Evidence of meeting #5 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 support.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

1 p.m.

Liberal

Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Obviously, contact tracing is an important part of managing any outbreak. In fact, we have been looking at a number of ways to support increased contact tracing across the country, including working with provinces and territories to boost their capacity through human resources and volunteer organizations. We are working very closely with them to make sure we have the capacity.

The member is right that many other countries have used digital contact tracing apps. Anything we put forward as a digital tool to assist with contact tracing would be thoroughly considerate of Canadians' privacy rights.

1 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Let me clarify my question a little. Yes, we are talking about public health, and we are currently experiencing a crisis. But you know as well as I do that the Privacy Commissioner has been calling us to task for a very long time now, because there is also a crisis of confidence. You know as well as I do that for 90% of Canadians, the misuse of their personal data is a cause for concern, whether it be for profiling or business development purposes. This is an issue that concerns all Canadians. The commissioner is indeed calling for a focus on reform of the Privacy Act.

I'd like to know whether this commitment will be implemented quickly so that legislation can be passed on this issue, in this case the Privacy Act.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

Particular attention must be paid to transparency, privacy and ethical concerns. Naturally, Canadians are concerned about how their data is used. New technologies are subject to the Privacy Act.

1 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

We're talking about public health. The provinces are currently in the process of legislating. We're talking about what is going on in Quebec, among other places, and I would like to make sure that the federal government commits to respecting the proposals regarding geolocation and contact tracing possibilities, with full respect for the right to privacy.

Can we commit to respecting the provinces?

1 p.m.

Liberal

Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We have worked very closely with provinces and territories for a long time before the outbreak, but certainly ever since the outbreak. We respect the rights of jurisdictional authorities to use tools that have been properly vetted through their own provincial and territorial legislation. Nothing we would ever do at the federal level would put Canadians' privacy in jeopardy.

1 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Concerning privacy, there are 30 million Quebeckers and Canadians who have had their personal data leaked. Why is it that our laws don't allow us to apply financial penalties so that we can then go further? The very basis is to be concerned about our fundamental rights. The commissioner has been making this request for several years now.

As the critic for access to information and privacy, I'd like a commitment that the federal government will deal not with what the provinces are doing, but with the Privacy Act.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Your time is up, but I'll give the floor to the minister for 30 seconds.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Malton, ON

Thank you for the question.

Our government will ensure the privacy of Canadians is respected, support responsible innovation and take reasonable steps to strengthen enforcement powers. That's why we created a digital charter. We are strengthening Canada's privacy laws in response to the digital age.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll now go to Mr. Baker.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'll be sharing my time with the member for Malpeque.

Mr. Chair, my question is for the Minister of Seniors.

Minister, in my riding of Etobicoke Centre, we are mourning the loss of 40 residents to COVID-19 at the Eatonville long-term care centre. Over 143 residents and 88 staff members have now tested positive for the virus.

This tragedy is not only taking place in Etobicoke Centre but across Canada. Of all Canadians who have died from COVID-19, 79% were living in long-term care homes. That's over 2,000 seniors. This is a catastrophe, and it's frankly unacceptable. Our seniors and their families deserve better.

I understand that long-term care homes fall within the jurisdiction of provincial governments in Canada, but this is a crisis. What is the federal government doing right now to help protect our seniors who are living in long-term care homes from COVID-19? What will we do to reform our long-term care homes in the future to ensure that our seniors in Etobicoke Centre and across Canada get the care they deserve?

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Deb Schulte Liberal King—Vaughan, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to my colleague from Etobicoke Centre for his very thoughtful question.

We are deeply concerned by the outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, and our thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one. It's a very difficult time.

As my colleague mentioned, while these facilities are regulated by provinces and territories, we have been focused on protecting the health and safety of long-term care residents and staff while working with our partners in a team Canada approach. We've released guidelines to prevent and control COVID-19 infections. We're working with the provinces and territories to cost-share a temporary salary top-up for long-term care workers. We are working through investing $2 billion to secure personal protective equipment for the health of workers, including those in the long-term care homes, and we've deployed the Canadian Armed Forces to assist 25 long-term care homes in Quebec and Ontario.

We all have a role to play to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our seniors and caregivers.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll now go to Mr. Easter.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

At the finance committee, we've heard a lot of concerns from all sectors of the economy as a result of COVID-19 and we've been presented with quite a number of possible solutions as well, several of which the government has acted upon.

My question is on the support offered to the agri-food sector announced on Tuesday. It is very welcome support, but I sincerely believe the farm sector will be taking the Prime Minister up on the suggestion that $250 million should be seen as an initial investment. Potatoes are the number one commodity in Prince Edward Island. However, as a result of reduced processor contracts for next year, plus cancelled seed contracts, millions of dollars of seed and process potatoes have no home. To make matters worse, farmers have high fixed costs that they now have to spread over fewer acres. How does the minister see Tuesday's announcement addressing potato farmers' concerns?

Second, in 2013, long-term financial safety nets were gutted by the Harper government. Will the minister be coming forward with improved business risk management programs as a result?

May 7th, 2020 / 1:10 p.m.

Compton—Stanstead Québec

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Chair, I want to thank Mr. Easter, the member for the riding of Malpeque on Prince Edward Island. It's a beautiful rural riding with lots of agricultural production.

I want to recognize the hard work of farmers throughout the crisis. On Tuesday, I was proud to announce one more step for supporting our producers and processors. We know the importance of our potato farmers, and that's why we are launching a first-ever surplus food purchase program, a $50-million fund designed to help redistribute existing inventories, such as potatoes, to local food organizations.

On the financial safety net that we have in place for our farmers, called the business risk management program, we announced up to $125 million in funding through AgriRecovery and made changes to AgriStability that will help producers quickly.

I will continue to discuss with my provincial counterparts to enhance and improve the BRM programs. In the meantime, I want to reiterate that BRM programs, including AgriInvest, are there to help farmers in difficult times.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll go on to Mr. Johns now.

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, small businesses across Canada closed their doors to stop the spread and for public health. Now they're currently hanging off the edge of a cliff waiting for financial help.

Robyn, who has owned Arbutus Health in Tofino for over 13 years, can't apply for the Canada emergency business account loan, simply because she doesn't have a payroll of over $20,000. All of her practitioners are paid contractors, so she is ineligible. With no business income and without emergency financing, it is virtually impossible for her to pay her bills or come up with the 25% needed for the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program.

The government promised to be flexible and willing to adjust its COVID response rollout so that nobody falls through the cracks, but Robyn, like tens of thousands of proprietors who are the economic job creators of our communities, urgently needs the government's help now. Will the government amend its programs to help more business owners so that people like Robyn don't lose their businesses?

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mary Ng Liberal Markham—Thornhill, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to thank the honourable member for his really good question. I know he and I have talked about this, and I appreciate the input and the feedback that he is providing from business directly.

I want to assure Robyn and her businesses, and many businesses across the country, that we are absolutely listening, and we will continue to make sure we are supporting those businesses during this period. We know that many businesses are being helped through the Canada emergency business account. There are well over 550,000 businesses that are getting support through this emergency business account.

We also know that more has to be done, and we will continue to work with you and businesses across the country so that we can indeed give them that necessary support to weather this difficult period of COVID-19.

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Chair, that's not going to help Robyn feel comfort.

I was talking to Heather last night, who also owns a business in Tofino, Basic Goodness Pizzeria, with her partner Marco. Like many proprietors of family businesses who aren't on payroll, they don't qualify for the business loans. They don't qualify for the wage subsidy because they're a seasonal business. Now with the new rollout of the rent support, they're not sure if their landlord is willing to play ball and even apply. That's three separate programs that leave them out. Heather was in tears last night as she told me that they have done nothing wrong to deserve being excluded from these emergency programs. I agree.

Will the government fix the rent support program so that tenants can apply, instead of leaving it up to landlords, and so businesses can get the help they desperately need?

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Chair, we've been working on this program since the beginning. We've been working on offering a response for small businesses and charities and non-profit organizations, and we are continuing to listen on the ground to how we can better assist the businesses that fall through the cracks. We will continue to do that as we go along in this emergency situation.

Thank you very much to the honourable member for sharing the realities of his constituents.

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Chair, when the government rolled out its commercial rent support program, why didn't it negotiate an eviction moratorium with the provinces, as Australia and other countries did, to protect business owners?

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Chair, as we know, Canadians are taking action and fighting against COVID-19. We know that many small businesses are worried about being able to pay rent. We've recognized it and we've been working with the provinces and territories to implement the Canada emergency commercial rent—

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll go back to Mr. Johns.

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

To qualify for the Canada emergency wage subsidy, a 30% drop in revenue has to be shown. Anyone who's owned a business knows that even with this program, it's going to be hard to survive. Why is the government using a 70% measurement drop to qualify for the rent support program, but a 30% drop for the wage subsidy?

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Again, Mr. Chair, thank you to the honourable member for sharing his views on this program.

We've been working with provinces and territories to provide forgivable loans to commercial property owners, who in turn lower the rents for their tenants by 75%. We're hoping that tenants and landlords will be working together so we can support businesses during this very difficult crisis.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we move on to the next question, Mr. Berthold, did you have a question or a point of order?