Evidence of meeting #7 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 businesses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

I call the meeting to order.

Welcome to the seventh meeting of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Please note that today's proceedings will be televised in the same way as a typical sitting of the House.

We will proceed to ministerial announcements.

I understand that there are no ministerial announcements. That's confirmed.

We will now proceed to presenting petitions for a period not exceeding 15 minutes. I would like to remind members that any petition presented during a meeting of the special committee must have already been certified by the clerk of petitions. Once the petition is presented, the member is asked to bring it here to the Table.

Mr. Manly is the first one to be allowed to present a petition.

12:05 p.m.

Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I rise today to present a petition that has many signatures from constituents in Nanaimo—Ladysmith. They're calling for a ban on cosmetic testing using animals. They want us to follow the European Union model, under which the use of animals in cosmetic testing has been banned. Moving forward, they're calling for a ban on the sale and manufacture of animal-tested cosmetics and their ingredients in Canada.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Poilievre is next.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I rise today to table e-petition 2466, initiated by a constituent of mine in Stittsville, a beautiful west Ottawa community. The petition has collected 827 signatures from every province and territory.

It was collected by Cara, a mother from my riding who suffered an unthinkable tragedy. Her 11-year-old son Joshua drowned in a boating accident on the St. Lawrence River at Rockport, Ontario. Joshua was not wearing a life jacket. Worse, Cara's family had to wait 48 days to recover Joshua's body.

Cara is now working tirelessly to amend the small vessel regulations to make it mandatory for children under the age of 14 to wear a life jacket or PFD while they are passengers in or drivers of small vessels covered under parts 2, 3, and 4 of the regulations.

I support Cara's efforts, and I'm honoured to table this petition on her behalf.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Seeing no further petitions to be presented, we'll continue, and we will now proceed to the questioning of ministers.

Please note that we will suspend the proceedings every 45 minutes to allow employees who provide support for the sitting to replace each other safely.

Go ahead, Mr. Scheer.

12:05 p.m.

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

It was revealed yesterday that this government's policy was to ignore fraud. The Prime Minister's reaction was to act as if everything was normal. In fact, we've learned that over 200,000 cases of suspected fraud have been identified in the benefit applications.

The Prime Minister is failing our future generations. Our children and grandchildren are going to pay back billions of dollars that he's borrowing to pay tax cheats.

Will the Prime Minister protect taxpayers and immediately begin a review of these 200,000 cases of suspected fraud?

12:05 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Our priority was to get money out quickly to all Canadians who needed it, and that's exactly what we've done. Millions of Canadians have received the money they so desperately needed.

Having said that, I want to make it very clear, Mr. Chair: Fraud is unacceptable. We have measures in place to detect fraud. All fraudsters will be required to pay back the money they fraudulently received from the government. We're going to make sure that this is done in the coming months.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, Conservatives agree that those who need help should get it, and no one is arguing that they shouldn't, but reports indicate that the Liberals have ordered public servants to turn a blind eye to 200,000 cases of suspected fraud.

It's a simple question: Yes or no, did the government instruct any government department to ignore red flags or warnings of fraudulent cases?

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, the priority in this situation was getting money out to the millions of Canadians who needed it as quickly as possible, but of course fraud is unacceptable. That's why we have put safeguards in place to ensure that anyone who received that money fraudulently will have to repay it.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

It's a yes-or-no question, Mr. Chair. Did the government give any kind of instruction to public servants in any department to ignore red flags or warnings of fraudulent cases, yes or no?

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

The instruction to government officials was to get money out to those who needed it as quickly as possible. We have put measures in place to detect fraud. People who got this money fraudulently will have to repay.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, it is clear that he can't answer a yes-or-no question, so we can all assume what the answer must be.

In other situations, the government is saying “no” to people. It's letting so many Canadians down. Small business owners who don't happen to have a CRA payroll number or a business account are ineligible for the government supports. Individuals, owner-operators, and those who are earning $1 more than $1,000 are being told that they don't qualify for the emergency response benefits. Meanwhile, fraudsters are getting them.

Does the Prime Minister think it's fair to tell people who are following all the rules “no”, while telling government officials to allow fraudulent cases to be processed?

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, Canadians well know that this is an unprecedented situation, one in which we had to get help to as many Canadians as possible as quickly as possible. That is exactly what we did.

We continue to work very hard to fill gaps for people who should get money but haven't been able to, and, as I said, we have strong measures to counter fraud. Anyone who got this money fraudulently will have to repay it.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, when these programs were first designed, the Prime Minister said that he acknowledged that there were problems and that they would be fixed later. Well, here we are in May, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians are being told “no” for purely technical and bureaucratic reasons.

Will the Prime Minister make the simple changes to allow business owners who don't happen to have a business bank account, who don't happen to have a CRA payroll number and individuals who are ineligible for the emergency response benefit because they've been paid by family members through dividends to qualify, or is he going to continue to let hundreds of thousands of Canadians down during this pandemic?

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, from the beginning of this pandemic, we moved extremely rapidly to get help and support to millions of Canadians. That was the priority, and that's what we've been doing for the past two months. As we've said, we will continue to tweak and improve the programs to make sure that more people who need help will get it. We are working the best we can, as fast as we can, to help those millions of Canadians who need support.

May 13th, 2020 / 12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

You have time for about a 15-second question, Mr. Scheer.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, the Prime Minister indicated that he would support Taiwan's inclusion in the WHO only as a non-state observer. Of course, that designation does not exist. Participants of the WHO are either states or NGOs.

Will the Prime Minister support Taiwan's participation as a state observer?

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

The Right Honourable Prime Minister has 15 seconds or less, please.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, we will continue with our one China policy, but we have always advocated Taiwan's meaningful inclusion in international bodies where it makes sense to do so, and that includes at the WHO.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Blanchet now has the floor.

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves-François Blanchet Bloc Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

On Friday, students in Quebec and Canada will be able to apply for the Canada emergency student benefit, which is a good thing. This program was necessary, particularly because the number of students who won't be able to get back their jobs from last year is much higher than the number of jobs that might be available to these young people. There are also issues of duration. We don't know how long these jobs will remain unavailable.

People talked about a risk to being in the labour market and meeting the needs of the labour market. On April 29, the Deputy Prime Minister made a formal commitment to ensure that these programs are accompanied by work incentives for youth and all CESB recipients.

So that everyone knows what they're getting into, I'd like to know whether the employment incentives that will accompany the Canada emergency response benefit will be known by Friday.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

I thank the hon. member for understanding the importance of supporting students who, for the most part, won't be able to get the summer jobs they were counting on. Young people don't just want to earn money; they also want to gain work experience. That's why we're setting up programs, including Canada summer jobs, but also another program with 76,000 new jobs for young people in important sectors, so that young people can also get jobs.

We will continue to work with youth and employers to ensure that gaps in the labour market are addressed, while ensuring that youth are well-supported.

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves-François Blanchet Bloc Beloeil—Chambly, QC

That's very interesting, but it doesn't answer my question at all.

People in the fishing, tourism and agricultural sectors, as well as municipalities and, from the very beginning, of course, the Government of Quebec, more generally, have expressed fears that job gains will cause people to lose their benefits and discourage them from going to work. The only way to avoid that is to ensure that people keep more money as they work more. That is the principle.

In fact, we propose that over the $1,000 no-penalty limit, half of the earnings be exempt from penalty. Is this something that could be considered?

Since it's been two weeks since the commitment was made and it's urgent, can we act now? The emergency shouldn't last eight months.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Chair, young people need money, but they also need work experience.

This is an unprecedented situation, which is why we're working with seasonal industries and the different regions to make sure they have a sufficient workforce in their situation.

Students can be part of it, but at the same time we must provide the necessary support for those who can't find a job. That's why we continue to work with the industries involved to ensure that they have a sufficient workforce while we support students.

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves-François Blanchet Bloc Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Unfortunately, the spirit of it doesn't seem to have been understood.

I doubt that, even in the best-case scenario, the government will be able to get all the jobs needed in a timely manner for all these young people to decide to go ahead. So, first of all, there will be a shortage of jobs.

Second, people aren't crazy. If they earn less by working than they earn by not working, all the good faith in the world won't solve the problem.

Can we make sure that people keep more money in their pockets as they work more? I think we can have a clear answer, given the timeframe. People are going to start registering for the program on Friday. The principles are good, but a clear answer would be good too.