Evidence of meeting #4 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 crisis.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The honourable member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan has the floor.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Chair, yesterday's announcement by the government of $252 million in financial assistance to Canada's agri-food sector was completely misleading. I say that because $125 million of that figure had already been budgeted, so the money was not new.

Will the minister confirm today that only half of yesterday's funding announcement was new money?

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Chair, the risk management programs do not involve money that has already been committed. Those are insurance programs—no more and no less—that provide insurance for various disasters, including a decrease in income or a loss caused by a natural disaster. It is wrong to say that the money set aside for the AgriRecovery program was already on the table. We really needed to make a commitment, with the provinces' agreement, to dedicate $50 million for pork producers and $50 million for beef producers.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Chair, this was not new money because the money, $125 million, had already been budgeted. If you've already previously budgeted money, you cannot consider the rest of it to be new. At best, yesterday's announcement was a repackaging or a reannouncement of previously announced funding.

Does this government have plans to announce new money and new initiatives of a financial nature for Canada's agri-food sector?

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Chair, the agriculture sector is hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Every day—morning, noon and evening—I work with our producers, with their representatives and with my colleagues. We want to find the best ways to help those producers.

Yesterday, we made extremely important announcements for the meat sector—pork, beef and processing—and for the repurchase of food surpluses that will be directed to our food banks.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Chair, when will new financial assistance for Canada's agri-food sector be coming?

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Chair, we continue to work with the sector to find the best mechanisms to help the producers to complement risk management programs already available to our producers.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Chair, the question was “When?”

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

That will be done as soon as possible.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Chair, I'd like to know from the minister her definition of “imminent and soon”. When will the money be coming?

May 6th, 2020 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Chair, I don't have an exact answer for my colleague. We are working day and night, during the week and on the weekends, to find the best mechanisms.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Chair, Canada's agri-food sector and our farmers are in crisis. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has estimated that $2.6 billion is required. Yesterday's announcement was only a pittance of that.

What do the minister and her government think Canada's food supply chain is actually worth?

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Chair, our food supply chain is clearly an essential service. Food security in the country is an absolute priority. That is why programs are already available. I also encourage all producers to sign up for the AgriStability program. The deadline for signing up has been extended to July 3. We also give them the opportunity to get an advance payment of 75%, and not only 50%, in the provinces that have accepted. They also have the opportunity....

2 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Madam Chair, one thing that is apparent is that this pandemic does not impair the government's ability to obfuscate. Let me ask another question, and hopefully we can get a clear answer.

Yesterday's announcement indicated that $77.5 million would go to food processing plants for PPE equipment to help protect workers, to redesign and refit processing plants for health concerns and to make stricter controls. When will that money become available?

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Chair, a few details need to be worked out. After this announcement, we wanted to take the time to engage in discussions with the stakeholders and the affected sectors to ensure that we are implementing the correct criteria. I can assure you that this will be done as quickly as possible.

Our processing plants now know that they will be able to count on a federal contribution to make accommodations to protect workers and to increase their capacities.

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

We will recognize Mr. Lawrence.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Chair, in these unprecedented times, I am glad that I'm redefining “backbencher”, as I'm actually behind the Speaker.

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

2 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Chair, times are really difficult for farmers, particularly in my riding of Northumberland—Peterborough South. Farmers are coming to me and saying that times are so tough they're considering not even planting their crops.

In that context, one of the things they come to me about, over and over again, is the carbon tax. The government recently decided to increase the carbon tax. There was a study done, as was reported in the media. Will the minister commit today to giving the results of that study to the Canadian people?

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I give the floor to the Honourable Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance.

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Chair, we know that small businesses and farmers are facing significant challenges due to a sudden reduction in sales or in their crops. That's why we are providing immediate assistance by deferring any payments on GST, HST and customs duties over the next three months. For over 3.2 million businesses and self-employed Canadians, this measure will help provide them with the cash to continue operating.

2 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Chair, as reported in the media, there was a study done by Agriculture Canada with respect to the carbon tax. Will that carbon tax study be shared with Parliament, and through us, with the people of Canada?

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Chair, I have a better sheet now to answer my honourable colleague's question.

Our most urgent priority, of course, in COVID-19 is the health and safety of Canadians, and that's why we are supporting Canadians through this time. We also have to ensure long-term economic, environmental and physical well-being. Putting a price on pollution is a critical part of Canada's plan to tackle climate change. It is the most affordable and effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Chair, if the minister will not commit to giving us the study results, will the minister tell us how much the carbon tax cost farmers in 2019 and how much it will cost in 2020? We know you know.

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Chair, our system provides money directly to families when they file their taxes and leaves the vast majority of families with more money in their pockets, with low-income and medium-income families benefiting the most. We are also providing support to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as municipalities, hospitals, schools and indigenous communities to ensure that they can save money while lowering their emissions. Through our plan, a family of four will receive more investments in their pockets.