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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 9th, 2021 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Thank you.

I have a quick one for Ms. Kobluk.

Were you consulted or was your organization consulted during the development of Bill C-2 or have you had any recent conversations with the government about the challenges that some of your members are facing?

December 9th, 2021 / 4:40 p.m.
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Senior Policy Analyst, Income Security Advocacy Centre

Devorah Kobluk

I think Bill C-2 is optimistic, and maybe unfairly so.

Let's think about who needs what. On October 23, the Canada recovery benefit ended. On that same day, almost a million workers qualified for the Canada recovery benefit.

I was speaking to some of our workers' rights allies yesterday. They mentioned that over 600,000 workers are forced to work part-time, so they actually aren't getting by. Their bank accounts have not recovered yet. They're being left behind, and with every month, it gets worse. That's also what we're seeing with seniors: every month it gets worse.

If we look at the fact that these people have lost their GIS, now it's going to be five months if they don't change this. That's 15% of their yearly income gone, which they are being asked to continue to lose. If we think that some seniors in the first month may have had some very small savings, and people entering poverty often don't—

December 9th, 2021 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you.

Ms. Kobluk, one of the things we've heard from the government is that Bill C-2 is about moving into the recovery phase of the pandemic. One of the other things we often heard from the government, not just recently, but particularly during the election campaign—which was before they had announced they were going to be summarily ending the CRB program in October—was that they're committed to not leaving anyone behind.

We're seeing a recovery where financially vulnerable people are having benefits clawed back. There isn't ongoing income support for a lot of people who are still struggling in an economy that isn't easy, in light of the pandemic. There are financially vulnerable people who are being pursued to repay debts. We then see on the wage subsidy side that there have been companies like Bell, Telus and Chartwell that received huge amounts of public subsidy and then paid out large dividends to their shareholders. They even increased the annual amount of their payouts by anywhere from 5%, 6% or 7%.

At a higher level, when we talk about the principles of the recovery—what it means not to leave people behind and to make sure that we have a fair recovery and that we're building back better—does Bill C-2 represent a move in that direction, or does it paint a very different picture of what the Canadian recovery is going to look like?

December 9th, 2021 / 4:35 p.m.
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President and Chief Executive Officer, Hotel Association of Canada

Susie Grynol

We simply wouldn't have an industry standing today. We would have lost the anchor businesses in this sector. Here I'm talking about the hotels, the convention centres and the attractions. We would have lost hundreds of thousands of tourism operators who provide those Canadian experiences, not to mention the indigenous experiences we have across this country. We would have lost significant infrastructure in the travel infrastructure space, in the fleets of RVs and buses going back and forth. In our air sector we would have had a collapse had it not been for the support.

The reason Bill C-2 is so important is that we are so on that brink of collapse in our off-season with growing travel restrictions around us. Our goal here is to preserve the core anchor businesses within the sector so that we have the infrastructure standing on the other side to allow the sectors to build back.

December 9th, 2021 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thanks so much.

Thank you to all the witnesses for being here today.

Just before asking my question, I want to continue on the subject that Mr. Stewart was just asking about. I think it's important also to remember for broader context, and I think this was mentioned in the response to his question, that the labour challenges existed before the COVID pandemic began for a range of reasons. These presumably vary in different parts of the country and for different providers in the tourism sector. One of the key challenges, based on the reading I've done and The Economists I've read from, and also from what I've heard from my constituents in Etobicoke Centre who run businesses, is that the labour shortage is to a great degree driven by the fact that during the pandemic we had very little immigration. That has affected the labour force, not just in tourism but across all sectors. I think that's really important to remember.

I also think it's important to remember that Bill C-2, which is what we're here to discuss, is a pivot, as the finance minister spoke about this morning. The pivot is designed to really provide targeted support for those enterprises and those individuals who need it most. That's one of the key reasons for that pivot.

To the tourism association, when you look back, if the government hadn't put in place the previous support programs, such as the emergency wage subsidy, what would have happened? I apologize; it's not the tourism association but the hotel association.

December 9th, 2021 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am honoured to be able to talk to Sophie Prégent, the president of the Union des artistes. I had an opportunity to meet her briefly at the Juripop legal clinic. I would be remiss not to highlight all her activities in the area of sexual violence and assistance to victims. She has played an essential leadership role in our society. So I am delighted to see her here today, despite the unfortunate and difficult situation in which artists find themselves.

Thank you once more for continuing that involvement, Ms. Prégent.

My first question is very simple. If Bill C‑2 contains nothing for the cultural sector, what consequences will that have for culture? The word despair has been used and we know that people are hesitant in buying tickets for shows.

Why do you think that self-employed workers in the cultural sector are not included in Bill C‑2?

December 9th, 2021 / 3:50 p.m.
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Senior Policy Analyst, Income Security Advocacy Centre

Devorah Kobluk

Thank you.

My name is Devorah Kobluk and I'm a senior policy analyst at the Income Security Advocacy Centre. ISAC is a specialty legal clinic funded by Legal Aid Ontario. Our mandate is to advance the rights and interests of low-income Ontarians with respect to income security and employment. We carry out our mandate through test case litigation, policy advocacy, community development and public education.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2. We are pleased to see an extension of the Canada sickness and caregiver benefits, but we have some concerns. First, the new Canada worker lockdown benefit offers an inadequate rate of $300 per week and is inaccessible since no region in Canada currently meets the lockdown requirement. Workers continue to experience the fallout from COVID-19, and this bill offers next to nothing moving forward. We recommend retroactively extending the Canada recovery benefit at its original $500 rate until the economy fully stabilizes and the impacts of the omicron variant are clear.

ISAC is also very concerned that there are no provisions in Bill C-2 to address the ongoing crisis for low-income seniors. In early August we were flooded with calls in the legal clinic system from seniors who had suddenly seen their GIS reduced or eliminated in 2021 because they accessed the CERB in 2020. The confusion and panic that began over four months ago have not subsided. The situation for these seniors is desperate.

We understand the CERB was developed rapidly when the pandemic hit and the goal was to get money out the door quickly. What we do not understand is why this bill does not seize the opportunity to correct unintended consequences of CERB/GIS interactions.

This government knew of these interactions as early as May 2020 and stated last month that there issues of fairness and equity to consider before addressing concerns. What is fair and equitable about clawing back a poverty-reduction tool, the GIS, during the unusual years of a pandemic?

The seniors impacted are the poorest seniors in Canada. They supplement their below-poverty GIS income with part-time work to make ends meet. At an age when one hopes to not have to work, these seniors work. When the pandemic hit, like everyone else they accessed CERB because of job losses and so, as a high-risk population, they could isolate and stay safe. They were not informed of possible consequences to their GIS.

Further, a loss of GIS disproportionately impacts women and older, indigenous and racialized seniors. At the end of July, these were the seniors who lost up to $600 of their monthly income, or sometimes more, with no warning.

Among those impacted is a 68-year-old senior in Ottawa who worked as a self-employed dog walker prior to the pandemic. The pandemic caused her small business to completely collapse. She used CERB to supplement her lost income and to pay for groceries, personal protective equipment and taxis to medical appointments. The avalanche of unintended consequences has been devastating. She is now trying to survive on approximately $650 per month. Her rent has increased because her rent geared to income was recalculated while she received CERB. She may have to leave her home of over 14 years. She has lost her Trillium drug program benefit that helped her pay for medication, and she is being asked to wait until July 2022 for this situation to be corrected. She will not make it.

As it is for other seniors in her position, with every passing month it is becoming harder to pay for rent, for food when prices are rising, for transportation and for medical supplies. The risk of homelessness increases.

The minimal recourse available to individual seniors is confusing and slow, and it offers no guarantees. A lawyer in our clinic system in Thunder Bay was told by Service Canada that there would be no reassessment for 2021.

In another situation, a Toronto MP's office contacted both the CRA and Service Canada on behalf of a senior constituent only to be told that nothing could be done. That senior was given a list of nearby food banks. We need a systemic solution.

We now know that over 88,000 seniors are impacted. We know that the $438 million needed to fix this problem was already earmarked in the budget. This government can and must fix this problem for the most vulnerable seniors now.

ISAC has reached out to several ministers and to the Prime Minister and has received no response. We wrote an open letter at the end of October, which was signed by 106 anti-poverty community and seniors advocacy organizations from across the country, asking that the government, first, exclude CERB from the calculation of income and recalculate the GIS benefits for 2020-21 and, second, retroactively return the lost benefits and apply the readjusted benefit amount for the duration of the 2021-22 year.

Today I urge the Standing Committee on Finance to amend Bill C-2 to include these provisions and further to also exclude the CRB from calculation of income with regard to the GIS so that this problem does not continue into 2023. Failure to do so will only guarantee ongoing cruelty towards the country's poorest seniors.

Thank you.

December 9th, 2021 / 3:40 p.m.
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Susie Grynol President and Chief Executive Officer, Hotel Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today.

My name is Susie Grynol. I'm the president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada. I am also the founder and co-chair of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses, which represents over 120 different business associations in the tourism, hotel and event sectors.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Canada's travel and hospitality sectors. It has hurt our businesses more than 9/11, SARS and the Great Depression combined.

The accommodation sector itself saw a 71% decline in revenue from April to November of 2020. Hotels located in Canada's major urban cores have been the hardest hit of the hardest hit, with occupancy rates averaging less than 17% over the last nine months of 2020.

Our sector has now lost the better part of two years of business, and we are at a breaking point. Government support to this date has been our lifeline, and I want to thank every member of this committee and your colleagues for working together to keep our sector alive. It's why we have an industry still standing here today, but without Bill C-2's tourism and hospitality recovery program for the coming winter and spring, there will be significant business failures and sizable job losses. As the rest of the economy recovers, the tourism industry continues to deal with variants, changing restrictions and capacity limits. Tourism remains the hardest hit, and it is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until 2025.

Small family-run businesses make up 99% of the tourism sector in Canada. Many people assume that hotels are owned by the recognized international brand on that hotel, but the reverse is true. For the hotels in your riding—and you probably know which ones they are—it's people in your riding who generally own these hotels. These are small business operators who have now spent all of their livelihoods and reserves trying to keep these assets afloat. They have taken on as much debt as they possibly can, and now they are on the brink of survival.

Major festivals, concerts, indigenous tourism experiences and business events have been cancelled. Events planned for 2022 are being reconsidered. Even immediate travel plans to Canada for Christmas or to come and ski over the winter are being called off due to new variants. Put simply, we are at a standstill.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking fact of all is that tourism lost 880,000 workers in the first two months of the pandemic. Today, we employ 350,000 fewer people than we did before the pandemic. With our slow recovery—compared to the rest of the economy—most of these workers have now permanently left our sector.

According to our June survey of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses, 60% said they will go out of business without an extension of government relief programs through the winter of 2022. Simply put, if Bill C-2 doesn't pass, we could lose the infrastructure that supports our events businesses in Canada, the unique local attractions that enhance our visitor experience and the hotels and event spaces that anchor the travel sector.

We are grateful that all parties offered support to our sector during the election campaign. Every party committed support to our sector. Bill C-2 accomplishes the key goal of providing support to only the hardest hit of the hardest-hit businesses in order to keep them alive. This is an investment in a sector that will come back with a vengeance if given the opportunity. It will also help keep people in the workforce who otherwise would be laid off, many of whom are Canada's most vulnerable—women, young people and immigrants.

We are recommending the swift passage of this bill today, without amendments. Tourism and accommodation businesses must have immediate access to liquidity to get through the winter. Passing Bill C-2 in its current form will save thousands of businesses and jobs.

Travel will resume with a vengeance. Of this, we are certain. With the passage of this bill, we will have an industry still standing on the other side of this pandemic, and we cannot wait to welcome the world back to Canada.

I urge all members of this committee to vote in favour of this bill and pass it without delay. Our survival depends on it.

Thank you.

December 9th, 2021 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Yes. I will do that, Mr. McLean. It's more when we have a hard stop when that would happen.

Welcome to meeting number six 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 to study 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. Just so you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entire committee.

Today's meeting is also taking place in the 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 the active participants remain the same. Staff will be non-active participants and can, therefore, only view the meeting in gallery view.

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

Given the ongoing pandemic situation and in light of the recommendations from the 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 distance and must wear a non-medical mask when circulating the room. It's highly recommended that the mask be worn at all times, including when seated. You must maintain proper hand hygiene by using the provided hand sanitizer at the room entrance. As the chair, I'll 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'd like to outline a few rules. Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either floor, English or French. If interpretation is lost, please inform me immediately and I will ensure 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 to or alert the chair.

For members participating in person, proceed as you usually would when the whole committee is meeting in person in a 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're on the video conference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. For those in the room, your microphone will be controlled as normal by the proceedings and verification officer. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you're not speaking, your mike should be on mute. Remember 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 our very best to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members, whether they are participating virtually or in person.

To members and witnesses, when you have 30 seconds left in your questioning time, I'll signal you with this paper.

Now, it's my pleasure to be able to introduce our witnesses. We have with us, as an individual, Stephen Saretsky, a real estate businessman; from the Hotel Association of Canada, Susie Grynol, president and chief executive officer; from Income Security Advocacy Centre, Devorah Kobluk, senior policy analyst; and from the Union des Artistes, Sophie Prégent, présidente.

Witnesses, each entity will have up to five minutes to make opening remarks. Mr. Saretsky is not here yet, so we are going to start with the Hotel Association of Canada.

Ms. Susie Grynol, you have five minutes.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

December 9th, 2021 / 3:25 p.m.
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Ajax Ontario

Liberal

Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, who asks an excellent question every Thursday.

This afternoon we will continue debate on the Conservative motion. Tomorrow will be the fourth day of debate on the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Next Tuesday, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance will present the fall economic statement in the House at 4 p.m. We will schedule a relevant ways and means vote the following day, on Wednesday afternoon.

Further, we will also focus our efforts to pass two bills next week, namely Bill C-2, an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, and Bill C-3, which would amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code to provide workers in federally regulated sectors with 10 days of paid sick leave and make it an offence to intimidate or prevent patients from seeking care.

The EconomyOral Questions

December 9th, 2021 / 2:30 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we saw through the campaign that the Conservative Party was skilled at flip-flopping, but I find it particularly shocking that the flip-flopping is happening during the same question period.

Do they actually want us to invest more or less in Canadians, because if it is more, then they should vote for Bill C-2.

December 9th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Minister, we thank you very much on behalf of the Standing Committee on Finance. We thank you for coming before us and for answering many fulsome questions on Bill C-2, a very important piece of legislation that we all want to see passed in the House as quickly as possible.

On behalf of this committee, we thank you and also, of course—

December 9th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Thank you, Mr. MacDonald. I've had the very good fortune to spend some time in P.E.I., and I'm familiar with the great tourism businesses you have there. I've heard directly from them how this virus has hit them—through no fault of their own.

P.E.I. also very admirably put in place some strong coronavirus protection measures that inevitably had an impact on your tourism industry. Bill C-2 is a very necessary measure to support tourism businesses in P.E.I. and across the country in view of the fact that they can't fully reopen. I must say that when we announced these measures at the end of October, we didn't know omicron was coming, but we knew there was uncertainty and we knew it was still impossible for those businesses to fully reopen. I'm very glad we're able to provide this support.

December 9th, 2021 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Heath MacDonald Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It's interesting to sit here and see what we've gone through in the past two and a half years. It was unprecedented, and we had to react very quickly. The subtext from the opposition continues to pose that they would choose austerity over supporting Canadians during the pandemic, and that's unfortunate.

We're positioned very well. Coming from a small province of 160,000, Bill C-2 is so necessary. I can't stress enough how important it is. I think with 56% of the tourism labour force in rural Canada, every riding across this country, including the ones represented at this committee today, should be pushing pretty hard for Bill C-2.

As I'm the last speaker, Mr. Chair, I'll let the Deputy Prime Minister have the last say.

December 9th, 2021 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

To the point about the calculations we have around the likely take-up of the C-2 benefit, because it is a good one, I want to reiterate to members that in view of omicron, which is a new factor that has emerged since we initially announced these measures, we are making some additional calculations. We'll have more to say on Tuesday when we present the fall economic update, but we are making some calculations and provisions to take into account the possible...although right now, you know, it's impossible to fully specify the impact of omicron—