Evidence of meeting #12 for COVID-19 Pandemic in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was report.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Chair, this pandemic lets us see what Canadians are made of. This coming Saturday, May 30, more than 2,000 Christians of all denominations are coming together virtually for prayer and for action.

When the going gets tough, Canadians get going. This could not be more true than with respect to what will be happening on May 30. This Saturday, in more than 2,000 churches and homes, thousands of faith-filled Canadians are gathering to pray and act on those prayers as part of Stand United Canada. They will gather through television, Facebook Live and Instagram Live. Then they are going to deliver much-needed support to at-risk Canadians who live in disadvantaged areas. This is faith in action.

I'm sure I speak for all parliamentarians when I wish success to Stand United Canada. I hope it inspires more Canadians to follow in its footsteps.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will now go to Ms. Harder.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

The best way to safeguard the truth is to allow people to speak freely, but from the very beginning of this pandemic, the Liberals have silenced dissent. Sadly, their short-sightedness has been to the detriment of Canadians. Early on, they propagated the notion that human-to-human transmission wasn't possible. They said that closing the borders wasn't necessary. They told us that wearing face masks wouldn't help.

It is undeniable that the Liberal government has put Canadians in danger by silencing alternative points of view and has spread misinformation. Ironically, however, they have now gone ahead and crowned themselves the arbiters of truth. They are spending millions of dollars to censor what Canadians can and cannot say. They are determining what is true and what is not, what is right and what is wrong, what is in and what is out. When freedom of speech is repressed, it is safe to say that democracy is under siege.

I call upon the government to restore the personal liberties that are granted under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is Canada. We are not an autocracy; we are a democracy.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will now go to Mr. Nater.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Chair, small businesses have always been the cornerstone of communities across this country. They provide employment and economic stability and are always the first to support community functions and activities, but small businesses have been particularly hard hit due to COVID-19. They have shut their doors temporarily, and now many worry they'll never be able to open their doors again.

With the season cancellations at the Stratford Festival, Drayton Entertainment and Stratford Summer Music, businesses in the tourism, hospitality, accommodation and retail sectors in Perth—Wellington are struggling. Every day, I talk to small business owners who can't access the Canada emergency business account, and others who find the convoluted commercial rent assistance program to be out of reach. The program is needlessly complicated, frustratingly slow and excessively restrictive. Mr. Chair, the government needs to go back, fix these programs and ensure that support goes to the small businesses that need it.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will now go to Ms. Collins.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Chair, Canadians have been shaken by this pandemic. It has exposed the gaps in our health care system and our social safety net. It has shown how vulnerable we all are when disaster hits.

It has brought us to a crossroads. We can go backwards to so-called business as usual, with horrific conditions in long-term care homes, widespread inequality and no real action on climate change, or we can build for better.

In Victoria, people in the community, organizations and municipal leaders have been calling for a new way forward. The City of Victoria has a plan for reinvention, resilience and recovery. Organizations like Greater Victoria Acting Together; Common Vision, Common Action; and Kairos Victoria are exploring ideas for a sustainable and just recovery.

We can build for better. We can invest in the infrastructure. We need to fight climate change, homelessness and inequality. We can build a Canada where we take better care of the planet and each other.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We now move to Ms. DeBellefeuille.

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Chair, in this time of pandemic, it is with heartfelt emotion that I want to highlight the excellent work of all the guardian angels at the CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the entire staff, as well as the retirees who have come back to provide their assistance. I admire the managers, at all levels and in all services, working tirelessly so that their teams can answer the call in this difficult situation.

My fellow managers and the management teams of the Support Program for the Autonomy of Seniors, both in home support and in residential care, you have my heartfelt congratulations for the herculean work you have done.

My thoughts go particularly to Lyne Ricard and Véronique Proulx, managers working diligently with their teams of professionals to support the seniors living in intermediate resources, as we call them.

I also warmly recognize the director of nursing services, Chantal Careau, who is facing the current challenge with passion and humanity.

Once again, my congratulations go to the entire organization of the CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest for their remarkable work in this difficult and very demanding time.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will go to Mr. Barlow.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

During the worst of times, we see the best in people. Heroes are born, characters revealed, resiliency is sowed. I cannot say enough about my constituents in Foothills—front-line health care workers, grocery store clerks, restaurateurs, farmers—for all they are doing to keep our community safe and healthy.

I want to shine a light on some of our hidden heroes, such as Owen Plumb, a grade 9 student in Okotoks who is using his 3D printer to build PPE for front-line health care workers. He partnered with the Rotary Club and Evergreen Solutions in Okotoks to help with the manufacturing and assembly.

There is also Sam Schofield, the volunteer president of the Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce, overnight built a resiliency website for COVID-19 by building training tools for businesses throughout his area. He also helped develop the Foothills Business Recovery Taskforce, which is a resource for businesses throughout southern Alberta in my riding.

Finally, to the employees of Cargill Foods in High River, I know this has been a very difficult time and that many of you have lost loved ones. I want to say thank you for tirelessly doing all you can to protect our food supply and keep food on our table.

Each and every one of you is a hero. Thank you.

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will now go to Mr. Simms.

May 27th, 2020 / 12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Thank you, Chair.

I would like to take this time to salute those who go above and beyond the call of duty to provide care and comfort to others.

In my 16 years in the House of Commons I have never experienced anything like this, when we find our lives are at a standstill and there is so much sorrow felt by families who suffer from the effects of COVID-19.

However, here are two examples of kindness right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Shanna and Fred Patey of Bishop's Falls, along with a few of their friends, spend hours next to the Trans-Canada Highway with just a barbeque and a cooler. They serve free meals for truckers crossing our province each and every day. So far they have provided over 1,500 meals.

There is also Mitch Strickland of Grand Falls-Windsor, who owns Appy's Diner. He has continually provided food for the local hospital and other front-line workers through his donations.

To all our front-line workers in grocery stores and delivery trucks, and to doctors, nurses, LPNs, paramedics, first responders and, of course, our brave women and men in the military, we will be forever grateful and blessed because of you.

Thank you.

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

That's all the time we have today for Statements by Members.

Before going on, I just want to remind all the members that it is a one-minute statement, so if you don't mind, please time it before coming in because we do have limited time.

The other thing that has come up is that some of you just naturally speak very quickly. I'm not here to judge anybody's way of speaking, but try to consider the translators and interpreters to make sure that everyone understands what is said, because they are working diligently to try to get both languages out.

In sum, there are two things: please slow down and please make sure the statement is confined to one minute.

We now move to Questions to Ministers.

Please note that we will suspend the proceedings every 45 minutes in order to allow the employees who are providing support for the sitting to substitute for each other safely.

Our first question goes to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Scheer.

12:30 p.m.

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

In the early days of the pandemic and the lockdown that followed, Canadians were told by this government that programs would be rolled out very quickly and that gaps and shortcomings would be changed as time went on. While many Canadians are being let down by this government's response and its unnecessarily rigid programs, Conservatives identified solutions weeks ago, yet here we are, two and a half months later, and many of these programs still have not been improved.

I have a simple question for the Prime Minister.

On April 26 the Conservatives asked the Prime Minister to change the criteria for the Canada emergency business account so that small businesses that don't happen to have a business bank account could qualify for those types of programs. It's now May 27. Is the Prime Minister going to make that change?

12:30 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Chair, we knew from the beginning of this pandemic that we did need to move extremely quickly, and that's what we did. We rolled out the Canada emergency response benefit extremely quickly. Eight million Canadians have had that as a replacement for paycheques lost because of COVID-19. We also moved forward on the wage subsidy and a range of other programs to support workers and small businesses.

What we've done in terms of helping small businesses with the Canada emergency business account has had a massive impact on small businesses across the country, but we understand that certain companies and businesses have particularities that mean it's a little more difficult for them to qualify. We are working with them through their regional development agencies, and we encourage them to approach their local RDAs, which will be able to help them get the money they deserve.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, these are very simple technical fixes that can be made by this government. There's no excuse for the delay. It's May 27. They've known about these problems for weeks. They're trying to get patted on the back for actions they took back in March, and yet they are letting so many Canadians down by not making these very simple changes.

For example, companies that have acquired another company in the last year have employees whose jobs are threatened. The businesses are not allowed to qualify for the wage subsidy because their revenue is now counted together. We have identified this gap.

Again, it's a simple question. Will companies that have acquired another company still be allowed to use the wage subsidy to keep workers on the job, yes or no?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, I know that there are many different types of businesses across this country that need support. We have moved forward on supporting as many of them as we possibly can, and we continue to work on filling gaps.

I know the member opposite has talked to me a number of times about a tractor company in his riding. I can assure you that finance officials are engaged with that company to see if there's a way to make sure we're getting them the support they need.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

It's actually a very simple fix. I can save him and his officials a lot of time.

The government used the word “amalgamation” when it announced the changes to that program. He can make this very clear, and save a lot of work, just by including the word “acquisition”. Will he do that?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, I can assure you that finance officials are working closely with Brandt Tractor.

They're continuing to work with a range of businesses across the country that, for various reasons, are not able to apply for the help we have now. We will continue to work to make sure people who need the help get it.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, it's literally one word. We can email him the text. We can send him the page in the dictionary where that word is defined, if that would help.

Another gap that is letting people down is in the rent relief program. The government has set the parameters to qualify for the rent relief program for companies that have experienced a 70% revenue loss. There are untold thousands of businesses that have experienced a 50%, 55%, 60% or 65% loss that are ineligible but have no capacity to pay the rent.

We called on the government weeks ago to have a more flexible sliding scale to allow more companies to access this program to keep more people on the job and more businesses open. Will the government introduce some flexibility to this program to help more businesses survive?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, from the beginning of this pandemic, our public servants and policy-makers have been moving creatively and quickly to try to get help to as many people as we possibly can, with our focus being on the people who need it the most. Obviously, this pandemic is affecting everyone and every business across the country in different ways, but our focus has been on ensuring that those who most need it are getting the help they can.

We will, of course, continue to work with the parties opposite and all Canadians to ensure that we're getting help to everyone who needs it, but our focus has always been on the most vulnerable, first and foremost.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

The floor now goes to Mr. Blanchet.