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.

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On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

We'll now go to the honourable member for London—Fanshawe, Ms. Mathyssen.

April 29th, 2020 / 2:05 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Chair, the government has decided to provide students not eligible for CERB 40% less in financial supports with the CESB. Why does the government believe that students eat 40% less, that their rent is 40% less and that their overall expenses cost 40% less than those of other Canadians?

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

The honourable Minister of Employment.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, last week, our government announced a comprehensive package of measures aimed at supporting students, not only directly through a benefit this summer but also by increasing Canada student loans and Canada student grants and creating a number of additional jobs for students. There are 76,000 new jobs, creating an incentive to serve a recognition that students want to be out there working, and that if they can't be working, they want to be serving their communities. This is a major wraparound investment in our students, and we recognize that's what they were asking for.

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Chair, has the government come to some deal they haven't informed us of to allow students to pay 40% less on their daily expenses or do they just think that students deserve 40% less?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, we believe that students need help, both in terms of a direct income benefit as well as support by way of an increase in student grants and increased access to student loans so they can continue with their studies in the fall. We've created an opportunity for them to serve in their communities. They don't want to be staying home this summer. They want to be working, and if they can't be working, they want to be serving in their communities.

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Chair, it's not just the students who have been left behind by this government. Many pregnant women who were laid off due to the COVID-19 outbreak are now wrongfully being denied access to emergency benefits. Some are even being forced to take maternity benefits early rather than access the emergency benefit program due to being laid off. There's a simple fix. Change “ceased working” because of COVID-19 to “unable to work” because of COVID-19.

When will this government listen to reason and do what's right not only for expectant mothers but for all Canadians who need help and make this benefit universal?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, the fix the member is referring to has to do more with the back-end systems at Service Canada and CRA, and we are working to ensure that no pregnant woman will be denied in any way her entitlement to maternity or parental benefits. In fact, we are working very hard right now, and I can assure everyone in the House that this will be resolved as soon as is humanly possible.

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

I'm glad to hear that, and I certainly hope to follow up with the minister.

Single parents who rely on spousal or child support payments as their primary source of income and whose ex-partners can't afford to pay due to the pandemic do not qualify for help through the Canada emergency response benefit.

Disproportionately, women take on the responsibility to care for children and are finding themselves struggling to pay for rent and food with no government or financial support. Can the minister inform single mothers across the country how they will help them to support their children without access to CERB?

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, we know that while we have made extra payments with the GST and the CCB, that's not enough for many Canadians who are struggling. As I committed to last week in committee, I'm looking into the particular fact the member refers to, and I will have a potential way forward as soon as possible.

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Chair, will the government commit to working with provinces to create paid leave for women exposed to domestic violence and adjustments to working patterns for women exposed to domestic violence while teleworking from home? Will it work to ensure that victims of domestic violence are not penalized through loss of income or their job due to their inability to telework or to go to work if their working sector is considered to be essential during this pandemic?

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, I thank the member for her very important question.

We're looking at a number of ways to support women. We've invested in shelters, but we know there is a lot more to do, and I look forward to working with the member opposite to resolve this issue.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

We probably have time for one more question.

The honourable member for London—Fanshawe.

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Chair, before COVID-19, current and future post-secondary students across this country were facing annual tuition fees of almost $65,000 per year on average. In 2016, students collectively owed $36 billion, $18 billion of which is owed to the federal government.

Now our students have an inability to raise those funds through work, which is threatened because of this pandemic. While it becomes increasingly critical for workers to hold a post-secondary degree, students today are being made to foot more of the bill for their education, more than any students in history.

Our students are our future. We should be making their education more affordable and more accessible. Will the government work with the provinces to eliminate post-secondary tuition fees through a dedicated post-secondary transfer that meets the needs of our public education institutions?

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, one of the first things we did in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to defer student loan payments, recognizing the anxiety it was causing our students to have to figure out how they were going to make these payments every month.

We're working to ensure, by doubling access to Canada student loans, and, quite frankly, doubling Canada student grants, from $3,000 to $6,000. Students don't have to pay that back. For students who get a special grant, students with disabilities and students who have dependants, the $2,000 grant is being doubled to $4,000.

Hopefully, this will address some of the debt concerns the member has. I look forward to working with her on other student issues.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Mr. Therrien.

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Chair, in 1867, Canada as we know it today was created. The Canadian Constitution was signed between two founding peoples, as stated at the time, the English-speaking people and French-speaking people. When Pierre Bourgault referred to the creation of Canada, he always said that, at that time, the minority status of francophones in Canada was institutionalized.

Over time, the idea of the two founding peoples caught on. Even Pierre Elliott Trudeau fought relentlessly to make Canada as bilingual a country as possible. Unfortunately, history shows that the use of French throughout Canada has declined drastically.

The Canadian government is the only entity that can ensure the use of French and that can put an end to this drain. We're “lucky” because the Prime Minister of Canada is the son of the person who promoted a bilingual Canada.

Health Canada recently agreed that goods from abroad could have instructions for use written only in English. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada said that this showed “a flagrant lack of respect for francophones.”

My question is for the people who are supposed to enforce the use of French in Canada.

Will the francophones of Canada receive an apology?

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

The honourable Minister of Health.

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

While the entire country is trying hard to obtain products during the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages of certain products on the shelves are becoming increasingly likely. In response to this situation, Health Canada has taken the extraordinary step of allowing limited imports of products with unilingual labelling.

We acknowledge the importance of sharing information with Canadians in both official languages. This measure is temporary. It applies only to certain products while we fight against COVID-19.

Health Canada is helping businesses provide information on these cleaning products in both official languages before they reach the shelves.

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Mr. Therrien.

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

I realize the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique situation in Canada. The problem is that it sets a precedent, and a precedent determines what comes next. Today, the COVID-19 crisis is being held up as an excuse to sacrifice the Official Languages Act on the backs of Canada's francophones and their dignity. COVID-19 is being blamed. It's the Trojan horse.

The people across the way are laughing because French is being trampled on in Canada right now.

What is the Prime Minister going to do to make sure this exception does not become the rule?

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

The honourable Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has the floor.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Chair, respect for both official languages is absolutely fundamental to our government. The legislation we bring forward, the investments we make and the actions we take to support Franco-Ontarians, Acadians and francophones across the country attest to that. In no way, is this a Trojan horse.

This is an exceptional measure in an exceptional time. It's not a choice. If we had our way, things would be different. This is an exceptional crisis, and we have to respond accordingly. That is what we are doing.

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Mr. Therrien, you have time for another quick question.

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Chair, the Liberals have opened Pandora's box. When that happens, it's the beginning of the end. All that is left in the bottom of Pandora's box is hope.

The Prime Minister said he hoped they wouldn't have to make any more exceptions. All they are offering Canada's francophone community is hope.

Can they assure us that this will not happen again?