Evidence of meeting #23 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

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Chair, nobody's hiding. Nobody's doing anything like that. The only reason my colleague is able to ask a question and I'm able to answer his question is that he's right there on the screen. We have this hybrid format that cares for MPs across the country, not only the ones sitting in the House.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

This is no substitute for Parliament.

I will ask my question again. When will the government table an economic update so that taxpayers understand what was spent, what is owed by our kids and grandchildren, and what the government's fiscal footing looks like in today's environment?

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank my honourable colleague for his question.

Canada's economy is still in a period of extraordinary uncertainty due to COVID-19. We have been open and transparent about the measures we have been providing to support families, businesses and workers. Even our health care—

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll go back to Mr. Williamson.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Except you have not. The Auditor General is underfunded. We have no idea about the total of government spending.

Again I will ask when the government will table an economic update so that we can have an understanding of what the government's fiscal footing looks like.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Chair, we have included biweekly reports to Parliament on the full cost and status of our economic response plan measures since the beginning.

I have said, and I will continue to say, that when it is possible to provide a clear economic projection, we will provide an update.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

What is the full cost to date of the government's COVID-19 relief measures, as the minister just claimed the government has provided to Parliament?

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Chair, we have provided support for workers, and 2.5 million Canadians have been helped through the Canadian wage subsidy. We have provided businesses with some loans, and 669,000 businesses have applied for these loans. Even for the CERB, we have over eight million Canadians who have applied.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will now continue with Mr. Bergeron.

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Mr. Chair, as the leader of the Bloc Québécois mentioned a few moments ago, the government promised $14 billion to Quebec and the provinces, but in targeted transfers. That is very little compared to the considerable expenses incurred to deal with the current crisis. But Quebec and the provinces don't just want this money to be transferred unconditionally, they also want a real discussion on a permanent increase in health care transfers.

Premier Legault was rightly concerned about the feds' interference into provincial jurisdictions. The federal government, which does not manage any hospitals or long-term care centres, must stop playing armchair quarterback and transfer the money to the only governments with jurisdiction over health, that is, Quebec and the provinces. Will it do so without delay and without nitpicking?

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Honourable Patty Hajdu Liberal Patty Hajdu

Mr. Chair, we know that the Government of Quebec is working hard to ensure the safety of Quebeckers and we are here to support them. As part of this co-operation, we have developed health and safety recommendations for workplaces, we have purchased medical equipment for workers and we have supported the province in developing its reopening program. We are continuing this important partnership to ensure the safety of Quebeckers and all Canadians.

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

The co-operation is so effective that the money is staying in the federal government's coffers. In fact, when the federal government wants to impose conditions, it always takes longer. We see it with housing, for which Quebec has not received a dime of the $1.4 billion it is owed. We have also seen it with infrastructure funds, particularly for public transit, water systems and water treatment.

The health crisis is now. The needs are now. The much needed reopening of our economy is now. Will the government finally transfer the money without messing around or quibbling?

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

I am pleased to confirm to my colleague that there is no messing around, no quibbling, nothing of the kind. There is co-operation between two levels of government. It is natural to have discussions with all the provinces and with Quebec. I myself am taking part in some discussions and several of my colleagues are taking part in others. There is a clear willingness on the part of the federal government to co-operate with Quebec and all the provinces.

That is what we are doing and that is perhaps what the Bloc Québécois does not like. It likes bickering, but for the time being, there is none.

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

We don't want to bicker, we want the money to be paid out. It is not complicated, for heaven's sake! We do not want a blank cheque.

Right now, the money remains in the federal government's coffers. There is $1.4 billion that should be paid to Quebec for social housing and is sitting in the federal government's coffers. We are waiting for money for water treatment and water systems, but it is sitting in the federal government's coffers. It's almost July. We are wasting precious months for construction.

What is the government waiting for to pay out the money so that we can get our economy rolling?

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

The federal government is a very active partner. We are discussing and working with Quebec on infrastructure projects. We are continuing our discussions and negotiations on the housing agreement.

Nothing is at a standstill. We are discussing and co-operating for the well-being of all Quebeckers.

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Chair, things are definitely at a standstill, because the money is owed and has not been paid out. Months are going by while construction is not taking place.

We need to reopen the economy. We need more flexibility in the gas tax program and Quebec's contribution (the TECQ) to allow municipalities to undertake work on city halls, community centres and fire stations.

We need the federal government to contribute to funding public transit operations, which have become a real financial drain because of the drop in ridership.

What is the federal government waiting for to provide real help instead of just talking?

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

When it comes to just talking, the Bloc Québécois has a lot of experience, I admit.

We, in the government, are working and co-operating. We are not waiting with our arms folded, we are discussing a series of issues with Quebec. We do more than discuss, we work and we co-operate. We are working on projects, not only in infrastructure, but in a number of other areas. Just think of the co-operation of our armed forces in the CHSLDs, for example. We are here for Quebeckers.

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Chair NDP Carol Hughes

Your time has run out, Mr. Bergeron.

We'll go now to Ms. Khalid, from Mississauga—Erin Mills.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Iqra Khalid Liberal Mississauga—Erin Mills, ON

Madam Chair, I'll be splitting my time with the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

During a consultation with the business community in Mississauga, the concerns of businesses, big and small, included the need for stable, affordable and safe child care. With the lack of such child care spaces, an economic recovery plan post-COVID cannot be effective until and unless we make sure that people are able to get back to work.

I've heard from parents across Mississauga that they're being forced to stay home because of inadequate child care and that they have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping family safe. More and more employers are realizing that good employees are unable to contribute to their business growth because of this challenge. Now more than ever, we need to find long-term sustainable solutions for Canadians who face challenges with regard to child care.

I ask our Minister of Families, Children and Social Development this: What is our strategy to tackle this ever-growing need for a national child care plan?

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Chair, I thank the honourable member for her question and for her important advocacy and work on this important issue.

We understand that child care is important to our economic recovery and our social infrastructure. We know the pressure that COVID-19 has placed on families, especially parents. That is why we're committed to continuing to work with provinces and territories to renew our agreements on early learning and child care, and to provide, at the earliest opportunity, $400 million in support.

In addition to that, the Prime Minister has already indicated that child care will be part of the $14-billion pledge to provinces and territories to assist them with respect to COVID-19 recovery efforts.

Over the next decade, we will continue to invest $7.5 billion, and together we have achieved the goal of over 40,000 affordable child care spaces. We are also committed to continuing to create over 250,000 before-school and after-school child care spaces for kids under the age of 10. We will continue to work with our partners in the provinces and territories to ensure that Canadians can continue to have access to safe, quality and affordable child care.

1:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Chair NDP Carol Hughes

The honourable member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell has the floor.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Chair, small businesses play a fundamental role in the Canadian economy. In an article in La Presse, the Minister of Economic Development warned us that the economic crisis caused by severe lockdown measures could have more serious consequences in small municipalities than in large cities.

Based on discussions with the chambers of commerce in my riding, it is clear that federal government assistance will be essential for the reopening of the economy, specifically for the rural economy. In fact, I would like to acknowledge the work of the Prescott-Russell community development corporation (PRCDC), under the leadership of John Candie.

After announcing almost $57 million to help SMEs adopt e-commerce, how does the minister plan to help SMEs and the business community in our rural areas?

June 16th, 2020 / 1:20 p.m.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Madam Chair, I also thank my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for his important question.

Yes, our regions are important and the entrepreneurs in those regions are creative and daring. They take risks, but they are currently facing huge challenges. So we are here for them. We understand their anxiety and we want to help them. That is why we have decided to invest heavily in rural economic development. It is also why we have doubled the budget of CFDCs and Community Futures organizations across the country.

In southern Ontario we have reinvested over $260 million in the regional economic development agency FedDev. In the great riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, which I am particularly fond of and where there is a very good member of Parliament, there is an additional $1 million for entrepreneurs in the region.

We have been, we are and we will be at your side.

1:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Chair NDP Carol Hughes

The honourable member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell has 36 seconds left.

No? Then we'll go to the honourable member for Elmwood—Transcona.

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'll be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.

Madam Chair, Krystal is a community worker in Winnipeg. She has been working from home since late March, taking care of her child, who is out of school, and caring for her father, who is living with her and vulnerable to COVID-19. Her employer called her up recently and asked her to physically return to work or to take a leave.

As a parent and a care provider to a vulnerable person, she's not comfortable with physically returning to work. Service Canada won't give Krystal a straight answer as to whether going on leave and collecting CERB would count as refusing “a reasonable job offer.” With Bill C-17 looming in the background, Krystal is worried about jail time and fines if she does right by her child and her father by applying for CERB.

Can Krystal reasonably refuse to go back to work and collect CERB, or will she be considered a fraudster? That's my question for the minister that is specific to Krystal's case.

As well, what is the minister doing to provide clear direction to Canadians and to Service Canada agents so that people can get a clear answer before making their decision about returning to work?