Evidence of meeting #2 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 chair.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Hallan.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The minimum $5,000 income rule to qualify for CERB is cutting out Albertans who have struggled to find work because of the challenges facing the oil and gas industry.

Brenda is a constituent of mine who was laid off from her oil and gas job in 2018. She's been on EI from spring 2019 until earlier this year. As her EI doesn't count as income under the program, she doesn't qualify for CERB. She has been trying her best to find work, but like other former industry workers, she's had a tough time. The challenge of building pipelines, compounded with the current pandemic, has only made the job search harder.

Why is the government cutting out unemployed oil and gas workers like Brenda from receiving CERB?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

The honourable minister.

12:35 p.m.

Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Employment

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am very well aware of situations like that of the constituent the member speaks of, and I can assure him that, if Brenda's EI expired since December 29 of last year, recent regulatory changes to the CERB would qualify her, in fact, for the CERB.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Does the government have plans for helping oil and gas workers who have been out of work in recent years and whose job search has been made even harder because of COVID-19, yes or no?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

The honourable minister.

12:35 p.m.

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Chair, we are very aware of the intense pressures that oil and gas workers are facing. Let me start by expressing the great sympathy that I think everyone in this House today feels for the people of Fort McMurray, who are facing a triple blow of a flood, the coronavirus and a deeply depressed price for oil.

When it comes to employing oil and gas workers, the support that our government has given directly for the cleanup of orphan wells, $1.7 billion, is going to put a lot of people back to work very quickly.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

The minimum $20,000 payroll requirement is disqualifying small family businesses and self-employed businesses. This includes hard-working truck drivers risking their lives to provide essential services, and they're being disqualified from receiving the CEBA loans. These are businesses that are most at risk from the current crisis.

Lisa is self-employed and runs a consultancy in my riding. She has worked hard to grow her business. She was planning to hire an employee before COVID-19 and to finally draw a salary next month. Now with the pandemic, she is struggling to keep the doors open.

Why are self-employed business owners like Lisa disqualified from CEBA?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

The honourable minister.

12:35 p.m.

Markham—Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Mary Ng LiberalMinister of Small Business

I want to thank the honourable member for that very good question. To that employer and to that business owner, know that we are working with her and with many across the country. We have provided many supports for business owners like her. If she has seen a drop in revenue, she can access the wage subsidy.

One of the things I've heard a lot from business owners like the one you just described is the enormous expense of rent. We have just released support for rent, 75% for rent relief for those small businesses that have been severely hurt during this time. We will continue to work to support businesses like the one you just described.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

A family-run nail salon in my riding is struggling to stay open because of the pandemic. As they don't have any employees, they don't meet the $20,000 payroll requirement for CEBA. Does the minister believe that small, family-run businesses like this nail salon are not being affected by the pandemic, yes or no?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mary Ng Liberal Markham—Thornhill, ON

Having grown up in a business just like the one the honourable member described, I can assure you that business, like every business, is at the heart of the work that we do. We are very much concerned about that business and all businesses in this country. We will continue to listen. The work is not done, and we will continue to ensure that businesses all across the country, particularly those that are contributing so much to our communities, are indeed supported during this important and critical time.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jasraj Singh Hallan Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Krista owns a massage clinic and the property it rests on. She was offered a loan from her bank but worries that she wouldn't be able to keep up with the interest payments, and on top of that the land tax, management fees and utilities. She would like to apply for a CEBA, but cannot because of the minimum $20,000 payroll.

Again, why are small business owners like Krista ineligible for CEBA? Should we not lift the $20,000 payroll requirement?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mary Ng Liberal Markham—Thornhill, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the honourable member for that important question.

The entrepreneur employer is at the very heart of all of our communities across the country. I don't think any of us could walk down our streets and not see a wonderful business like that. I want to assure those businesses that we continue to work, we continue to listen and we continue to find solutions.

One of the things that we have done to help businesses like this one is to make sure their costs are kept low. We've deferred payment for the GST and HST and customs duties for those types of businesses so that their costs are kept low during this difficult time.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Williamson is next.

April 29th, 2020 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Chair, democratic governments around the world had to relearn a tough lesson concerning totalitarian regimes: A government that will lie to its own people will lie to the world.

Beijing's management of the coronavirus has been called a “Chernobyl moment” by scholars around the world, including our own Irwin Cotler.

Will the government join calls for an investigation of China's COVID-19 conduct, as Australia is asking for?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, let me start by saying that I defer to no one in my tremendous respect for Irwin Cotler, who, I think, is a moral authority recognized by all members of this House.

When it comes to reporting on the coronavirus in countries around the world, it is absolutely the case that we all help our own citizens and we help each other with candour and transparency. It is also the case that we need to work together.

Having said that, I think all members of this House will agree that a democracy will always be more transparent than any authoritarian regime.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Chair, Canada's ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, has lavished praise on Beijing's COVID-19 response.

Does the government share its ambassador's high opinion of China's response to COVID-19?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, I began by saying that I think we share a high regard for Irwin Cotler, and let me say that I personally have a high regard for Ambassador Dominic Barton, who is the right man at the right place at the right time. Ambassador Barton is absolutely central to our procurement work in China today, and his extensive business experience is saving Canadian lives.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Grudgingly, it seems, the government is now open to reviewing the World Health Organization's response to COVID-19, but officials from this international agency have thus far refused to testify before the health committee.

Will the government join us in calling on WHO officials to testify before our House of Commons committee?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, there was nothing grudging at all in the very candid and important conversation our Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, had recently with Dr. Tedros of the WHO.

In that conversation she talked about the essential role the WHO plays as the only international organization that coordinates the world's health response, and we need that in a pandemic.

She also spoke about how important it will be to have a post-crisis review—

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Go ahead, Mr. Williamson.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Chair, Canada is grateful for Taiwan's donation of half a million surgical masks to Canada, to our country.

Is the government willing to support Taiwan's WHO membership as a condition of WHO reforms?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, Canada's one China policy is clear, and it has been the policy of successive Canadian governments. We continue to support Taiwan's meaningful participation in international multilateral organizations, where its presence is important. Taiwan's role as an observer in the WHO is very helpful.

Let me also point out that we participate together with Taiwan in APEC.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Chair, Canada's fish and seafood harvesters face unprecedented uncertainty. The fisheries minister has said it is up to each individual area to determine if fishermen want a delay or to stay on shore. While this promise has held true for harvesters from the minister's own riding, who are permitted to fish, the minister has refused to open up other lobster fisheries, including LFA 24, despite the fact fish harvesters voted in favour of going fishing on May 6.

Is the government aware that the fisheries minister is picking winners and losers by imposing a double standard on Canadian harvesters and adding to uncertainties in the Atlantic fishery?