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Votes

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

December 13th, 2021 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I call this meeting to order. I hope everybody is doing well and wasn't affected too much by the windstorm over the weekend in this area.

Welcome to meeting number eight of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. Pursuant to the House of Commons order of reference adopted on December 2, 2021, the committee is meeting on Bill C-2, an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19.

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. The webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the committee.

Today's meeting is also taking place in a webinar format. Webinars are for public committee meetings and are available only to members, their staff and witnesses. Members enter immediately as active participants. All functionalities for active participants remain the same. The staff will be non-active participants and can, therefore, only view the meeting in gallery view.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to remind all participants at this meeting that taking screenshots or photos of your screen is not permitted.

Given the ongoing pandemic situation and in light of the recommendations from health authorities as well as the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on October 19, 2021, to remain healthy and safe, all those attending the meeting in person are to maintain a two-metre physical distancing and must wear a non-medical mask when circulating in the room. It is highly recommended that the mask be worn at all times, including when you are seated. You must maintain proper hand hygiene by using the hand sanitizer provided at the room entrance. As the chair, I will be enforcing these measures for the duration of the meeting, and I thank members in advance for their co-operation.

To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules to follow. Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have a choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French. If interpretation is lost, please inform me immediately, and we will ensure that interpretation is properly restored before resuming the proceedings. The “raise hand” feature at the bottom of the screen can be used at any time if you wish to speak or alert the chair.

For members participating in person, proceed as you usually would when the whole committee is meeting in person in the committee room. Keep in mind the Board of Internal Economy's guidelines for mask use and health protocols. Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on the video conference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. For those who are in the room, your microphone will be controlled as it normally is by the proceedings and verification officer. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you're not speaking, your mike should be on mute. I remind everyone that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. With regard to a speaking list, the committee clerk and I will do the best we can to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members whether they're participating virtually or in person.

It is now my pleasure to welcome our minister. Minister Rodriguez is with us here today. He is accompanied by Isabelle Mondou, deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, and David Dendooven, assistant deputy minister of strategic policy, planning and corporate affairs.

Minister and officials, we thank you very much for making yourselves available to the finance committee.

Minister Rodriguez, you now have the floor for your opening remarks.

December 10th, 2021 / 3:15 p.m.
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Philippe Méla Legislative Clerk

Good afternoon. I'm the legislative clerk for Bill C-2.

My question regarding the motion is about paragraph d), where it reads “that at 10 p.m. on Monday, December 13, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment”. I would like to know if, in the part of the amendment we are talking about, the amendments that are in the package that we're—

December 10th, 2021 / 2:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Yes, I am. Actually, I am. I do have the floor, so thank you very little.

To go back to my point, the Liberals are learning that basically the taxpayer's being defrauded of money, that people are taking multiple CERB cheques in a week—even though it's a once-a-week benefit—that people who are organized criminals are defrauding the system and that people who don't even live in Canada are getting the money. What do they do? How do they respond to that news? They say, “Well, let's hurry up and pass some more government cheques” rather than “Boy, now that we've learned about all of this misappropriation, we'd better look into how that happened.” I think it's incredible how little interest they have in scrutinizing how the money is spent instead of just trying to shovel more and more of it out the door.

I would move an amendment to this proposed motion by adding the following paragraph—sorry; before I add the paragraph, I will say to delete all of the deadlines that Mr. Fragiskatos listed in his original motion for submissions of amendments and for reporting back to the House.

Instead, I would replace that with the following amendment: “That the Standing Committee on Finance continue to hear witness testimony on Bill C-2 the week of December 13, 2021; that the clerk reinvite witnesses who were unable to appear on Bill C-2 due to scheduling conflicts; that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance appear before this committee on the economic and fiscal update 2021 for three hours prior to the House of Commons' rising on December 17, 2021; and that each answer that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance provides does not exceed the time taken to ask the question.”

For some context—

December 10th, 2021 / 2:40 p.m.
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Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Commissioner, Finance and Administration Branch, Canada Revenue Agency

Janique Caron

Again, in the same exercise, in terms of the measures that are proposed in Bill C-2, we think that at peak times—we increase and level off—we would need 650 full-time equivalents to administer these programs.

December 10th, 2021 / 2:40 p.m.
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Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Commissioner, Finance and Administration Branch, Canada Revenue Agency

Janique Caron

Thank you for the question.

I believe that this was included in the information we shared in writing earlier with the committee. For the measures that are included in Bill C-2, at this point the preliminary estimate of the whole cost to administer these programs is $184 million over five years. They are preliminary estimates, in the sense that we still have some analysis to do. We need to consult some of the other government departments that are partnered with us. These costs include only the CRA costs, but it's the best information we have available at this time.

December 10th, 2021 / 2:05 p.m.
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Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit and Service Branch, Canada Revenue Agency

Frank Vermaeten

I'd be happy to start. I'm sure my colleagues will supplement my answer.

Yes, it is a challenge to target payments to a sector, simply because there are borderlines. Whenever you create any sector, you're going to have a challenge about who's in and who's out, no matter how well the legislation is defined or, previously, the rules are established.

In terms of establishing borderlines, I think that under the circumstances, Bill C-2 has done an excellent job to try to articulate, as much as possible, borderlines of tourism, but you can imagine how there's always a borderline situation. If you are, for example, providing food and you are a chip truck, a poutine truck, are you a restaurant or are you simply selling chocolate bars and chips? Those kinds of questions ultimately can never be fully specified in legislation, and therefore the CRA will need to do its job of looking at the facts and trying to distinguish whether you're in this sector or that sector. That's the challenge.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 2:05 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Francis Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Madam Speaker, I do not have a lot of time, but it would be a waste of time anyway, since the Standing Committee on Finance is already studying Bill C-2.

I am surprised that the Conservatives would move such a motion today, considering that they are always advocating for less red tape.

I am surprised that the Conservative Party would introduce such a motion today knowing full well that the finance committee had already started to look at the bill on December 7. They sure know because the member for Carleton likes to give us lectures for about 20 minutes at a time. Probably the whole reason for this motion today was so that he could speak for 20 minutes, give us a lecture on rebel news economics and publish it on his Twitter, if it is not already published now.

In fact, as I speak, the finance committee is continuing to look at this bill.

We see the news across the world and there was some good news in November. Our economy added 153,000 net new jobs, but COVID is still real and we do not know what may happen in January, February and March. That is why it is important that the measures in Bill C-2 be debated and adopted at some point. I hope the bill passes because it provides the worker lockdown benefit. I hope our Canadian economy and provincial governments will not have to implement lockdowns, but they are obviously a tool to reduce the spread of COVID. I would hate to let our workers down because of shenanigans in this place. This is exactly what this routine motion would do.

The motion we are debating today essentially proposes the creation of two bills C‑2 that would be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance. This would lead to delays, including for workers who might need benefits if certain sectors of the economy had to close again. If we adopt the motion moved by the member for Carleton, then the bill cannot be passed before Christmas.

I had the opportunity to rise to speak to Bill C‑2 earlier this year. Some sectors of the economy are still not operating at full steam, including the tourism industry. I often think of the 417 Bus Line Ltd company, which offers transportation services for the tourism industry. That company has to pay between $15,000 and $20,000 just to put a bus on the road. Some benefits would have helped them rehire employees and cover some of those costs. That would have been a big help.

The member for Carleton knows really well Paul's Little Ray's Zoo. I am going to be meeting him at five o'clock today. He wants to know when Bill C-2 will be passed and I am going to have to tell him that his friend is trying to delay, through dilatory motions like this one today. I would expect those types of motions to be presented after six, seven or eight months. We know the official opposition plays games in a minority government. Of course, the Liberals have never done that. I am going to have to tell Paul that I do not know whether Bill C-2 will pass before the holiday season. I am going to tell him to talk to his business community and ask him to call the member for Carleton to explain the sense of urgency and why these measures are so important not only for the business community, but also the workers who may depend on them.

Numbers are really high in schools right now. Parents have to be off work and it is important for them to have access to the recovery caregiving benefit. Not everybody can stay home and be paid. They are not fortunate like the member for Carleton. Some of them have to rely on measures that we have introduced. That is why it is important that Bill C-2 passes as quickly as possible, because people are depending on it. As cases rise in schools, parents have to take time off work, and it is not their fault. We are asking them to get their kids tested, and that is a responsible thing by the government. We recognize there is a gap in the system, but we fill that gap through the recovery caregiving benefit and the recovery sickness benefit. They are measures included in Bill C-2.

I hope Conservative Party members join us. They can bring accountability to the finance committee, as they are doing as we speak, but Bill C-2 needs to pass before the holiday season.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, “we are all in this together”. That is a phrase that has been uttered a lot since the pandemic first struck the country and for a time, that was true. There was a real sense of solidarity in our communities. We felt it across the country; we felt it here in this place, such as that was.

In the very difficult days of the early pandemic, we were able to secure proposals to help people that went above and beyond the government's initial proposals, because there was a real spirit of collaboration and working together to get things done and get them done quickly. That is why it was not a $1,000 a month benefit as the government initially proposed, but a $2,000 a month benefit for people who had lost their employment. It is how we were able to negotiate a benefit for students who originally were not going to be captured by the government's plan.

We negotiated a one-time payment for people living with disabilities and for seniors, although what we would really like to see is the government take responsibility for ensuring that they have a guaranteed livable basic income at a rate that is above the poverty line, something that we have not yet seen.

We were able to get meaningful improvements through negotiations in this place and that is what it meant for a time to say that we are all in this together. That is not the approach that Bill C-2 represents. It is not the approach that it represents in its substance, but it is also not the approach that the government has taken in the way that it is managing Bill C-2 through the House, in the early stages of its development before it was tabled. There was no discussion with other parties as far as I know, certainly not with us prior to the announcement on October 21, and there has been very little since.

The motion that is before us right now is about dividing even more. From this moment of solidarity and over the course of the last 20 months or so, the government has slowly been edging back from that sense of solidarity, and with Bill C-2, actually just turning its back on the idea that the Prime Minister just ran on in a campaign in September saying that they would not leave anybody behind.

However, splitting the bill would make that problem worse because there are two components to the bill. One is a component that provides help to businesses directly and to workers in those businesses. The other is something that is supposed to be there for workers who are self-employed or workers whose businesses do not opt to apply for the wage subsidy for various reasons, or maybe whose businesses do not quite meet the qualifications, but who nevertheless find themselves not able to work. We know that there are businesses that have let people go during the pandemic, but nevertheless did not qualify for the wage subsidy. There are all sorts of ways in which workers will continue to need help directly. In fact, we know that in October, there were still 900,000 of them that were needing that direct support.

We are not going to get to the point where we are negotiating effective solutions if we are picking off industries or particular players and advancing the programs that are there for them and leaving the others out of the discussion, particularly the ones with the least amount of economic clout and leverage themselves, the individual workers. Individual workers in exposed industries like hospitality and tourism or arts and culture are not a big business with their own personal lobby that can come to Parliament Hill and meet with 338 different MPs, just about one for every day of the year. They do not have that kind of money and that is why they are not reflected in the government's proposals in Bill C-2.

If we are going to solve that problem, we need to keep the components of the legislation together so that we are not picking some winners and allowing others to be losers any more than is already the case. That is why we in the NDP feel very strongly it is important to keep the bill together, a bill that frankly, we do not support because we do not think it goes far enough.

However, if we are going to get back to a place where we can have some meaningful negotiation, a situation that we did obtain in the last Parliament, then it is important that we are negotiating for everybody. We cannot leave the most vulnerable and those most hard done by in the current economy behind while accelerating the help for industry players, who have also been very much hard hit. It is tough, and we do want to see that help go to that industry, but we do not want to see some being helped and not others, or say that we will speed one up, but leave another to languish.

We need to maintain that sense of us all being in it together, instead of being picked off one by one in a divide-and-conquer strategy to ultimately roll back pandemic support for Canadians. That is where we actually see a pretty close affinity of intent and interest between the Liberals and Conservatives right now, who are talking about the extent to which they are going to roll back those supports. The widespread agreement there is that the supports are going to get rolled back.

The supports rolled back pretty naturally under the conditions of the program. Regarding the CRB and the CERB, at one time there about nine million Canadians availing themselves of the CERB. On its own, without government kicking anyone off the program, by October this year there were just under 900,000. That is a reduction in the program of over 90%, and therefore, a reduction of over 90% in the spending. As people could find work, they were leaving the program.

How many times have we heard Conservatives talk about how they want to see program spending reduced? This is a program whose spending had been reduced by over 90% because we in the NDP actually believe that Canadians do want to work. We believe that, but we also recognize that in the pandemic economy, such as it is, that is hard to do.

We recognize that there are a lot of people who desperately want to work, but the jobs are not there for them. It is not because there are not jobs available, but it is because people lost work in a particular sector, with a particular set of skills and a particular education, and those are not necessarily the jobs that are available now. Therefore, there is some work for us to do here, in conjunction with employers and employees, to talk about what jobs are available, who is available to fill them and how we train the people who are available to work in the jobs that are available. However, that is not the discussion we are having here.

The discussion we are having here is how to go from a program that was still supporting 900,000 Canadians who needed financial support in difficult economic times to a program that, to date, does not even apply in one single place in the country and that will not provide financial support to one single worker in the way the CERB did just a month or two ago. That is a big difference, and that difference is what the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party have in common.

I think the Conservative finance critic sometimes thinks he is a champion for workers. He certainly said as much. The member gave an interesting history lesson about the Magna Carta. He even waxed poetic about how the green here represents the commoners who were there at the Magna Cart when they signed a lovely deal that meant that there would be no taxation without representation. Indeed, he talked about the peasants.

He needs to know, and this is his blind spot and the blind spot of both Conservatives and Liberals, that the people who signed the Magna Carta with King John were not the commoners. The people who signed the Magna Carta with King John were the aristocrats and the barons who ruled over the peasants. They took taxes and whatever they wanted from them without any representation for them. That is the problem.

The Conservatives have this kind of mystical understanding of the Magna Carta, that it was this great progressive moment. It was an important moment on the road to democracy. A little over 600 years later, universal male suffrage would come to the United Kingdom, and it would be another 50 or 60 years before women had access to suffrage on the same terms as men in the United Kingdom. Therefore, yes, it was a milestone that laid the groundwork for some progress centuries later.

I think the Conservative finance critic misses a few steps. It is not an innocent mistake, and it is not an inconsequential mistake. Those same barons who were there to sign the Magna Carta are not unlike the 1% today who, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported this week, own 25% of the wealth in Canada now.

That was not always the case. Around the turn of the century, it was more on the order of 11% or 12%. Now 1% of the population is sharing 25% of the wealth in Canada, and 40% of the population is sharing 1% of the wealth. That is the tale of the one per cents in Canada right now. We have 40% of people sharing 1% of the wealth and 1% of people sharing 25% of the wealth.

The way we got there has a lot to do with both Liberals and Conservatives. That is why the Conservative finance critic wants to focus so much on the Bank of Canada lately. He does not want to talk about all the capital that was hoarded over the last 20 years or so. That is now being used in the real estate market, and had been used in the real estate market to cause significant inflation in housing well before the pandemic struck. There is no question there has been massive housing inflation since the pandemic began, but that is not where it started. It has been going on for a long time.

It has been going on since the corporate tax rate was cut from 28% in the year 2000 to just 15% today. We have seen overwhelming increases in the amounts of dividends that are paid out. Who are some of the people who are gaining the biggest amount of money from dividend payments as a result of corporate tax cuts? They are that 1%. That is how we got to the point today where 1% of the people own 25% of the wealth.

In the year 2000, the capital gains inclusion rate was cut from 75% to 50%, and nine-tenths of the benefit of that tax cut over the last 20 years has gone to the top 1%. That is cash in hand for them, and they have been sitting on it until they had a moment to spend it in a way that would create more money, just as the Conservative finance critic likes to talk about.

However, they are not getting all of that in liquidity from the Bank of Canada. They are getting it from increasing returns as corporations pay less and less of a share of government revenue. In Canada 65 years ago, corporations paid 50% of government revenue. Today, they pay 20%. That means individual Canadians are picking up 80% of the tab when they used to have to only pick up 50%.

The Conservatives will say, and Liberals will join them in saying, that if we cut their taxes they will invest back in the economy and that will create jobs and wealth. That is true to a point, except the cash holdings of corporations and the wealthiest individuals have skyrocketed over the past 20 years while the corporate tax rate went from 28% to 15%.

In fact, investment in real assets and productivity has stayed constant at around 5.5% of GDP. Even the late Jim Flaherty, whom some might remember, sat on the Conservative side of the House and scolded corporate Canada at one point for the extent to which it was failing to reinvest money from corporate tax cuts back into the economy.

The amount of $25 billion is what the Parliamentary Budget Officer, hardly a partisan office, has estimated that Canadians are losing every year to tax havens legally. That is how we got to the point that 1% of the population in Canada now owns 25% of the wealth. That has about doubled over the last 20 years or so.

There is a story to tell about the Magna Carta. There is a story to tell about wealthy individuals with a lot of pull and influence being able to constrain the government in a way that benefits them while they squash the people under them and take the value of their work for themselves.

Unfortunately, this is not that old of a story. It is an old story in the sense that it has been going on, but it is not a history lesson. It is a contemporary economic lesson, and we need to figure out how we are going to change that. That is why I am proud to have run on the idea of a wealth tax for fortunes of over $20 million, which does not cover a lot of Canadians.

It is pretty hard to get outraged at this idea for people who have amassed more and more of the economic pie. Their proportion of the pie has grown far more quickly than the pie itself, which means more and more people are sharing less and less, and people wonder why we do not have money to fund public services. It is not that we just magically have less money; it is that the people at the top are paying far less than they used to. They are hoarding that wealth, or they are spending it on themselves or they are using it to make investments in the real estate market, which is driving up the cost for everybody else. That is the real problem.

Therefore, I am always glad to talk history and economics with the Conservative finance critic, but there are some facts missing from his version of events when he talks about the Magna Carta. The people who are forgotten in his story are the same people who are being forgotten in Bill C-2. They are the people who have been unable to get back to work and were depending on a government that said it would have their back. However, they found that within a month after the election, with two days' warning, the very same Prime Minister who said he would have their backs turned his back on them. This is what we are dealing with in Bill C-2. If we are going to get to a decent solution, we are going to do it by talking about everyone at the same time instead of hiving them off into sections, leaving some to languish and others to get the help they genuinely need.

Make no mistake, the New Democrats are in favour of people getting the help they need and getting it rapidly. It is why we have not had any secrets about what we think needs to happen and what the government needs to do as we pass Bill C-2. In fact, we will have some suggestions on how it can include these measures in Bill C-2; how it can stop the clawbacks of the GIS, the Canada child benefit and the Canada worker benefit; how it can implement a low-income CERB repayment amnesty so it is not chase after people, who are already losing their homes, for about $14,000 in debt. In some cases, these people are negotiating payment plans for $10 a month. How long it is going to take for the government to get its $14,000 back at $10 a month?

Meanwhile, some of the largest publicly traded companies, like Chartwell, TELUS and Bell, gave huge dividends to their shareholders during the pandemic and increased the amount of their annual payout by anywhere from 3% to 6%, yet the government has not asked them for a dime back. That is the story of the barons getting together to design a system that would serve them so well, the system we have inherited here, and that is part of the tradition of this place in more ways than one.

We have ideas about how to end the clawbacks. We have proposals for a low-income CERB repayment amnesty. We have proposals on how to ensure that people in the arts and cultural sector and the tourism and hospitality industry can access the only benefit that would be left, which is the Canada worker lockdown benefit, in terms of a regular payment to people who are unable to work. The Liberals have laid out the industries in part 1 of the bill. All they have to do is say that anyone who earns their income in an industry named in part 1 of the bill will have access to the Canada worker lockdown benefit, whether there is a lockdown order in their part of the country not. The government already recognizes that those industries are in distress regardless of whether there is a lockdown order in effect.

These are just some of the proposals that we will be putting on the table. If the government adopts them, it can see swift passage of the bill in this place, and that is what it will mean to leave no one behind.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the other problem with the Liberals' proposed economic recovery plan is that it does nothing to help many people who are financially vulnerable.

One such example would be the families who receive the Canada child benefit, who are already low-income. Another example would be the seniors who receive the guaranteed income supplement and whose benefits were slashed because they received CERB payments. This problem needs to be addressed, because seniors are ending up in the streets, homeless.

I would like to know whether the Bloc Québécois would be inclined to support fast-tracking Bill C‑2 if it contained solutions to these problems.

December 10th, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Yes, thank you very much. As I'm sure you're aware, this is very relevant to the study of Bill C-2.

Madam Larouche mentioned the GIS. That's an important reference. We know that over 80,000 people have been impacted by accessing the COVID-19 financial supports. Would you be able to tell the committee what the average monthly reduction was for seniors in GIS payments as a result of that clawback?

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 1:30 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Francis Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, for whom I have a great deal of respect. We often have the opportunity to talk about agriculture, and we will have the chance to talk about it next Thursday.

My colleague really made some good points. For the past few weeks, the official opposition has been playing word games worthy of François Pérusse. I can say that François Pérusse is a lot better at wordplay than the Conservatives.

Today's motion is a waste of time. The Standing Committee on Finance is currently considering Bill C-2.

Why, then, are we debating a routine motion to determine whether it is the workers or employers who will receive their benefits first? Can my colleague tell us how important this issue is to his constituents?

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, one of the major problems with Bill C-2 is the lack of support for self-employed workers in the tourism and arts and culture industries. They do not have access to any financial support.

One way to give them this kind of support would be to get the Liberals to amend the bill so that workers in the arts, culture, tourism and hospitality industries have access to the benefits given to workers in case of a lockdown, whether a lockdown has been ordered or not.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I let the cat out of the bag at the beginning of my speech, when I said that we did not intend to support the Conservatives in their attempt to split Bill C-2 into two parts.

Also, generally speaking, when we think about bills and how we are going to vote, we think about who the bill is intended for and who it focuses on.

We therefore have no intention of throwing a wrench into the works.

December 10th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to start by thanking the witnesses, the civil servants from the Canada Revenue Agency, for being here today. I want to start by thanking you for the hard work that you've done in helping to deliver the programs that have rescued countless businesses and helped Canadians put food on the table in a desperate time during a global crisis. I think I speak for my colleagues when I express my gratitude to all of you for all of your hard work. We thank you for that.

Before I ask my question, I want to speak to what Mr. Stewart said.

I am disappointed, because questions that the Conservatives keep asking continue to be answered, yet the Conservatives pretend they haven't been answered. One of the questions that Mr. Stewart said wasn't answered was where the funding was coming from to pay for the measures in Bill C-2. The very day that was asked—and you can check the Hansard—I read into the record the section of Bill C-2 that specifies where the funding is coming from. It's section 29. I'll repeat it again; it's in the consolidated revenue fund. The minister was clear in answering that question when she presented to us here yesterday.

On the question of the role of the Canada Revenue Agency in drafting the bill, which Mr. Stewart asked repeatedly of the civil servants from the CRA and argued that it wasn't answered, I thought that the answer from the representative from the CRA was very clear. They indicated that their role was to provide comments and input. The question has been asked. The question has been answered. On the first question, it was asked and it was answered.

It's shameful that some Conservative members are pretending their questions aren't being answered. It's shameful that they're treating our civil servants in this way, particularly the civil servants who have been part of the team that delivered the programs that have been so important to millions of Canadians.

I want to put that on the record, Mr. Chair.

My question to our witnesses is this. My understanding is that the Canada Revenue Agency would be responsible for administering the new benefits that are part of Bill C-2. Could I ask you to describe in detail the cost and the impact of delaying implementation of the programs in Bill C-2? What would be the impact for Canadian businesses and what would be the impact for Canadian workers?

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to say right away that I will be sharing my time with my wonderful, passionate and fascinating colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé.

I will start by being a good sport because I always like to find the good in any motion, bill or supply day topic that is presented. I will start by saying what I like about it. However, unfortunately, the thing I liked the most today was the historical content in the member for Carleton's speech. Just between us, if one day he decides to create a podcast with stories or interesting facts from history, then I will be the first to listen to it while driving home on the 417. He always has very interesting things to say. I will give him that.

I am, however, going to put an end to the suspense here. My Conservative colleagues might be disappointed, but the Bloc Québécois does not intend to support the motion. We are sorry about that. I will explain why, even though I think they may already have some idea. We do not intend to support the request to split this bill because we think that the two parts of the bill that the Conservatives want to split go together.

It is as though we are being told that on the one hand, there is a pandemic affecting businesses, and on the other hand, there may be something that could possibly affect individual workers, so maybe one day, we could address this issue differently. In reality, it is still the same pandemic that is affecting both workers and businesses. Since the bill covers two aspects of the same problem stemming from a single pandemic, I do not understand the motivation for splitting it as proposed.

As my colleague from Winnipeg North mentioned, people are waiting. I feel like coming back to that, although the Conservatives mentioned it too. We lost time because of an unnecessary election. In the meantime, people have suffered and still need support.

I do not see the point of taking a bill that has already passed at second reading and been studied in committee, and bringing it back to split it and start the process over again. In the meantime, there are businesses that will suffer from the delay in the process. I think this part was understood and that is the one the Conservatives want to hold onto, but there are likely even more ordinary folks who could suffer as a result as well.

We lost too much time with the unnecessary election to make people wait and suffer even more, when they have already gone through enough, in our opinion.

As we said during the election campaign, the initial benefits that were created were not perfect. They quite likely contributed to the labour shortage we experienced, although they were not the only factor. I am not saying that Bill C‑2 is perfect and that is why we do not want to split it, but I do think that if the bill goes to committee, it can be discussed and improved. A review of the benefits was warranted, and it still is, which is why it is important for the committee to study not only the wage subsidy and rent subsidy, but also the so-called individual benefits.

We are suggesting that there are still some workers who could be added to the list of benefit recipients. The Bloc Québécois has spoken about this a lot, but I am mentioning it again because it is important. I am thinking, in particular, about workers in the arts and culture sectors. It has been two years since musicians and actors were able to take the stage at any big shows, festivals or events. If we do not support these people, they could end up leaving the sector, taking their talents with them. Our arts and culture sector could lose its stars, its talent, its creative geniuses it they cannot earn a living. At some point, they will decide that half a loaf is better than none. If they have no way to support themselves, they could end up moving on to something else, and we would lose that talent.

The question we should be asking ourselves is: Are we prepared to pay the price of losing these creators?

Technicians, stage riggers, and people who run cables for sound systems told me that more and more of them have been leaving the field to go work in the mines, where the skill set and schedules are similar. These are not 9-to-5 jobs. These are two-week stints, like being on a concert tour. Mine work pays well, so if we do not support these people, they may decide to stay there. If we lose access to their expertise, we will be very sorry once the economy is back up and running again.

That is what is on my mind when I think about how it would be good to let the Standing Committee on Finance to keep talking about individual benefits by not splitting Bill C‑2.

It would also be good to keep working on things that affect businesses. This hare-brained Conservative motion could end up delaying work on the Canada emergency wage subsidy and support for businesses that need it.

The Bloc Québécois would like to share some thoughts with the committee regarding which areas could also benefit from government support through regulation. We are just waiting for the minister to confirm that she will be able to open up areas through regulation.

Two sectors in particular come to mind, one of which is extremely important in Quebec, namely the aerospace and aeronautics sector. This sector is one of the hardest hit by the current crisis, given that there is less travel and aircraft construction. We must support those businesses.

On top of that, so many manufacturers have been indirectly affected by the pandemic. For instance, there is a supply shortage of microprocessors, which has caused many manufacturers of trucks, armoured vans and various automotive products to have to slow down their production lines, not because of a labour shortage, but because of a parts shortage. This is a side effect of the pandemic, and these people also need help.

Ultimately, all I am seeing today is an attempt to slow down the process and delay the passage of Bill C-2 in its entirety or in part. The Conservatives are forgetting that, behind all of this, there are people who need our support, and that is the unfortunate part. I am not saying that we have to fix the mess made by the government, which delayed things with the election. However, we do need to realize that if we create even further delays, people are going to suffer. If we think about it, we are kind of doing what we accused the government of doing.

It is ironic to hear the Conservatives say that the government delayed recalling the House and that the election was pointless when they are doing the same thing by delaying the passage of bills. They are saying two different things, and I do not particularly like it. All that is to say that I do not see any merit in taking a bill that has been passed in principle, that can be improved, that is being improved at committee, and then splitting it, slowing down the process and returning to the House to do the same work over again. That is not helpful. There is already enough duplication of work with two levels of government, the federal government on the one hand and Quebec and the provinces on the other hand. We do not support making more work.

As long as there is a pandemic, it will affect both businesses and individuals. Bill C‑2 addresses both because there is only one pandemic, and therefore there is just one problem with multiple consequences. We must not attempt to separate out the consequences and deal with them individually. Instead we must take a holistic approach to the problem because it is the result of the same situation, and that is the pandemic.