Evidence of meeting #24 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

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Chair, the Conservative Party has been asking for an economic update for weeks. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Yves Giroux, is also asking for one. It is clear that the information the government provides to us every day through the Prime Minister himself, outside his residence, is too incomplete for us to be able to interpret it properly. The former Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, also said so.

This morning we learned from the Prime Minister himself that there would be no economic and fiscal update, but an “economic snapshot”, a new term he invented. What we have just learned today is quite incredible.

Why wait until July, when all parliamentarians will be at home with their constituents, when Canadians and Quebeckers will be on vacation and journalists will be taking a well-deserved break? The Prime Minister is waiting for that date to provide us with information. This shows a lack of respect for all parliamentarians here and for Canadians who want the truth about the expenditures related to the measures taken by the government. Why wait?

12:50 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Chair, we have known since the beginning of the crisis that it is very important to be transparent with Canadians. That is why we have shared information every day about our investments to protect Canadians and businesses. This continues to be our approach. We have to look at the information that we have and do not have.

So our approach right now is to inform Canadians by providing this economic snapshot. July 8 is a very appropriate choice of day. As our economy and our investments cautiously recover, we will have more information. As a result, Canadians will have enough information and we will be able to make plans for the future.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

I'm not making this up. Just this week, the Prime Minister said that an economic update would simply be an exercise in invention and imagination. We can understand why the Prime Minister would say such things, given that, for him, deficits are not a serious problem and budgets balance themselves. However, we don't understand how the Minister of Finance, who comes from the financial sector, would support that.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador provided an official economic update on June 4, 2020. Saskatchewan even tabled a budget on June 15. Quebec will do the same on Friday, June 19. On the other hand, our Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance are unable to provide us with an economic update. If this is an invention, as he says, how is it that the provinces are able to give us the facts so that all parliamentarians here in the House can make the appropriate decisions?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I think members know that we are in a crisis right now. We are dealing with a very dynamic economic situation. We have to look at the 10 provinces and the three territories to see how we can adequately deal with the current situation. That is our approach. A cautious reopening will help us be better informed. We will then be able to analyze our current situation. That will provide a lot of information to Canadians. It is very important in terms of planning for the future.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

We are going to find out right now whether our Minister of Finance knows the figures.

What is the level of the deficit since the beginning of the pandemic?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

We have made investments of more than $150 billion that have gone directly to Canadians and to businesses—

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Rayes, you have the floor.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Chair, now that we know that the CERB will be extended, I would like to know how much it has cost over the last three months.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Based on the economic snapshot, in the coming weeks, I will be pleased to inform Canadians of where we are—

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Rayes has the floor.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Chair, we will be voting on supply today. We have been told that the CERB will be extended, but the Minister of Finance cannot even tell us how much it has cost over the last three months. That is unacceptable. It is disrespectful to the general public, who are paying through their taxes for these announcements that the Prime Minister makes every day from the steps of his house.

How much has the CERB cost in the last three months? Providing us with that figure is simple. Clearly, the minister knows what it is.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, we know that about eight million Canadians have used the CERB, a very important program to protect them. It gave them $500 a week. So if we do the math, it is clear.

We are now going to extend the CERB to protect people. With a cautious reopening, I think fewer and fewer people are going to be using the CERB—

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will now go on to Ms. Dancho.

June 17th, 2020 / 12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, the Liberals announced the Canada student service grant over two months ago. The program was supposed to encourage students to volunteer in their communities with a $5,000 grant incentive for school this fall. We've received no details in those two months.

Really, there are only two and a half months left of summer, so it's now or never. Will this program be launched by the end of June, yes or no?

12:55 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member taking the time to recognize the importance of youth being able to participate. We have not only brought forward and modified the Canada summer jobs program; we have also created a suite of programs so that students and young people in our country can be part of the solution and help heal communities. The Canada student service grant will be doing exactly that.

Yes, information will be coming out shortly. We know that the “I want to help” portal will be launched—

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will go back to Ms. Dancho.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

I'll take that to mean the minister has no idea when the program will be launched.

This government is really fabulous at making announcements, but their follow-through is really not so fabulous. As a case in point, despite another exciting announcement over two months ago, the commercial rental assistance program, CECRA, has failed to live up to the Liberal hype. Fewer than 300 businesses have had access to this program in Manitoba. Only $39 million of the $3 billion allocated for this program has actually been used, which means it's only lived up to 1.3% of its potential.

Is the government revamping the CECRA program, yes or no?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, we've seen over the course of the last few weeks that the provinces have come on board and have decided, in many cases, to restrict evictions for commercial tenants. This has been an important part of the discussions we've had with them over many weeks.

In that regard, what we're seeing with CECRA, with the rent program, is that we're getting more and more applications. I'm encouraged with the pace that we're seeing it come on board right now. I'm looking forward to presenting more information as we have more applications.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

There is no incentive for landlords to sign up for this program. It's not working and it has very little uptake. The minister is aware of this. The program needs to be revamped if it's going to be effective.

My constituent Saralyn has been separated from her American fiancé for well over 100 days. Their wedding was scheduled for the end of March. Unfortunately, it was cancelled because of the border closures. Last week, this Liberal government yet again made an announcement that got everybody's hopes up when it announced that it would be allowing families to reunite despite the U.S. border closures. However, long-term partners and couples engaged to be married were unceremoniously left out.

Will this government allow American-Canadian couples to be reunited, yes or no?

12:55 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Chair, this has been a challenging issue. We have made every effort to restrict non-essential travel across our borders in the interest of protecting the heath and safety of Canadians. As the member quite rightly indicates, this last week, by order in council, we allowed for families to be able to stay together—married couples and other family members—so that when a non-status spouse came to the border, we didn't separate those families.

Mr. Chair, we're working tirelessly. If the member has a specific example and wishes to reach out to my office, we'll do what we can to help.

1 p.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

[Technical difficulty—Editor] in Winnipeg. In fact, constituents of Liberal members in Winnipeg have reached out to me, because they have received no response from the Liberal members of Parliament. That answer really doesn't come close to being adequate to make up for the hardships faced by these couples from the Liberals' inaction.

You know, I just find it really disappointing, although not surprising, that much of this Liberal government's action over the course of the pandemic has been a lot of substance over style, gestures over concrete actions. They're spending money like it grows on trees, and yet the Liberal finance minister seems completely incapable of doing his job and telling the truth to Canadians about the country's finances.

To make matters worse, they've shut down Parliament for the summer during the worst crisis in living memory, so we will have no opportunity to fix these broken programs or the new problems that are surely to emerge this summer.

My constituents depend on the competency of this government and the programs they announce. On behalf of them, I say this to this Liberal government: Do better. Canadians deserve it.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I just want to point out to the member that the measures we've put in place for Canadians have had an enormous impact on people's situations and an enormous impact on our ability to weather the storm. When eight million Canadians are on the Canada emergency response benefit, I think we can see the scale. When more than 660,000 small businesses get loans, I think we can see the scale.

To say that these measures have not been materially important is actually completely missing the point. We will continue to support Canadians even when Conservatives tell us not to. Even when they say the programs are not working, we will look at the real impacts they are having on Canadian families and on Canadian businesses. We will continue to provide support in the face of irresponsible challenges.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We will go now to Mr. Warkentin.

1 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Grande Prairie—Mackenzie, AB

Thank you.

The minister continues to fail Canadians. Eighty-four days ago, the finance minister said that there would be help for Canada's oil and gas sector. He said that it would be in place within hours, if not days.

This is for the minister: How many companies have now received the liquidity support that he promised?

1 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I think it's important to know that we have had literally tens of thousands of companies in Alberta among the hundreds of thousands of companies across the country that have accessed the Canada emergency business account. We've had companies from Alberta look at the large enterprise—