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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

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

December 16th, 2021 / 3:30 p.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, be read the third time and passed.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

December 16th, 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. opposition colleague for his comments. I absolutely join him in thanking everyone who works here.

It is an extraordinarily difficult thing, particularly during a pandemic, to provide the support we have seen. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Clerk of the House, Mr. Charles Robert, his wonderful team of clerks, every branch of service in the administration of the House of Commons, including the Parliamentary Protective Service, and the pages, who help us so much in our work, particularly during these challenging times.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to wish you and your family, and indeed all members, a very merry Christmas, happy holiday and happy new year. I hope that all members are able to spend time with their families and are both safe and healthy in these very challenging times.

I think we have demonstrated over the last four weeks, with my hon. counterparts from the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democrats, a wonderful spirit of co-operation. We have been able to get a lot done on behalf of Canadians. I want to thank them, and through them I thank their caucuses for a very productive last four weeks.

This afternoon, we will continue our work on Bill C-2, an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, and Bill C-3, which would 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.

I will advise that in February, the government will propose a take-note debate on Saskatchewan's proposed constitutional amendment. I would also like to table, in both official languages, an amendment to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code.

Finally, there have been discussions among the parties, and I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, special order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, as amended, be deemed concurred in at the report stage, that the motion for third reading of the bill be deemed moved and seconded and that the House proceed immediately to a recorded division on the motion for third reading.

The EconomyOral Questions

December 16th, 2021 / 2:30 p.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we all agree that the cost of living is a challenge, but I do not hear many concrete solutions coming from the Conservatives.

I would therefore like to propose one. Let us support all Canadians who work in tourism, restaurants and other hard-hit businesses across the country by supporting Bill C-2.

COVID-19 Economic MeasuresOral Questions

December 16th, 2021 / 2:30 p.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I think that COVID is the greatest challenge facing Canada today. That is why I focused on it in the economic and fiscal update. I agree with him that we need to have support measures in place for people in businesses in the event of additional lockdowns. That is why I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-2. It would create precisely those tools. We need them. I really hope all members will support the bill.

COVID-19 Economic MeasuresOral Questions

December 16th, 2021 / 2:25 p.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I really want to thank my colleague for his question because I truly believe that COVID-19 is the greatest challenge today.

That is why I hope that all members will support Bill C-2. This bill will create support measures for individuals and businesses in the event of another lockdown, precisely because we agree with the NDP members that these support measures are necessary.

I hope that all members will vote in favour of Bill C‑2.

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

December 16th, 2021 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, originally when COVID-19 and the pandemic arose, the Conservatives said we would support a response from the government that was responsive to needs, temporary and would bridge back to a regular economy. Liberal arrogance, as has been said many times, is the greatest kryptonite. It seems the Liberals have not learned anything from their previous experience with the Canada emergency response benefit.

A FINTRAC intelligence brief says, “Reporting Entities indicated that clients who do not meet the CERB eligibility requirements, or who are fully employed, still apply for, and receive CERB benefits, often while also engaging in suspicious financial activity.” There are so many things in in the FINTRAC report that raise the hair on the back of one's neck.

Does the member view this as being a targeted benefit and has the government shown that it has learned from the experience of the CERB with Bill C-2, that it is targeted to the people who need it the most and that there are protections to ensure those who should not receive this benefit do not get it?

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

December 16th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be following the hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil, who spoke so eloquently about the struggles that independent travel advisers are having. I have met with many of them as well. Absolutely, they do feel left out of what the government is doing.

The government is essentially proposing in Bill C-2 that we give it all the money it needs right now and it will worry about accountability and transparency later on. I think the member went through some of the FINTRAC issues that were reported and the fraud issues that have been mounting. I will return to FINTRAC in a moment to read off some of its other concerns.

We, on this side of the House, supported Canadians who were banned from returning to work because of various health restrictions. We opposed the Liberals giving COVID cheques to prisoners, organized criminals, suspected fraudsters, and corporations paying out bonuses and dividends to executives. We did not support paying people not to work while the economy was open and there were a half-million vacant jobs. I remember my province of Alberta did reopen briefly.

I was just speaking with a hotelier who said that they can only reopen their kitchen three days a week because they cannot find staff. They are cleaning rooms all day long and until all hours because they just cannot find enough people to work during those key morning hours when they are trying to turn over a room for their next guest. Having a major hotel kitchen being open three days a week is not a way to run a business. It is going to lose business. People simply will not travel. The hotels are also losing out on the income needed to keep paying people for their work. It is a struggle on both sides, for employees and employers but we, on the Conservative side, are there for them.

I think the principle we should remind ourselves of is that, if a provincial government or a federal government takes away someone's ability to earn a living, it owes them compensation. I would call that a regulatory taking. It took something away from a person through no fault of their own so it should compensate that person, but that compensation should not extend to periods where the person chose not to work; made a choice. As well, if a person is engaging in criminal activity, of course that person should not be getting government benefits to facilitate their criminal enterprise.

We want help for tourism and hospitality companies hit by travel restrictions, but we oppose legislation like this that opens the floodgates to do whatever the government thinks necessary. This is $7.4 billion of new spending on top of all the other spending it has been doing.

The House has already heard from two of my colleagues already who said that they tried to fix this at committee. We offered ideas to improve things. We set out four conditions that we thought would drastically improve this bill.

I was here during the last Parliament and we saw the government go out of its way to rush bills through the House and only come back later on to fix the errors that were made. Typically, those errors resulted in billions of dollars of taxpayers' money either being spent unwisely or being impossible to spend because the program just did not work for the people for whom it was designed. All of those things typically get fixed at a House committee. That is where witnesses testify whether the programs will work the way they are identified and where federal officials come to actually explain the programs.

We saw at the Standing Committee on Finance that there was a complete inability of officials to explain where the money was going to come from. I thought it was a very simple question, needing only a referral to the estimates. I have a Yiddish proverb, which I know many members expect. It is that, “Sins hide not in your sleep but in your dreams.” I remember the debate on a different bill in this House just a few days ago. I mentioned that usually with government legislation there is a difference between what the bill says and the intentions that the government has behind the bill. The two are usually completely separated from each other. The sins in this bill are that there is not enough accountability and transparency for the taxpayers who are being asked to shoulder a huge bill to get our country back on track.

The member who spoke previously talked about FINTRAC, so let me just continue reading off some of its summary concerns. “Reporting entities indicated that clients have applied for and received CERB despite not living in Canada and they appear to be residing in a 'jurisdiction of concern'.” We are paying for people outside Canada to get taxpayers' money that we really have no way of verifying whether they should be getting any of these funds and they are outside Canada. It is difficult for me to explain at the doors, through emails and on phone calls to taxpayers as to why they are subsidizing people outside of the country. “Reporting Entities noted that clients received multiple CERB deposits over a one-week period/made multiple applications for CERB benefits using one or multiple identities/conducted transactions to cash CERB cheques at multiple locations.”

In any normal situation, this would be considered fraud. It would be something that we would be very concerned about and we would be looking for opportunities to restrain, constrain and stop it at the earliest of opportunities.

“Reporting Entities indicated that clients who appeared to be engaged in illegal or suspicious financial activity are also in receipt of CERB payments and employment income.” Last, “Reporting Entities indicated that clients appeared to receive CERB payments while also receiving income from their business and/or are receiving CEBA while also engaged in suspicious or fraudulent activity.” This is an indictment. The member who spoke previous to me started down this path. We rely on FINTRAC. I used to be a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, and I have had in-camera briefings where FINTRAC explains this. It is an amazing service that it provides to the Government of Canada to ensure that we do due diligence when we hand out benefits. Benefits must go to the people who are most in need of them, and it saps trust in government when it simply says it is going to open the floodgates and everyone will figure it out after the fact.

There is an Auditor General's report that has come out regarding border controls with the testing of individuals at the border and then following up with them as to whether they have actually quarantined. It is a damning report. I know you, Madam Speaker, have served on that committee before and you enjoy Auditor General reports, likely as much as I do. It is a damning report that in a situation where the government set up a program such as for cash payments that go out to people who need them, there is always a small group of people who will engage in fraud. The system should be designed to ensure that does not happen, so that taxpayers and citizens trust the system and trust that the government has a handle on this situation and that it will pursue those who abuse the system. It is reasonable for taxpayers and citizens to expect that we do this.

We have spent a prodigious amount of money and we are being asked to approve even more spending in this bill. We have proposed amendments that would drastically improve this bill to ensure we have that accountability and transparency mechanism. We just saw a fall economic statement that called for even more spending. There is more revenue and more spending going down, and in my riding residents are asking who is going to pay for all of these bills.

At the end of the day, this pandemic will end. I always tell people that this will end. I do not know when; I am not a doctor or a scientist. It will end and, at some point, these bills will come due. We are going to have to be rolling over some of this debt. Who is going to pay for all of this spending? We are well over a trillion dollars in debt.

I am reminded of John Diefenbaker. I was talking to my caucus and it reminded me of a quote from the 1960s when the great Diefenbaker was in this House debating with a Liberal, Pickersgill, on the other side and describing at the time some of their financial measures. The fall economic statement reminds me of this. He said that it is like homeopathic soup made from the shadow of a pigeon that died of starvation. I cannot imagine a better description of what I see there. Diefenbaker said it 50 or 60 years ago and nothing has really changed with the Liberal government. It is the same thing all over again. There are vast amounts of spending and very little in constraints and controls.

I can bring up another example. A PBO report came out just today on the icebreaker program. Two icebreakers were supposed to cost $1.3 billion back in 2013. That cost now has ballooned to $7.25 billion. They are not getting more icebreakers; they are just getting the two. It is cost controls and project management. The current government has been in power for six years, and this is entirely on it. The Liberals cannot blame anybody else.

In 2015, they were handed excellent books with balanced budgets. We repeatedly told the Liberals to get ready for a disastrous situation or a downturn. We could never have predicted that there would be a pandemic like this, that would be a drastic downturn in the nation's finances, where people would be told to stay at home. They would be prohibited from working so they would lose their livelihoods. In that situation it is absolutely legitimate for the government to step in and support people. Some would take advantage of it unfairly and we would have to follow up and make sure that fraudulent benefits were repaid to the taxpayer. In situations like that, I understand that we should support people.

However, taxpayers are asking themselves, “When is it enough?” They are asking when government will actually provide the transparency and the accountability that is expected when it borrows on the nation's credit card that all taxpayers are responsible for.

Like I said in my proverb, “Sins hide not in your sleep but in your dreams.” The government is dreaming that either the fall economic statement or a bill like this will restore trust in government.

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

December 16th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to my friend very closely as he spoke today about a particular section of our economy: the independent travel advisers. I know that a number of people on this side of the House, and I expect on the other side, have heard from those people. Primarily it is women who work from home. They have been lost in government assistance. These people do not get paid until a trip is taken, which might be months down the road, but there is nothing in Bill C-2 to help them. From listening to them, I know they feel they were almost deliberately cut out of it. I wonder if my friend has any comments about that.

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

December 16th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, that is an interesting point, although I am not fully aware of the details of that particular case. More broadly, the government, in its haste to get this money out the door, should have been considering oversight. It should have been considering accountability and transparency as well. It should have been putting in place measures allowing investigative bodies and jurisdictions that have authority, such as the CRA and others, to investigate more quickly where this money had gone.

As I said in my speech, the CRA has not yet investigated this, despite the fact that FINTRAC has identified thousands of cases of fraud with the CERB. No charges have been laid at this point. This speaks to the will of the government to really investigate this. Is it just going to turn a bind eye to it?

We need to get to the bottom of this, and the amendments we proposed for Bill C-2 would have certainly helped in that regard.

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

December 16th, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Calgary Shepard.

The ask in Bill C-2 is $7.4 billion, and the bill is being rushed through the House, with little time at committee to deal with another $7.4 billion expenditure. A lot of these types of situations have happened over the last couple of years, since the pandemic started. I recall that back in early 2021, there was a $52-billion spending bill, and the government wanted Parliament's approval in literally four hours, with little opportunity for oversight and little opportunity to provide any sort of transparency or accountability on that spending. Now, here with Bill C-2, we are being asked to approve $7.4 billion.

I want to focus on a couple of points today. Number one is who is left out in Bill C-2. I think it is very important that we recognize who is being left out in the bill. Second, I want to focus on the issue of accountability, transparency and oversight, which are severely lacking in the bill. The member for Carleton asked finance department officials where this money was coming from, and all we heard were crickets. He suggested that maybe there is a money tree in this country that the government is picking money from, but there was no answer. These are the types of questions we could deal with if we had more time.

I am really fortunate to come from the riding of Barrie—Innisfil, which is also known as “Terminal 4”. There are a lot of Pearson airport employees and airline, travel and tourism employees who live in my riding. Many of them have felt anxiety not just over the past 18 months in trying to pick up the pieces of their lives as the travel and tourism industry has been decimated, but also over the fact that in the last couple of days, we have seen advisories from the Government of Canada on travel. They are really curbing back some of the decisions that Canadians have made to travel over the holidays, to travel internationally to warm destinations, which typically Canadians do, or to travel to simply visit family in the United States. A lot of that is not happening, and it is having a serious impact on our travel and tourism industry, particularly the airline sector, which we know has been hard hit over the course of the last 21 months, and those in the travel adviser business, such as travel agents, many of whom have been left out over the course of the last 21 months from many of the benefits the government has provided for relief. Now they are being left behind again.

I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism say that they will have to apply just like everybody else, but from the discussions I have had with the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors, applying simply does not work. These people did not qualify because many of them are independent travel advisers. They do not have brick-and-mortar properties and do not have storefronts. They work out of their homes. However, they provide $2.4 billion in revenue, at least they did in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

Many of the 12,000 independent travel advisers in this country, like Heather Kearns and Charlene Caldwell from my riding, did not qualify for any of the pandemic benefits. As a result, they have seen a drop, like a drop off a cliff, in their businesses. Oftentimes, they are paid for bookings when those trips happen, so members can imagine what it would be like if we booked travel and that travel got cancelled and clawed back, or if we did not get paid for anything we thought we would be booking.

It has been an awfully difficult 20 months for travel advisers, and it is going to continue that way. What Bill C-2 does not address directly is the demand from the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors, which is for some sort of bridge financing to make it much easier for them to access government programs. I think that is a failure of Bill C-2.

The other thing, which we have heard about from seniors, is the GIS clawback. Many seniors are suffering right now. There is an affordability crisis going on this country, and the cost of home heating, gas, groceries and hydro is disproportionately affecting seniors not just in my riding but right across this country. Many seniors thought to apply for the CERB, and as a result of receiving it, they are now finding out there are GIS clawbacks. The government does address this, but not until May 2022, so many of those seniors will continue to suffer as a result of the affordability and “just inflation” crisis that is going on right now.

Those are a couple of what I think are serious faults in this piece of legislation.

Over the last couple of days, I have heard, as I expect many colleagues in the House have, from travel advisers and other people in the travel and tourism industry about how worried they are over the latest travel advisories, particularly at a time when Canada will be seeing its busiest period of travel. Many of those travel advisers will simply lose more income, so we should have broader supports available in Bill C-2 for the travel and tourism industry. They are not addressed in this piece of legislation, and those independent travel advisers will be severely impacted by this.

The other thing we want to see in Bill C-2, and this to me is extremely troubling, is the level of accountability and transparency that was requested by members of the Conservative Party at the finance committee, in particular for oversight. A FINTRAC report was done, and I will remind Canadians that FINTRAC stands for the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. Its job is to monitor literally every financial transaction that happens in this country. It issued a report, and it was not until an ATIP request made by Mr. Ken Rubin, who is an Ottawa researcher, was received that the extent, scope and scale of the CERB fraud occurring in this country was known. What the Conservatives were looking for, as part of the amendments to Bill C-2 that were not included in the latest iteration of the bill, was an audit, based on the FINTRAC report, by the Auditor General, a review of some of the CRA actions that have gone on to investigate this simply to pursue the fraudsters.

I will provide some examples of what was in the FINTRAC report, and why this is so disturbing and should be disturbing to Canadians, given the scale, scope and amount of fraud. Who was involved in the fraud is also important.

This report was first published in 2020 by FINTRAC. Do members know how many investigations have been done by the Canada Revenue Agency since? It is zero in 21 months. That in and of itself is disturbing. What the Conservatives were trying to do was bring amendments to the bill so we could investigate that on behalf of Canadians, or at least allow the agencies responsible for investigations to look into the issue of fraud.

The FINTRAC report is an interesting read, and I encourage everybody to read it. I will certainly post it on some of my social media sites. There is a great summary in it, but a lot of the information is redacted. I know my time is short, so I will quickly summarize some of the challenges that went on with FINTRAC and why it was important that they be investigated. It states:

Reporting Entities indicated that criminal organizations, using stolen IDs and individuals recruited via social media, are operating "CERB scams" in certain cities....

This was in 2020, so it is in the present tense. It continues:

...prepaid cards are loaded with CERB benefits and other laundered funds.

Reporting Entities indicated that clients who do not meet the CERB eligibility requirements, or who are fully employed, still apply for, and receive CERB benefits....

A Reporting Entity noted that scammers are using stolen personal identifying information to apply online for CERB/GST refunds and arranging for funds to be deposited onto prepaid/reloadable cards.

We also heard about the gangs and criminal organizations that were using the CERB to fund the purchase of guns.

This is critically important to Canadians. The government shovelled billions of dollars out the door with no oversight, accountability or transparency. We as Conservatives think it is important to investigate this.

There is one other thing I will say. The other day at the ethics committee I asked for members to consider a motion to look into the over $600 billion in pandemic spending that has not been accounted for by the government. That motion was rejected at committee by the Liberal members.

We need to get to the bottom of this so that Canadians have confidence and trust in the government and to make sure we understand where the money is going. It is disappointing to see that amendments on accountability and transparency were not part of the amendments accepted for Bill C-2, and it is difficult to understand why.

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

December 16th, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member had some interesting comments. I do not necessarily agree with a lot of them. If I were to agree with them, it would likely imply that we would not have had programs such as CERB, the wage subsidy program and so forth because of fear or delay. What this is all about is Bill C-2, and Bill C-2 is all about supporting small businesses and supporting Canadians in real, tangible ways.

Why would the member not recognize that Canadians have an expectation of the government to be there during difficult times, i.e. the pandemic, to provide the necessary supports? That is where the money is going, to support real people and real businesses. Why not support that?

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

December 16th, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Jake Stewart Conservative Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-2. In the last couple of weeks as a member of the finance committee and of the House of Commons, I learned something really interesting. One of the first questions that was asked in committee was, “Where is the money coming from?”.

The Liberal government is going to spend $7.4 billion on programs similar to CERB and the other programs in the original suite of benefits it put out during the pandemic. However, we have since learned that some of that money actually bled into criminal organizations. People were able to scam the public's money for criminal intent, and the Liberals are okay with that because just recently they lessened offences for using firearms and other violations.

We know that the Liberal government is weak on crime and soft on criminals. Canadians know this. However, if we look at what the Liberals are doing right now, they are going to take $7.4 billion and dole it out, but they have no oversight of that. The Canada Revenue Agency has no oversight of it. The FINTRAC report showed us that millions and millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars were scammed by criminals. Other monies went to prisoners. If there were even the potential that those hard-earned Canadian tax dollars bled into terrorist organizations, could members believe the Government of Canada would allow this to happen, but more so, could they believe it would do nothing about it?

The people of Miramichi—Grand Lake do not want to fund terrorist organizations. They do not want to fund prisoners. They do not want to fund organized crime. They do not want to fund criminals in whatever behaviours they are up to, and they certainly do not want to see firearms charges lessened.

The Liberal government right now is sending Canada backward in so many avenues. Let us talk about this first question, which my colleague from Carleton asked at committee: “Where is the money coming from?” The Government of Canada has no concept of where that $7.4 billion is coming from. Eventually it said it is coming from the contingency fund. That is nice, but where did that money come from?

I would like to focus on how that money would be coming from energy revenues. This country is a leader in the energy sector. Whether it is oil and gas, minerals or mining, we are actually a world leader in the development of those industries, and that is where a serious bulk of revenue flows in for our country and its taxpayers. The Liberals are actually funding the CERB and other programs with no oversight using the very tax dollars from the very industries they are trying to kill in front of the rest of the world.

Right now, they cannot solve the softwood timber tariffs. Because the United States needs more oil, they have to go to OPEC and other countries to get help with oil and pipelines. We have to wonder if the Canadian government could say, “We will help you with some oil. Let us build a pipeline together, and by the way, can you take that tariff off our softwood?”

It seems like a general argument. It seems very basic, but I bet the Liberals have not even tried it. They have not tried it because they have no plan for our country. They have no plan for Miramichi—Grand Lake. The only thing they want to do is talk about the climate crisis and having everyone's back. They had the back of the first nations in this country so vastly that they did not even attend the first Truth and Reconciliation Day. They held the flag at half-mast for six months of the year.

We are talking about a government that has no regard for the Canadian public, no regard for the hard-earned taxpayer dollars that are coming from Miramichi—Grand Lake and New Brunswick and the rest of the provinces and territories. We are talking about a government of this country, where the rise in inflation is second in the world.

I am 43 years old. I was fortunate to buy a house built in 1919. I got it in rural New Brunswick. It was very cheap, and I have done a lot of work to it over the years. There are people my age and a little younger than me who are never going to own a house in this country.

I bought a house for $40,000 back in 2006. I could sell that house today for $160,000 or $170,000. I live in a very small town in the middle of rural New Brunswick, where the Internet is terrible and the only industry we ever had was forestry, and I have watched the demise of that over the course of time. If my house went up that much, imagine what a $300,000 house bought in 2005 is worth today. It is probably worth millions of dollars.

People are not going to be able to afford a house in this country. They are not going to have kids. We need to grow our population. I have four children. I can say that having four children in today's Canada is a very expensive endeavour. I would do it all again. I love the fact that I have four children.

However, imagine being 28 or 29 years old today. That person wants to own a home, which should be worth $250,000, but now costs $800,000. They have a partner who wants to have children, and they cannot even afford to have one of them. This is the country that the government is leaving to our children and to the grandchildren we have not met yet. That is wrong.

As a member of the Conservative team, we have to go to committee to make sure that the Canada Revenue Agency is brought in to have oversight of those hard-earned Canadian tax dollars, and to make sure that the Auditor General is coming in to ask those serious questions. It is also so we can ask why they are choosing not to audit the people who scammed Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars.

Why is it happening? How could the Prime Minister of Canada support this endeavour? How could he continue to talk about having the backs of Canadians, when people in their 20s and 30s are never going to be able to own a house in this country? How can he say he has their backs? He is causing this inflation on the cost of housing. The cost of bacon has gone up 30% to 35% just in the past year or two. People cannot even afford bacon anymore.

I think what we have is an abuse of power. We have a Prime Minister, who is out of touch with all Canadians. He is certainly out of touch with rural Canada. He is out of touch with people in Miramichi—Grand Lake.

I have the FINTRAC report right here. I could not believe that it says CEBA-related fraud was carried out in a similar fashion with the loan being transferred from the applicant's business account to their personal account, then withdrawn for cash. We have people in this country who are taking tax dollars for their own benefit. We had a million jobs unfilled, a houses that nobody can pay for and food that nobody can pay for.

That is the beauty of being in the House today. I have a good friend here beside me from Nova Scotia. My dad is from Nova Scotia. I have another buddy over here from Newfoundland, and they are here working for the Canadian people who put them here. They are in this House, and they are working for the hard-earned taxpayer dollars to make sure that there is oversight on that money.

The Conservative Party of Canada is the only party that ever had oversight of hard-earned Canadian tax dollars. We have to hold the government accountable because the Prime Minister is out of touch, not just with rural Canada, not just with Miramichi—Grand Lake, but with all Canadians.

We have to ensure that Canadian taxpayer dollars are not funding terrorist organizations, criminal organizations, scam artists and petty criminals. We cannot afford to have the hard-earned dollars of Canadians bleeding into those organizations.

We put forth a motion at committee. The Conservative Party, members of that committee and all members on this side of the House want oversight of the Prime Minister because Canadians are worth it, their tax dollars are worth it, and we have to make sure that we put the Canadian people first.

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

December 16th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member did not specifically answer the question of why the NDP would not support Bill C-2.

Bill C-2 would provide ongoing support to businesses and people in a very real and tangible way. I understand that it does not cover everything that the NDP would like it to cover, but it would support Canadians.

Could the member explain to the people who might be following the debate, or his constituents, specifically why the New Democrats would be voting against legislation that supports people going through the ongoing pandemic?

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

December 16th, 2021 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciate the member's contributions to the debate today.

In June of last year, when it came to Bill C-208, a bill that would allow someone to sell their family farm or fishing enterprise to their children and be treated the same as if selling to someone at arm's length, the government and the minister said that the coming into force date was not specified in that piece of legislation and therefore they would reinterpret it as coming into force this year.

In this bill, at least Finance Canada seems to have learned its lesson, and there is no coming into force date for the amendments here. Would the member agree that it is important for the government, and in this case particularly Finance Canada, to honour the will of Parliament and if a piece of legislation has no coming into force date when the government amends a current act, that act be deemed, once it has gone through both Houses and received royal assent, the law of the land?

Does the member believe that Finance Canada and the government have learned their lesson, and are doing that in Bill C-2?

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

December 16th, 2021 / 12:35 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, in fact, the government and ministers have been very open to working with all members of the House in an apolitical fashion to try to improve legislation, period.

There seems to be a difference when the NDP is in opposition, where it will promise and say absolutely anything, such as $100,000 for every breathing Canadian coast to coast every year coming from the government as a direct payment. Whatever it takes, the NDP will say that.

In government, on the other hand, I will use the example the member just made reference to. In the legislation we talk about 10 paid sick days. In B.C., with an NDP premier, there are more workers and the province has passed five paid sick days. The NDP will praise the NDP government in B.C.

The member and the party have chosen not to support this legislation. This legislation is solid, good legislation for businesses and people. It would provide additional disposable income and support businesses.

How does the member justify explaining to his constituents that the NDP does not support Bill C-2?

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

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

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 16th, 2021 / noon
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 16th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

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

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

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

December 16th, 2021 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

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

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

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

December 16th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

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

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

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

December 16th, 2021 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

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

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

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

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

December 16th, 2021 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Marty Morantz Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

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

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

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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

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

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

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

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

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

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

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

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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

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

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

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

Economic and Fiscal Update 2021Routine Proceedings

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

Liberal

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

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

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

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

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

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

December 13th, 2021 / 9:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Sophie Chatel Liberal Pontiac, QC

At least this version is more in line with the existing language in Bill C-2 and the Income Tax Act that Bill C-2 amends.

December 13th, 2021 / 9:25 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Mr. Blaikie, I will now give you my ruling that this amendment is inadmissible, and here is my reason for this.

Bill C-2 provides for further support in response to COVID-19. The amendment attempts to create a mechanism allowing people who have received certain benefits they are not entitled to to reimburse 50% of the amount instead of the full amount, as provided in the respective acts. If adopted, the amendment would force the government to reimburse people who have already paid back any amount above the 50% threshold from the consolidated revenue fund.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states the following on page 772:

Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.

In the opinion of the chair, the amendment proposes a new scheme for the reimbursement of payments of benefits unduly received, which would impose an increased charge on the public treasury not envisioned in the bill. Therefore, I rule the amendment inadmissible.

December 13th, 2021 / 9:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

There was one thing you said in the beginning about legislation. Is it this revised legislation we're looking at today, Bill C-2, that allows three more years?

December 13th, 2021 / 9 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, Mr. Blaikie.

I will give you my ruling that this amendment is inadmissible. Again, here's my reason for it. Bill C-2 provides for further support in response to COVID-19 with the lockdown benefit available to people meeting the criteria established in the bill. The amendment attempts to allow the lockdown benefit to be accessed under specific circumstances even if a lockdown has not been called.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states the following on page 772:

Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.

In the opinion of the chair, the amendment proposes a new scheme for the lockdown benefit that would make it available to people not presently eligible under the bill, which would impose a higher charge on the public treasury than the one contemplated in the bill. Therefore, I rule the amendment inadmissible.

December 13th, 2021 / 8:55 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

All right. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't jumping the gun.

We've had this conversation around the table. The government has said that one of the purposes of this bill is to narrow the scope of existing pandemic supports, at least as they were until October, and to focus on particularly hard-hit industries. Of course, one of the big conversations around this table has been about the fact that within those hard-hit industries.... I'm speaking particularly of tourism and hospitality and arts and culture. We know the industries I'm talking about, because they're very clearly laid out in part 1 of the bill. These are the industries for which the government has said the wage subsidy should continue to apply. But workers who don't work for a company that's eligible for the wage subsidy or that sees fit to apply for the wage subsidy, or who work for themselves, don't have access to any kind of financial benefit.

This amendment would simply say that the Canada worker lockdown benefit.... Incidentally, I didn't propose an amendment with a better name than that, one that rolls off the tongue. If anyone has any suggestions, I would be open to such an amendment.

This simply says that people who work in any of those industries that the government already identifies in this bill as requiring exceptional support should be able to qualify for the Canada worker lockdown benefit whether there is a lockdown order in their region or not. It would mean that self-employed workers like independent travel agents, for instance, or some of the folks we've been talking about in the arts and cultural sector, or those who don't work for an employer that would get the wage subsidy under the terms of Bill C-2 would be able to apply directly for $300 a week of support under the Canada worker lockdown benefit program.

That's what this amendment would accomplish.

December 13th, 2021 / 8:55 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, Mr. Blaikie.

Is there any discussion on this?

I will give you my ruling. This amendment is inadmissible, and here is my reason for it.

Bill C-2 provides for further support in response to COVID-19 in the amount of $300 weekly as part of the lockdown benefit. The amendment attempts to increase this amount to $500 weekly.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states the following on page 772:

Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.

In the opinion of the chair, the amendment proposes a new, superior amount for the lockdown benefit, which imposes a charge on the public treasury higher than the one contemplated in the bill. Therefore, I rule the amendment inadmissible.

December 13th, 2021 / 8:55 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

There is no further discussion.

Mr. Blaikie, I will now give my ruling. This amendment is inadmissible, and here's my reason for it.

Bill C-2 provides for further support in response to COVID-19. The amendment seeks to remove several amounts or benefits from the calculation of taxpayers' income for the purpose of determining their eligibility for a benefit that is based on their income when these amounts or benefits are presently taken into account. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states, on page 770, “An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.”

In the opinion of the chair, the amendment is a new concept that is beyond the scope of the bill and that would also require royal recommendation. Therefore, I rule the amendment inadmissible.

December 13th, 2021 / 8:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thanks, Chair.

I very much respect the intention of my colleagues who are trying to solve a major problem. I don't think there's much disagreement about the problem we are trying to solve. The disagreement is more about the solution to the problem.

While Mr. McLean's intentions are good, I am concerned about the potential implications of this subamendment. We don't know what those implications are, and we won't be able to figure them out this evening before we vote on this subamendment. By trying to solve a big problem, we could create a much bigger problem for the companies we want to help.

I remind my colleagues that we are talking here about companies whose revenues have dropped by 40% or 50%. Companies that qualify for these programs are already suffering and are already doing everything they can to retain their employees. Despite our good intentions, this change could create additional problems for those companies. If we unwittingly create a problem tonight, companies may no longer be eligible for these programs under Bill C‑2. Unfortunately, if we make such a mistake, we will only realize it in the coming months.

I am not saying there is a problem, but rather that we do not know whether there is a problem. Despite the intelligence and experience of everyone around this table, no one here can say with certainty that we won't cause a problem for the companies we are trying to help. While the underlying intent is good, it is very risky to pass amendments that would change the wording of the bill.

That is all I wanted to say.

December 13th, 2021 / 7:40 p.m.
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Director General, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Trevor McGowan

Maybe I'll start with your second question first. As noted, there's a concern that because the rules apply to all dividends and not just dividends paid on the publicly listed shares, they could require repayment of the wage subsidy where one entity in a corporate group is moving funds to another entity in the corporate group for the group's purposes and not actually returning any amounts to shareholders. That's a very common way for public companies and large corporate groups to move money around and ensure that funds are in the correct legal entity. Likewise, it could adversely affect corporations that have issued preferred shares as part of their corporate financing programs. I think those are probably the two largest.

In terms of what impact the amendment would have on the administration and enforcement of the rules, of course the Canada Revenue Agency has been working tirelessly to put these structures and programs in place in order to implement the new measures contained in Bill C-2. Any change to them could require the Canada Revenue Agency to tweak its systems. While I don't know—I'm not involved in the development of the Canada Revenue Agency's IT systems—that does seem to be a risk.

Conversely, public corporations could be required to proceed with the rules without necessarily having full certainty as to how they are intended to apply—for example, whether it applies to the qualifying period that ends after the date of royal assent, or before, or whatnot.

So there would be those concerns. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the Canada Revenue Agency's technical systems to advise or to opine on whether they would need to be redesigned, but that is something that I think we'd want to check.

December 13th, 2021 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Chambers.

I propose that we strike out the last part, the second part of the amendment here to Bill C-2, NDP-3, paragraph (b). We could strike that out because there is a problem with retroactivity. If we took out the retroactive clause there, “Subsection (18.1) is deemed to have come into force on March 15, 2020”, I would propose that to my colleague from the New Democratic Party. I think the intent of that would be clear, that companies cannot access the benefits if they are paying dividends or increasing the payouts to their executives.

We would like to have language in there that includes share buybacks as well, because it's all about income distribution one way or another and access to these programs should not be benefiting shareholders at the expense of taxpayers. I think we all agree on that. I think it's a flaw in the initial bill that went through that we have this. Nevertheless, there are companies that followed the rules and applied those rules to make sure they survived that period. Retroactively.... The programs were not loans at that point in time. The programs were, “Here's a program to make sure you hang on to your employees and that your employees have the sustenance required.” Some of those companies have since emerged as dividend-paying companies.

I want to make sure that the timing on this is very clear, that we're talking about the go-forward plan, with no retroactive element involved in this that would require all kinds of financial restatements and all kinds of public market shenanigans that would happen at that point in time. I do appreciate very much the intent of the bill as far as matching revenues with expenses goes.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would propose that as a friendly amendment.

December 13th, 2021 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, Mr. Blaikie.

Is there any further discussion?

I'll now give my ruling on this amendment. It is inadmissible, and here's my reason for that.

Bill C-2 provides for further support in response to COVID-19. The amendment seeks to amend subparagraph 56(1)(r)(iv.1) of the Income Tax Act to remove any COVID-related financial assistance amount from the calculation of the taxpayer's income in order to receive an old age security benefit.

As House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states on page 770, “An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order. It is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.” In the opinion of the chair, the amendment is a new concept that is beyond the scope of the bill, and it would also require royal recommendation.

Therefore, I rule the amendment inadmissible. This ruling also applies to NDP-2, since the two amendments are consequential.

December 13th, 2021 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

It's 6:30. I call this meeting to order.

Welcome, everyone, to meeting number nine 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.

I know I've gone over a number of the health and safety measures with all of the members, as well as with the witnesses who are with us today. They are ministry officials who understand the different protocols we have to abide by—the two-metre physical distancing, the wearing of masks and the hygiene.

Also, when it comes to using our technical system here for the hybrid—

December 13th, 2021 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have two motions that are more in the spirit of the actual work of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, work we are all eager to tackle in a meaningful way.

The first concerns the situation facing artists, something the Standing Committee on Finance has talked a lot about in the past few days, further to its examination of Bill C‑2. We, as the heritage committee, can do something, and that is studying a piece of federal legislation, the Status of the Artist Act. Quebec has a statute with some very helpful provisions.

The motion reads as follows:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertake a study on the Status of the Artist Act and its impact on improving basic working conditions for artists; that the Committee invite officials from the heritage department, tax experts and other stakeholders and groups from the culture sector to follow up on this issue and that the Committee hold a minimum of four (4) meetings to that end; and that the Committee report its findings and recommendations to the House.

TourismOral Questions

December 13th, 2021 / 3:10 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, let me outline just a few of the supports that the government has put in place for entrepreneurs and people in the tourism sector: $100 million to help Destination Canada market us around the world and in our own country, $200 million to support festivals and events, $200 million to support small festivals and large festivals, $500 million for the tourism relief fund and $1 billion in 2021.

If the other side of the House would like to deliver a Christmas present to the tourism sector, they could vote for Bill C-2 and see $7.4 billion put into our economy.

COVID-19 Economic MeasuresOral Questions

December 13th, 2021 / 3 p.m.
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Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, although we are seeing some encouraging signs of economic recovery, it is also clear that not all regions of the country nor all sectors are recovering at the same pace. That is especially true for the tourism sector.

I can see it in my region which, to my impartial eye, is the most beautiful in Canada. My region usually welcomes thousands upon thousands of tourists every year and has a vigorous tourism sector, but it has been affected by the pandemic.

I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance how Bill C-2 supports the tourism sector.

Tourism IndustryOral Questions

December 13th, 2021 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that the pandemic is still taking a toll on our Canadian economy. Currently, the hardest-hit sector is tourism and hospitality, which employs 1.8 million Canadians.

On Friday, the Conservatives proposed that Bill C‑2 be split into two bills, to directly address the problem in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Is the government prepared to work with us to ensure that we can adopt the measures for tourism and hospitality immediately, so we can provide direct assistance to the 1.8 million Canadians affected by these issues?

December 13th, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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President, Canadian Labour Congress

Bea Bruske

Thank you for that.

While we welcome any type of new benefit, our concern with the benefits proposed under Bill C-2 is whether workers would actually qualify for those benefits. We're worried that when there are outbreaks in various parts of the country that may be workplace specific, where workers do not have access to things like paid sick time, they will also not have access to this benefit, based on the fact that there isn't an actual lockdown for that particular region. That is going to leave workers significantly short.

The other concern we have is that employers may not necessarily qualify under the hospitality benefits, for example, because they may not have lost 40% of their business or more. However, workers may have lost a shift or two during that week. For a worker to miss a fifth of their paycheck, that's a fairly significant chunk that they have to navigate and negotiate in terms of how they make their rent check and how they put those groceries on the table, so we are concerned that those benefits don't go nearly far enough.

December 13th, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

All right, that's clear. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will ask Ms. Hogan the same question that my colleague Mr. Poilievre asked her. First, let me explain why. What does this have to do with Bill C‑2? We, the legislators, are being asked to vote for a multi-billion-dollar bill. As in the case of the aid programs during the pandemic, we are talking about huge sums. In order to move forward, people need to have absolute confidence in the government and our various institutions, whose role includes auditing the work of the government.

Ms. Hogan, I will take Mr. Poilievre's question as my own: did your office present the audits to a lobbyist before they were presented to the House?

December 13th, 2021 / 12:50 p.m.
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Bea Bruske President, Canadian Labour Congress

Thank you, Chair, and good afternoon, committee members.

My name is Bea Bruske, and I am the president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

The CLC is Canada's largest central labour body speaking on issues of national importance to all working people in Canada.

Since the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of Canada committed to doing whatever it took, for as long as it took, to get Canadians through the pandemic. The government has consistently said that no matter how much longer the crisis lasts, and no matter where you live, they've got your back. Despite this, back in October, the government announced it would be terminating the Canada recovery benefit. It did so in the midst of the pandemic. It did so before the labour market had fully recovered, and it did so with no system of unemployment benefits in place for vulnerable workers who cannot access EI.

The pandemic is far from over. Today, the number of daily COVID-19 cases is 135,000 higher than when government announced that it was ending the CRB. Many Canadians continue to struggle with joblessness and underemployment. In November, there were 1.2 million Canadians who were officially out of work, and another 630,000 working people who wanted full-time work but couldn't find it.

Statistics Canada's labour underutilization rate captures the full range of people who are available and who want to work. In November, the labour underutilization rate was 12.4%. In other words, 12.4% of the potential labour force was either unemployed, not participating in the labour force but wanting work, or employed but receiving far fewer than their usual hours of work. When the government decided to end the CRB, the official jobless rate was still a full percentage point higher than in February 2020. Total hours worked were below prepandemic levels.

One labour market indicator had recovered to the prepandemic levels, and of course that was the labour force participation. In other words, in our mind, there is little evidence of people staying at home on CRB benefits rather than taking part in working or looking for employment. Many CRB recipients were in fact working while they were receiving those benefits, as the CRB permitted them to do. They relied on those benefits to cope with insufficient hours of work and with reduced earnings. In the period just before the government's decision to terminate the CRB, 970,000 Canadians received it, and in the final eligibility period, there were still over 600,000 CRB recipients. The number continues to climb as workers retroactively claim those CRB benefits.

Let's be clear. The Canada recovery lockdown benefit is not a substitute for the Canada recovery benefit, which workers continue to need.

The restrictive benefit may never be used, or used very sparingly. Last Tuesday we heard this committee, and this committee heard from government officials who were unable to identify a single instance, between the announcement of the benefit on October 21 and now, where the lockdown benefit would apply. We still haven't heard how much the lockdown benefit is expected to cost, possibly because the actual cost will be negligible, or perhaps even zero.

It's doubtful the lockdown benefit would help families in places like Alberta, where the government has dragged its feet on putting lockdowns in place, despite the widespread risk of COVID. As a regional benefit, the lockdown benefit is not designed to respond to workplace outbreaks like the ones we've seen at Cargill, at Amazon and at Canada Post.

Honourable members, the decision to terminate the CRB, pulling the rug out from under struggling workers, self-employed workers in the hard-hit hospitality and tourism.... They've relied very heavily on the CRB. In contrast, the measures in part 1 of Bill C-2, extending the emergency wage subsidy and emergency rent subsidy to the tourism and hospitality sectors, will do very little for those workers.

We recommend urgently restoring the CRB benefits for workers who cannot access employment insurance. We also recommend several amendments to improve the lockdown benefit, which I'd be pleased to detail for you if there's an opportunity.

Thank you so much.

December 13th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

What is the relevance to Bill C-2, Mr. Poilievre?

December 13th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

How is it relevant, Mr. Chair?

I have a point of order. What's the relevance to Bill C-2?

December 13th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Is it relevant to Bill C-2?

December 13th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

No. What's the relevance of the question to Bill C-2?

December 13th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Again, I have a point of order.

What's the relevance of this to Bill C-2?

December 13th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

What's the relevance of this to Bill C-2?

December 13th, 2021 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

That's very interesting.

Let's step back to the Canada emergency wage subsidy. You've been talking about that.

You did release a series of findings and implications, one of which was that:

...without effective controls for validating payments, the integrity of the program is at risk and ineligible employers might receive the subsidy.

This is an important factor to consider, and I appreciate what you just said about the social insurance numbers. Given the amount of public attention on the cost of the pandemic recovery and how the government is going to pay for it, I'm wondering again if your office was consulted at all about the executive compensation components within Bill C-2 and if you feel those provisions address the concerns that you mentioned in your report.

December 13th, 2021 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

It's been quite interesting listening to my colleagues and their views on this specific motion. In the past 20 months, I think our government—in fact, just team Canada—has done all that we can to ensure that Canadians are protected and had the ability to stay at home while COVID raged in public settings, whether it was through providing CERB or supporting small business through the business account or wage subsidies. I think it's a little surprising that there seems to be an automatic assumption of guilt declared by a couple of our members here on how we were able to support hundreds of thousands of Canadians to get through what has been the most challenging part of their lifetimes and of our generation.

We worked really hard—not just members on the governing side but also members from all parties—to ensure that our constituents were well supported throughout this whole process. I think we need to continue doing that—indeed, we realize that COVID is not yet over—whether through Bill C-2 or other ways. We want to continue to support Canadians and I think we should. I think we need to find that collaborative approach. We need to find that balance in the work that we do here in this committee to make sure that Canadians are feeling supported and are being supported.

The last thing I think that our committee should be doing is using this committee for political posturing or to distract from the work we've all been doing among all parties over the past 20 months. We need to ensure that, as we continue to finish the fight against COVID, we all lend our hands and work together and really try to move things forward.

I think there are other more pertinent issues that we should be looking. As members have said, this one was really hashed out in the 43rd Parliament. I think artificial intelligence, facial recognition and equity are huge topics that Canadians are very much concerned about, and we would be doing an injustice if we played into what I think may be political posturing. I think it would be an injustice if we stepped way from continuing to protect Canadians from this changing world, from the changing digital space and from the changing normal of what COVID has brought for us.

I would respectfully ask my colleagues to think about this, guys. We have an opportunity to move forward. We have an opportunity to do the right thing. We have an opportunity to really work on issues that impact each and every one of us every single day, and we can do that here in this committee. I would really encourage you to work on those issues as opposed to rehashing things that have already been settled, and not participate in what is going to be a political posturing session. I think Canadians deserve better than that.

Thank you.

December 13th, 2021 / 12:05 p.m.
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Karen Hogan Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, I wish to acknowledge that the lands on which we are gathered are part of the traditional unceded territory of the Anishinaabeg People.

Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to the committee's study of Bill C‑2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID‑19..

I'm happy to discuss our audit reports, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which were tabled in the House of Commons on March 25. Joining me today is Philippe Le Goff, who was the principal responsible for the CEWS audit.

Our audit of the CEWS, or Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, focused on whether the Department of Finance Canada provided analysis on the program and whether the Canada Revenue Agency limited abuse by establishing appropriate controls in its administration of the program.

Overall, we found the department and the Canada Revenue Agency worked together within short timeframes to support the development and implementation of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, CEWS.

The design and rollout of the subsidy highlighted pre-existing weaknesses in the Canada Revenue Agency's systems, approaches, and data. One of the weaknesses is related to the lack of up‑to‑date tax data, which meant that the agency did not have all the relevant information for assessing the applications before issuing payments. This revenue information would have allowed the agency to validate the reasonableness of the revenue drop that was declared by applicants.

To prioritize issuing payments quickly, the Canada Revenue Agency decided to not implement certain controls that it could have used to validate the reasonableness of subsidy applications. For example, the agency decided that it would not ask for employee social insurance numbers, although this information could have helped prevent the doubling up of applications for financial support.

The limitations of the agency's information technology systems affected its ability to perform some pre-payment validations, as did the absence of complete and up‑to‑date tax information. As a result, the agency will have to perform more post-payment verification work.

Let's now turn to our report on the Canada emergency response benefit. This audit focused on the analysis carried out by Employment and Social Development Canada and the Department of Finance in the design of the benefit. It also examined whether Employment and Social Development Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency designed mechanisms so that the benefit would support eligible workers who had suffered a loss of income for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working within a short time frame, Employment and Social Development Canada and the Department of Finance supported the design of the benefit to quickly deliver support to workers who had lost income because of COVID-19. The department and the agency made an early decision to focus on post-payment controls to simplify the process and expedite issuing benefit payments. The department and the agency introduced additional controls once the benefit was rolled out.

Based on our audit work on the original design of the two programs, both will need to rely heavily on post-payment verification, which will be time-consuming and costly. The post-payment work on these two programs was expected to be the subject of an audit by my office to begin in early 2022. However, we have been informed by the Canada Revenue Agency that it has deferred or delayed its work and that it is highly unlikely that a significant amount of post-payment work will be completed by 2023. Given that there will be little for us to audit, we have postponed our work.

This concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.

Thank you.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Ms. Chatel, thank you for the question.

To recap some of what I said earlier, the Liberal government has been there from the beginning. Since 2015, it has invested a lot of money in organizations like the CBC, the Canada Media Fund, Telefilm Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and so on.

What did we do when the pandemic hit? As early as April, the government invested $500 million in emergency funds to maintain jobs and support business continuity. We realized that this sector needed an extra boost. Then on November 30, as part of the 2020 fall economic statement, the government announced an investment of $281 million. One of the purposes of this investment was to respond to the film and television industry's request for assurances, to ensure that they would be covered if something happened during filming. Subsequently, there was a record investment of $1.93 billion in the 2021 budget. These are huge sums.

We are now continuing to provide assistance through Bill C-2. As you said, this bill affects cultural organizations, agencies and businesses. However, it lacks direct assistance to self-employed workers. We provide this assistance through Canadian Heritage and existing programs. So we don't need a bill because, as we promised in our platform, we will make an investment of about $50 million. In addition, we will continue to fulfil our election commitments, such as holding a summit in a month and a half, among other things. There is a continuity in all of this, which is to never forget our workers in the cultural sector.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Sophie Chatel Liberal Pontiac, QC

Good morning, Minister, and welcome to the committee. It's a pleasure to see you this morning.

I would also like to thank your colleagues from the Department of Canadian Heritage, who have indeed done an extraordinary job during this pandemic.

I wanted to quickly come back to what some of my colleagues from the Conservatives have mentioned. Minister, I don't want you to leave with the wrong impression here. We called FINTRAC as a witness. In their testimony, they concluded that in the standard that this government has developed over the years to ensure accountability when there is something suspicious about any of our programs, there are checks and balances in the system to red flag it and immediately move toward an investigation.

We heard that banks, very early on, identified some suspicious transactions that were, by and large, very small numbers of payments. Immediately, it went to FINTRAC, which launched an investigation. The collaboration between FINTRAC and the Canada Revenue Agency went very well.

Minister, I want you to understand that the witnesses said the system and standards in place for all of our programs are very good. This is supported by the Auditor General report that investigated those systems and concluded that, through the program we had in place, the money went to the right person and abuses were taken care of.

I will ask my questions in French, because, as you know, the arts and culture sector is very important in Canada from coast to coast, and particularly so in Quebec. This is also the case in my riding.

I am very pleased to hear that our programs really helped the sector during the pandemic.

Also, I am very interested in the summit you are going to organize. I'm also hearing concerns that the arts and culture sector needs to receive financial support quickly.

As you mentioned, Minister, Bill C‑2 will go a long way to help organizations, businesses and employees in the sector, who will benefit from maintaining the employer-employee relationship. There is still a need to help the self-employed in the sector and I am very pleased to hear you say that help will be available to them.

I believe I understood that no new legislation will be required to provide assistance to these workers, as these programs are already in place.

Can you give us more details about this aid? Will it get to them more quickly as there is no need for a bill?

December 13th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

As far as the cultural sector is concerned, this is definitely going to help the organizations, cultural businesses and others. The part that is also necessary, which is not through Bill C-2 but what we're doing now, is to help the gig workers, the independent workers. It's absolutely necessary, and we're doing it right now.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

We also had some information last week about the hiring recovery benefit. It has a very low take-up, with about 10,000 approved applications.

If we're trying to convince people to re-enter the workforce, should we be concerned? In Bill C-2, we're asking to extend the Canada hiring recovery benefit program, but we're extending a program that seems to not really be that effective.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Thank you.

You mentioned encouraging people to get back into the workforce, but we also heard testimony last week about the severe labour shortage and the challenges for many stakeholders, in particular those in some of the industries we're talking about today, of finding people who are available to work once they open back up. In Bill C-2, we don't really see much of anything with respect to labour shortages and trying to help these organizations find workers.

Do you have any comments on the labour shortage?

December 13th, 2021 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

We decided on a series of measures to help the cultural sector, Bill C-2 being one of them, going directly to organizations. The other one, through consultations with the organizations, and also at the recommendation of a lot of those associations—I'm talking about ACTRA, the UDA and others—was that maybe working with them would be the best way to do it.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

In our platform, we have provided $50 million for financial assistance for self‑employed workers. Bill C‑2 has a lot of things for cultural businesses and associations and so on, but the financial assistance for self‑employed workers should be about $50 million. Again, we haven't finalized this support measure, and we're still working on it.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

We're moving quickly, but through Bill C-2 you also have money that is going to the organizations and cultural businesses so that they will be able to keep those people. That is touching a lot of people in the cultural industry. For those who are not touched by this, there is the program that we're talking about that is coming very soon.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

We had many discussions with finance, of course, to make sure that the cultural sector would be included. This is why associations, groups and cultural businesses will have access, as you know, to what's provided by Bill C-2—the wage subsidy to 75%, the rent subsidy and in any other event, in case of lockdowns, the rest of Bill C-2.

We're going one step further internally. You don't need legislation for that. We have the programs to do it. We will go one step further to make sure that we're there for our independent workers.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you.

I hear what you're saying, but I see a lot of gaps in the service. I'm really worried about what that impact will be on this particular arts, culture and heritage sector.

Could you talk to the committee about how your department was consulted about the structure of income supports in Bill C-2 in order to best serve the workers in this particular industry?

December 13th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

We know, as you mentioned, that before the pandemic, there were about 678,000 workers. It went down to about 606,000 workers, so about 70,000 workers are left. Some of them, though, can benefit from the different programs in Bill C-2, and some of them are independent.

I'm talking about self‑employed workers.

What we're doing within Canadian Heritage is to help those independent workers, but to answer your question, 70,000 jobs were not recuperated.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to the minister and his officials for being here today to talk about this very important issue.

I'd like to follow up a bit on what my former colleague spoke about. We know that the arts, culture and heritage sector represents about 673,000 jobs in the Canadian economy. They're important jobs. The government has also really made it clear that Bill C-2 is the last set of pandemic income supports they will be offering.

We know that the arts and culture sector is one of the last to recover. Do you know around how many arts and culture workers were still using the Canadian recovery benefit on October 23?

December 13th, 2021 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

We've always known that there was a significant need in the cultural sector. However, as you already know, Mr. Champoux, we sometimes help artists through various programs such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy, or CEWS, because these programs enable them to keep their jobs.

You rightly referred to self‑employed workers. We'll help them by creating a program to supplement Bill C‑2. This bill will help organizations, cultural businesses and so on. However, at the same time, we don't need a bill to implement our plan, because we'll use existing programs. We're working with the Union des artistes, or UDA, and others to quickly put together a program that will help self‑employed workers by giving them money directly.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for joining us today, Minister Rodriguez. I also want to thank your esteemed colleagues. As my colleague said earlier, they do an excellent job at the Department of Canadian Heritage. We always greatly appreciate your efforts. We hear nothing but good things about you.

Minister Rodriguez, you spoke earlier about the programs that the government has implemented to assist the cultural sector since the start of the pandemic. Last year, at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, we conducted a study to understand how the pandemic was affecting the cultural community in particular. The study found that the programs in place were helping the cultural community, but that the money wasn't getting to the self‑employed workers and the artists. In other words, the industry, production companies and theatres were receiving assistance, but the artists, self‑employed workers and technicians weren't obtaining any of the money and assistance that they needed.

As you know, the figures are quite alarming, and we're noticing this more and more. That's why we specifically asked for the continuation of assistance programs such as the Canada recovery benefit, or CRB, for the hardest‑hit sectors, including the cultural sector. Obviously, we saw that self‑employed workers in the cultural sector aren't covered by Bill C‑2. I have a question for you, Minister Rodriguez, but it could also be addressed to the deputy minister.

When did you find out that the cultural sector, artists and self‑employed cultural workers wouldn't be protected by Bill C‑2?

December 13th, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Thank you for the question.

We've seen it right from the start in helping to maintain jobs. For example, what Bill C-2 is doing is still helping those industries with the wage subsidy and the rent subsidy. This applies to the cultural sector, one of the sectors that was the most hit by the pandemic. When you think about it, after the tourism sector, I think it's the cultural sector that's been the hardest hit. It's there, through those programs, to help the organizations and associations.

What we're also trying to do directly through my department is to help the self-employed through direct funding. This is what we're working on at this moment with the foundations, guilds and unions.

December 13th, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you.

I was really pleased when you highlighted in your opening remarks that Bill C-2 already has a lot of support for artists and those in the cultural sector. It was important for you to point that out, because when we have these debates in the House, people often forget that there is actually quite a bit of support there.

I have a question for you. Why do you think it's important to have so many different funding streams for arts and culture, and how have we seen these programs meeting the needs of workers and organizations?

December 13th, 2021 / 11 a.m.
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Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, committee members and colleagues.

First, congratulations on being elected and on being appointed to this important committee. I also want to thank you for inviting us to appear today to discuss our government's support for the cultural sector during the pandemic.

The hundreds of thousands of workers in the sector, including 158,000 professional artists, are vital to our economy and society. Our government has known this for a long time. We've always been there for them, and we'll always support our arts and culture sector and our heritage.

To understand the scope of all that has been accomplished, you must think back a bit to 2015. At that time, the cultural sector had just gone through a decade of budget cuts, and we said enough was enough. That's basically what we told Canadians. Under a Liberal government, our culture and our languages would be protected from now on. That's what we've done. As soon as we were elected in 2015, in the 2016 budget, we started to reverse the budget cuts.

One of the first things we did was to reinvest $675 million in CBC/Radio-Canada. That same year, we announced the largest increase in history to the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts. We also invested in Telefilm and the Canada Media Fund. I could go on and on, Mr. Chair, but long story short, we made the biggest reinvestment in our culture in the history of our country.

When Canada began to feel the full impacts of COVID-19 in March 2020, the culture and heritage sectors were among the first and hardest hit. Many in the creative industry found themselves with little or, quite often, zero income.

We immediately understood that we had to help the cultural sector quickly. Time was of the essence and there wasn't a moment to spare.

I would now like to take the time to thank all the employees of Canadian Heritage and its portfolio agencies. Despite the pandemic and its challenges, they were able to quickly respond to the urgency of the situation.

We responded right away with a $500-million emergency support fund for cultural, heritage and sports organizations. It was delivered in record time and protected many jobs. The results speak for themselves: 77% of people said it helped them stay in business, and 95% of them were satisfied with the speed of the program.

The Liberal team has always been an ally of the cultural sector. We said that we would reinvest, and we did. We said that we wouldn't leave anyone behind during the pandemic, and we kept our word. Now we're telling people that we'll be there to help them hang on until the economy fully recovers, because this hasn't happened yet. People in the cultural community across the country know that they can count on us.

It should be noted that, as a result of the plan implemented by my colleague, the Minister of Finance, our recovery is very strong. However, the recovery isn't equal for everyone. Not everyone is benefiting from it in the same way. I'm thinking in particular of self‑employed workers in the cultural sector.

Even though most Canadians have acted responsibly by getting vaccinated and taking the necessary precautions, several sectors of the industry will need time to return to pre‑pandemic levels. There's still a gap.

That's why, in the 2021 budget, we made a historic investment of $1.93 billion to help the arts and culture sector join the recovery. I think that's important.

We've created several emergency assistance programs to support our creators, our festivals and our various institutions.

Mr. Chair, once again, I could go on and on, but I don't think you want that.

Let me focus on what's ahead of us.

On January 31 and February 1, we'll hold a summit on the recovery of the arts and culture sectors. During this summit, we'll focus on medium‑term and longer‑term solutions and priorities.

We're working with the Deputy Prime Minister on a key commitment in the Liberal plan presented to Canadians during the campaign.

We said that we would create a transitional program tailored to self‑employed and independent workers in the industry. That's what we'll do.

We're currently working with artist associations, guilds, unions and all sector organizations to create the program as quickly as possible.

They're telling us—and I think they also told the committee—that this step is extremely important and necessary. They want it done quickly, but more importantly, they want it done right. This is my top priority at this time.

I'm relieved to hear my colleagues talk about this issue. During the election campaign, the Liberals were the only ones who talked about transitional support for self‑employed workers in the sector. I must say that I was concerned.

Today, I'm pleased to know that my colleagues are asking the government to fulfill its own commitment. I can tell you that we'll do just that. This shows that we aren't alone. This is a good move for our workers and our culture.

I want to thank all my colleagues for their enthusiasm and support for our plans to help the cultural sector, our artists and our craftspeople.

In closing, I consider it important to take concrete steps and to act together.

In Bill C-2, there are very important measures for our arts and culture sector. For the hardest-hit organizations and for the people in the cultural sector, these are essential measures to help them pay up to 75% of wages and rent. This includes live performances and exhibits, museums, heritage sites, cinemas, festivals and others. Bill C-2 also contains measures that will help these organizations hire more people.

Our creators need it. They need the support provided in this bill right now. I know my colleagues from all parties are serious about supporting workers in the cultural sector, and I'm counting on them to make sure that Bill C-2 moves forward without any further delay.

On behalf of all our workers, everyone involved in culture, I'd like to ask my colleagues to quickly pass Bill C‑2.

These people were there for us during the pandemic. They made us laugh, they sometimes made us cry, and they often made us think. We've been there for them too. Now it's time to take the next step together.

I will now take your questions.

Thank you.

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.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

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

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, back in October, the Prime Minister talked about why we needed to continue to support our communities. Supporting communities means healthier communities.

The Prime Minister talked about Bill C-2 back in October. In essence, it is the first real bill. We also have Bill C-1, although I do not know exactly what its contents are offhand. However, in my books, Bill C-2 is the most important bill. That is why it was listed as the first priority coming in, and opposition members have known about it for many weeks, going on months now.

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

Jake Stewart Conservative Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Of course, all questions will be through the chair.

I would like to thank the witnesses for being here today. We had a motion, and as a committee we felt it was really important for the CRA to have representation here. Over the course of the past week, we've had a very difficult time getting answers to questions. We know that the finance department, and all of our witnesses previously, couldn't tell us where the money that will be used is coming from. FINTRAC was here and let us know that they were not consulted with the drafting of this new bill, even with respect to their warning CRA, yourselves, in the summer of 2020, of the potential that these benefits could be defrauded.

On behalf of my constituents today in Miramichi—Grand Lake, number one, I hope we can break the streak and get some answers today. What role did CRA play in drafting the last emergency response bill related to the pandemic, the one previous to Bill C-2?

December 10th, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit and Service Branch, Canada Revenue Agency

Frank Vermaeten

Good afternoon, everyone, and good afternoon, Mr. Chair.

I'm having some technical difficulties, as are some people in the agency today, so hopefully you can hear me loud and clear.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before this committee today to provide you with additional information regarding the support of the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, in delivering the Government of Canada's COVID‑19 emergency support benefits.

With me today are several of the assistant commissioners of the agency—namely, Cathy Hawara of the compliance branch, Marc Lemieux of the collections and verification branch and Janique Caron of the finance and administration branch.

Mr. Chair, over the past 20 months we have delivered support to both Canadians and businesses through several emergency support benefits, including the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the CEWS; the Canada emergency rent subsidy, the CERS; the Canada recovery sickness benefit, the CRSB; and more. I am proud to say that these benefits have been instrumental in Canada’s economic recovery. In fact, the CEWS has helped more than 5.3 million Canadians keep their jobs, with over $97 billion in support already paid out through the program to help employers rehire workers and avoid layoffs.

Additionally, the CERS has helped more than 215,000 organizations with over $7 billion in support for rent, mortgage and other expenses.

The Canada recovery sickness benefit has delivered over $829 million to 750,000 Canadians. This benefit has provided income support to employed and self-employed individuals who were unable to work because they were sick, needed to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or had an underlying health condition that put them at greater risk of getting COVID-19.

Mr. Chair, that is why the Canada Revenue Agency will be proud to continue to administer COVID-19 supports and benefits should Bill C-2 be approved. The proposed legislation would continue to provide targeted support where it is needed to those Canadians and Canadian businesses that are most affected by COVID. In fact, this proposed legislation would extend until May 7, 2022, the Canada recovery hiring program that was introduced in budget 2021, and would provide a subsidy of up to 50% to eligible employers with current revenue losses above 10%.

This extension would help businesses continue to hire back workers, increase hours and create the additional jobs Canada needs for a robust recovery. This bill would also deliver targeted support to businesses still facing significant pandemic-related challenges.

Additionally, this proposed legislation would support individuals who are affected by illness or family obligations through an extension of the Canada recovery caregiving benefit and the Canada recovery sickness benefit, as well as by establishing the Canada worker lockdown benefit to provide income support to eligible workers who are directly impacted by a COVID-related public health lockdown.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the CRA's mandate is to administer tax, benefit and related programs, and to ensure compliance, thereby contributing to the ongoing economic and social well-being of Canadians.

For this reason, the agency remains committed to supporting Canadian businesses, as we have since the beginning of the pandemic, by putting Canadians at the centre of everything we do. CRA employees are very proud to have supported millions of Canadian workers and businesses, following our “people first” philosophy.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We would be happy to answer your questions.

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

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

The minister has been invited for this Monday, and also we have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week.

Members, welcome to meeting number 7 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. So you're aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the 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 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 taking screenshots or 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 from 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 in the room. As well, it is highly recommended that the mask be worn at all times, including when you are seated. Proper hand hygiene must be maintained through the use of the provided hand sanitizer at the entrance to the room.

As the chair, I'll be enforcing these measures for the duration of the meeting. I thank members in advance for their co-operation.

To ensure an orderly meeting, I'd 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 either “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 your 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 in the room, your microphone will be controlled as it normally would be by the proceedings and verification officer. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you're not speaking, your microphone 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 our very best to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members, whether they're participating virtually or in person.

To members and witnesses, when you have 30 seconds left in your questioning time, I will signal you with this paper just to keep on track.

Members, before we get started with our officials today, I will tell you that we'll be going through three rounds to give enough opportunity to ask questions on Bill C-2. I'm leaving the remainder of our meeting time for some committee business.

I would now like to welcome witnesses from the Canada Revenue Agency. We have with us Janique Caron, chief financial officer and assistant commissioner, finance and administration branch; Cathy Hawara, assistant commissioner, compliance programs branch; Marc Lemieux, assistant commissioner, collections and verification branch; and Frank Vermaeten, assistant commissioner, assessment, benefit and service branch.

Clerk, is one of the witnesses going to make an opening statement, or will...?

Okay, one of the witnesses will make an opening statement for five minutes before we move to members' questions. Who will be making the opening statement?

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-2Routine Proceedings

December 10th, 2021 / 12:40 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, first, I am not an economist, but I do have a basic understanding on how an economy works. I have always found it somewhat interesting when my colleague from Carleton goes into a diatribe about all the theories out there. He does tend to have that heavy right slant.

When I go back to my days at university, I think of the economy when theorists would have the whole dog-eat-dog world type of thing. I guess I am closer to the Keynesian type of theorist in recognizing that there is time for a government to come forward and take tangible actions to support our communities.

The member made reference to the fact that I should take notes. I did take a couple of notes as the member was speaking, because I wanted to make reference to a few of the thoughts he was espousing. He talks about the money. I will elaborate on that point, maybe not from an ivory tower perspective, but rather from the perspective of how I believe my constituents would like to hear it, and that is as plain as possible, my basic understanding of it.

He talked about where the money came from. I hear those types of things from members opposite, and no one uses them more than the member for Carleton. It is important for the people, who might be following this debate, to understand that the member is the finance critic for the Conservative Party, meaning the Conservative Party takes its lead from its leader sometimes on finance issues and at other times from the member for Carleton.

I do not say that to scare people. I say it because people should recognize why the member for Carleton says things. There was a time when the Conservative Party did not exist. There used to be a Progressive Conservative Party and the Reform Party. The member for Carleton would fit in quite well with the Reformers.

It is interesting to see the contrast when the leader leader trying to say the Conservatives are moderates or somewhat moderates. After all, that is why the Conservatives flip-flopped on the carbon tax issue, and that upset a lot of the old Reform members. That is why members of the Conservative Party, members of the caucus in particular, have a certain appreciation and respect for the member for Carleton, because his job is to keep that party to the right. He does a pretty darned good job of doing keeping them on the extreme right. Some of them applaud and I do not blame them for that, if that is their basic principle.

The member for Carleton talks about government expenditures and how wasteful they are. I would argue that government expenditure is a good thing. That how we support real people and businesses. That is why governments brought in programs during a very difficult time, not just in Canada but around the world. It was a global pandemic. This government recognized that we did not need to take the approach to economics that the member for Carleton would take. We needed to think about government spending that would support Canadians, small businesses, to have the backs of Canadians. That has been a first priority of the Prime Minister, the cabinet and Liberal members of Parliament from day one.

That was one of the reasons we went into an election, and were given a renewed, stronger mandate. The plan that we provided to the House of Commons is, in fact, supported by a vast majority of Canadians. Only a good portion of the Reform element of the Conservative Party calls into serious question why the government has made these expenditures. We should think of the consequences had we not provided the support, had we not listened to what Canadians wanted, had we not done the consultation that was so critical or had we not worked with the different levels of government, the non-profit organizations and many stakeholders, including health care workers and so many others. What would have been the alternative?

What would have happened if we had focused our attention on the Conservative Party's ideas, in particular the finance critic's ideas? We would not have had programs like the CERB, which provided millions of Canadians financial support during the pandemic, financial support that put dollars in their pockets so they could pay their bills, whether it was their mortgage, rent, utility bills or to put the food on their tables.

The Conservatives, led by the member for Carleton, repeatedly talk about the deficit, that right-wing element of the Conservative Party. Yes, the CERB program did cost a considerable amount of money, but had we not invested in that program, imagine the suicides, the family breakups, the costs resulting from mental health and the impact it would have had on our economy. Those are the reasons the Prime Minister acted quickly in making the statement that we would have the backs of Canadians and we would be there for them.

Let us think of the business supports we provided over the last 18 months. In particular, let us focus on our arts community and small businesses. The wage subsidy program allowed employers the opportunity to keep employees working. It ensured that many thousands of jobs would still be there when we recovered. We have been proven to be correct with that program.

We can think of the rent subsidy program. How many small businesses would not be here today had the government not provided support in the form of rent subsidy. The bills continue to come in, the suppliers still want to be paid and landlords still want to be paid. That program provided tangible support for workers and sick pay. These things made a difference and helped Canadians.

When we went to the polls back in September, Canadians agreed with the Liberal plan. That is why we are on the government benches. They agreed with the progressive policies that we had put in place. That is why a majority of Canadians supported parties that understood how important it was for government to continue to play a role in supporting people, whether they were seniors, people with disabilities, other vulnerable Canadians, Canadians who were losing jobs or Canadians trying to keep their businesses afloat. These are the types of things that really matter, and progressive parties in the House did well as a result.

What is Bill C-2? It is an extension of the programs I just finished talking about in one form or another.

Around this time last year, I would have been standing in this place, saying that the Conservative Party was playing a destructive role in the chamber. I am not surprised that the member for Carleton and the Conservative Party has decided to bring forward this motion, which proposes to divide the Bill C-2. The bill went to committee on December 2.

However, by literally dividing the bill into two bills, this is another way the Conservatives feel they can slow down legislation, possibly preventing it from being passed. What is next if this motion passes? Are they going to suggest that we need to strike up more committees to meet on these issues? Is this yet another indication from the official opposition that it wants to frustrate the legislation? Do the Conservatives not realize the cost of this legislation not passing?

Back on October 21, the Prime Minister indicated that the government had targeted business support programs, that it wanted the Canada recovery hiring program; create the tourism and hospitality recovery program and hardest-hit business recovery program; and establish the Canada worker lockdown benefit. The Prime Minister wanted to see the House of Commons act on this quickly. That is why it was no coincidence that when we were back in the House, literally, Bill C-2 was the very first piece of legislation. A good way for the government to express its priority is by the first piece legislation it presents.

When we first were elected in 2015, the first legislation created the framework for the tax break for Canada's middle class. It was also the legislation that established the need for an additional tax on the wealthiest 1% in our society. Interestingly enough, the Conservatives voted against that legislation. At the time, that was our priority; it was our piece of legislation.

We can look at what is happening around our country today. If we go back to the press conference the Prime Minister held on October 21, what will we find? If members do want to believe me, they should consult their constituents. Every region of the country is concerned about COVID-19. Everyone in the country wants to see a higher sense of co-operation taking place on the floor of the House of Commons. How is dividing such a critical piece of legislation, which, in essence, encapsulates in good part what is on the minds of Canadians, going to help in getting it passed through the House?

The bill went to committee back on December 2, and the committee already has had six meetings, and I think today is its seventh meeting. What is the real purpose of this Conservative Party motion today? We were supposed to be debating the throne speech, which deals with another aspect. It is the plan on how we continue to move forward.

The content of the throne speech, which we are not debating now because of this silly motion, highlighted the fact that we are still dealing with COVID-19 and that we still need to do what we can to minimize its negative impacts. Canadians realize it and have stepped up to the plate. I believe 86% of Canadians over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated.

We recognize the strong leadership role that each of us has to play, but let us also recognize the important role that our communities have played. An 86% fully vaccinated community is a healthy community. We can still do better. We can still get more people fully vaccinated, but until we have achieved that optimum level we need to continue to be there in very real ways.

Some of our communities could be significantly hit into the future because of coronavirus mutations. That is one of the reasons why there is an important lockdown measure. We want Canadians to know that in the House of Commons, at least among the New Democrats, Bloc, Greens and Liberals, people understand that we need to have progressive measures in place to support real people and ensure that our communities are healthy into the future.

By investing and by supporting communities, we will all benefit collectively in the long run. Had the government of the day followed the Conservative Party, in particular the Conservative finance critic who is worshipped by many within the Conservative caucus, the programs that we have today would be in question. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we would not have had the types of progressive programs that we have today.

As a result of those programs, we are in a far better position to recover, and we see that in the numbers. We actually have more people back and employed than we had pre-pandemic: far more on a per capita basis than the United States and other countries. The reason for this is because the government supported Canadians and businesses. Businesses were able to survive and people were able to overcome the biggest issue of the pandemic, specifically vaccination. Canada has led the world because there has been a team Canada, except for the Conservative Party, here on the Hill that has consistently talked about the importance of being fully vaccinated. As much as possible we have provided programs that would make a difference and would provide the disposable income that would save jobs and save businesses.

I would ask the Conservative Party to rethink its motion, and maybe put the member for Carleton's economic theories on hold for a while. Let us see if we can pass this legislation as it is out of committee.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 10th, 2021 / 10:55 a.m.
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Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne Québec

Liberal

Sherry Romanado LiberalDeputy House Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the speech by my colleague across the way, and one thing that jumped out at me was when he mentioned that we were here to legislate to fix problems. I agree. However, I think we have demonstrated that over the last six years, whether it was with medical assistance in dying or finally banning conversion therapy.

I would like to know if the member opposite will be supporting us with respect to Bill C-2 to make sure we are fixing the problem of the gaps currently being experienced because of COVID-19.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 10th, 2021 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Madam Speaker, it has become more and more apparent that this is a Liberal government that has run out of steam and run out of ideas. We are now nearly three months away from what was supposed to be, in the Prime Minister's words, “the most...[consequential] election since 1945”, yet Canadians still have little clue about what direction the Liberal government is taking our country. Canadians can be forgiven, I think, for a profound sense of déjà vu as they read the latest throne speech delivered by the Governor General. In many ways, it reads exactly like the throne speech from 2020, so much so that Canadians are wondering just why we needed to have an unnecessary, reckless and expensive $600-million pandemic election.

To be sure, there are some important points in the throne speech, such as fighting the pandemic and getting Canada back to normal. There are promises to address reconciliation with first nations, to take action on climate change, to strengthen the middle class and to grow the economy. These are all important promises, but when we look at the record of the Liberal government, particularly over the last three years, we see a lot of talk, but little action. Conservatives believe that the purpose of winning elections is so we can legislate to fix problems and seize opportunities for our country. For the Liberals, it is the other way around. They legislate and make promises so that they can win elections and seize opportunities for themselves.

This abdication of leadership has led to a country that is dealing with more than one crisis, where the government can say the right thing, but action is rarely forthcoming. One columnist recently wrote that the Prime Minister is the return of the infamous Mr. Dithers character. Someone who has “hit the ground running at a sloth-in-slow-motion speed.” This is no longer the government of idealists elected in 2015. It is a government that desperately wants to hold onto power, divide and conquer Canadians, and take the bare minimum of action required to safely remain in government.

This has resulted in a terrible situation in our country, where very real problems are not being addressed with the seriousness they deserve. In the throne speech, I was disappointed to see little or no mention of the significant issues Canadians care about right now. For example, in Canada, we are undergoing the most significant period of inflation since I have been alive. For decades, Canadians could rely upon fiscal and monetary policy that maintained an inflation rate close to 2%. This meant that Canada’s economy could grow at a solid rate, while ensuring that prices for goods did not drastically increase. Now we are seeing very significant increases across all sectors, with food, fuel, housing and vehicles all seeing steep jumps in prices.

One recent report also indicated that almost every investment asset class, when calculating for inflation, is returning a net negative real return. The consequences of letting inflation run at these levels will impact families for generations to come. It will mean less money saved for retirement, more resources dedicated to just the essentials and less resources for achieving Canadians’ dreams. It will mean eroded standards of living for retirees on fixed incomes, who will look at the value of their nest eggs shrink as the money supply expands exponentially. The government promises that it will find a way to make Canadians whole, but we saw the consequences in the past of government trying to control wage and price inflation. It only exacerbated the problems further.

The most significant actions that have worked historically to address runaway inflation have been for the government to get its fiscal house in order and for the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates. These are bitter pills to swallow for Canadians who have grown used to massive government largesse and artificially lowered interest rates. The Liberals, I fear, will try and win politically by forestalling this inevitability by increasing spending and allowing the Bank of Canada to let inflation run even higher, thus forestalling the need for increased interest rates.

The consequences of this will mean exponentially more pain for Canadians in the future as the government loses its ability to finance deficit spending and the Bank of Canada loses its ability to control inflation. Canadians deserve a government that will make the tough choices to ensure future generations can have a better life than the one we have. I know from hitting the doors in my community that the cost of living was top of mind for many families. Canadians need to see leadership from the government and they are not seeing it right now from the Liberals.

There is also nothing in the throne speech to comfort the anxiety of my constituents in Alberta. In my region, we rely on the agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, and service sectors to put food on the table. On the agriculture front, there was only one mention in the Speech from the Throne, and that was about creating a Canada water agency. What about a plan to ensure that Canadian farmers can continue to access world markets? What about a plan to address the rising cost of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and fuel, which are threatening global food security? These are serious issues, but there was no mention of them by this government.

Where is the plan to fight the Americans on the unjust doubling of softwood lumber tariffs? Where is the plan to ensure that our oil and gas sector can continue to sustain our economy for generations to come while reducing and eliminating greenhouse emissions?

I see company after company from Alberta pledging billions of dollars in combined resources to implement revolutionary and effective carbon capture technology. Where is their willing partner in the federal government? Where is the tax credit for enhanced oil recovery, which will sustain new, low-carbon jobs and investments for decades to come? It is not to be found in the throne speech. Instead, we just see ideological talking points and promises to shut down our jobs and our industries.

The words “just transition” have become a nightmare for Albertans. Many people in my riding lost their jobs when coal-powered plants were phased out a few years ago. Communities and workers were promised by this Liberal government that they would have compensation and a just transition. The last promise in the 2019 budget said $100 million for coal communities.

Well, we have not seen any funding from this Liberal government, and it has been two years. Folks in my area know exactly what a “just transition” means. It means fewer jobs, less prosperity and more “just inflation”. It is time for the Liberal government to take co-operative action with the oil and gas sector to ensure the prosperity of all Canadians, not just those who are represented by Liberal MPs.

The Speech from the Throne also failed to address the elephant in the room in Canada right now. One of our most important institutions has been on the news on an almost daily basis, and not a lot of it has been good news. I am talking, of course, about the Canadian military and the numerous scandals that we have seen.

As someone who represents a large military community and CFB Edmonton, I know that my constituents are extremely proud of our Canadian Forces members, but every day they lose confidence when they see the Liberal government fail to act and fix problems. An institution as important as the Canadian military deserves far more attention from this government than it received in the throne speech, where it was not even mentioned once. Sadly, this is just another case of the Liberal government failing to tackle the important issues that Canadians want to see solved.

The Liberals' rhetoric has, yet again, failed to match the reality of action. When the Prime Minister said this was “the important election since 1945”, he clearly was not talking about its importance to Canadians. Instead, he was talking about its importance to his own ambitions for a majority government.

We are seeing bills being passed today that would have been, and could have been, passed if we had not had an election, such as Bill C-2, Bill C-4 and Bill C-6. We see legislation that was passed with unanimous support, like Bill C-3 last night, which fulfilled the promise from all the way back to May 2020 to implement paid sick leave.

This is legislation the Prime Minister said would be implemented without delay, but it took a year and a half to produce a mere page of legislation. In fact, it was not even important enough to merit its own legislation. It had to be merged together with a Criminal Code amendment. We are seeing a recycled throne speech. I praise the government for its commitment to recycling, but the throne speech largely repeats the promises and agenda of the government from last year in 2020.

It is clear, as I said at the beginning of my speech, that this Liberal government has run out of steam and out of ideas. Canadians are growing more disappointed each and every day as they see the priorities they talk about around their kitchen tables with their families every night not being reflected in the policies and action of this government. I hope for the sake of all Canadians that this government can get its act together.

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

December 9th, 2021 / 8 p.m.
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Toronto—Danforth Ontario

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled that the member opposite would like to speak about the economy. Around the world, governments, including Canada, are taking immediate action to address the omicron variant. Earlier this week, Canada announced strong action at our borders and in regard to testing and entry. This is another reminder that all Canadians who can, should get their vaccines as soon as possible. There is no more important economic policy for Canada today than finishing the fight against COVID.

Today's renewed COVID fears are also a reminder of why the measures in Bill C-2, which provides targeted personal income and business supports, are so urgent and essential. Over the last 20 months, Canadians have faced tough times. Various health and safety precautions have caused financial and emotional distress for many people, not to mention those who have also had to care for or who have lost loved ones at the same time.

Across the country, many businesses have had to close, some temporarily and others permanently. The majority have experienced reduced revenues, even when they were open. This has translated into many people losing their jobs or having their hours reduced. That is why when the crisis hit, the government rapidly rolled out a full range of effective, broad-based programs under the economic response plan with much needed support for individuals, businesses and communities to see Canadians through our country's greatest economic shock since the Great Depression.

In terms of its scale, Canada's economic response, including budget 2021 investments, was one of the largest and most expeditious among G7 countries. It helped engineer a near-term economic turnaround at a faster than anticipated pace compared with some industrialized countries. This support has worked. Many businesses are now safely reopening. Employment has recovered to pre-recession levels and of the three million jobs that were lost at the peak of the crisis, all have now been recouped, faster than any other recession. Canada's economic recovery is well on track and the pandemic economy is fading from view.

As our government looks to secure a more prosperous future for Canadians, it is helpful to look back and consider the key measures that have helped us to get to where we are today. These include the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency rent subsidy and lockdown support and the Canada emergency business account. Federal support also includes significant financing for the provinces and territories through its top-ups to the Canadian health transfer, as well as through the safe restart agreement, the safe return to class fund and the essential workers support fund. All told, more than $8 out of every $10 spent to fight COVID-19 and support Canadians has come from the federal government.

In budget 2021, the government promised that if additional flexibility was required, based on public health considerations later in the year, it would continue to do whatever it takes to be there for Canadians. That is why in October, we announced the Canada worker lockdown benefit. We are working to ensure continued support to Canadians throughout this pandemic.

December 9th, 2021 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

You have 15 seconds, so we're going to wrap up now.

I just want to say, on behalf of all the members of the Standing Committee on Finance, thank you to the witnesses. Thank you for your testimony, for your answers to the questions and for informing this committee on this important piece of legislation, Bill C-2. We thank you very much for all of that.

At this time, members, we are going to adjourn.

December 9th, 2021 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Great. I understand completely.

Basically, the CRB ended on October 23. The government called an election and reconvened Parliament two months afterwards. Bill C‑2 was drafted and your organization was consulted during the process. However, as you mentioned earlier, a number of categories of artists have been excluded from the bill, especially self-employed cultural workers. Let me give you an example. In my constituency, Terrebonne, the Théâtre du Vieux‑Terrebonne used to play to full houses, but it's now operating at one third of its capacity.

We can see that Bill C‑2 has nothing for culture, whereas, as you so rightly said, we needed a program yesterday. We really want to hear about how badly we need a program, how urgent it is, and that, right now, the current program is not adequate. We need a specific timeline.

December 9th, 2021 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have another question for you, Ms. Prégent.

Were the Union des artistes and the Fondation des artistes consulted when Bill C‑2 was being drafted?

December 9th, 2021 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to direct my question to Ms. Grynol again. One thing we've spoken a lot about is the importance of the measures in Bill C-2 for your sector. You've articulated that quite clearly. One conversation that has come up in the committee on a number of occasions is the suggestion by some that the programs here are helping businesses, but they're not helping people, like workers.

Can you speak to the impact these measures would have on Canadian workers?

Quickly, to my mind, the reason for these measures is to help businesses prevent all the negative outcomes that you've spoken about, namely the bankruptcies, the cutbacks and everything else you've spoken about. By keeping businesses functioning and operational, it allows them to then pay workers. By subsidizing wages, we allow them to pay workers.

Can you speak to what the impact would be of the measures in Bill C-2, in your view, on Canadian workers?

December 9th, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much.

Ms. Prégent, in Bill C‑2, there is a tool called the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, which applies to self-employed workers in arts and culture only if there is a lockdown order in their region.

According to the government, all industry sectors that need exceptional assistance are included in Part 1 of the bill. I am wondering whether it would make sense simply to provide access for self-employed workers in arts and culture to the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit even if there is no lockdown order in their region, because we recognize that the industry is suffering even without a lockdown.

Do you see that as a possible solution for the government?

December 9th, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to hear more from Ms. Prégent.

Good afternoon, Ms. Prégent.

This morning, Minister Freeland came to talk to us at the committee. She said that, in Bill C‑2,the cultural industry is included in the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program, which is quite broad.

Ms. Prégent, do you believe that most members of the Union des artistes would be covered or would it simply affect self-employed artists and workers in the arts generally?

December 9th, 2021 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Heath MacDonald Liberal Malpeque, PE

We can't depend on domestic travel for much longer. We need international travel. The new variant has put an impediment in the way of that.

If your sector doesn't get Bill C-2 passed, what alternative is out there? I know there are hotels right downtown in Ottawa that are huge, nice hotels that don't have their restaurants open. I'm sure some people in this room are likely staying at at least one of them.

What is the doom and gloom if this doesn't get passed?

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—

December 9th, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much.

I think one of the aggravating factors in terms of people's frustration and anger over the benefit clawbacks is that they look at some of the companies that received assistance under the Canada wage subsidy, whether that be Bell or Chartwell or others—we could go into some of those examples, if you like—who increased significantly the dividends they paid to their shareholders. In some cases, there were share buybacks. The government hasn't so much as even asked for any of that money back, let alone pursued them in the way that some of the financially vulnerable have been pursued by the government.

Bill C-2 was an opportunity to incorporate some of the advice that this committee gave to government in the last Parliament around dividends and around share buybacks and ensuring that recipients of the wage subsidy wouldn't engage in those kinds of activities. Why did the government choose not to incorporate those restrictions around dividends and share buybacks in addition to executive compensation in the new legislation?

December 9th, 2021 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

It's part of my preamble, Mr. Chair.

I think what both Mr. Poilievre's and Mr. McLean's statements underline is what the Conservatives would have done had they been in government in response to COVID-19 to support Canadians through the pandemic. What they would have done is nothing.

My question to you, Deputy Prime Minister, is that, in Ontario at least, where my riding is located, cases are up. On December 7, it was reported that new modelling from the science table forecasts a rise of 250 to 400 intensive care admissions in January, even without omicron. The science table said, “Case numbers count, because too many Ontarians remain un/under vaccinated & will end up in hospital”. I think that's a good reminder for all of us to work hard to make sure everyone gets the vaccines they're eligible for, and a good reminder that, as you have said, “the single most important economic policy for Canada continues to be making sure that everyone who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated.”

In light of this new modelling, Minister, and in light of the emergence of omicron, what could be the potential impacts for constituents of Etobicoke Centre and businesses should the measures in Bill C-2 not be in place soon?

December 9th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Bill C-2 proposes another $7 billion of inflation, so it is very relevant.

I just find it incredibly insulting that the day that a report comes out showing that it's going to cost an extra $1,000 for average families to feed themselves, the government comes here and says, “Well, don't worry. The stock market is up.” Frankly, the middle class folks who are walking down grocery aisles not able to buy nutritious food because it's too expensive can't afford stocks right now. Their concern is putting food on the table.

A 30-year-old called me from my community of Greely a couple of weeks back to say that he's still living in his parents' basement because he can't afford a townhouse, even though he has the same job that his mother—

December 9th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, Madame Chatel.

Mr. Poilievre, perhaps you can get to your question, and hopefully it will be relevant to Bill C-2.

December 9th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Sophie Chatel Liberal Pontiac, QC

A point of order, Mr. Chair.

I'm new to the committee, but we have to discuss Bill C‑2, and I'm having trouble seeing the connection between what Mr. Poilievre said and what we have to decide in committee.

December 9th, 2021 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Thank you for the question, Mr. Ste‑Marie.

I really want to thank you for the work that you and the Bloc are doing for workers in the cultural sector. I agree with you that it is an important sector and that it has been particularly affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic. I also agree that this sector is not only important economically, but also culturally, socially and I would even say politically. So we must support this sector.

We made a commitment during the election campaign, and I am very happy to say today that we have a program. We are consulting on how to provide this much‑needed help. We are talking to cultural organizations to ensure that the assistance will be appropriate.

I also want to say that Bill C‑2 is also important, because the cultural organizations will be able to benefit from the subsidies that are provided for in it. It isn't enough in the sense that Bill C‑2 will not address cultural workers, but many cultural organizations need it.

December 9th, 2021 / 12:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Madam Minister, you confirmed to us that the government is currently working on a targeted program for self‑employed cultural workers, as Bill C‑2 doesn't include any measures to support them. Could you confirm that the program can be implemented within a time frame that will satisfy these people and that it will be sufficient to ensure an acceptable standard of living?

Thank you.

December 9th, 2021 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mrs. Chatel, I am very pleased to answer your question. In addition, I think that Mr. Leswick is happy to see a former colleague again. Finally, I thank you for your hard work in the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development.

Bill C‑2 is very important for our government. I also think it's important for us all for three reasons.

First, there are sectors of the economy that still need help. Think of the tourism industry, hotel industry and cultural industry. I am extremely proud to see that Canada's economic recovery is robust. We have been able to fight back against the COVID‑19 and the recession that it caused. However, we must not forget that some sectors of the economy cannot fully reopen, as restrictions are still in place. This is the case at the border, for example. Our approach is to preserve Canada's economic capacity through subsidies. To be preserved, these sectors need a little more help.

Second, we offer subsidies to people who are ill and to those who have to stay at home to care for a loved one. These measures are very important, and they are more important than ever since the arrival of the Omicron variant. We need to encourage people to stay at home when they are ill.

Third, it is a measure to ensure that the government will be able to put tools in place very quickly, if lockdown measures are still needed to combat COVID‑19. I hope this won't be the case, of course. However, we must be prepared for any eventuality.

For all these reasons, I hope everyone will vote in favour of the bill.

December 9th, 2021 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Sophie Chatel Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Madam Deputy Prime Minister, thank you for joining us today.

I would like to come back to Bill C‑2.

Madam Deputy Prime Minister, what are the consequences if we don't pass this bill by the holidays, if there's a delay, or if we never pass it? This has been one of my concerns since the beginning of the study.

December 9th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Thank you very much for your hard work, Yvan, and for your constituents in Etobicoke.

The reason we are describing Bill C-2 as the final pivot is that we have come a long way in our fight against COVID. We have come a long way in our fight against the COVID recession, and that is a really good thing.

Notwithstanding some irresponsible partisan posturing, which we hear sometimes in the House and sometimes in committee, it is really important for the economy for Canadians to understand that we have made real progress and that we're going into the end of the year and the beginning of next year with a strong economy and strong economic growth underpinning that with a real tailwind. Keynes talked about animal spirits and their importance in the economy, and that continues to be true today.

I do really want people to come away from today with an understanding that we have done a really good job as a country dealing with what was a devastating economic crisis and what could have been much worse, particularly on jobs but also on a strongly recovering GDP. Canadian households, on average, are in a strong financial position right now. They're in a stronger position than they were before COVID hit on a number of measures. That is good news.

Why, then, is Bill C-2 necessary? It's necessary for two reasons.

First, we know that there are some sectors which, through no fault of their own, are particularly hard hit and just cannot fully reopen. There's tourism and hospitality. We spoke earlier today about the culture sector as well. Our philosophical approach in putting together our COVID support programs has been that we did not want to permit economic scarring. We didn't want Canada's economic muscle to atrophy during the COVID recession, because we knew that if it did, coming back from that recession would be even harder. Bill C-2 is designed to provide that targeted support to the sectors that need it.

The second part of it, which omicron has made even more important, is an insurance policy. We still don't know what's ahead. We're all going to hope—I'm going to knock on wood here—that the smart public health measures that have served us well, and the border measures, will keep omicron under control. Please get vaccinated. Please get your boosters. That's so important as well. However, I think it is really prudent to have lockdown support in our tool box, in case that is needed.

That's the thinking behind Bill C-2, and that's why it is a pivot. It's different from the support needed at the height of the crisis. It does cost less money and that is very important to me, to Nick and to the whole Department of Finance, but it is still necessary to have that little bit of extra support.

I really hope and believe this is the final push.

December 9th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Madam Deputy Prime Minister, thank you for being with us today to answer our questions.

Since the beginning of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the government has protected Canadians with public health measures and vaccines. Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The government has also provided support to Canadians and businesses to the tune of approximately $289 billion, as of the end of October 2021.

All of these measures have saved lives, kept businesses going through an incredibly challenging time and protected workers. They protected their jobs and they protected their incomes. In my riding of Etobicoke Centre, people express to me constantly that they are grateful and appreciative that the Government of Canada stepped up and provided that support. We had their backs during COVID-19.

You described the measures in Bill C-2 in your remarks as the final pivot. For the constituents of Etobicoke Centre, who are eager to know about C-2 and what supports will be offered, could you explain what the “final pivot” means?

December 9th, 2021 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you.

It's good to see you at committee, Deputy Prime Minister.

As you know, I only have six minutes and I am hoping to get in more than one question, so if the answers are long, I may cut in a little bit.

Working middle-class Canadian families are certainly feeling the pinch at the grocery store, as are the financially vulnerable, like people living with disabilities and seniors on fixed incomes. It's not because Canadians are suddenly buying way more food than they did before. In other words, it's not too much money chasing too many goods in the grocery sector. There are other factors at play.

One of the roles the government can play is to support people financially in what continues to be a difficult time because of the pandemic. In fact, a lot of vulnerable people—whether they're low-income families on the CCB, recipients of the Canada worker benefit or GIS recipients—are seeing their benefits being clawed back. I know you talked a little bit about the GIS issue in your opening remarks.

Bill C-2 doesn't actually include any provisions that would prevent the clawback that we're seeing. It's one thing to have to address it retroactively for the CERB and for the CRB. The Canada worker lockdown benefit is a forward-looking benefit, but there's nothing in there that would prevent the kind of clawback that we're seeing.

Why did your government choose not to include anything that would prevent a similar clawback in this legislation?

December 9th, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Thank you for the question and for your co‑operation. Let me also thank you for our work together over the last few years and our work together on Bill C‑2.

I am very pleased that you noticed the effort I made at the beginning of my remarks to respond to your letter. That was intentional. We read your letter and discussed those themes. You raised the issue of the cultural sector. I want to start by saying that our government is also concerned about the cultural sector.

It is an important economic sector, both socially and in terms of the national identity of Quebec and Canada. As we were negotiating the new NAFTA, we stressed this aspect and we defended the cultural sector because our government understands the importance of the sector, especially, but not only, in Quebec. We agree on that. We also agree that the cultural sector is particularly affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic. It is a sector that cannot completely reopen. So we agree on what needs to be done.

That being said, we must determine how it needs to be done. In October, we made a decision, and today I am completely convinced that it was the right one. We decided to change the way we do things and convert general support programs for all to targeted programs. We made that decision because the situation had changed, because our fairly successful fight against the virus allowed us to change our approach. We also did so because it is important for us, as it is for everyone around the table, to take a fiscally prudent approach. So we have moved from a broad approach to a targeted approach.

In order to have a targeted approach, we are going to do three things. First, the programs in Bill C‑2 will help many businesses in the cultural sector. We need to see that. Second, Mr. Ste‑Marie, I agree with you on the importance of the issue of self‑employed cultural workers. Finally, we believe that a targeted program must be created for those workers because they are in a special situation.

During the election campaign, we made a commitment to help those workers. We are working out the details of the program that will be rolled out. I am absolutely ready today to reiterate publicly that we are doing that. We will be rolling out that program.

December 9th, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Madam Minister, thank you for being here and for your opening remarks. I also appreciate your willingness to answer our questions.

The Bloc Québécois believes that it is important to follow up on the support measures for the sectors, for the workers and for the businesses that are still experiencing difficulties because of the pandemic. Bill C‑2 will address that, which is important to us.

As we have said time and time again, we could have started work on Bill C‑2 earlier if the House had been called back sooner after the election, instead of waiting two months. Nevertheless, we supported the principle of the bill. We are here to study it, and we are very pleased to do so.

As you know, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, my colleague Ms. Sinclair‑Desgagné and I sent you a letter expressing our concerns about Bill C‑2. You addressed the issues in your remarks, and I thank you for that effort. I appreciate that very much. I would like us to go back to it together, to determine your position and the government's position on it.

As you mentioned, our biggest concern is for self‑employed cultural workers. We are very pleased to see that Bill C‑2 targets the cultural sector with more generous measures. This is what we have been asking for.

We are very disappointed that the bill does not provide income support for self‑employed workers in the cultural sector. In Quebec, a few years ago, these people, particularly artisans in the sector, were asked to become self‑employed, freelance workers. At the outset, we wondered why they were not offered the Canadian recovery benefit (CRB). We were told that the department and the federal government would not be able to properly target people working in those sectors. What are you offering those people?

We don't want them to find a job in another sector, to retrain. In recent decades, in Quebec, we have managed to consolidate the cultural sector, and we want to maintain the expertise. That is why I am asking you this question.

Thank you, Madam Minister.

December 9th, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for being here. It's good to have you at our committee.

Minister, I want to take you back to something you said in October 2020 in a speech you were giving to the Toronto Global Forum. At that point, you stated that deflation and subpar growth would be a greater risk to Canadians than the threats of inflation and spiralling debt. That was well after COVID had begun. The markets were rebounding. The housing market was heating up. Our own finance critic, Mr. Poilievre, warned back in May and many more times that inflation was going to be the threat, and it truly is the threat that Canadians are facing right now. We just heard today that Canada’s food price guide said that, again, food prices will be going up.

You are asking us today to look at Bill C-2. You are asking us to approve more money that's going to be inserted into the economy. We're not sure where that's coming from—if you're going to be borrowing or if you're going to be cutting other programs—but we do know that Canadians are dealing with an inflation crisis, one that up until even about a week and a half ago you were not admitting was even happening.

My question is with regard to your comments back in October of 2020. Were you ill-informed? Did you believe that deflation was going to be the problem? Were you trying to manipulate—maybe not viciously, but were you trying to manipulate? I'm trying to get to the bottom of what you were thinking when you said deflation was going to be a problem in October 2020, when we saw, between March 2020 and October 2020, the signals in the economy that things were already roaring and heating up. What were you thinking? Were you ill-informed? Why would you say that?

December 9th, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you very much, Minister, for that opening statement and the information. I know the members thank you for coming before our committee, and I know they're very eager to ask you questions about Bill C-2 and our recovery supports for those affected by COVID-19.

Now we're going to move into our first round of questions. Each member will have six minutes. We're going to start with the Conservatives.

We have Ms. Bergen for six minutes.

December 9th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, all members of the committee and committee staff. I know how hard you work. It is great to be here.

I wouldn't call Nick “my assistant”, or anyone else's. He's a very senior Department of Finance official. In fact, he's the second most senior. Greg McLean will be interested to know he's also originally from Alberta, from outside Calgary, so we have a strong Alberta presence in the department. My chief of staff is from Edmonton. She went to the same high school that I did, but many years later.

Mr. Chair, congratulations on assuming the chair, and thank you for your invitation.

I'd like to say to all the members here that I imagine we may have some robust exchanges, but congratulations to everyone on being elected and thank you for your hard work.

Since the House has returned, the emergence of a new COVID variant has forced new travel restrictions in a number of countries, including Canada, and created renewed uncertainty in global markets. The emergence of the omicron variant is a reminder that the best economic policy remains finishing the fight against COVID. That fight isn't over yet, and that really underscores the need for us to continue to protect Canadians and Canadian businesses and, in fact, the need for this bill.

When the COVID‑19 crisis hit, our government rapidly rolled out a historic set of broad‑based programs so that we could save lives, ensure our economy could withstand public health restrictions, and have the backs of Canadian workers and Canadian businesses so they could get through the pandemic.

Our income, wage, and rent support programs have helped keep food on the table, protect millions of jobs, and keep hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses going through the darkest days of the pandemic.

Having said that, our support measures were always designed to be temporary emergency support measures. As many members of this committee have noted, the emergency nature of this support meant that there have been bumps along the way.

Unfortunately, some seniors who received COVID supports have seen their GIS benefits affected. Our government—very much including me, personally—is very aware of this issue and is actively seeking a solution. Our most vulnerable seniors should not be penalized, particularly those who lost income due to the pandemic.

We know that many seniors rely on GIS payments to help make ends meet, and I am confident that the government will have more to say on this issue in the next few days. Today, with high vaccination rates, over a million jobs created, children back in school and businesses across the country reopening, the time has come to adapt the business and income support measures to these new and improved circumstances.

Across the country, businesses are reopening. As of last month, more than 106% of the jobs lost in Canada in the depths of the recession have been recovered. This is compared to just 83% of jobs recovered in the U.S.

Thanks, in part, to our government's support measures, we have avoided the sort of deep economic scarring that followed the 2008 recession and that would have done permanent damage to our economy. Just last Friday, Statistics Canada reported that strong job growth continued in November, with 154,000 new jobs created. This outpaced market expectations. These new jobs lowered the unemployment rate to 6%, the lowest since the pandemic began, and only 0.3% above pre-pandemic levels of February 2020.

However, some areas of the country and some sectors of the economy are slower to reopen and continue to need targeted support. That's why, in October, our government announced a pivot from the broad-based support that was appropriate at the height of lockdowns to more targeted support that will provide help where it is still needed, while also prudently and carefully managing government spending.

On November 24, I introduced legislation in Parliament to deliver this more targeted support and that's what we're going to discuss today.

Bill C‑2 allows us to move forward while keeping in mind that the recovery is still uneven and that public health measures that save lives continue to restrict certain economic activities.

Given the fears caused by the new Omicron variant, Bill C‑2 is more important than ever. That is why I am here today to ask you to act in the best interests of Canadians and Canadian businesses by helping them through the pandemic and these uncertain times.

Bill C‑2 will provide critical support for the economic recovery and protect workers in the hardest hit sectors, including tourism. As outlined in the list of eligible tourism and hospitality entities released with Bill C‑2, we have ensured that businesses in the arts and culture sectors, including those offering live performances and art exhibitions, as well as museums, will be eligible. In practical terms, this means that the bill includes significant measures to support the jobs of artists and cultural workers.

That being said, our government recognizes that the arts and culture sector remains disproportionately and negatively affected by the pandemic. That is why, during the election campaign, we made a commitment to provide targeted support to cultural workers and technicians, including the self‑employed. While we want to quickly deliver the support measures included in this bill, we are working hard to keep our promise to artists so that they can continue to shine here and around the world. We will be able to give you more details soon.

For artists in Quebec and across Canada, we must move quickly to pass Bill C‑2 while working together to introduce new measures that will directly support artists and the cultural sector. Among the measures included in Bill C‑2 is the Canada worker lockdown benefit, a new income support benefit that will take into account the decisions of the public health authority, which remain uncertain and unpredictable.

The Canada worker lockdown benefit will provide $300 a week to workers who are directly affected by a COVID‑related local lockdown and will be available to eligible workers retroactively from October 24, 2021, to May 7, 2022.

We're taking this step because we want to make sure that no one is left behind, including workers who are unable to do their jobs due to future public health restrictions, should they be required.

Bill C-2 is also designed with an understanding that some workers may require income support if they need to take time off because they're sick, under quarantine or have caregiving responsibilities. That's why the bill proposes to extend eligibility for both the Canada sickness benefit and the Canada caregiving benefit.

We want to make sure that businesses can continue to grow and recover and drive up Canada's labour force participation rates and our level of employment. That's why we're proposing to extend the Canada recovery hiring program until May 7 and increase the rate of support to 50%.

We also know that there are some businesses that have been most deeply affected by the pandemic and that continue to face significant pandemic‑related challenges. The new tourism and hospitality recovery program will deliver wage and rent subsidies to employers such as hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and tour operators. The bill includes details of the types of businesses that would be eligible. The subsidy rate for this highly targeted group of tourism and hospitality businesses will start at 40% for applicants with a 40% loss of income and increase based on their loss of income, up to a maximum of 75%.

For businesses in all sectors, the hardest-hit business recovery program will provide support through wage and rent subsidies to employers who have experienced deep and enduring losses throughout the pandemic. The eligibility for these programs will be a two-key system. One key will consider whether the employer has faced a significant revenue loss over the course of the first 12 months of the pandemic. The second key is revenue loss in the current month.

The local lockdown program will be there to provide employers facing temporary new local lockdowns with a subsidy rate of up to 75% through the wage and rent subsidy programs. This is important because it will ensure that local authorities and public health officials can continue to make the right public health choices, knowing that support will be there for workers and businesses if needed.

While we are all hoping that lockdowns will not be necessary in the future, recent developments related to the omicron variant serve as a reminder that the fight against COVID is not yet over, and to underscore a key aspect of Bill C-2, it would enable the government to take immediate action to support workers and businesses directly affected by local lockdowns should the public health situation require it.

I will note that we will continue to have measures in place such that any publicly listed corporation that chooses to increase executive pay while receiving government support will have the wage subsidy support clawed back.

The broad-based set of business and income support measures, which we introduced at the height of the pandemic and which came to an end, as we committed, on October 23, had an estimated cost of $289 billion.

Mr. Chair, I can today report that the Department of Finance has estimated, on October 21, that the total cost of the measures in Bill C-2 would be $7.4 billion, and it would come from the consolidated revenue fund. The government will account for the potential economic impact of the omicron variant, including the increased possibility of the need to use the insurance policy, which is the lockdown support measures in Bill C-2, in our economic and fiscal update on Tuesday.

Fighting COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns we put in place to save lives required unprecedented government spending in Canada and around the world. Canadians supported that extraordinary spending because they understood that it was not only the compassionate thing to do, but the right thing to do economically.

With Bill C‑2, we will continue to have Canadians' backs while delivering support that is more targeted—and prudently manages public finances.

I hope all parliamentarians will vote to pass this legislation so that Canadians who need support can access it without undue delay.

Finally, Mr. Chair and fellow members of Parliament, I'd like to reiterate as clearly as I can that the single most important economic policy for Canada continues to be making sure that everyone who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated. We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 89% of Canadians 12 and older having received at least one dose of the vaccine. We have the second-lowest mortality rate in the G7. Children between five and 11 started getting vaccinated last month. Many of our parents and grandparents are now getting their booster shots, and the rest of us will start getting them soon too.

I have to say, speaking as a daughter, what a relief it is that our parents and grandparents are getting their boosters. I think that feeling is one common to many Canadians.

We can be proud of how we have come together to fight COVID‑19. Our battle is not quite finished yet but we are getting there. The measures in this legislation are an important part of what we need to do to get the job done.

On that note, I am pleased to answer any questions you may have.

December 9th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number five 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 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 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. 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 are 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 of October 19, 2021, to remain healthy and safe, all those attending the meeting in person must maintain two-metre physical distancing, wear non-medical masks when circulating in the room—and it is highly recommended that the mask be worn at all times, including when seated—and maintain proper hand hygiene by using the provided hand sanitizer 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'd 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 the choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French. If interpretation is lost, please inform me immediately, and we 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 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 are 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 microphone should be on mute. I remind you 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 best to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members, whether they are participating virtually or in person.

It's now my pleasure to welcome our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland.

Minister, we know how busy you and your department are, and we appreciate your being here with us today for these proceedings. I know that you're joined today by your assistant, associate deputy minister Nicholas Leswick.

Welcome, Minister and Nicholas.

We also have some of your staff here virtually from the Department of Employment and Social Development and the Department of Finance. I won't go through the list of names, but they are available if information is needed from them.

With that, Minister, we now are going to hear from you in your opening statement. After your opening statement, we will move to questions from members for a two-hour period.

Minister, the floor is yours.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2021 / 11 p.m.
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Sherbrooke Québec

Liberal

Élisabeth Brière LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Madam Chair, I am pleased to participate in tonight's debate on the supplementary estimates (B).

Tonight's debate comes at a key moment for Canada and its recovery. Bit by bit, businesses are safely reopening. Employment has recovered to prerecession levels.

All of the 3 million jobs lost when the crisis was at its peak were recovered faster than in any previous recession. Canada's economic recovery is on the right path, and the pandemic's impact on our economy is fading away.

This has been possible because our government was there to support Canadians and Canadian businesses through the worst of this pandemic. Programs such as the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency rent subsidy, lockdown supports and the Canada emergency business account kept businesses from closing their doors and kept Canadians from losing their jobs.

At its height in the spring of 2020, the Canada emergency wage subsidy supported 27.6% of all employees. Our performance was better than almost every other country's.

Thanks to our solid policy and support, we recovered all the jobs. We recovered the 3 million jobs lost during the crisis. Just last week, we got great news: 154,000 jobs were created in November.

According to the OECD, Canada was one of the first countries to recover all of its hours worked by March 2021.

As good as all this news has been, we know there is more work to be done. We know that not all sectors have fully recovered, and we know that risks remain from new variants of this disease.

Before the House are two key matters to help get us through the end of this pandemic. The first is tonight's supplementary estimates and the second is Bill C-2.

Through the supplementary estimates, the government is seeking parliamentary approval for $8.7 billion in new voted spending. Approximately $1.2 billion of the proposed voted spending in the supplementary estimates (B) is for the government's ongoing response to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

This is so we can continue the work we have been doing since the start of the pandemic.

Federal support also included significant financing for the provinces and territories through top-ups to the Canada health transfer as well as through the safe restart agreement, the safe return to class fund and the essential workers support fund. All told, more than eight dollars of every $10 spent to fight COVID‑19 and support Canadians has come from the federal government.

As outlined by the Minister of Health last night, in the supplementary estimates (B), the Public Health Agency of Canada is transferring $12.4 million to the Canada Border Services Agency for the ongoing development of the ArriveCAN app. This service helps travellers crossing the border comply with COVID‑19 public health measures before, during or after crossing the border by storing proof of vaccination, for example.

In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada is transferring $7 million to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research so it can support additional research to better understand the nature of immunity after an infection and a COVID‑19 vaccine.

Finally, for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, there is approximately $23.7 million in voted items and $495,000 in statutory credits in the supplementary estimates (B).

As I pointed out earlier, the economic recovery is uneven, and public health measures, although essential to our health and safety, continue to restrict some economic activities.

In budget 2021, the government promised that if additional flexibility was required based on public health considerations later in the year, it would continue to do whatever it takes to be there for Canadians. That is why in October we announced the Canada worker lockdown benefit, which I would like to spend some time on in my remarks.

This proposed new measure was first announced on October 21 and is part of the legislation we are debating today. To ensure that workers continue to have support and that no one is left behind, this benefit will provide $300 a week in income support to eligible workers should they be unable to work due to a regional lockdown until May 7, 2022, with retroactive application to October 24, 2021 if required. It will continue to offer support to those who still need it if the pandemic requires further public health lockdowns in any part of the country, including workers who are both eligible and ineligible for employment insurance.

Assistance would be available in all regions of Canada designated by the government for the duration of the lockdown. This measure could be obtained quickly to support affected workers in the event of a lockdown in the region where they work.

Temporary lockdowns are still a possibility in the months to come. While the government hopes it will not be needed, the Canada worker lockdown benefit offers peace of mind and some economic certainty in these uncertain times.

With children aged 5 to 11 now eligible to get vaccinated, we know that this increased immunization coverage brings us one step closer to a situation where restrictions and closures will no longer be necessary.

Further down the road, we are also looking forward to loosened restrictions on hospitality, travel and tourism, and arts and culture. This new measure and the other targeted supports, such as the tourism and hospitality recovery program and the hardest-hit business recovery program proposed in the bill we debated today, will help bridge Canadians to full recovery in hard-hit sectors.

Canada is now well on its way to economic recovery. Thanks to one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, many businesses are safely reopening. Employment in November was higher than it was in February 2020, prior to COVID-19.

In the coming months, Canada's economic recovery will continue, because our vaccine successes and the safe reopening will allow Canadians to return to what they have been missing most for almost two years.

However, we must remain vigilant, especially with the arrival of the omicron variant, which we continue to monitor.

I am therefore asking everyone to help the government in this fight. Canadians across the country expect no less.

I would now like to ask a question.

Prescription drugs are not always affordable for Canadian families, especially those affected by rare diseases. Can the Minister of Health inform the House of the work that is being done to help these families and their loved ones?

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2021 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Chair, we are hopefully going to pass Bill C-2 and see supports for hotels, tourism operators and the entire tourism sector. We will monitor the program carefully. That is what our officials do.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2021 / 10:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Chair, as the House examines Bill C-2, which is in front of the finance committee currently, we are looking at spending another $8 billion.

What is the government doing to ensure that fraud does not occur in the future?

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2021 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Chair, the best thing that the House can do to address labour shortages for the hardest-hit sectors, including tourism, is vote for Bill C-2, pass it and help these businesses to get back on their feet and get the workers they need.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2021 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Chair, I just want to remind my colleague opposite that Bill C-2 would extend the Canada recovery hiring program until May 7, 2022, and that would allow employers to hire people back at a discounted rate of 50%. That is one of the solutions to help the labour shortage.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2021 / 10:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Chair, if the Conservatives want to help Canadians get through this pandemic and have an affordable future, they can support Bill C-2 to get people back on their feet.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2021 / 8:40 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Madam Chair, it is nice to see you in the chair again.

In the member's area, represented by the ACOA, a regional development agency, the regional relief and recovery fund provided more than $225 million to businesses in Atlantic Canada going through difficult times. It helped protect more than 16,000 jobs and supported close to 2,500 businesses. Our message to small businesses, including in the tourism sector, is clear: We are here for them now and we will work with them to help relaunch the economy.

The Canadian economy will not fully recover until the tourism sector has recovered. As my hon. colleague knows, and as we are encouraging all members in the House to recognize, we need support for Bill C-2. It is what operators in the tourism sector are asking us for. Bill C-2 would help hotels, motels, cottages, B & Bs, youth hostels, restaurants, food trucks, caterers, cafés, tour operators, theatres, music halls, charter buses, dinner cruises, holiday horse carriages, museums, heritage sites, zoos, botanical gardens, gyms, sports centres, ski resorts, leisure boat docks, amusement parks, dance halls, kids camps, hunting camps, fishing camps, cinemas, drive-in theatres and much more.

December 8th, 2021 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you so much, Ms. Potter.

Ms. May, thank you for joining our committee for our third and last round with these witnesses.

On behalf of all the members of the Standing Committee on Finance, all the staff, all the interpreters and everybody here, thank you very much for your testimony. We thank you for what you do, and all your members. We are hopeful that Bill C-2 will bring the supports that are required by industries that have been very hard hit and hurt. Thank you very much.

That concludes our meeting for today.

We are adjourned until tomorrow at 11 a.m.

December 8th, 2021 / 7:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you.

In my riding of Davenport, I have a huge group of artists and people who work in the cultural sector. I have a lot of heart for them and I'm one of their biggest champions. Now, that being said, this Bill C-2 is not intended to actually address additional supports for the arts sector. However, that said, we have made a commitment to the arts sector to provide some additional emergency supports because we know that artists have been disproportionately impacted and we know it's going to take more time for them to come out on the positive side as we try to move through this pandemic. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, has committed to developing a plan to support self-employed cultural sector workers, and I've actually held a couple of round tables in my riding with my artists to get their best ideas.

Mr. Laperrière, what recommendations would you have for such a program, based on your experience in supporting artists?

Did you understand the question?

December 8th, 2021 / 6:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

There's a first time for everything on this committee.

Mr. Agnew, some members of this committee have suggested that there's help in Bill C‑2 for businesses only, and not for Canadian workers. My view is that by protecting businesses from bankruptcy, by subsidizing wages, we're actually supporting Canadian workers.

My question to you is this. Through Bill C‑2 and the programs in Bill C‑2, are we not supporting Canadian workers, and if so, could you describe what you think the impact will be on Canadian workers as a result of the programs in Bill C‑2?

December 8th, 2021 / 6:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

That's very helpful. Thank you.

My next question is much like the previous one and goes to the representatives of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

In your view, what impact will the programs in Bill C‑2 have on companies in Canada? You have about a minute to answer the question.

December 8th, 2021 / 6:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair. I appreciate it.

Thanks to all of you for celebrating with me.

My first question is for the tourism association. I'm wondering if you could speak briefly to the impact that the programs proposed in Bill C-2 will have on companies in the tourism sector.

December 8th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Beth Potter

Access for sole proprietors has been a real challenge across many of the programs that have been available through COVID, so certainly we are constantly looking for an opportunity to correct our course on that one. If there were that opportunity in Bill C-2, we would of course support it.

Our whole priority, really, is to get back to work. We want these programs to be in place, but we would like to not have to use them if we didn't have to, so yes, we would—

December 8th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Laperrière.

For Ms. Potter from the Tourism Industry Association, we know that there are a lot of people who are self-employed in the tourism industry who won't be covered by the measures in Bill C‑2. Do you think it would be helpful for self-employed people in the tourism and hospitality industry to have access to the Canada worker lockdown benefit, notwithstanding whether there's a lockdown order in their particular region?

December 8th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Bill C‑2 would put in place the Canada worker lockdown benefit.

Would it be a good thing if self‑employed cultural workers had access to this benefit, even if lockdown wasn't imposed in their region?

December 8th, 2021 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank the witnesses for their presence and for their patience. Indeed, today's meeting requires it.

In recent months, and especially during the useless election campaign we went through this fall, the Bloc Québécois insisted on the importance of maintaining certain programs for the sectors of the economy that would have the most difficulty recovering from the pandemic. One of these sectors is culture. Yet, this does not appear at all in Bill C‑2, which we are talking about today and which we were all waiting for. There is nothing in Bill C‑2 for self‑employed cultural workers. Several weeks ago, we told the government that this category of workers had to be included in the bill, or we would oppose it. We are told that the government is not able to include them. This is an answer that we find difficult to accept.

I would have a few questions for Mr. Laperrière from the Fondation des artistes.

Good afternoon, Mr. Laperrière. I'm pleased to have you with us today.

How did the cultural industry react when it realized that there was no support for the cultural sector in Bill C‑2.

December 8th, 2021 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Okay. Thank you for that. I appreciate that.

As you know, if we look at a breakdown of Bill C-2, we see a section for the tourism and hospitality recovery program. We also have the hardest-hit business recovery program, and under that specific program, we list very specifically a number of key sectors. There are specifics in terms of supports for key businesses, for key sectors within the hardest-hit sectors.

My question to you is this: Do you agree with the list? Was the Chamber of Commerce consulted?

December 8th, 2021 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you so much, Mr. Chair. I want to thank all the presenters for their excellent presentations.

Thank you so much for your patience while we were voting upstairs.

My first question is going to be for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. I think it's important for me to just outline a little bit the state of our economy. We have the lowest GDP-to-debt ratio in the G7. Over 106% of our jobs have been recouped. Our business confidence is up. StatsCan has reported that in Q3 our GDP growth was 5.4%. Canadians are saving more. A number of our international credit agencies have reaffirmed our AAA rating.

In spite of all this—and I think it was Mr. Agnew who mentioned this—we know we're not out of the woods yet. We know that the recovery, as we're trying to get out of COVID, is uneven. We're still battling COVID. We know that public health measures continue to restrict our economic activity. We know that the trajectory of COVID and its variants remains uncertain and unpredictable.

As you know, a key part of Bill C-2 is moving away from the broad-based supports to more targeted supports. Do you agree with this approach of being more targeted in our supports as we move forward?

December 8th, 2021 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Jake Stewart Conservative Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Thank you.

Was FINTRAC consulted by CRA or the Government of Canada for the drafting of Bill C-2?

December 8th, 2021 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Jake Stewart Conservative Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Thank you for the answer.

As a follow-up question, was FINTRAC consulted during the drafting of the original bill? We're here today to talk about Bill C-2, but out of curiosity, on the original bill that held the CERB and CEBA programs, I wonder if FINTRAC was consulted on the drafting of that bill to assist the government or assist the Canada Revenue Agency with the types of preventive measures that might prevent the potential for what we're discussing here today.

December 8th, 2021 / 4:30 p.m.
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Beth Potter President and Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I would like to thank you for inviting me to appear before you today.

My name is Beth Potter. I am the president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. I want to thank you for allowing me to appear before you today and for the opportunity to share with you just how important Bill C-2 is to businesses and employers in Canada's tourism industry.

TIAC is the national voice for tourism in Canada. We aim to improve its global competitiveness through leadership and advocacy. We represent a broad suite of tourism sectors, and our advocacy work at the national level involves promoting and supporting policies, programs and initiatives that will benefit the sector's growth and development.

Many of you will have heard me say this before, and I will say it until it is no longer true: When the pandemic struck, the tourism industry was the first hit and the hardest hit, and it will be the last to recover. TIAC's top priority is to work to recover what has been lost over the last 20 months because of COVID.

Before the pandemic, in 2019 total tourism spending in Canada hit an all-time high of $105 billion, and it had been growing for years. Fast-forward one year: Total tourism spending dropped by half, down to just over $53 billion in 2020. Fifty per cent of total tourism spending in Canada disappeared in just one year. Domestic spending dropped by 40%, and international spending got decimated by 87%. Total tourism GDP dropped by 50%, and as a result, our industry's contribution to Canada's total GDP dropped from 2% to 1%.

Employment in our industry also saw a significant decline. In 2019 we had 748,000 direct jobs and we supported almost two million in total. One in 10 workers in Canada had a job related to tourism. In 2020 that all changed. The number of direct jobs dropped by close to 30%, down to 533,000. The number of related jobs dropped to 1.6 million.

These stats are not just numbers on a piece of paper. Jobs are a sense of pride to many. It is how they pay their bills and support their families. Jobs in our industry make a mark on this country, our friends and our neighbours.

The pandemic impacted tourism more than any other sector. By December 2020, there were 10% fewer active tourism businesses than there were the previous year. This is more than three times lower than the contraction of the Canadian economy overall, at 3.1%. No sector was spared.

With the recent new variant and increasing testing requirements, as an industry we feel as though we are going backwards. Tourism businesses and the many thousands of workers they employ are still at serious risk today without continued federal support, especially over the winter months, until higher tourism levels are expected to return in the spring. This, of course, is assuming that new variants are kept under control and new infection cases continue to decrease.

Since the onset of the pandemic the industry has effectively lost two full seasons as borders were closed and other travel restrictions and lockdowns were in place. Businesses have faced crippling revenue losses and drained financial reserves and have taken on substantial debt. Without the financial support provided by Bill C-2, many companies simply will not survive the winter, and many more jobs will be lost. It is imperative that the support provided through Bill C-2 be made available to all eligible tourism businesses, including indigenous tourism businesses.

Before the pandemic, I would note, the growth of the indigenous tourism sector was outpacing that in the industry as a whole. I would also highlight that emergency support programs put in place at the onset of the pandemic did not respond to the realities of many indigenous businesses.

We appreciate the support Parliament has already put in place, but as the rest of the economy recovers, the tourism industry continues to deal with changing restrictions and capacity limits, and that is why we have advocated sector-specific support. That said, TIAC encourages the passing of Bill C-2 as quickly as possible. We also look forward to working expeditiously with all MPs during this parliamentary session towards the development and implementation of a number of strategies to address other critical issues related to the indigenous tourism sector and the significant labour shortage, and to rebuilding overall traveller confidence. I am confident that by working together over the months and years ahead, we will achieve our mutual goal of recovering Canada's travel economy and regaining our leading competitive position in the global tourism market.

In closing, I wish to express my deepest appreciation for the leadership each of you and your respective parties have demonstrated in support of helping to rebuild Canada's tourism industry. While I've delivered these remarks in English, I would be pleased to answer questions that you may have in either English or French.

Thank you.

December 8th, 2021 / 4:20 p.m.
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Barry MacKillop Deputy Director, Intelligence, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting FINTRAC to participate in this panel as part of your review of Bill C-2.

As was mentioned, I am joined by Dan Lambert, my assistant director for intelligence. In respect of the time of the committee, I will do the opening comments this afternoon.

This afternoon, I would like to speak briefly about the intelligence mandate of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, or FINTRAC, and the valuable role the centre plays in supporting the investigations of money laundering and terrorist financing by Canadian police, law enforcement and national security agencies.

I will also discuss the strategic financial intelligence we produce that enables us to identify new patterns, trends and tactics used by criminals to launder money or fund terrorist activities.

As one of the 13 federal departments and agencies that make up Canada's anti‑money laundering and anti‑terrorist financing regime, FINTRAC is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act by specific industry sectors, as well as for generating financial intelligence that will enable Canadian law enforcement and national security agencies to take appropriate action.

FINTRAC's financial intelligence has been more important than ever as criminals and terrorists have sought to take advantage of the global pandemic to enrich themselves and advance their illicit enterprises. Over the past year, the centre generated more than 320 disclosures of actionable financial intelligence related to the laundering of proceeds stemming from fraud, corruption and other financial crimes associated with the global pandemic. In total, throughout the 2020-2021 reporting period, FINTRAC provided 2,046 disclosures of actionable financial intelligence in support of investigations related to money laundering, terrorist activity financing and threats to the security of Canada.

Since becoming operational in 2001, the centre has provided more than 21,000 financial intelligence disclosures to Canada's police, law enforcement and national security agencies. Last year our financial intelligence contributed to over 376 major resource-intensive investigations and hundreds of other individual investigations at the municipal, provincial and federal levels across the country.

As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Chair, FINTRAC also produces strategic financial intelligence, the goal of which is to inform Canada's security and intelligence community, regime partners and policy decision-makers, Canadians and our international counterparts about the nature and extent of money laundering and terrorist financing activity in Canada and throughout the world. For example, FINTRAC prepared a classified financial intelligence brief early in the global pandemic to help inform law enforcement and national security agencies in select federal departments of the various types of fraudulent activity that was being directed at the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency business account. This financial intelligence brief was based on 395 suspicious transaction reports that FINTRAC received in relation to the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canadian emergency business account between January 1 and June 30, 2020.

It is important to note that our financial intelligence brief was based on information provided by businesses subject to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. It is not evidence of any wrongdoing.

For context, Mr. Chair, our financial intelligence brief also highlighted that as of August 2020, 8.5 million unique applicants had submitted 23.72 million applications for benefits under the Canada emergency response benefit program alone.

Following this classified brief, the centre also produced and published a special bulletin identifying increased money laundering risks associated with the global pandemic. These included the laundering of proceeds of crime by counterfeiters selling fake COVID-19 test kits and pharmaceuticals and cybercriminals employing COVID-19 versions of popular phishing and blackmail scams that directed victims to send virtual currency for donations and ransom payments. The bulletin was meant to assist businesses subject to the act in managing their money laundering and terrorism financing risks during the global pandemic.

Since the first lockdown in 2020, FINTRAC has continued to receive and analyze reports, including suspicious transaction reports, and provide actionable financial intelligence to police services, law enforcement and national security agencies in Canada. We are committed to working with Canadian businesses and our domestic and international partners to protect the safety of Canadians and the integrity of Canada's financial system.

Thank you very much.

December 8th, 2021 / 4:20 p.m.
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Alla Drigola Birk Director, Parliamentary Affairs and Small and Medium Enterprises Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Thank you, Mark.

Good afternoon, committee members. It's great to be back.

Since early 2021, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been calling for a more sector-specific approach to the government's business support programs. While the pandemic has touched all of us in a number of ways, the fact remains that businesses in certain sectors have felt the impacts of COVID more acutely than others. That is why we are pleased to see the next iteration of business support programs include a suite of measures that allow businesses in different stages of recovery to access supports to see them through the pandemic.

With Canada's high vaccine uptake and the adoption of proof-of-vaccine credentials by provinces across the country, many COVID restrictions impeding the ability of businesses to operate at full steam over the last two years have either been removed or relaxed, but as Mark noted earlier, this is not uniform for all sectors.

Businesses are acutely aware that public health measures can be reintroduced at any time, and we need to make sure that they have adequate government support to get through these situations. Bill C-2 introduces business support measures that are comprehensive and that provide support for those businesses that continue to have operations restricted as well as for those that are seeing their revenues return.

The tourism and hospitality recovery program provides targeted support for the tourism, travel and hospitality, and arts and culture sectors, while the hardest-hit sectors recovery program provides some relief to businesses in other sectors that continue to see revenue declines of 50% or more. For businesses that do not fall into either of these categories because of revenue declines that are less severe, the Canada recovery hiring program is available to help cover wages if a business's wage bill is higher today than it was in March and April of 2021.

Bill C-2 also includes maximum wage and rent subsidy supports for businesses that are impacted by fresh lockdowns in the future, an important measure as uncertainty increases with the emergence of the omicron variant. Ultimately, the most important thing is to ensure uninterrupted support for those businesses that are still struggling. Therefore, we encourage all parliamentarians to pass this legislation without delay. This is also especially important in light of the upcoming holiday season and the previously mentioned uncertainty around the omicron variant.

Thank you for having us here today. We look forward to taking your questions.

December 8th, 2021 / 4:20 p.m.
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Senior Vice-President, Policy and Government Relations, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Mark Agnew

Thank you.

At the top of our presentation I certainly want to urge passage of Bill C-2. I think it's important to say a brief word to situate how we see this bill in the context of the Canadian economy, particularly with the fall economic statement coming next week.

Businesses have repeatedly made clear to us that compounding additional uncertainty and burdens on their competitiveness is not an option. Just to name two of the challenges we've heard about in companies, there is the continuing application of the automatic escalator on excise taxes for alcohol products, as well as retroactively applied digital services taxes which would scope in Canadian companies and risk retaliation from the United States. There are many, many challenges I could go on about, but certainly, in a period of economic uncertainty, we are also seeing a very fragile recovery for our members.

Although the macroeconomic job numbers are positive, with employment at 186,000 jobs higher last month than it was pre-pandemic, there's certainly a lot of work to be done. Accommodation and food services employment is still at 16% below its pre-pandemic levels, or roughly 200,000 jobs, according to Statistics Canada's November labour force survey data.

The last piece of context that I think is particularly germane to the discussion about the hardest-hit sectors and the travel and hospitality industries is the public health restrictions that are still being imposed upon these businesses. Provincial rules continue to constrain the capacity of businesses to operate, and certainly no company opened with success predicated on operating at only half capacity. As for tourism, certainly no operator in any of your constituencies would have opened with an assumption for success based on not being able to access foreign tourists as part of their business model.

Canadians continue to face a fairly fluid landscape, it's fair to say, with respect to our travel restrictions. We, unfortunately, don't have clear data to outline how decisions are made. Certainly, while public health is always paramount, I think it's fair to say that the rules remain complex across different modes of transportation, country of departure and length of trip. The current rules do act as a disincentive to travel, which I think means that companies that are in the travel and hospitality space are operating with one hand behind their back.

In the most recent Canadian survey on business conditions, over 55% of the accommodation and food services businesses said that they expect their profitability to decrease in the next three months.

This isn't to go down a deep tangent on issues that aren't related to the question at hand with Bill C-2, but certainly I think it's quite important to help set the context for the discussion on the importance of this bill.

Now I'll turn to my colleague Alla to speak a little bit more to the specifics about the legislation.

December 8th, 2021 / 4:15 p.m.
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Mark Agnew Senior Vice-President, Policy and Government Relations, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We'll be splitting our time this afternoon.

Mr. Chair and honourable members, thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2. It's great to be back at parliamentary committees, albeit still in a virtual form. I'd just say congratulations to this committee for being first out of the gate in terms of various committees with work under way on the House side.

Many of you will be familiar with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada's largest business association. We look forward to working with all of you throughout this upcoming parliamentary session. My colleague Alla will speak in a moment about some of the specifics of Bill C-2.

However, at the top of the presentation —

December 8th, 2021 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number four 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. Just so that you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the 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 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 of 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 distance. Everyone 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 provided hand sanitizer 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'd 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 the choice at the bottom of your screen of “floor”, “English” or “French”. If interpretation is lost, please inform me immediately. 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 to alert the chair. Members participating in person should proceed as they 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 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. 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.

Witnesses and members, this is the tool I use so that you will know when your time is coming up. I'll give you a marker, this 30-second note, which everybody will have. It just keeps everybody on track.

Witnesses, you will have the opportunity to make your opening statements for five minutes.

Members, as we get into the questions, if you can pose your questions to whichever witness you would like to answer them, that may make things more efficient and help us through the meeting.

We have a number of witnesses before us today.

From Campaign 2000, we have Leila Sarangi, national director.

From the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we have Mark Agnew, senior vice-president of policy and government relations, and Alla Drigola Birk, director of parliamentary affairs and small and medium enterprise policy.

From the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, we have Barry MacKillop, deputy director of intelligence, and Dan Lambert, assistant director, intelligence operations.

From the Fondation des artistes, we have Michel Laperrière, president.

Finally, from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, we have Beth Potter, president of the association.

We will go in the order I followed in the list, starting with Campaign 2000's Leila Sarangi for five minutes.

Go ahead, please.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

December 7th, 2021 / 10:55 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member's riding very well, having spent a lot of time there as a business person before entering politics, and from training for an Ironman triathlon in the region, which feels like it was almost half a lifetime ago. It was certainly back in the days when I had more hair.

Moving on to other things, the member opposite raises an important issue. It is a whole-of-government preoccupation for us. I have had conversations with the Minister of Immigration on this. I think if we can set the table with 106% of jobs recovered since the lowest point in the pandemic, 154,000 jobs reported as added to the Canadian economy in the last month, and all of the hours that were lost during the pandemic having also been recovered. Those are important elements to put on the table as we get into the matter.

There is no more important economic policy for Canada today than finishing the fight against COVID. That also impacts who we are able to bring here and how we are able to address the labour shortage. I think Bill C-2 is an important piece of this puzzle, because it contains targeted business and income supports, including the emergency lockdown supports we need to fight omicron.

If we take a step back and look at when the crisis hit, our government rapidly rolled out a full range of effective broad-based programs to support Canadians through our greatest economic shock as a country since the Great Depression. These actions were necessary and unprecedented in our lifetime.

All across the country, these programs have been lifelines for workers and businesses. They protected millions of jobs and hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses through the worst of the pandemic.

However, those emergency measures were always meant to be around just long enough to help people get through the crisis. Fortunately, we are now moving into a new phase that promises to be very different from the dark days of our fight against COVID‑19.

Thanks to one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, most businesses are safely reopening and employment is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

We know there are still workers and businesses whose livelihoods are being affected as a result of pandemic-related restrictions on their activity. That is why it is important to pivot to our support measures. It is a move to more targeted measures, which will provide help where it is needed most and continue to create jobs and growth while prudently managing government spending.

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

In last year's throne speech, our government promised to create one million jobs, a goal we achieved in September of this year when Canada recovered all of the jobs lost at the lowest point of the COVID‑19 recession. That is a total of three million jobs recovered since the spring of 2020.

Shops and businesses are open, and Canadians are doing their part to make sure we have a safe reopening. They are rolling up their sleeves, getting their shot and following public health advice. This is an important part of the overall plan to get Canadians back to work to fully recover from the COVID‑19 pandemic.

We understand and appreciate the member opposite's concern, and we are working with a whole-of-government approach to address it.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

December 7th, 2021 / 10:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to be here at this very late hour to be granted an adjournment debate on the labour crisis.

The government's recent economic recovery speech said it was committed to leaving no worker or region behind, yet nowhere in the speech was there a single mention of the labour shortages that thousands of small and medium-sized businesses face. Leaving small businesses adrift is a roadblock to our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the member of Parliament for Kelowna—Lake Country, my local businesses are feeling the crunch of not having the staffing levels necessary to offer their goods and services like they are used to.

Jason Davis, who operates the Okanagan branch of a security company, told me that a significant drop in employee candidates has left the company running at a loss. They estimate losing over $100,000 in contractually guaranteed revenue because of lost staffing coverage. That is in addition to the hundreds of thousands more they have been forced to incur in penalties for not meeting contractual obligations, higher costs of recruitment and the inability to take on any new work. This is similar to stories I hear from many business owners. Working in security, they are able to see how labour shortages have been damaging to their sector and the many other businesses they work with.

However, employers like Jason are not coming to my office just to talk about difficulties. They are coming to me with solutions. He has suggestions on the temporary foreign worker program, and this side of the House has similarly looked at offering solutions to tackling this labour crisis. Along with the chairman of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, I have already sent a letter to the Minister of Immigration asking him to extend working visas that have expired for people already in Canada. This is an easy fix, yet so far we have received no response and the government is silent. Ignoring our warnings on this labour crisis will not make the problem disappear. It will leave our recovery on the rocks.

Statistics Canada said that in September there were over one million job vacancies. During that same month, there were about a million people on the CRB. RBC Economics reported that one in every three businesses is grappling with labour shortages. A report from the government's own Business Development Bank says that 55% of entrepreneurs struggle to hire the workers they need.

We do not have to let this country run into a growing iceberg. We can choose to take action to ensure our recovery lifts up all businesses and workers. We can ensure that Canadians continue to be employed at good-paying jobs that support their communities with affordable goods and services. We need to get people who are able to work back to work.

We can keep Canadians spending at small businesses by tackling skyrocketing inflation, which is escalating gas and grocery bills. We can strengthen our supply chains by ensuring Canadian warehouses, ports and trucking companies have the staff to meet their needs. We can address the increasing debt that small businesses are currently carrying, with an average of $170,000 in new debt. We can address rising costs for small businesses by halting federal payroll tax increases.

I urge the government to take note of these and the many more ideas expressed by my colleagues across partisan divides. Rushed legislation like Bill C-2 will not solve staffing shortages. I ask the government to work collaboratively in the House to tackle the growing labour shortage threats that are crippling small business and impeding our economic recovery.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Chair, it is clear to members of the House that Bill C-2 is a comprehensive piece of legislation that is focusing on the hardest hit sectors. We have heard from the hotel sector. We have heard from the tour operator sector. We have heard from outfitters. We have heard from gun ranges. We have these operators and tourism operators from coast to coast to coast included in Bill C-2.

Why? We listened to Canadians. We listened to entrepreneurs. We listened to people in the sector who needed our help and support. What they need is a bridge through this last toughest time. We are talking about entrepreneurs who lost 50% of their business. We are talking about entrepreneurs who simply could not continue to keep their staff employed because the demand was shut off because we closed the borders to keep Canadians safe.

As I said at TIAC last week, safety first, then travel. What the tourism sector has asked us for is a bridge of supports to get through this winter into the spring. We have heard the appeals from independent travel agents and we will continue to work on this issue.

We have gone to the wall for Canadians and for entrepreneurs in the tourism sector. We have put Bill C-2 on the floor of this House. We ask for the support of members from all parties to get Bill C-2 passed so we can give our tourism sector, which touches every single riding represented in this chamber, the support and hope it needs to get through the winter into the spring and into Q3.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 10:20 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Chair, the minister says we should vote for Bill C-2, but Bill C-2 does not help the independent travel advisers. He said the recovery has been uneven. Well, Bill C-2 is uneven and leaves a lot of people out in the cold, including independent travel advisers.

I would ask him whether the Liberals would amend Bill C-2 to help them, and also if they would amend Bill C-2 to help the start-ups. Many businesses were starting up just as this pandemic hit. People put in thousands of their own dollars in investments into new companies. They took out loans, signed leases and started businesses, many of them in the tourism and hospitality sector, just as this pandemic hit and they were immediately shut down.

These are restaurants, hotels or whatever, and these businesses have received no supports at all from the government throughout the pandemic because they did not have any business record to compare their losses to. They have plans and mechanisms they are asking the government to implement in Bill C-2, or however the government would do it, to give them some support.

They have struggled along and managed to survive in the face of competition with other companies that have received the supports they needed. They received the wage subsidy, but the start-ups received nothing. They are asking the government to let them access programs like HASCAP in such a way that they can continue on and survive, because they are hanging on by their fingernails.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 10:20 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Madam Chair, I would like to thank my hon. colleague, who is the critic for tourism among other responsibilities, for his advocacy, his passion and his decency. We have had conversations about this and other issues. I think we can set the table on the backdrop of the fastest recovery of any recession in Canadian history, with 106% of jobs recovered since the beginning of the pandemic and 154,000 jobs announced just this week.

As my hon. colleague mentioned, the sector recovery is uneven, and we know that. That is why I had the honour, on behalf of the Minister of Finance, to table in the House, to encourage our colleagues in the House to support the tourism sector and the hardest-hit sectors, and to put in new measures as we get to the final stretch of this pandemic. I encourage all members in the House to support Bill C-2.

I can say very clearly that the overwhelming unanimous support of hundreds of people who attended the Tourism Industry Association of Canada's conference here last week was emphatic. They are appealing to every single member of the House to pass Bill C-2, so that the sector can get through what will be another tough winter and into the spring and the third quarter. That is when we believe brighter days will be in place for members of the tourism sector.

I have spoken to people in the independent travel agent sector, and I know that they are facing challenges. However, I need to put on the record that we have supported this very important group of Canadians and entrepreneurs. When there was a risk of these operators not getting the money they had earned from large airlines and other sectors, we went to the wall for them in our LEEFF negotiations with those airlines and we delivered. We are working through this issue. It is a complex issue. We have heard from many colleagues in Ontario, in B.C. and across the country. I think the message that has been reinforced by the finance minister is that the supports put in place were exceptional. We will be there for the tourism sector.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 10:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Chair, 106% of jobs have been recovered. We had 154,000 jobs added in the report from the last week. The recovery across the country is uneven. We know that restaurants and tourism operators across the country need our support, and I encourage the opposing parties to vote for Bill C-2 and support the sector.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 7:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have to thank my hon. colleague for his exuberance and his perspicacity.

We are here for workers in the cultural sector. We are here for workers in the tourism sector. Bill C-2 is the bridge the tourism sector needs to get through this last winter to the end of the pandemic, well into the third quarter of 2022, when we can welcome Canadians from coast to coast to coast and travellers from around the world to come to Canada to see Folklorama, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and all the other great festivals and tourism attractions in Canada from coast to coast to coast.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 7:40 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, my friend the minister has been a very strong advocate for tourism since long before he was appointed Minister of Tourism. I

In Winnipeg, we have this wonderful thing called Folklorama. It is a two-week extravaganza of Canada's diversity. We can visit the Philippines, the Punjab, India, Ukraine and all over the world during those two weeks. The cultural diversity is simply amazing. We can participate in things such as dance, food and phenomenal entertainment.

The Prime Minister had the opportunity to meet with the Folk Arts Council. The Folk Arts Council said that the wage subsidy program enabled them to keep their doors open. This is not a new organization. It has been there for over 50 years. The point is that through programs, the government has been able to keep our arts and cultural communities, among others within our tourism industry, active and around to be able to survive the pandemic, in many ways.

The NDP and Conservative coalition voted against Bill C-2. This was going to extend the benefits for many of those businesses, communities and arts and cultural organizations. I am wondering if the minister can express why he believes Bill C-2 is so important for businesses and Canadians as a whole.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 7:25 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the pandemic, Canadians have been called upon to take extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of all. We have been in an emergency situation that has required large‑scale lockdowns and closures, which have threatened the ability of millions of Canadians to work and thousands of businesses to continue operating.

In response to this extraordinary situation, our government has taken unprecedented action thanks to the collective effort of so many people working tirelessly to help their fellow citizens. We have put in place a comprehensive package of measures to help workers and businesses across the country meet these challenges.

We saw neighbours helping neighbours, frontline workers who did double and triple shifts to keep our communities safe, and people who retooled their entire business lines to produce protective equipment for frontline workers and Canadians in need. In this time of historic commitment to helping others, our government was there to ensure that Canadians, their families, their businesses and their communities would be supported through the worst.

Our income and wage support programs, along with rent subsidies, made it possible for households to support their families. Those programs also enabled millions of Canadians to keep their jobs and hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses to keep operating during the darkest days of the pandemic.

Thanks to robust public health measures, vaccination rates are high and the child vaccination campaign is moving along quickly. Grandparents and others who need it are receiving their third dose, the booster dose. Our health care system is finding better and better ways of dealing with the virus.

While the recent emergence of the omicron variant of COVID-19 is cause for concern, there is still reason for cautious optimism that we are turning the corner in the fight against this virus and seeing better days. Thanks to the hard work of Canadians, we are approaching the last mile of this long and difficult journey.

On the economic front, the recent OECD December 2021 economic outlook confirmed that Canada is still expected to have a strong recovery relative to pre-pandemic levels of GDP, ranking the second-fastest among G7 economies by 2023. Of the three million jobs that were lost at the peak of the crisis, all have now been recouped, faster than after any other recession. This has been possible because of the supports we provided. They prevented unnecessary increases in insolvencies and kept Canadians and Canadian businesses largely intact. They limited economic scarring and laid the foundation for a strong recovery.

In my riding of Edmonton Centre, I spoke with the now third-generation owners of Kunitz Shoes. The owners live in my riding. It is a third-generation shoe store on Jasper Avenue. It was going to go under, but because of collaboration with other business leaders in the community and due to the supports that we had in place, Kunitz Shoes is now thriving and back on its feet, if members will excuse the pun. The owners told me that they paid taxes, in their case for over 60 years, with the expectation that when they needed it, the government would be there for them. They said it had never happened in the history of the company, but it happened in the past year. The government was there for them, and they thanked me and my colleagues for that.

In short, the government took action and it worked. Canadians and most parliamentarians supported this unprecedented spending because they understood that it was not only the compassionate thing to do, but also the economically smart thing to do. Our government strongly respects that Parliament plays a key role in enforcing this accountability, and I would like to recognize all members participating in the committee of the whole tonight for their role in this regard.

The Department of Finance has also played a key role in enforcing this accountability through its budgets, fiscal updates and reports to Parliament, and it will continue to do so. Further to this goal, as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance has announced, the government will be providing an economic fiscal update on December 14.

Through these supplementary estimates, the government is seeking parliamentary approval for $8.7 billion in new voted spending. These planned expenditures would support Canadian priorities with infrastructure and services to address the specific needs of indigenous communities, the government's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and supporting access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics in developing countries.

In fact, approximately $1.2 billion of the proposed voted spending in supplementary estimates (B) is for the government's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that Canadians are counting on this funding to protect their health and well-being.

However, Canadians are not just counting on us to invest in their health and well-being. Canadians need and want good jobs with fair wages and clear rules. Therefore, we need to make sure that businesses, especially small businesses, have the support they need. That is why we have introduced Bill C-2 in Parliament.

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

That said, the government is also 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 in Bill C-2 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, which are 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 would increase in proportion to this revenue loss up to a maximum of 75%.

This legislation is key to getting us to the end of this pandemic and it is unfortunate that our colleagues in the Conservative Party and the NDP are voting against it. Make no mistake: This support will be crucial to getting our tourism sector back on its feet. I spoke with many leading tourism operators and businesses at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada's conference here last week and I can say that they are emphatically asking and demanding that everyone in the chamber support Bill C-2.

Since taking on the role of Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, I have been moved by the passion of those in the tourism sector for the work that they do. These are the people who tell our story to the world and they are the people who are going to inspire people from around the world to come and fall in love with Canada.

At this moment, this industry is reeling from the body blow of this pandemic. Revenue has declined almost 50% from 2019 levels. Jobs directly attributable to tourism decreased 41% from 692,000 to 409,000 in the same period.

However, even with these challenges, Canada’s tourism sector is moving forward, and our 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, our 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 includes $500 million over two years flowing through regional development agencies to help our hard-hit tourism businesses adapt their products and services and invest in future growth.

This also includes $200 million through the regional development agencies to support them and help ensure that Canada continues to draw millions of visitors from all over the world to our large arts and cultural festivals and major events.

I have to thank the former tourism minister, who is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the entire government for their foresight and for including all of these measures in budget 2021.

Our government will continue to ensure that Canadians are informed of the details of not just our spending, but of all the investments that we have made to protect and support Canadians in the fight against COVID-19. A full recovery will take time, but we are committed to doing what it takes to finish the fight against COVID-19, to speed up the recovery, and to lay the foundation for years of strong, sustained growth.

As we continue to gain ground in this fight, our support for Canadians is becoming more targeted, ensuring that help is being focused on those who need it the most.

Help is here and hope is on the horizon.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 7:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's focusing on the issue of labour, because it allows me to remind all members that we have before this House a crucially important piece of legislation, Bill C-2. I would remind colleagues that Bill C-2 would extend the Canada recovery hiring program until May 7, 2022 for eligible employers and increase the subsidy rate to 50%. In short, this benefit will be good for Canadians. We hope the opposition will support it.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2021-22Government Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 7:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, our record speaks for itself. We supported millions of Canadians during the pandemic. We are continuing to support Canadians in the hardest-hit sectors as we come through this recovery period. I might say to my hon. colleague that if he wants to make sure some of the most vulnerable people are supported, I encourage him and his caucus members to support Bill C-2.

December 7th, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Sophie Chatel Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you.

Ms. Demers, I have a second question for you.

In the past, there have been issues with the payment of benefits. The payment of some of these benefits has affected other benefits received by fairly vulnerable groups. The example of the guaranteed income supplement was provided.

How does Bill C‑2 address these issues so as to avoid what we've seen in the past with other benefits?

December 7th, 2021 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Sophie Chatel Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As my colleague pointed out, it should be noted that the officials working on Bill C‑2 are working very hard and are available to answer our questions.

For example, some important questions were asked that aren't exactly related to Bill C‑2, but that are nonetheless quite relevant, such as Mr. Blaikie's question about how the provinces will deal with the bill. Some questions were also not related to the Department of Finance, as my colleague Mr. Stewart said earlier. I'm thinking of the cost of running these programs, for example. Mr. Poilievre also asked about the future audits.

As a new committee member, I learned about the procedures that could help my colleagues obtain specific answers to their questions. I learned that questions beyond the scope of the discussion can be submitted in writing in advance. This makes it easier for officials to do their job. That's what I did last night. I sent in a question. I would encourage you to follow that procedure, Mr. Blaikie.

Ms. Demers, I want to ask you about workers who may have to repay benefits if, for whatever reason, they were deemed ineligible. I'd like to know the repayment strategy. This matter concerns part 2 of the bill.

Is there a strategy to ensure, as we've seen in the past, that taxpayers don't need to pay back the benefits received?

December 7th, 2021 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

What we're really getting at is that we're being asked to fast-track a bill's passage. There was some ongoing work being done over the last two years.

A bill like Bill C-2 requires a significant amount of time, but legislators and departmental officials had to deal with an election, which seems to have delayed the drafting of this bill, or the conclusion of the drafting of this bill. We then had to wait a significant amount of time for it to come back to Parliament to be introduced as new legislation, and now we've been asked, because of the need for haste, to fast-track the bill's passage.

What we're hearing—at least what I'm hearing—is that it was difficult to get this done on time.

December 7th, 2021 / 4:45 p.m.
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Director General, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Trevor McGowan

I can only speak to part 1 of the bill, as I was involved in the drafting of that. It's been an iterative process, from tabling the first bill, hearing stakeholder responses and then iteratively improving on the programs over the last almost two years.

In terms of the work on Bill C-2, that was going on in concert with the announcements. It's not been days or weeks, I'm sure.

December 7th, 2021 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Adam Chambers Conservative Simcoe North, ON

When did the government start drafting the Bill C-2 legislation? What was the approximate date? Was it on or about...? “A week” or “a month” would be fine. Was it last week, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, two months ago?

December 7th, 2021 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Heath MacDonald Liberal Malpeque, PE

Can you explain how the general economic situation has improved because of the programs that were put in place—and potentially the program that we're dealing with right now, Bill C-2?

December 7th, 2021 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much.

I wanted to ask about the Canada worker lockdown benefit. Of course, we've talked a bit about the retroactivity of the benefit. Canadians will have 60 days to apply after the coming into force of Bill C-2, but my understanding so far—and I'm looking for confirmation from the department—is that there is no region in Canada that has met the requirements that would trigger the Canada worker lockdown benefit between the period starting on October 23 and now. Is that true?

December 7th, 2021 / 3:55 p.m.
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Douglas Wolfe Senior Director, Strategic Policy and Legislative Reform, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development

Thank you, Mr. Blaikie. I can respond to that question if you'd like. I'm from the labour program.

You're quite right that the provisions do only apply to federally regulated workers, so it's a small fraction of the overall labour force. Certainly, provinces and territories are aware of these provisions and are certainly aware that Bill C-2 is making its way through Parliament. We fully expect that they will make the amendments that would be required so that employees within the provincial and territorial jurisdictions could also have job-protected leave.

December 7th, 2021 / 3:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

So in summary, we are on the same page when it comes to businesses.

With respect to seasonal workers, previously, they could collect the Canada recovery benefit, or CRB, without having to do so through their enterprise. Now, according to Ms. Demers' response, they will still be covered by Bill C‑2 if they generated more than $5,000 in earnings over the 12 months in question.

December 7th, 2021 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I thought I had two and a half minutes. It's good that I have six.

My first question is about seasonal workers. I would like to know how far the bill applies to them.

As I understand it, there are two criteria. Firstly, you have to have suffered a fall in your average earnings over a well-defined 12‑month period, from March 2020 to March 2021. The second criterion, however, is that you must have experienced a 50% decline in revenue in the current month compared to the same month in a previous year. However, for seasonal businesses that do not earn income during the off-season, how can 50% of zero be calculated? That is particularly difficult.

I would like to know what Bill C‑2 provides for seasonal workers and how they can be compensated.

December 7th, 2021 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

I call this meeting to order.

Welcome, everybody, to meeting number three of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.

Pursuant to the House of Commons order of reference adopted on December 2, 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. 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 that you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entire 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, and all functionalities for the active participants remain the same. Staff will be non-active participants. They can only view the meetings in gallery view.

I'd like to take this opportunity to remind all participants in 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 of October 19 to remain healthy and safe, all those attending the meeting in person are to maintain 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 provided hand sanitizer at the entrance of the room.

As the chair, I will enforce 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 to follow.

One, 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 the floor, English or French. If interpretation is lost, please inform me immediately, and we will ensure that the 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 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 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 are 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 are participating virtually or in person.

I'd like now to welcome our witnesses. We have already heard opening statements from these witnesses, who are the same witnesses who were at our second meeting earlier this morning.

We are going to proceed directly to our question time. For the first round of questions, which will be six minutes for each member, we are going to start with the Conservative Party, and, I believe, Mr. Chambers for six minutes.

You have the floor.

The EconomyOral Questions

December 7th, 2021 / 3:05 p.m.
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University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I can say one thing that all members of the House, including the members opposite, could do this week for the tourism and hospitality sector. That is to help us pass Bill C-2. This legislation is there to help precisely those tourism businesses.

We understand that omicron is here. We understand those businesses need support. However, what I do not understand is why the Conservatives, who allegedly care so much about these vital small businesses, do not want to actually help them.

COVID-10 Economic MeasuresOral Questions

December 7th, 2021 / 2:50 p.m.
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Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I can assure everyone in the House that we have been unwavering and continue to support workers throughout this pandemic. That is why Bill C-2 talks about continuing the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. That is why we are creating the lockdown benefit. That is why we are continuing with support for businesses to hire workers and to provide rental support.

There is a lot we are doing for workers and businesses, and as the Deputy Prime Minister has said, we have regained 106% of the jobs we lost during the pandemic. Our unemployment was down last month again, for the sixth month in a row. We are within 0.4% of our record high in February 2020.

December 7th, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you so much.

I just want to address two key things that I think keep coming up. The first is that we started the session with $7 billion and where it's coming from. I was really pleased when it was pointed out by my colleagues that it has come from the consolidated revenue fund. I think Mr. McGowan also pointed that out.

Just for those who might be listening, I hate it when we're asking questions and it seems as though officials are taking time to respond. I think it's important to just point out that we have officials who are here to address specific elements of Bill C-2, and I want anyone who might be listening to know that there will be an opportunity to answer the questions around the $7 billion in a couple of days or in upcoming testimony from other witnesses.

I also want to address the issue of fraudulent activity or criminal activity taking advantage of some of our emergency programs. We do know that CERB has implemented both front-end safeguards and back-end verification measures to make sure not only that we are getting these emergency payments out quickly throughout this whole pandemic but also that we are ensuring that cases of fraud or deliberate misrepresentation are identified. I'd even say and just remind everyone that in our fall economic statement in 2020 we did actually provide additional resources and measures that would allow CRA to continue to improve their investigations and their verification measures.

I'll also indicate that in August 2020 the Government of Canada issued a statement indicating that the CRA and other departments had been targets of cyber-attacks. All of these investigations were directed to the RCMP, which has been helpful in investigating some of the suspected activity as well as any suspected frauds relating to the emergency relief benefit.

I just don't want to leave the impression with anyone who might be listening or anyone in this room that there has not been aggressive activity on the part of the CRA to make sure that the emergency supports continue to get to where they are supposed to go or that, if there is any suspicious or fraudulent activity, it is not being acted upon.

In the remaining time I have, which is about a minute and a half, whether it's on section one or section two, whether it's Ms. Demers or Mr. Baylor, I wonder if you can explain to what extent the programs, particularly the ones that we are proposing, have pivoted to respond to the public health situation. If each of you could respond on that for 30 seconds, I'd be grateful.

December 7th, 2021 / 12:50 p.m.
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Director General, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Trevor McGowan

The calculations of revenue in Bill C-2 are based on the existing rules for the wage and rent subsidies that are found in the act and that have been relied upon by businesses since the inception of those programs.

I can say that there has been some thought given to providing additional flexibility—and this was evident from the start of the program—for businesses in terms of determining their revenue calculations. For example, there is an option to elect a cash-basis revenue calculation, which would be, I suppose, the opposite of what would be hoped for here, whereby you look to cash revenues to determine what revenues fall in what months, but the basic rule is to rely upon revenues for accounting purposes, which is more typically done on an accrual basis.

The revenue rules that are in Bill C-2 are based on the existing ones.

I would mention that, for some of the programs that look to year-over-year or prior-year revenues, those are based on revenues over a 12-month period, which would hopefully smooth out some of those timing issues. In addition, as we discussed earlier, there is the deeming rule that could apply, which would allow for an entity to pick the higher revenue decline for the current period or the prior period.

December 7th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much.

One category of business that I've heard from, which I will just take as an example, is New Flyer Industries in my riding, which is a bus manufacturer. They have struggled in the pandemic. Obviously ordering new buses wasn't top of mind for cash-strapped municipalities.

They are optimistic about their future, but the way the ongoing support is structured for the hardest-hit business programs doesn't take into account the way a business like theirs receives their revenues. They may have very little revenue for months at a time, and then they deliver an order and get paid in one month for maybe several buses. They have a revenue spike, and then the following month they are back to working on some of what's left of their remaining pre-pandemic orders, and they may not be paid again for some time.

I'm just wondering if the department contemplated businesses that operate on this kind of model and what recommendations they have for them.

Is there anything in Bill C-2 that would provide assistance to these businesses, or are they out of luck because of the nature of their revenue cycle?

December 7th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you for the clarifications.

A freelance worker in the cultural sector does not have eligible expenses for rent. So a program will be needed to support self‑employed workers. Bill C‑2 contains no measures for these people, yet this is a sufficiently important sector for us to say to ourselves, as a society, that we cannot afford to lose this expertise.

I will come back to this later, because my time is up.

Thank you very much.

December 7th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My colleague Sophie Chatel mentioned the cultural sector, which is included in the tourism and hospitality recovery program. Mr. Poirier confirmed this, and we are very happy with that inclusion.

We, in the Bloc Québécois, are very concerned about self‑employed workers in the cultural sector. In fact, a few years ago, the model for independent and freelance workers in the cultural sector in Quebec took the form of self‑employed workers. What is understood from Bill C‑2 is that self‑employed workers in the cultural sector currently find themselves without a support program, as there is no longer the Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB, or the Canada recovery benefit, or CRB.

Could Mr. Poirier or Mr. Baylor confirm this for me?

Thank you.

December 7th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Heath MacDonald Liberal Malpeque, PE

Has an analysis been done? If Bill C-2 doesn't go through, what negative effect will it have on our economy?

December 7th, 2021 / 12:20 p.m.
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Director General, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Trevor McGowan

I would note that, in budget 2021, and as enacted in Bill C-30 of the last Parliament, the government introduced rules that would require repayment of the Canada emergency wage subsidy for public companies that have increased their top executive compensation between two reference periods. It started in 2021, versus 2020. Now that the subsidies are being extended into 2022, you will find measures in Bill C-2 that would extend the government's announced requirement to repay the wage subsidy for large companies or public companies based on increases in executive compensation. That feature is continued.

December 7th, 2021 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you very much for explaining, that was very clear. I can't always get my head around all the technical details quickly.

I would like to ask one more question, and it will be brief.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for companies that started up after the beginning of the pandemic to apply for pandemic assistance programs.

If I understood correctly, with respect to the extension of programs proposed in Bill C‑2, nothing has changed in that regard. Is that right?

December 7th, 2021 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Actually, it is two and a half minutes. I say that for the sake of transparency and to respect what was voted.

Mr. McGowan, I didn't find the final answer to my last question to be very clear, so I would like confirmation that, directly or indirectly, the Minister of Finance can modify the percentages established in Bill C‑2 with respect to lost revenue and subsidies paid out.

As you said, directly or indirectly, she would have the authority, by regulation, to include struggling sectors? Did I understand correctly?

December 7th, 2021 / noon
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much.

One of the purported goals of Bill C-2 is to support the tourism and hospitality industry. If you take independent travel agents as a case study, about half of the folks who are represented by the Association of Independent Travel Advisors have been very clear that they were being paid under the Canada recovery benefit program as opposed to any of the wage subsidy programs.

There's a reason for that. It's because they work for themselves. It's an industry that's about 85% women. A lot of them work out of their basements. Many of them continued to work in the early days of the pandemic helping their clients secure their rebates or travel vouchers. Many of them are working now to help as folks start to contemplate vacations and, in the interim, create bookings. Of course, they won't be paid until people actually take the trip.

This bill really doesn't provide any ongoing support for them. We know they are getting close to a time when they can support themselves financially, but this bill is an admission that this is a sector that has not yet recovered, and yet there's no help for those folks.

I'm wondering. What was the decision? What was the discussion around choosing to proceed in a fashion that would exclude such a high percentage of people in an industry that the government itself has said it wants to continue to support?

December 7th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

All right, thank you.

As I understand it, the minister would therefore have significant regulatory authority. If Bill C‑2 were to pass, the economy shifted and it was determined that small and medium-size businesses as opposed to large businesses, say, or a particular sector, should receive more assistance and a percentage had to be changed to ensure that they have access to one of the various components mentioned here, the minister would have that authority. New legislation would not be needed.

I would just like a confirmation.

Since my time is up, I will wait for the next round of questions.

Thank you very much.

December 7th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Very good, thank you.

My next questions are also for Mr. McGowan.

Mr. McGowan, can you confirm for committee members that if Bill C‑2 were to pass in its current form, would the minister have the authority, by regulation, to add other sectors to the tourism and hospitality recovery program?

For example, if any sector was facing significant challenges and needed a more generous assistance program, can you confirm that the minister would have the authority, by regulation, to include it in the tourism and hospitality recovery program?

December 7th, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I, too, would like to thank all the public servants for being here today and for the work they do.

I will begin with a reminder. Earlier, the interpreters reminded us that when witnesses read out a speech, it is easier to interpret if the text has been provided to them beforehand. Thank you.

My first question is for Mr. Baylor.

Mr. Baylor, I would like to understand the calculation used in Bill C‑2 to determine eligibility for the wage subsidy. I will use the hardest-hit business recovery program as an example.

As I understand it, for each qualifying period, the business must have had a revenue decline of at least 50%. If a business has a 60% revenue decline one month, a 40% decline the following month and a 60% decline the month after that, then it would be eligible for the subsidy for the first and third months, but not for the second month.

Is that how it works, or is there a way to calculate average losses over several periods?

December 7th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

Yesterday this committee passed a motion whereby we laid out a schedule for our work for the coming week, the purpose of which was to make sure the different questions that members had could get answered. I know that Mr. Poilievre wants an answer to this question. That question is best directed to the Minister of Finance.

We agreed on an itinerary. I think it's important that we ask the questions at a time when the witnesses who are present can actually answer them. These witnesses are here to help us with Bill C-2, and I think questions should be directed to them on those topics they can answer. Then, when the minister is here, Mr. Poilievre and others can ask the minister questions that are pertinent to the Minister of Finance.

December 7th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, as much as I love to hear the opposition member talk about this, we have wonderful officials here who are here to answer very specific questions around Bill C-2. Again, it seems that these questions are excellent questions. I think they could be directed to our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, who is scheduled to come before us this Thursday.

December 7th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, Ms. Dzerowicz.

The officials who are before us are here to speak to Bill C-2 and any of the technical matters within Bill C-2, any of the questions that should be posed to the ministry of finance or ESDC. There shouldn't be political questions posed to non-political witnesses.

December 7th, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I believe we have officials here who are speaking specifically to Bill C-2. I believe the member from the opposite side of the bench is asking questions that are more appropriately directed at our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

He will have the opportunity to ask her that question when she comes before us this Thursday.

December 7th, 2021 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Right. Bill C-2 has a $7-billion bill. That's the price tag. That's what I'm asking about. Where is the $7 billion coming from? A lot of people are willing to talk about how they're spending the money, but no one wants to talk about where it comes from.

Mr. Chair, how many witnesses do we have here? Do we have the number?

December 7th, 2021 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Mr. Poilievre, the witnesses are here, respectfully, to answer questions on Bill C-2, as we study it.

December 7th, 2021 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

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, and the webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the 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 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 of 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 two-metre physical distancing. Everyone must wear a non-medical mask when circulating in the room, and 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 provided hand sanitizer 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'd like to outline a few rules to follow. I know this is our second meeting. I'll go over these rules. I think at subsequent meetings we won't have to do this because everybody will know what the rules are.

First, 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 floor, English or French. If interpretation is lost, please inform me immediately, and we 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 or alert the chair.

Members participating in person should proceed as they 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 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, and this will also help the interpreters a great deal.

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 that we can to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members whether they are participating virtually or in person.

I would now like to welcome our witnesses.

From the Department of Finance, we have with us Trevor McGowan, director general, tax legislation division; Lindsay Gwyer, director general, legislation, tax legislation division; Maximilian Baylor, senior director, saving and investment section, business income tax division; and Yves Poirier, director, economic development, business income tax division.

From ESDC we have Elisha Ram, associate assistant deputy minister, skills and employment branch, Employment and Social Development Canada; Catherine Demers, director general, employment insurance policy, skills and employment branch, Employment and Social Development Canada; Benoit Cadieux, director, special benefits, employment insurance policy, skills and employment branch, Employment and Social Development Canada; and George Rae, director, policy analysis and initiative, employment insurance policy, skills and employment branch, Employment and Social Development Canada.

Doug Wolfe is in, but his sound is bad, so we may have some challenges there.

Also with us is Sebastien St‑Arnaud, manager, labour program - policy dispute resolution and international affairs directorate.

For opening statements from the Department of Finance and ESDC, we will hear from Maximilian Baylor and Catherine Demers for five minutes each.

The floor is yours, Mr. Baylor.

December 6th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Yes.

The government is telling us that they are not able to include what we were asking for in Bill C‑2, but that they will put it in another bill. So, we want to make sure that this will be the case when we vote on Bill C‑2. Otherwise, the bill will be missing a part, from our perspective. So we would like some reassurance on that.

December 6th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

No, this does not change Bill C‑2.

May I answer the question, Mr. Chair?

December 6th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Sophie Chatel Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks for the clarification. It answers a question I was about to ask. Indeed, any changes to the Income Tax Act are really the responsibility of the Department of Finance. I did not understand how the Minister of Canadian Heritage's proposals were related to the bill that the committee must vote on. It seems to me that the positions of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP on Bill C‑2 are more akin to a political argument. In any case, this is outside the scope of the bill.

I just want confirmation that this will not change what the committee has to analyze.

December 6th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

I thank Mr. Baker for the points he has made. Unfortunately, I do not agree with him.

The support program that would be proposed for self-employed workers in the cultural sector would come from the Department of Canadian Heritage. For us in the Bloc Québécois, this is so important that it will determine whether or not we give our support to Bill C‑2 at the committee stage as well as at the report and third reading stages in the House. Since it is the Minister of Canadian Heritage who has negotiated with the organizations representing the people affected, and since we are talking about a program or a bill that would come from him, it is essential that he be the one to come and explain it publicly to all the members of the committee and to the entire population.

We want to ask for clear and specific commitments on this and then get confirmation from the organizations representing those affected that this is acceptable to them, before we support Bill C‑2 at the next stages. We feel this is essential, and it will have a direct impact on our vote.

December 6th, 2021 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ms. Dzerowicz, Mr. Baker and Mr. Blaikie, for your comments.

Actually, I used the same wording as in (d), but that could be different. I'll get to that in a moment.

Why does the minister have to come and testify? Because Bill C‑2 extends the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy as well as the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, and provides specific support for sectors like tourism and culture. Most workers in the cultural sector are self-employed; they are freelancers. Because the Canada Recovery Benefit is not being extended, these individuals are left without support.

During the first negotiations we had with the minister, we told her that we should not forget these people. For us in Quebec, culture is paramount. We don't want cultural workers to end up taking training in other sectors and for the cultural sector to be weakened. What I understand is that the government would have a solution for these people. So I would like the Minister of Canadian Heritage to come and explain it to us here, since this falls under his department. We could then submit his suggestion to the self-employed in the cultural sector and make sure that it fits their needs.

As a friendly amendment that would suit everyone, I would be prepared to ask for a one-hour appearance rather than two hours. Then we could remove the date of December 9 to give the minister more latitude. Also, this was not in the original wording, but given Mr. Blaikie's point, I want to make it very clear that the minister should not appear at the same time as Minister Freeland, because that would take away from our discussion time with her. I would not want the committee to interpret from the wording that the appearance time would be split in half.

So I will reword it. It's still modelled on point (d), but I'll make some changes. It would say, quite simply, “That the committee invite the Minister of Canadian Heritage to appear for one hour, in addition to the length of his opening remarks.” It is understood that this would not be at the same time as the Minister of Finance and would not take away from her appearance time.

I hope I have answered everyone's questions.

December 6th, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The motion passed in the House states that the minister must appear before the Standing Committee on Finance for at least two hours. In the usual jargon, that suggests that she would be there for two hours, but depending on the wording, it could be for a longer period.

The committee and the House have two weeks left to pass Bill C‑2, so time is limited. My thanks to the Clerk of the Committee, Mr. Roger, for showing us the time slots available for the committee this week. As far as I know, the other committees will be sitting next week, so we must consider the issue of time.

I agree with my colleagues Mr. Chambers and Mr. Poilievre that there are a great deal of concerns and that we have a lot of questions for the minister. However, at this point, I would prefer that we limit ourselves to two hours for questions. If we then find that the two hours are not enough, we could invite the minister to a subsequent meeting to answer our questions.

At this point, given the limited time we have to tackle all the work we have to do, I think I'm going to vote against the proposed amendment, but leave the door open. So I would suggest that the minister appear to make her remarks and answer our questions for two hours. Afterwards, if we find that's not enough, we can discuss whether we should invite her to another two‑hour meeting.

December 6th, 2021 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

I'll start by reassuring Mr. Baker that I don't know how things work on his side of the aisle, but typically, for New Democrats, the study that we do and the witnesses we hear do inform our work on bills. We're looking forward to the benefit of witness testimony in order to help craft the solutions that we think would be most appropriate in the case of this bill.

On the case of timing, I want to emphasize that I appreciate the sense of urgency for those who will be helped by this bill, but it's obviously a much smaller number than it should be. Even within the affected industries, the lack of any kind of CRB-style benefit for people in the hospitality and tourism industries leaves a lot of people behind.

This is also the case for people who work in the arts and culture sector. If there is no financial support for the self‑employed, there will be a real problem, because this bill will let a lot of people down.

When it comes to the Canada worker lockdown benefit, the committee should probably know that I had the opportunity to ask the associate minister of finance, when he led the debate on this bill, if there was anywhere in Canada between October 23—the date that this bill is retroactive to—and now that would meet the criteria for the Canada worker lockdown benefit. His answer was, quite clearly, no. Unless something really significant changes, the government has designed a benefit that applies to no one. No one is currently waiting for help under the criteria for the Canada worker lockdown benefit. It doesn't apply anywhere in the country at the moment. It has not applied anywhere in the country since October 23. Members of the committee ought to know that.

What I said earlier, and I maintain this, is simply that I think it's premature to set a deadline. We don't have to set one today in order to set a stringent deadline tomorrow. The extent to which the government is willing to make some changes to its approach to the recovery, as it's currently put in Bill C-2, will have a lot to do with how quickly the bill can move forward.

I'm not in favour of setting a deadline today. That's why I'll support the Conservative amendment to strike paragraphs (e) and (f) from the motion.

December 6th, 2021 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you.

I'd like to move an amendment to Mr. Beech's motion. It would strike paragraph (f), removing the words “That the committee commence clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-2 no later than Friday, December 10th.” By consequence, it would remove paragraph (e) as well, which reads “That all amendments to the bill be submitted to the Clerk of the Committee before 3:00 PM on Thursday, December 9th”.

Can I speak to that?

December 6th, 2021 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

That was my understanding. Thank you.

First, I would like to say that I am very concerned about my colleague Mr. Poilievre's arguments with respect to urgent action. Many businesses, particularly those in the tourism and cultural sectors, are depending on public support measures and wage subsidies.

At the same time, we, in our role as lawmakers, have an extremely important duty to address this and to study it in depth, as my colleague mentioned in his arguments. It is disappointing that it took two months after the election for Parliament to be reconvened and that the committee was called back only today to study Bill C‑2. I hope that the study will go smoothly.

First, I would like to admonish the government, if I may use that expression, for being so slow in dealing with the business in the House. Second, I see the urgency to act for the businesses that need the programs that are in place. So it's going to be quite a challenge for us. We will have to sort of make up for the government's laxity. I'll come back to that in more detail once the amendment is introduced.

I'd like to raise a few points and ask a few questions. Perhaps Mr. Beech can answer them.

First, would it have been possible to have the Minister of Finance appear as early as tomorrow, Tuesday, instead of just Thursday? Why would she not be available tomorrow?

Normally, when we consider a bill proposed by a minister, the minister is there right at the outset of the study to introduce their bill. This allows us to have our questions answered before we question witnesses.

I have told some members of the committee who represent the government that I would also like to meet with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez. The Bloc Québécois is very concerned about self‑employed workers in the cultural sector. It seems that something is on the table, so I would like to get some confirmation from Minister Rodriguez. I wonder whether he could appear before the committee. He could appear at the same time as the Minister of Finance, for example.

In addition, the list of witnesses is an important part of the committee's study. The Bloc Québécois would like to be able to propose at least two witnesses. For us, that would be the bare minimum. Clearly, if we had the opportunity to propose more, we would certainly accept it. I'd like to have that confirmed before we vote on the motion.

Let me recap. Would it be possible to have the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Canadian Heritage appear on Tuesday instead of Thursday? Can I have the guarantee that the Bloc Québécois will be able to propose at least two witnesses?

Those are the two questions I wanted to ask first; I have combined them in the same comment. I will wait for the answers to my questions.

Thank you.

December 6th, 2021 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Peter Fonseca

Thank you, Mr. Poilievre.

I do have a speaking order here. I have Monsieur Ste-Marie next. Then I have Mr. McLean, Mr. Baker and Ms. Dzerowicz speaking to the motion that is before us on Bill C-2.

Go ahead, Monsieur Ste-Marie.

December 6th, 2021 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Chair, I move:

That, pursuant to the motion adopted in the House on Thursday, December 2, the Standing Committee on Finance proceed to the consideration of Bill C-2, an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, and that

a) The committee direct the chair to, resources permitting, schedule extended meetings for the purpose of studying the bill

b) The committee invite departmental officials from relevant departments to appear on Tuesday, December 7

c) That further witnesses be submitted to the Clerk in an ordered list by 10:00 AM on Tuesday, December 7

d) That the committee invite the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to appear for two hours, in addition to the length of her opening remarks on Thursday, December 9th

e) That all amendments to the bill be submitted to the Clerk of the Committee before 3:00 PM on Thursday, December 9th

f) That the committee commence clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-2 no later than Friday, December 10th.

That is the full motion, Mr. Chair.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 3rd, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, what a joy it is to be back in the House and be here for the rare occurrence of hearing the member for Winnipeg North speak. It happens about as often as a full eclipse of the sun. It is amazing. I am going to tell my grandkids that I was here to hear the member speak. It is actually disappointing that the Liberals have so many new members, yet time and again it is the same chap who stands up, as much as I do understand.

I will be sharing my time today with the member for Cumberland—Colchester, who is one of the new members we are allowing to speak.

We are talking about Bill C-3 today. I am glad to get a chance to get a word in edgewise, with the member across the way, but also to speak before the Liberals perhaps prorogue Parliament, call another snap election or use any other of their usual ploys to avoid accountability.

Bill C-3 is probably a needed bill, but it is an odd bill. Half is related to justice and the other half to the Canada Labour Code. I am not sure why the Liberals have put the two of them together instead of presenting them to the House separately. I hate to think doing it this way is a typical Liberal ploy, or that they are hoping someone will object to part of it, so they can scream and yell and say we are anti-health care workers. I know I am being cynical because there is no way in the world they would ever consider doing that. They would never try to wedge folks.

We have heard repeatedly from the government, and our colleagues from the NDP and the Bloc, about how much this bill is needed. Why now? Why not a year ago? Why not six years ago with the Canada Labour Code? Why have the Liberals waited? They have had the backing and support of all the parties during the COVID crisis to put through almost everything with unanimous consent. Why would they wait so long?

The labour changes the bill mentions easily could have been brought in before. Their delay reminds me of a great Seinfeld episode in which Newman, the postal worker and Seinfeld's nemesis, helps to kidnap Elaine's neighbour's dog and eventually gets caught. When a policeman comes to arrest him, he, à la son of Sam, asks what took him so long. I have to ask the same of the government. If it was such a priority, why would it wait?

We could have had this before the House, debated it and sent it to committee long ago. The election took place on September 21 and we waited two full months to sit in the House again. In the U.K., Boris Johnson was able to re-form the House and get its Parliament back to work in six days. It took the government two months just to get us here.

We could have easily dealt with Bill C-2. In the House today during question period, we heard the Liberals tell the Conservatives to get on side and pass Bill C-2. We heard them say in debate that we should help small businesses and pass Bill C-2. Why did they not convene Parliament to get us back to work immediately so we could pass Bill C-2? It is the same with Bill C-3.

With respect to Bill C-4 on conversion therapy, people thought it was Bill C-6 or Bill C-8, because it was brought to the House several times. It was killed when the government prorogued Parliament. It was killed again when it called an early election, which no one really wanted and was not needed, as we ended up the same. If it were that important, why did the Liberals not try to pass the conversion therapy bill earlier? They had six years to bring it in.

One bill I remember they brought through in 2017 as a higher priority than the conversion therapy was Bill C-24. At the time, and I was using another Seinfeld quote, I called it “a bill about nothing”. Basically, the bill changed the bank account the old ministers of state were paid from in the estimates process. I think it also changed the official name on the cheques from Public Works to PSPC.

This was a bill we debated in the House and tied up the committee with. Somehow the government decided that was more important than a conversion therapy bill. They had been paid that way since Confederation. The ministers of state were paid out of one small bank account, and the other ministers, technically the government, were paid out of another. We could have continued doing that and brought the conversion therapy bill then.

The reality is this: The government is not serious about how it puts forward its legislation. It delays, obfuscates, throws it out and then demands that opposition parties get on board and hurry up to pass it, when it could have done that a long time ago.

Generally, everyone supports the first part of the bill, on criminalizing threats toward health care workers. We have all seen, during the election, the blocking of ambulances from getting to hospitals and the harassing of health care workers. We have heard the horrible stories from my colleague for Timmins—James Bay, where a small-town doctor, vitally needed, was chased out of his community by these threats. We just heard from him about the single mother who was horrifyingly harassed just for getting a vaccine.

Therefore, perhaps we need this legislation, but I would like to hear more details. Apparently, a lot of this is covered already under provincial or other laws. I would like to see how the bill would strengthen the protection for our doctors and nurses and, as my colleague mentioned, for people who are just going for a vaccine. There are the doctors and nurses we have to protect, but we also have to protect Canadians who are trying to access health care facilities.

During the election, we Conservatives had, as part of our election plan, the critical infrastructure protection act. This would provide additional security from those protesting vital infrastructure, such as our hospitals and our rail and pipelines. We saw what just happened in B.C., with its supply chain devastated because of the cuts to the CN and CP rails. That was obviously an act of nature as opposed to protests, but protests can be just as devastating, and we have seen it be just as devastating to our health care when we do not have consequences. I hope my colleagues in the House will eventually adopt a law that would protect other vital infrastructure besides our hospitals, and also our supply lines.

Unfortunately, from day one, we have had mixed messaging from this government regarding vaccines and the COVID crisis, and it has led to confusion, fear and anger. None of this, nothing this government or anyone else has done, excuses the violence and harassment of our health care workers, doctors and people trying to access health care. However, what the government has done has not helped. When Canadians needed certainty, leadership and consistency, we got false information from the government, like we saw with the Deputy Prime Minister being admonished for fake news on Twitter.

It is funny. We heard earlier that my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, when he was out door-knocking, was surprised by the anger from the vax versus the anti-vax people. I felt the same thing. We had people threatening us with a shotgun if we dared come with that. We have all felt it, but he was surprised. I want to read something from the National Post for the member. It said that in January, the Prime Minister had argued against mandatory vaccines as “divisive” in our “community and country”. It said that in March, he mused about the inequality and inequity of vaccine passports. In July, he said there would be no mandatory vaccines. However, two weeks later, apparently led by internal polling that showed he could divide the country for political gain, he announced a mandatory vaccine, cynically just in time.

The article goes on to say that the Prime Minister's “flip flop on vaccine mandates” exemplifies “a governing philosophy based on political calculus”.

This is not governing based on bringing us together, or on trying to get the unvaccinated vaxxed by convincing them of how good vaccines are and how they will lead us out of the troubles we are in. There is nothing about that. It is using it based on polling to create divisiveness in Canada for political gain.

The Prime Minister, when speaking out against protesters, used the term “you people” when describing the protesters. Now, I might perhaps, against some of the people who are blocking hospitals, have used harsher language, but he used the term “you people”. Now, I note for our feminist Prime Minister that the website everydayfeminism.com says “you people” is a racially coded phrase. Again, nothing the Prime Minister has done excuses the protesters and their actions, but nothing the Prime Minister has done has gone to alleviate the divisions in Canada. He has used this to divide the country.

Apparently I am out of time, so I will let it go and perhaps leave it open to questions and comments to address the second part of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 3rd, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I will just continue with one of the most recent questions, as I thought it was of interest. The member just made reference to five days and 10 days. The idea of paid sick leave for workers is something that is important to all of us, and we recognize that. In fact, the member might make reference to the number of asks by the leader of the New Democrats, but he should remember that in 2019, the government actually instituted the three-day paid sick leave for workers. As it was pointed out, B.C. has seen to bring it up to five days.

One of the things the Prime Minister has consistently talked about over the last number of months, and probably from the beginning, is that we can try to learn things through the pandemic. That is why we are seeing before us the legislation that we have today. I will get into that in more detail shortly.

I wanted to start off by underlining what I think is a very important point. Everyone, whether they are a health care provider or a health care client, should feel safe when going into a health care facility. That is one of the two motivators for all of us to get behind this legislation and pass it through.

I am quite encouraged. To say it up front, in the last few days we have seen a great deal of optimism on the floor of the House of Commons. The other day, we passed the conversion therapy bill unanimously through second reading, committee stage and third reading. That could not have been done without the support of every member inside the House of Commons.

Yesterday, Bill C-2 got to the committee stage. Members recognized that it was important, because it continues to provide the supports Canadians need. This includes for small businesses, individuals and the communities we all serve. It was great to see the debate collapse and Bill C-2 go through.

This morning we have another wonderful debate taking place. From what I have heard thus far, we have had Conservatives, the Bloc and New Democrats talk positively about the legislation, believing this is the type of legislation that it would appear everyone can get behind. I can appreciate there are members who have some ideas in terms of amendments, and we will wait and see what kinds of amendments surface. I suspect there might even be some amendments today. Members are waiting for the bill to get to committee, where they will propose the amendments.

Having been a parliamentarian for a number of years, I have always thought that one of the best ways to get amendments dealt with is to share them as much in advance as one can, or do that consultation with parties on all sides of the House, making sure the department is aware of it. This is, as are the other two initiatives, a very important piece of legislation.

I reflect on the last election, and having gone through a number of elections as a candidate, I can tell members that it is not that often that we get real anger at the door. On the issue of vaccinations, what surprised me was the degree to which so many people were very upset. We could see the divisions even within a household.

I can recall at least two or three occasions when I was talking to a person at the door and the individual would be getting visibly upset. Someone else from the household would come and ultimately save the day, if I can put it that way, and lower the temperature. We have to try to get a better understanding of why that is taking place.

During the election we really started to see the protests. When I was at the doors, I would often to say to people that, whether it is members of the Green Party, the Liberals, the Conservatives or the New Democrats, we are all saying that people need to get vaccinated. All political parties, with the exception of the People's Party, were encouraging that.

People would ask about their individual freedoms, the Charter of Rights, and so forth. I suspect that, if the federal or provincial governments were denying people those basic human rights, opposition parties of at least one of the two levels would have stood on their feet to say we had gone too far. However, I am not familiar with any political party or individual member of Parliament sitting today who is saying that people should not be getting vaccinated. Yes, there are some concerns that some are not, but at the end of the day, to the best of my knowledge, I like to think that positive message is getting out.

One has to ask why the anger is out there. We need to expand upon that. What brought us to the point we are at today where that aspect of this legislation is necessary?

We can go back to March 2020, when very few people had an in-depth understanding of what the coronavirus was and its long-term impact, let alone its short-term impact. It was not that long ago when we were just told to wash our hands” Health care and science experts, at the beginning, were not saying that we had to wear masks. There was a learning curve, and it was very steep.

As we proceeded through the pandemic, we learned a great deal. Today, as a result, we find that people will continue to wear masks. I envision it will continue even after a year. Someone was saying to me that, if they were to have a cold, they would be inclined to wear a mask, as a consideration. I believe that masks will continue to be worn well into the future for different circumstances. It is not just something that will be gone two years from now.

I believe that people have a far greater understanding of why it is important to wash their hands. The 95% alcohol sanitizers are going to be selling well into the future because people will continue to use them. In the long term, this will actually save health care costs.

I used to be a health care critic in Manitoba, as well as a critic for a number of other portfolios. I would take tours of facilities, and I do not recall seeing people using the type of PPE that we have today. I suspect some of the things we are seeing now will linger into the years ahead, as it should. We have learned many measures through this pandemic.

If we look back to March of 2020, we were trying to get a better sense of the science. Health experts came together to make sure the advice they were giving to Canadians was right on the mark. That is why I consistently told people, virtually from day one, that I am not a health care expert, so the best thing they could do was follow what our health care experts were saying.

What we provided, as a government and as members of the House of Commons, was a first-class, second-to-none website presence through Health Canada, which was constantly being updated to provide the necessary information, so people could have a sense of comfort in knowing that the professionals were out there and there is a science to this. By clicking in, or by phoning their member of Parliament, Canadians could get an understanding of what was taking place and be brought right up to date. Provincial and territorial entities across the country, in all regions, also did likewise.

The problem was false news and people intentionally spreading misinformation. This is what fed into the whole anti-vax mentality. It somehow gave additional strength to anti-vaxxers. I was concerned when we started seeing rallies with people being bold enough not to wear masks in situations where there was a high concentration of people. People were coming together without masks to say that vaccinations were not the way to go. I would suggest that to think that did not have an impact would be wrong.

That is why each and every one of us has a role to play. The outcome of that misinformation, which provided an empowerment of sorts to those anti-vaxxers, was that it enabled them to espouse garbage, which is the best word that comes to my mind. We started to see protests. Let us imagine, if we can, some of the most vulnerable in society, the sick in a hospital facility, or those wanting to visit them, as there were limitations, and there were people protesting, making it more difficult for them.

Health care workers have really stepped up, working long hours and overtime, some of which was never ever claimed. Many health care workers got into that profession not because of the money, but because they truly care about the health and well-being of people. They want to contribute.

Those health care workers, and I am using that in the broadest terms, as I am talking about the cooks in our hospitals and the workers who kept our hospitals and long-term care facilities open, as well as the registered nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses aides and lab technicians, saved thousands of lives. All those wonderful people ensured Canada's population was, as much as possible, being provided the services that were absolutely critical to getting through this crisis situation. They prevented thousands more from ever having to go into ICUs. They were there, providing advice so people could ensure they could minimize the chances of people getting the coronavirus in the first place, whether it was testing, bed care in an ICU or the care provided in a long-term care facility. These are the heroes who took us through the pandemic.

I find it appalling that there are some in society who would actually protest people's entry into facilities, and the screaming and the yelling that was taking place. Whether they were protesting health care providers and workers, patients or visitors, they need to really reflect on that behaviour. We have to think about the roles we all play. During the election, there was no hesitation in my mind. When people would bring up the issue, I was right there, recognizing that people should not be protesting in the manner in which they were protesting. It was not right. Canadians recognized that, and this legislation deals with an important election promise.

I see I only have two minutes to go, and I have not even talked about the 10 days' paid leave. I am going to hop right over to that and maybe address more on it during questions and comments.

The federal government, a couple of years back, brought in three days of paid leave. In the last 18 months, the Prime Minister said to Canadians, and to Liberal members in Parliament on so many occasions, that we need to build back better, and this is a good example. Let us take a look at what Bill C-3 is doing. This is giving more social benefits to workers in Canada. This is something that is very strong and positive, and all of us should get behind it.

People who are sick should not have to go to work. This extends what we previously did in 2019. It was nice to hear that B.C. is following suit. If Ottawa were to pass this legislation, I do believe it would send the positive message to our provinces and territories that we could have better labour laws. If the provinces and territories get onside and support this type of legislation, then all workers in Canada, not the minority but all workers, would be able to benefit.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 3rd, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie talked about the importance of supporting certain workers during the ongoing pandemic. My thoughts are with the workers in the cultural sector, who will continue to struggle for a long time to come because we are not out of this crisis yet.

The Liberals are good at dragging their feet and throwing the ball in someone else's court, like the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Finance are doing when it comes to Bill C‑2. Will someone consider helping our cultural sector workers?

Is my colleague prepared to work with the Bloc Québécois in committee to advance the file of workers in the cultural sector by proposing measures in Bill C‑2 specifically adapted to their needs?

Small BusinessOral Questions

December 3rd, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
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Saint-Maurice—Champlain Québec

Liberal

François-Philippe Champagne LiberalMinister of Innovation

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question because it gives me a chance to explain something to the House and to Canadians who are watching at home this morning. One thing that Canadians and small businesses across this nation will remember is that we have been with them every step of the way through this pandemic, both at the start and during the pandemic, and we will continue.

I have one piece of free advice for the Conservatives. If they are genuine in wanting to help small businesses in Canada, why do they not support Bill C-2 instead of voting against it like they did yesterday?

The EconomyOral Questions

December 3rd, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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Saint-Maurice—Champlain Québec

Liberal

François-Philippe Champagne LiberalMinister of Innovation

Madam Speaker, I understand because earlier this year, I myself helped distribute food hampers to families in need.

If there is one thing that Canadians will remember about our government, it is that when Canada went through a pandemic, we were there to support them. We were there for families, we were there for workers and we were there for businesses.

The best thing to do, and this is the advice I am giving the member opposite, is to support Bill C‑2, which will continue to help Canadian families and workers.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 2nd, 2021 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me start off by echoing the statement the member just made. Let us shop local and encourage our constituents to recognize the difficult times that our businesses have had to endure over the last 18 months. One of the ways we can support them is to shop local.

There is another thing we can do collectively here in the House. We understand now that Bill C-2 will be going to committee, and I am hopeful and optimistic that we will see it come out of committee and ultimately get the support that is necessary to see it pass, because it too would support small businesses.

My question is more related to the issue of housing. We have seen over the years the amounts of money being invested in social housing, and they have been historic. There has been a housing strategy too, something that has never happened before in the history of Canada, at least for the last number of generations.

I am wondering what specific initiative the member believes would make a difference, from his perspective, because there are a number of initiatives already in place that are having an impact.

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

December 2nd, 2021 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 3:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-2.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from November 29 consideration of the motion 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.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 2nd, 2021 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, depending on the Conservative member of Parliament who is standing, we often get a different approach on the CERB benefits. Sometimes Conservatives will be critical of the government because of the benefits. Then other Conservatives will talk about how important those CERB benefits were.

What is the policy of the Conservative caucus with respect to Bill C-2, which continues to support workers and businesses in different situations? Does the member support the principle of Bill C-2? On that matter, would he also provide his thoughts on whether Revenue Canada should be collecting where mistakes are made?