Evidence of meeting #15 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 indigenous.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Chair, I'd like to begin by thanking the honourable member for Newmarket—Aurora for his question and for his advocacy on behalf of the safety of his community.

Mr. Chair, building upon historic investments that we made in the last Parliament in law enforcement dealing with guns and gangs, we took the important next step in our promise to strengthen Canada's gun control by prohibiting weapons that many in the law enforcement community, including the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, have said have no place in our communities.

There is much more to do. We will build on these early steps by strengthening our work and our laws at the border, by taking steps to prevent the theft and criminal diversion of guns and also by making significant investments in kids, families and communities where the conditions give rise to gun violence right across Canada.

Mr. Chair, we have much work to do, and we are committed to keeping Canadians safe.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

The next question goes to Ms. Zahid.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, in cities and towns across Canada, small businesses are the backbones of our local economies. They are also pillars of our communities. Even during these challenging times, we have seen restaurants and other businesses step up to deliver meals to front-line workers and make donations to our local food banks. So many have supported Scarborough Health Network's meals on wheels program. Their leadership has been inspiring.

I have heard from many small business owners in Scarborough, from dentists to small manufacturers, who are having trouble paying their commercial rents due to the sharp downturn in business caused by COVID-19. They are interested in how programs like the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program would help them to stay in business, but they worry that these programs may not be able to help if their landlords don't participate. These small businesses are crucial to our community.

Could the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade please explain why it is so important that the landlords participate to help small businesses make it through the pandemic and how we are working to make this program a success, not just here in Scarborough but across Canada?

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mary Ng Liberal Markham—Thornhill, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to thank the member of Parliament for her advocacy for the people of Scarborough Centre on this really important question.

While rent is an area of provincial responsibility, helping businesses across the country is all of our responsibility. This is why we have stepped up to provide rent relief to businesses while, at the same time, helping property owners maintain the rental income through this crisis.

We are asking property owners to do their part in keeping small businesses and their employees to get through these challenging times, and to take advantage of our forgivable loans in order to help small businesses that are the hardest hit by reducing their rent by 75%. This is a win-win situation. Many landlords have already stepped up, and we salute their efforts.

We will continue to do what we can to help protect and help our small businesses across Canada from coast to coast to coast.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

The next question goes to Ms. Kwan.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

The $4-billion Canada housing benefit agreement was announced in 2017. It's supposed to provide up to $2,500 per year to help families in need with their rent. We know that poverty and inadequate housing are barriers felt even more by black, indigenous and racialized people.

Can the minister tell us how many families have actually received this housing support?

1:55 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Families

Mr. Chair, I want to thank the honourable member for asking about this really special and unique housing benefit.

We introduced the Canada housing benefit as part of the national housing strategy to help people as a bridge to permanent housing, people who are in core housing need, are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We have signed agreements with provinces. We hope all of them come to the table to sign this really important cost-sharing—

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will go back to Ms. Kwan.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

It has been two and a half years, and families in need are still waiting. Only one province has signed on, and there has been no national consultation on how such a benefit program would even be implemented. With so little federal leadership, the Canadian Alliance of Non-Profit Housing Associations has stepped up and done the work for the government. They have outlined five key principles to guide the implementation of the Canada housing benefit.

Will the minister adopt those principles and get on with ensuring vulnerable families get the rental assistance they need?

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, it is really unfortunate that the honourable member thinks that an investment of $55 billion and the commitment of a 10-year federal plan of leadership in affordable housing and community housing is a lack of leadership. It is quite the opposite.

The Canada housing benefit is yet another important segment of the national housing strategy, which will ensure people have access to a safe, affordable place to call home. It is being signed by a number of provinces, not just one as the honourable member suggests. There are up to five provinces that have moved on signing on to the Canada housing benefit.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Then surely the minister can actually tell us how many families benefited from that program. The fact is that two and a half million families are paying more than 30% of their income on rent, and they have been hit hard by this pandemic. Reciting the same message box over and over again will not get them the help they need.

Aside from going forward with a housing benefit program, will the government prioritize affordable housing stimulus spending as a key component of any post-COVID stimulus policy?

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Chair, joining with provinces and territories and providing real help to members of the community who are experiencing homelessness so they can have a permanent roof over their heads is real action. It's real leadership by our government as part of the Canada housing benefit.

This is a real benefit that is going to households in core housing need, people who experience a core housing need and who need a permanent place to call home. The Canada housing benefit is providing real help to thousands and thousands of Canadian households. We will continue to provide that leadership in concert with provinces and territories.

2 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Well, minister, I would say that B.C. is still looking for the government to step up. We bought our first hotel to house the homeless in permanent housing, and the government has yet to provide any funding to them.

The next question is for the Minister of Immigration. The first migrant worker died yesterday due to COVID-19. Migrant workers are warehoused in a space with no barriers between each sleeping cot. Others are housed in crowded communal bunkhouses.

What action will the minister take to address this alarming situation?

June 2nd, 2020 / 2 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalMinister of Immigration

I thank my colleague for the question, and I want to extend our sympathies regarding the temporary worker who passed away from COVID-19.

Of course, we continue to support workers by ensuring that they have the accommodations and the spacing necessary to work when they are here providing food security for all Canadians. We're also providing support to farmers to ensure that those accommodations are made. We put in place the regulations and the rules that are necessary, and we continue to work very closely with our provincial partners as well as leaders in this sector so that we can protect workers and ensure that Canadians have access to safe and affordable food.

2 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

No one should have to endure such inhumane housing conditions and risk their lives to support their families. We rely on them to put food on the table for our families. They don't have access to health care and they don't have a pathway to permanent residence.

Will the minister do the right thing and grant migrant workers health care coverage and ensure the government follows up on the principle that “if you're good enough to work, you're good enough to stay”?

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

In fact, Mr. Chair, I would clarify that temporary foreign workers do have a pathway to permanent residence. Of course, that is an opportunity we will continue to offer those who are ensuring that Canadians have access to healthy, safe and affordable food. We will continue to make the investments that are necessary to maintain a high standard of professionalism and workplace safety.

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll now go to Mr. Arnold.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Chair, fisheries and oceans stakeholders and coastal communities face unprecedented threats from the COVID-19 crisis, and they deserve the support of all levels of government, including their own MPs.

Yesterday the Liberal and NDP MPs banded together to restrict the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to just four hours of sitting in the summer months. Conservatives are ready to put in the hours to support Canadians, while the Liberals and NDP refuse to do the work.

When will the Prime Minister tell his MPs to get back to work for the Canadians who need their support?

2 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Chair, we all agree that committees are doing extremely important work, and that's why committees are meeting regularly.

I would like to remind my colleague that the committees are masters of their own destiny and make their own decisions, not the government.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Chair, it took months for DFO to realize that fish passage on the Fraser River was blocked at Big Bar. Then it took them seven more months to tender a contract to clear the blockage. Now that contract has tripled from $17.6 million to over $52.5 million without a single communications post from the minister's office.

The original contract amount was clearly inadequate, so who ordered it?

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Mr. Chair, since we found out about the landslide at Big Bar, our government has been extremely active in making sure that the salmon have a passage through. We know how critically important the salmon are to the Fraser River, as well as to the indigenous communities along the Fraser. We're working diligently to make sure that we get that passage cleared.

So far, we've made significant progress, but we know there's more work that needs to be done. That's why we'll continue to work with indigenous communities and the province to make sure that these—

2 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Chair, the fisheries minister's mandate letter from November of last year directed her to make new investments in fighting invasive species. Half a year later, the minister has failed to deliver. Canadians on the front line of prevention wrote the minister, and when they got a response five months later, it was devoid of any help.

This government's delays are hurting Canada's fight against invasive species. When will the minister follow her Prime Minister's directive and make new investments in the fight against invasive species?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Mr. Chair, I want to thank my hon. colleague for the question.

Invasive species are a real challenge for our waterways. We know that a lot more has to be done. We're working diligently to find the answers to deal with some of the problems we are seeing from invasive species. We are continuing to monitor situations in waterways. I am committed to making sure that I meet my commitments within my mandate letter, and I will have more to say on that soon.

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Chair, the list of hunting and sport shooting firearms banned by Minister Blair's order in council continues to grow. What other hunting firearms does he plan to ban?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Chair, to be very clear, the weapons we have prohibited are weapons that were not designed for hunting or sport shooting but for soldiers to use in combat. As law enforcement leaders right across the country have said many times, they have no place in our community, and we agree.