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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

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

November 26th, 2021 / 10:20 a.m.
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Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your appointment. I also want to congratulate the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance on his re-election. It is a pleasure to see him in the House, for he is always cheerful and makes himself available to opposition members.

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that targeted and predictable measures are needed, as the minister said, and that is what we find in Bill C‑2. However, support measures for self-employed workers, particularly in the cultural sector, are conspicuously absent from this bill.

What measures does the government plan to introduce for self-employed workers in the cultural sector?

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

November 26th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

moved that Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, is it ever good to be back here.

It is my pleasure to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-2, an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19. However, before I get into the substance of Bill C-2, I would like to say a few words of thanks to the residents of Edmonton Centre for once again giving me the great honour of representing them in this chamber. I also want to offer my love and deep thanks to my partner David, to my family and friends and to the countless volunteers who made today possible. Serving Edmontonians, serving the city I love, is the single greatest honour of my life. My remarkable community, on the banks of North Saskatchewan River, is back at the table here in Ottawa.

I would like to take the chamber back in time to a moment in 2020 and the beginning of the global pandemic. Canadians were asked to take unprecedented actions to keep each other safe, forgoing celebrating life's milestones, forgoing time together with family, forgoing so many of the things that bring joy to each of our lives. We saw front-line workers answer the call of duty, doing double and triple shifts to support our society and keep people safe. We faced an emergency that required widespread lockdowns, threatened millions of Canadians' ability to work and put at risk hundreds of thousands of businesses.

To respond to this unprecedented moment, our government took unprecedented action. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and thanks to the collective efforts of so many, we worked tirelessly to put in place a comprehensive suite of measures to support Canadian workers and businesses. Our income, wage and rent support programs kept households afloat, kept millions of Canadians in their jobs and allowed hundreds of thousands of businesses to keep going through the darkest days of the pandemic.

These are not just empty numbers. These are real people who were able to put food on their tables and real businesses that kept their doors open. It is the woman I met door knocking back in Edmonton during the election campaign who told me to look at the three houses to the left of hers, the three houses to the right and her own home. She said that if it were not for the government supports, the whole block might have lost their homes. It is the Credo Coffee shop on 124 Street, with two other locations, run by Geoff, Andrew and the team. They have been able to continue to provide incredible service and “caffeinations” to Edmontonians, including their member of Parliament.

Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of Canadians and our health care workers, we are now seeing better days. Vaccination rates are high, approaching 80% of eligible Canadians; children are beginning to get their doses; grandparents are getting boosters; and our health care system is finding more and more ways to treat the virus. Schools are back in session and businesses across the country are reopening. Canada has now recovered 101% of the jobs lost in the depths of the COVID-19 recession, compared with just 81% in the United States. I want to applaud the work of my friend and colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, whose stewardship of our economy has put hope back on the horizon for so many Canadians. In short, our government took action, and it worked.

However, we also understand that there are some sectors of the economy that continue to need support. With the public health situation still unpredictable, we need to make sure there are targeted supports that enable Canadians to continue to take the necessary precautions to save lives, including necessary public health restrictions that limit some economic activity. The time has come to adapt federal support measures to these new and improved circumstances. These were temporary emergency measures and were always meant to be just that: for emergencies.

Bill C‑2 will therefore make it possible for the government to implement targeted measures to support those who still need help.

As parliamentarians, we have a duty once again to take action and deliver important targeted support measures that will ensure Canadian workers and businesses that have not yet been fully able to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 have the support they need. Bill C-2 would do just that.

Like the measures for businesses, the assistance programs for Canadians will be targeted to meet the needs of those who still need help. We see that the fourth wave of the pandemic is hitting some regions of the country extra hard. It is still possible that public health officials will impose new temporary lockdowns in some regions in the coming weeks or months.

We are therefore proposing to immediately implement a program on which Canadians can depend should the need arise.

This new proposed program is the Canada worker lockdown benefit. As the Canada recovery benefit has done, this new targeted program would provide $300 a week in income support to eligible workers. It would snap into action to support employees unable to work because of a local lockdown any time until May 2022, and eligible workers would be able to access it retroactively to October 24. The program would be available to workers who do not qualify for employment insurance and also to those who do qualify, provided they are not receiving EI benefits for that same period.

That is one way we are helping, but we know that Canadians may also need continued support from the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit, because we all need to protect ourselves and our family, friends and co-workers by staying home when we are sick. Furthermore, many children still cannot be vaccinated and are therefore particularly vulnerable, which means parents need to be able to stay home to take care of them.

That is why we want to extend the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit until May 7, 2022. Bill C‑2 will also increase the maximum duration of these benefits by two weeks.

We know that what Canadians want most are good jobs, so we need to make sure Canadian businesses, especially small businesses, have the support they need.

This bill would extend the Canada recovery hiring program until May 7, 2022, at an increased 50% subsidy rate. This would encourage businesses to continue to rehire workers, increase their hours and create the additional jobs Canada needs for a full recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

That said, the government is aware that some businesses are unable to resume all their activities and create those jobs because of the public health measures that, as I said, are necessary to protect Canadians.

We are therefore proposing two new support programs targeting specific types of businesses in order to promote economic recovery. In both cases, the businesses must show that they experienced significant revenue declines during the first 12 months of the pandemic as well as the current month.

I will start with the tourism and hospitality recovery program, which will help hotels, restaurants and travel agencies still grappling with public health restrictions and the fact that people are travelling less because of the measures in place.

The Canada emergency wage subsidy and Canada emergency rent subsidy rate for these businesses will be 40% for those with a current-month revenue loss of 40%. The rate can go as high as 75% depending on revenue loss.

On that subject, allow me to pause for a few moments on what this means for our tourism sector. Since taking on the role of Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, I have been moved by the passion and pride of those in the tourism sector for the work they do. As a former business owner, I too have felt that passion and pride and know the anxiety and heartache that comes when a person's life's work is placed in jeopardy by forces beyond their control.

These tourism businesses, these tour operators, are the people who tell our story to the world. They make possible the memorable experiences people carry with them for the rest of their lives.

However, this incredible industry was dealt a body blow by the global pandemic. In 2020, revenues declined almost 50%, from $104.4 billion to $53.4 billion, and jobs directly attributable to tourism decreased 41%, from 692,000 to 409,000, in the same period. Revenue projections for summer 2021 are expected to be about half of summer 2019 revenues.

However, even with these challenges, Canada's tourism sector is moving forward and our whole government recognizes the vital role that tourism plays in providing employment and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, and further fuelling economic growth. In short, the Canadian economy will not fully recover until the tourism sector recovers.

With government support, businesses in this sector are starting to get ready to welcome Canadians back to experience the great places and activities this country has to offer. This support includes the measures introduced in budget 2021 to support the tourism sector, totalling $1 billion over three years.

This included $500 million over two years flowing through the regional development agencies to help our hard-hit tourism businesses adapt their products and services and invest in future growth. It also included $200 million through the regional development agencies to support them and help ensure Canada continues to draw millions of visitors from all over the world to our large arts and cultural festivals and major events. This has ensured that they can continue to celebrate Canada's artistic excellence and unique character. To draw visitors to our smaller local festivals and events, as part of this package Canadian Heritage also received $200 million.

While the country is opening up, the organizations that host artistic, heritage and sport events and exhibits have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic and many Canadian artists and cultural workers have struggled to find work. With reduced revenues, many heritage, arts and sports organizations run the risk of not surviving through to the other side of the pandemic without additional support. We promised our tourism sector we would get it through to the end of this pandemic. With this suite of measures and the new supports contained in Bill C-2, we have delivered.

The other program we are proposing is the hardest-hit business recovery program. It would be available to employers in all sectors who have faced deep and enduring losses. The wage and rent subsidy rate in this case would start at 10% for applicants experiencing a 50% current period revenue loss. It would increase to a maximum of 50% for those with a current period revenue decline of 75% or higher.

In addition, we are proposing a new local lockdown program that would provide rent and wage support of up to 75% for organizations that face temporary local lockdowns and experience current month revenue losses above 40%. Support through these programs would be available from October 24, 2021, to May 7 of next year.

Fighting COVID-19, and the lockdowns it required to save lives, demanded historic government spending in Canada and around the world. It was a historic crisis, and Canadians supported that extraordinary spending because they understood that it was not only the compassionate thing to do, but the economically smart thing to do.

Our government delivered the economic support that has prevented the sort of economic scarring that followed the 2008 recession, and that would have done permanent damage to our economy and to our communities. Most importantly, these investments in our country saved lives. Today, more targeted support is required. We must adapt to provide help where it is needed, while also prudently and carefully managing government spending.

The measures in this bill will support Canadians and businesses still feeling the effects of the pandemic.

Together we have led much of our economy through the worst of this pandemic. Our actions have made it possible for our businesses to survive this once-in-a-century crisis. We have come so far and now we need to get the job done. This difficult journey is approaching its final mile. I call on all members to support this vital legislation and get our tourism and hardest-hit sectors home safe.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2021 / 7:25 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene in today's debate. I want to start by recognizing how difficult the last 19 months have been for everyone.

It has certainly been difficult from an economic point of view, and I will be talking a little about that tomorrow in the debate on Bill C-2, and also difficult in terms of coping with the consequences of some of the public health measures that have had to be taken.

It has been difficult to be shut in our homes. It has been hard not to be able to go out and get together. I fully understand people's desire to get out and reunite with people. Indeed, I have enjoyed being able to come to this place and see some colleagues, even as I have some reservations about whether it is the appropriate thing to do and whether we are really there yet.

We know we are in the middle of a fourth wave. Depending on where we are in the country, our experiences of COVID are very different right now. There are provinces where ICUs are full and they are worried about the consequences for their medical system, and there are other provinces that are faring relatively well for the moment but are wondering what the future holds. We just heard the premier of Saskatchewan, today or yesterday, express some regret for not having implemented more strict public health measures earlier in the province's own fourth wave.

What have we done? We have followed the advice of public health officials, which is the right thing to do. I am an electrician by trade. I would not take kindly to somebody doing some research on the Internet and then coming to tell me how to wire something. I would tell them that I am a Red Seal electrician: I have the experience, and if anybody is going to correct me it would be somebody with similar training and experience, not somebody who had been investigating things on the Internet.

It has been right and good to follow the advice of public health authorities throughout the pandemic. They have told us to wear masks. They have told us to socially distance. Sometimes they have told us to stay home. They have told us to get vaccinated and that vaccination is our way through this. We are getting closer to a normal time, because more people are accepting that advice and choosing to get vaccinated. I commend them for that, and I encourage those who have not done that to do it soon.

For every person with some medical credentials out there who is a COVID denier, there are many more who accept the science. I do not believe there is any great conspiracy. Frankly, having spent six years here, I do not think the government is capable of the intelligence, discipline and coordination it would take to orchestrate a conspiracy that vast, nor do I think the so-called government-in-waiting is capable of such a thing. I find these conspiracy theories simply unbelievable.

If vaccination is part of the way for us to get back to normal, then I think it is incumbent upon us as elected officials to show leadership in that. One of the principle barriers to us being able to talk about how we conduct ourselves properly here, or to get back to some kind of normally functioning Parliament, is that the Conservative Party in particular has not been forthright about how many of its caucus members are vaccinated and how many are not.

The Conservatives say we should simply trust the system. I think we should expect more transparency from people who are elected to public office. We often hear from them about the transparency they want from the government, and about the right to demand more transparency from the government. We have to show that in the way we behave ourselves. We have a leadership obligation to get vaccinated and to show, be honest and report our own numbers. Every other caucus here has done that.

I take the Bloc's argument for an in-person Parliament to be a little different. The Bloc members are coming from a different place. They are saying that they did the right thing: They all got vaccinated, and they want to come and meet in person. I think that reasonable people can disagree about whether it is the right time to do that and whether we should have a hybrid Parliament. Their argument comes from a different place, because they have been transparent and have shown that leadership. I thank them for that, even as I disagree on the issue of whether a hybrid format should be available.

The member for Vancouver East made the point very well earlier when she talked about many of us having to get here on a plane. The fact is that if I am showing any two minor symptoms or one major symptom, I have to fill out a COVID screening on my phone to get my boarding pass.

If I have a scratchy throat and a runny nose, which happens often in Winnipeg in the winter, I either have to lie and get on the plane, doing the wrong thing, or I have to stay home. I would be glad for the opportunity to participate in Parliament from home, and do the right thing by avoiding getting on a plane when I am presenting symptoms.

I did a lot of work in the virtual Parliament. I was frustrated by some of the things that other members have raised. I was frustrated by committee meetings that were disrupted by technical difficulties. I was frustrated by problems with interpretation. I felt for and talked about and stood up for our interpreters who were facing a disproportionate amount of injury as a result of the hybrid format. All of those things are true, but I was able to get a lot of work done.

We got a benefit of $2,000 per month for people who could not go to work. We got a student benefit that would not have happened if it had not been for the interventions of the NDP. We got a sick leave program that would not have happened if it had not been for the interventions of the NDP.

It is not just what we managed to accomplish for Canadians in their time of need, but it was also some of the accountability work that we did. Some people around here may remember a guy by the name of Bill Morneau, who did the wrong thing with respect to the WE Charity scandal. It was in the virtual summer sittings and virtual committee meetings of 2020, which the NDP negotiated, that testimony came to light that brought Bill Morneau down for his wrongdoing on the WE Charity scandal. That summer, he resigned his position and ultimately left the government. If that is not accountability, I do not know what is.

The idea that there cannot be good parliamentary work in a virtual Parliament, both in terms of helping people and in terms of holding the government to account, simply is untrue. I do not accept those arguments.

As I alluded to earlier, in the lead-up to this Parliament feelers were put out to the Conservatives and the Bloc to talk about what our Parliament would look like, whether we would have a hybrid Parliament and, if so, what shape that might take. However, they chose to abstain from those discussions. We might have had a hybrid Parliament where committees met in person. That might have alleviated some of the burden on our interpreters. We might have had some kind of understanding about how many Liberals might be in the House. However, instead of being able to have a constructive conversation, the conversation was about the disorder in the Conservative caucus and whether the Conservatives were going to require their MPs to be vaccinated. They were splintering off into a bunch of subcaucuses, and we could not have the kind of real conversation that we needed to have in the lead-up to this moment, because now we are back.

Finally, Parliament has met again after the election. It took too long, but now we are here. Parliament is in session and there are things to do that are actually about the people we were elected to represent. Therefore, we should not spend all our time debating this. There was a window to talk about how we were going to do this. Some chose not to participate, so then what is the most reasonable thing to do?

The most reasonable thing to do, if parties are committed to having a hybrid Parliament in this time when the pandemic is not yet over, is to adopt the same rules that those parties once agreed to. If we were going to do something different, that would be worse from the point of view of forging a new path. This at least is what they once agreed to, so our hands are somewhat tied by the fact that they would not engage in good-faith conversations about what kind of alterations to the hybrid Parliament we might make or if there were ways that we might scale back the hybrid element in certain parts of Parliament.

I imagine this may happen again. This has a deadline, and the pandemic may not be over by June 2022. The next time we discuss this, I invite these parties to come to the table and talk about how to make Parliament work with the 21st-century tools that we have, in a way that makes sense during a pandemic.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 25th, 2021 / 3:20 p.m.
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Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. I love questions, but I especially love the Thursday question.

I can say that tomorrow we begin debate at second reading of Bill C‑2, an act to provide further support in response to COVID‑19, which was introduced yesterday by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

On Monday of next week, we will resume debate on the COVID-19 economic measures legislation. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we will have a debate on the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Resuming Debate on the Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesOrder Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2021 / 12:50 p.m.
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Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Outremont.

Since this is the first time that I am standing in the House in the 44th Parliament, I want to thank my constituents of Ottawa West—Nepean for putting their faith, confidence and trust in me once again as their member of Parliament.

I would also like to thank my family, especially my husband Don, my stepdaughter Courtney and my mom Maria, for always being there and supporting me throughout, as well as my volunteers and supporters.

I am pleased to participate in the debate on the government's motion to implement a hybrid sitting approach. The motion is proposing that we adapt our procedures and practices so that all members can fully participate in the proceedings of the House either in the chamber or by video conference. It is an important motion. The pandemic is ongoing and we require the flexibility that a hybrid system would provide.

I would like to paint a complete picture of the government motion.

First, the motion would allow all members to participate in the proceedings of the House in person or by video conference. The members who would attend in person would have to be double-vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption in accordance with the Board of Internal Economy's decision of October 19, 2021.

The motion also proposes certain changes to the Standing Orders of the House to take into account the virtual participation of members. For instance, members who participate remotely would be counted for quorum purposes. All standing orders relating to such requirements as standing when speaking, or being in one's seat in the House, would be amended to allow for participation by video conference.

The motion would also allow documents to be tabled or presented to the House in electronic format. For instance, members participating by video conference could table documents or present petitions or reports to the House in electronic format during Routine Proceedings. However, the documents would have to be forwarded to the Clerk prior to the members' intervention.

With respect to committees, the motion would allow members to participate in committee meetings remotely or in person on the condition that they meet the vaccine requirements set out by the Board of Internal Economy.

The motion proposes a process for recorded divisions in hybrid proceedings. The motion would bring the remote voting application back into use. This application was used successfully for over 120 votes in the second session of the 43rd Parliament. The remote voting application would also allow members to cast their votes safely, securely and conveniently. However, the motion takes a cautious approach. It would direct House administration to carry out an onboarding process of all members, which would be completed no later than December 8, 2021. The remote voting application would be put into use no later than December 9.

Until the remote voting application was implemented, members of the chamber would continue to vote by standing votes, and members participating remotely would be called one by one to cast their votes. The motion proposes measures to ensure the integrity of the remote voting application. Votes would need to be cast from within Canada using a House-managed device. A member's visual identity would need to be validated for each vote. Any member unable to vote because of technical issues would be able to connect to the virtual sitting to indicate their voting intention.

Lastly, the motion also proposes a process for the supplementary estimates (B) for the current fiscal year.

The motion provides that, on a day appointed by a minister of the Crown, consideration of the supplementary estimates shall be taken up by a committee of the whole at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment. At the conclusion of the four hours allotted for consideration, the committee shall rise, and the estimates shall be deemed reported. This is the approach that was used at the beginning of the last parliamentary session because the composition of the standing committees had yet to be established.

It is important to note that the motion states that this method of operation would be in effect until June 23, 2022, the last day on the sitting calendar before the summer break.

The government is proposing a reasonable and pragmatic approach to ensure that members are able to participate in House proceedings while respecting public health guidance. This motion supports the fundamental role of members of the House.

The government has always recognized our essential role in representing our constituents and holding the government to account. The government has supported members in fulfilling this role since it came to power. The government has promoted free votes for members of the governing caucus and established the Prime Minister's question period. When the House was adjourned at the beginning of the pandemic, the government sought ways for members to fulfill their roles.

The former government House leader wrote to the Speaker to ask whether House administration would be able to implement virtual sittings. This is because the government wanted to ensure that the House could continue to hold the government to account during the pandemic. The House passed government motions in April and May 2020 to instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study how members could fulfill their parliamentary duties while the House was adjourned during the pandemic.

The committee undertook two thoughtful studies on this issue. In its second report, the committee recommended a detailed set of standing order amendments that would codify procedure for hybrid sittings and remote electronic voting. The committee also proposed guidance for the development, testing and implementation of a remote electronic voting application. The committee's reports provided valuable guidance to the House and to House administration in implementing a hybrid sitting approach in September 2020.

I want to stress this point. The motion does not propose anything new. During the last Parliament, in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis, the House adopted creative and innovative ways to debate, transact business and make decisions using a hybrid approach. From September 2020 to June 2021, the House sat with members in the chamber and members participating remotely. All regular business of the House was conducted, including consideration of government legislation and private members' business.

During this time, 19 government bills received royal assent. This legislation has a real impact on the lives of Canadians. For example, Bill C-4 created three new temporary recovery benefits to support Canadians who were unable to work because of COVID-19. Bill C-9 put in place targeted support to help businesses with emergency rent and wage subsidies. I hope members will come together to support the important economic measures that the government is proposing in Bill C-2 to address the current phase of the pandemic.

Regarding private members' business, six private members' bills received royal assent and six private members' motions were adopted during hybrid sittings. This success shows that it is possible to consider legislation and other important matters in a hybrid approach.

A hybrid parliament would also allow for better work-life balance, especially for members with young children. During the debates on the Standing Orders and House procedure in February 2021, several members from different parties mentioned the importance of work-life balance. Several members also noted that the hybrid Parliament and electronic voting made it easier for them to juggle their various responsibilities during the 43rd Parliament. Allowing members to choose whether to take part in House proceedings in person or remotely would make it easier for them to balance their responsibilities at home and at work.

I certainly hope that all members of the House will pass this reasonable motion so that we can do our work in a safe way for our constituents.

International TradeRoutine Proceedings

November 24th, 2021 / 3:25 p.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario


Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)