seem to take a different view, choosing instead to demonize those Canadians that needed support during the depth of the pandemic. For example, the Conservative finance critic said yesterday that CERB recipients were fraudsters stuffing their pockets.

We are talking about a program that helped nearly nine million Canadians and was a literal lifeline for so many. We are talking about vulnerable seniors. We are talking about workers who lost their jobs and needed to put food on the kitchen table. These are our neighbours, our fellow Canadians. They should not be vilified.

I stand behind the supports we put in place. I also stand behind the decision to end the CERB once the economy reopened and jobs were again available. We can, and we have, made the right decisions at the right time in order to support those in need and support economic growth.

From coast to coast to coast, our programs have been a lifeline for workers and businesses. They have helped protect millions of jobs and helped hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses get through the worst days of the pandemic.

However, let us be clear. These emergency measures were always meant to be temporary and to help us get through the crisis. Fortunately, we are in a new phase and it is very different from the darkest chapters of our fight against COVID‑19. Not only have we recovered 106% of the jobs lost during COVID‑19, but our economy is bouncing back exceptionally well. In the last quarter, the growth rate was 5.4%, which is twice as high as expected.

We also have the most effective and successful vaccination campaign in the world. Indeed, 64 million doses have already been administered and more than 80% of Canadians aged five and up have received two doses of the vaccine.

We have concluded agreements to receive millions of additional doses to ensure that all Canadians have access to the third dose of the vaccine.

Thanks to one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, most businesses here in Canada have safely reopened and our country's employment is now back to well above pre-pandemic levels. However, we know there are still workers and businesses whose livelihoods are being affected as a result of public health measures. That is why it is important to pivot our supports to more targeted measures that will provide help where it is needed most, and continue to create jobs and growth while prudently managing government spending.

Some may wonder how we can tell that we have reached this turning point in Canada's economic recovery from the COVID recession. Allow me to highlight several markers of our government's successful economic response plan that has brought us to where we are today.

Last year, in the Speech from the Throne, our government promised to create one million jobs, a goal we achieved in September of this year when Canada recovered all of the jobs lost at the worst point of the recession. There have been three million jobs recovered since the spring of 2020, a very impressive number. Our plan is working. We have now surpassed our target and have, in fact, recovered 106% of the jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic, significantly outpacing the United States, where just 83% of lost jobs have been recovered thus far.

By delivering significant fiscal policy support to the economy and avoiding the harmful austerity policies proposed by the Conservatives after the 2008 recession, our Liberal government has supported a much more rapid and resilient recovery. In fact, our economy is now back to pre-pandemic outputs many months earlier than in the 2008 recession, even though the COVID recession was four times deeper and more significant.

However, as welcome as these economic markers and signs of recovery are, our government recognizes that not all sectors of the economy are there yet. Some of the necessary health and safety measures that continue to save lives continue to be restrictive for our businesses and for certain sectors of the economy, and with the threat of omicron looming, we need to continue to provide support where and when it is needed. What this means for our government is that we are entering what I truly hope and believe will be the final pivot in delivering the support needed to ensure a robust, inclusive and strong recovery for our country.

The service industry continues to stimulate the recovery, but the progress made in the retail sector has been erased in part by the losses in other sectors, including the accommodation and food services sector.

As the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance indicated earlier, many of the business support programs ended in October with the reopening of our economy. However, we know that the work is not over. The federal government must continue to be there to support Canadians. That is exactly what we are doing with Bill C‑2, which is before us today. We are moving on from broad, sweeping support, which was appropriate at the height of the crisis, to more targeted measures that will provide help where it is still needed.

This includes extending the Canada recovery hiring program until May 2022, which would help us finish the fight against COVID and continue to ensure that lost jobs are recovered as quickly as possible. For eligible employers with current revenue losses above 10%, our government would provide a subsidy rate of 50% to enable employers to hire the staff they need to grow. In addition, our government is proposing to deliver targeted support to businesses that are still facing significant pandemic-related challenges.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, I am particularly concerned with the struggles still faced by the tourism industry and those who depend on it. Let us not sugar-coat it: The industry has gone through an absolutely devastating 21 months. Tourism revenues decreased by almost 50% between 2019 and 2020, going from $104 billion to just $53 billion, while jobs directly attributable to tourism decreased by 41%. Those numbers are shocking. We must acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of workers in the tourism industry have lost their jobs, and that although many industries have seen strong and sustained recovery, the tourism sector is still struggling to recover its losses.

We must recognize the very difficult situation they face, and that is why we are moving forward in Bill C-2 with a new targeted tourism and hospitality recovery program. This new support program would provide wage and rent subsidies to tourism and hospitality businesses still facing serious pandemic-related challenges. Eligible applicants include hotels, travel agents, airports and other businesses directly related to tourism. However, we recognize that many more businesses rely indirectly on tourism. After all, about 10% of all jobs in Canada are dependent directly or indirectly on tourism. That is why we have expanded the list of eligible recipients to include restaurants, parks, sports facilities, theatres, festivals and more.

I know that this help is absolutely critical. I have spoken to hundreds of independent restaurant and tourism operators, and I have heard first-hand the distress and angst they have at the prospect of closing their businesses, often their life's work. Local businesses, like a favourite neighbourhood restaurant, are what make our communities and main streets home. We cannot leave them behind. That is why we have brought forward Bill C-2 and why it is so urgent that it pass.

To help these businesses that are still facing significant difficulties, our government is proposing to provide support through three new programs for businesses still grappling with major pandemic-related challenges.

The first is the tourism and hospitality recovery program, which would provide support to, for example, hotels, tour operators, travel agencies and restaurants with wage and rent subsidies of up to 75%.

The second is the hardest-hit business recovery program, which would provide support to other businesses that have faced deep losses, with wage and rent subsidies of up to 50%.

The third is the local lockdown program, which would provide businesses that face temporary new local lockdowns up to the maximum amount available through the wage and rent subsidy programs.

Finally, to ensure that workers who must isolate due to illness or must stay home to take care of a family member can continue to receive financial support, we are extending the recovery sickness benefit and the recovery caregiving benefit.

These measures are essential for our economy and to protect Canadians' health. They should be supported by all parties in the House.

As my time draws to a close in this debate on Bill C-2, let me take this opportunity to address Canadians before we leave for the holidays. I would ask them to book their appointments for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The booster shot is incredibly important. As a mother to a young child, I will also take this opportunity to address Canadian parents from right across the country and encourage them to get their children vaccinated as well.

Let us do everything we can to help the provinces and territories avoid putting in place further lockdown measures. Let us do everything possible to avoid overwhelming our health care system and our hospitals. Let us do everything possible to keep each other safe and healthy.

As this may be my last opportunity to speak before the holidays, I wish you, Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and all Canadians a very happy holiday period, a safe holiday season and a healthy 2022.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 6:20 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the member referenced the fact that the government needs to have some sort of retrofit housing program, one that has energy efficiency, and he was disappointed we did not have that.

Let me alleviate his disappointment. We have a program. There are 700,000 applicants expected for grants. It is all about making homes more energy efficient. It is good for the economy; it is good for the environment and it is good for our housing stock. It is helping many people who would not have the finances to buy a home.

I wonder if the member would at the very least acknowledge that his dream of having something of this nature is actually a reality, that it is a good thing and that he will support it, much like he should be supporting Bill C-2, but that is another issue.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I would talk about the folks in my riding who also work in the tourism industry, an industry that is 85% women, who are independent travel agents who work out of their basement or home office. There is nothing in there for them. The government should not pretend. It should not pretend, because we have heard this again and again.

The fact is we support getting help in the way the government says it wants to help certain businesses. It is not that we do not want the help to be there for them, but this divide and conquer strategy of the Liberals hives off certain groups and delivers help to them while abandoning other groups like independent travel agents and like a lot of people who are working in the arts and culture sector. They are still waiting on some kind of program, but all the government had to do was include them in the Canada worker lockdown benefit without the requirement for a lockdown.

There are ways the government could be delivering help to a lot more people who really need it. Bill C-2 is about the basic structure of Canada's recovery, and it is a complete failure from that point of view. The government should stop pretending that we are somehow against helping the few people it wants to help, when we are clearly making a statement about the nature of the recovery and all the other people who need help but for whom the government is not there.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona, with whom I have the pleasure of working on the Standing Committee on Finance. I have seen how hard-working and brilliant this member is, as we have sat intensively over the past week. He is motivated to serve the public, he does it for the right reasons and he is very talented. I salute him.

My colleague raises some good points. A solution with respect to the GIS and the problem with CERB is being proposed here. Based on the answers we got from officials in the briefing, it seems to address the problem, although it is different from the solutions we had considered. However, the time frame is still a major concern. Officials told us that the payment would be sent in May, but we see that as an unacceptable delay. We will obviously keep an eye on this.

There is nothing in the update about self-employed workers in the cultural sector. What was announced is another measure in response to what we asked for more than a year ago. The Bloc Québécois is reassured by what the Minister of Canadian Heritage said at committee. We obviously look forward to seeing this targeted program, which will be presented by the government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage. It was a core condition for our support of Bill C-2, which deals with the extension of wage subsidies.

Even though the minister made links to Bill C‑2 in her speech, the update is not Bill C‑2. The two should not be confused.

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I know the issue of self-employed workers in the arts and culture sector is one that the Bloc Québécois talked about at length during the debate on Bill C-2. We in the NDP talked a lot about seniors and the guaranteed income supplement.

We heard a little bit about those two issues in the economic update, but it was very vague. We did not get much in the way of details.

I am a little concerned that what the government has in mind may not be an adequate solution for seniors who have already had their guaranteed income supplement taken away.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the vague program announced for arts and culture workers. Is he confident that the Liberal government will do a good job of implementing such a program?

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, when the world-wide pandemic hit Canada, the Prime Minister and this government stepped up and made it very clear that we were going to be there for Canadians. Over the days, weeks and months that followed, programs flowed to support Canadians in a very real and tangible way. Whether through wage subsidy programs, the CERB program, direct payments to seniors or direct payments to people with disabilities, we were there. The Conservatives, depending on which member is speaking, will talk about the deficit trying to imply that we spent too much. We were there to support Canadians.

We now have Bill C-2 before us. It is a continuation of supporting Canadians. Will the leader of the Conservative Party and the Conservatives ensure that the ongoing support for Canadian workers, businesses and Canadians in general, will be there by supporting Bill C-2 and ensuring it passes before Christmas?

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19.

I want to say a big thanks to the extraordinary and tireless clerks and staff who made this all happen: Alexandre Roger, Philippe Méla, Isabelle D'Souza and Émilie Thiverge. I thank them so much on behalf of the committee.