Evidence of meeting #38 for Health in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marie-Hélène Sauvé  Legislative Clerk
Lynne Tomson  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of Health
Gillian Pranke  Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit and Service Branch, Canada Revenue Agency
Nadine Leblanc  Senior Vice-President, Policy, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

The name-calling is totally unnecessary.

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Ellis Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Oh, wow.

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Go ahead, Dr. Ellis.

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Ellis Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.

That being said, I think that moving on with respect to the serious business we have in front of us of spending now perhaps more than $1 billion, from the ridiculous perspective that we're unable to even have a debate here—that we're just wasting time in a committee—doesn't make any sense to me.

Once again, here we are. What kinds of games are we playing? We have no witnesses for a multi-billion dollar bill. We have the inability to even have the rulings of the chair respected. Is this really the type of parliamentary committee...?

I mean, I've said it once before, and perhaps I'll say it again. I thought we had a reasonably functioning committee here. This is utter ridiculousness with respect to this committee not being able to do its work. We have legislation now that has a guillotine motion. We have the inability to accept rulings of the chair. We obviously have difficulties in terms of what is right, what is left, and what is up or down. What are the rules of this committee? I guess that's the question that continues to be played out here.

From my perspective, as I said, if there really is a difficulty with committee time and all we're doing here is wasting committee time, I don't want to do that on behalf of Canadians.

I think we should be cognizant of spending $1 billion. In my mind, $1 billion is a lot of money. Now we're simply adding to the cost of this bill in a willy-nilly fashion, with rules that are being challenged on the floor—from one perspective. From the other perspective, it's “Well, no, that's fine. Let's go ahead and do it.” Wow. Is that really what Canadians expect from the Liberals on this committee? Is that what your constituents expect from you? If it is, it makes no sense to me.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Dr. Powlowski, go ahead, please.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marcus Powlowski Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

I think you clarified this earlier. If something needs royal recommendation, then however we vote here, it's still going to go back to the House. It needs support from the House before it goes into the legislation. Am I not right on that?

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

That's correct.

Mr. van Koeverden, go ahead.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

I don't have anything to contribute.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Dr. Hanley, go ahead.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brendan Hanley Liberal Yukon, YT

Thanks. I just want to point out a few things.

One is bringing us back to the affordability crisis. I believe that there is some urgency to getting help to Canadians. We are in a crisis of affordability, and this is an opportunity to work together to move forward. I will point out that there were opportunities for anyone, any party, to bring amendments to this committee.

I also want to point out that, in this case, I think MP Kwan pointed out an area where there was an extra vulnerability. In changing the threshold from 75% to 90%, we have an opportunity, again, for that targeted intervention that Canadians need and I think are depending on us for.

I support this amendment. Thank you.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Dr. Hanley.

Mrs. Goodridge, go ahead.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Laila Goodridge Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Mr. Chair, tonight I am thinking about my dad quite a bit, clearly because I'm going to share another one of the phrases he used to repeat to us all the time. It was, “A lack of planning on your part does not make for an emergency on my part.” I understand the timelines that are related to this bill, but we had literally 11 hours discussing this bill. If this was such a key, pinnacle piece of legislation, the government could have introduced it weeks earlier. It chose not to. It chose to use a guillotine motion. It chose to allow us to have two hours of witnesses before the committee to study this.

I was looking up, just for my own interest, Bill C‑11, which was almost verbatim to what it had been in the previous Parliament. It was studied in the previous Parliament. Parliament fell, and then it got brought back. It was allowed to have 80 witnesses come to committee. I think that perhaps that was a little excessive, but we were allowed to have two, and they were ministers.

Frankly speaking, I understand that there is a timeline, but this is a timeline that was fully within the control of the Government of Canada. It was fully within the control of the ministers who brought this legislation forward. Had the government House leader done his due diligence, he would have brought this legislation forward much earlier and we would have had an opportunity to provide more meaningful contribution to and study of this bill rather than be pushed into an absolute corner.

I'm sorry. I think this entire process highlights that this is broken. We're not even following our own Standing Orders. This is a sham and an absolute shame.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Go ahead, Mr. Doherty.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

To Mr. Hanley's comment, as I said, there's no disputing that. I think that there are people who could probably use that, but we have seven people here. I've never been part of a committee doing a legislative review where seven people can commit the government to a substantial amount of funds, not even the minister.

I get that it has to go back to the House, Mr. Powlowski, but it's crazy that.... Here we are. Cabinet obviously doesn't have a say in this. The ministers are not here—unless this was, again, as I said, preordained and it's already been put in place and everybody knows, except for those of us on this side, what's going on. What a waste of time. All these people who are here could be at home with their families. Mrs. Goodridge could be home with her son.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Laila Goodridge Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

I could FaceTime him.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

You could FaceTime him.

Again, I hold out hope that we can have further debate on Thursday regarding this. I would ask, Mr. Chair, through you to our witnesses, that, prior to the further debate on this, the departments do the homework and can provide the members of this committee with the cost of the bump from 75% to 90% so that we can have an educated debate and discussion on this moving forward.

I'm blown away that seven people on a parliamentary committee can commit our government to a substantial amount of money, when our colleague from the Bloc had reasonable amendments but, for the very same reason, they were voted down, only because he's not part of the Liberal-NDP coalition.

It is going to be costly. I'm trying to take a reasonable approach to this, but clearly reason and common sense are out the door because the deal is done.

It's frustrating, because we are here to do a job. Canadians send 338 members of Parliament to do their job and to ask the hard questions, the tough questions, not to ram things down and not to have a false majority. It really is disappointing.

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Go ahead, Mr. Garon.

8:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Mr. Chair, everything is predetermined here. At least we know the Liberals were told how they should vote. This is a directive that comes from the top. Parliamentarians are physically present, but a higher authority has already decided when they should raise their hands or keep them down.

I would never reveal anything that was said in camera. That said, last week we agreed in public to hear witnesses for four hours, yet we haven't had any witnesses here today; the ministers don't count, because they're not answering our questions. By definition, a witness is someone who answers questions. We haven't had any answers today. So what has happened in the meantime? We're not allowed to say. In any case, we see that we haven't heard from any witnesses today. What has happened so that today we are debating an amendment that requires a royal recommendation?

I'm getting to the substance of the amendment, Mr. Chair. You'll see that it's relevant.

As we've said many times, the bill was poorly written. It's the result of sloppy work, done at the last minute, scribbled on a napkin at the end of the summer, when the NDP leader pouted and threatened the government that if there wasn't a dental program, they wouldn't support the government anymore and would end their deal. I can understand the NDP pushing because they have a fight to fight and they have every right to do so. The bottom line is that the work wasn't done well.

Let me explain what happened. First of all, we supported the principle of the bill. There are people who are familiar with the housing situation. I'm talking about people who represent housing groups or housing co-operatives, for example, and who deal with Quebeckers and Canadians in need on a daily basis. They probably called the NDP members to tell them what they thought. They were amazed at how poorly the coalition had done and how, after the NDP had fought for it, they had forgotten about the people who were struggling to find housing, the seniors and other categories of people.

As a result, today we are amending the rules. The bill already contains overly complex calculation methods. Don't tell me that the Liberal members, after consulting their cell phones, suddenly decided to vote in favour of the amendment. They received the text of the amendment several days ago. The decision comes from the top. My colleagues on the other side have made no decision; they're doing what they're told to do. That's what happens.

The chair first ruled that the amendment, because of its substance, required a royal recommendation. Then we voted to reverse that ruling, after which the Liberal member Mr. Hanley, whom I particularly like, said that it was because there was—in his words—an extra vulnerability. I find that frustrating.

For our part, we proposed an amendment specifying that this housing support left out some 87,000 Quebeckers. No one at that time said that it was an extra vulnerability. No one stood up or raised their hand to defend Quebeckers. No one has defended the Quebec model of social housing and low-cost housing, which allows us to house more people at a reasonable price. Why? Because the Prime Minister's Office told them not to support the Bloc Québécois to defend Quebeckers. The Bloc Québécois amendment would have allowed even more people to be included.

I understand the Conservatives' reasoning that this would increase spending, but this is one-time assistance. If we're going to help people, let's help the most vulnerable. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that a ton of vulnerable and low-income people were being left behind. When I challenged the chair's ruling on my amendment, what did the Conservatives do? They just sat there. None of my colleagues dared look me in the eye. That's sort of a testament to their judgment, because it probably means that they're ashamed that they didn't stand up for Quebeckers.

Personally, I'm in favour of the amendment because it accomplishes a small part of what the Bloc Québécois amendment sought to do.

The NDP probably called the government, and it was decided to give in to cronyism, rather than provide universal assistance. That's where we're at today.

When we say that equity, justice, redistribution, social justice and access to housing are important values, we aren't giving in to cronyism. Instead, we're raising our hands to show that we're in favour of it. The resulting decision can then be debated in the House, and perhaps the approval of the two ministers in question will be required. In any case, we're raising our hands in favour of what helps people.

We are reduced to accepting this amendment. However, it must be made clear that this amendment will help fewer people, compared to the Bloc Québécois amendment, which would have helped more people and which no Liberal member showed their support by raising their hand. That is what we deplore, and that is what the Conservatives deplore, despite our ideological differences.

What are we doing in committee? We put forward reasonable amendments that took people's needs into account and that even reflected the spirit of the bill. Because the Liberals didn't receive an order from the top to vote in favour of these amendments, they decided to vote against the spirit of their own bill. In doing so, we are reduced to cronyism.

Do you know what? We're going to pass it anyway, because people are important to us. It's better to bring more of them into the fold than to forget all of them. However, we aren't happy with the result we are seeing today: we are reduced to cronyism. The chair's ruling was overturned in order to adopt these amendments piecemeal. In fact, we wouldn't even be discussing these amendments if we had deleted proposed paragraph 4(1)(g), because the content of these amendments would now be null and void.

I must admit that this is a deplorable situation for anyone who has the public good at heart.

9 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Go ahead, Ms. Kwan.

October 24th, 2022 / 9 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I wanted to say, in response to the suggestions that, somehow, we're not following the rules at this committee with this amendment and the challenge of the chair, that it's simply not true. There's a procedure that we follow. Committee members will vote on it. The results will go forward accordingly.

In a different committee.... I don't normally sit on this committee, so I'm a bit bewildered as to how this committee normally works. I don't know if this is how it always works. In any event, this is my first time sitting on this committee. In the committee I sit on, which is the immigration committee, there have been many times when the Conservative members challenged the chair. Sometimes they succeeded and sometimes they didn't.

All of that is to say that it is within members' rights to do what they wish to do and then follow the procedures accordingly. Nobody is usurping the rules here. We are following the rules as they are.

Getting back to the issue at hand, the purpose of this amendment is.... In my community of Vancouver East, for example, there are a lot of people who pay room and board. Sometimes they're students. Sometimes they're seniors. Sometimes the amount they pay is not the 25% that is deemed in this legislation. What I intended to do was come up with a number that better reflects the actuality of how much they pay, so that more people would qualify. I will admit that I am trying to get more people to qualify. That is my sin here. I am trying to do that.

If the Conservatives don't like that and don't support it, which is exactly where they are, they're entitled to that and to vote against it, accordingly. However, to somehow suggest that I'm trying to usurp the rules, Mr. Chair, is offensive and it is just not true.

9:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Go ahead, Mr. Shields.

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Thank you, Chair.

Back when we first had a couple of amendments, particularly the second one from the Bloc, I understood what you said in the two rulings. Then the ruling on this one, when you ruled against it and then they voted for it, really caused me a problem. When I looked at their second one, where they talked about provinces and their objectives, in a federation there have been lots of opportunities.

Day care was the most recent one that I can remember, where the federal government said it wanted a day care program and then negotiated to have the day care program it wanted—the $10 myth day care—out there across the country. It negotiated with the provinces.

Carbon tax is another one where you either get in this one or get in the federal one—and they did that. Policing works the same way. You can be in the RCMP or you can be out of it. You can negotiate that with the federal government. There are lots of them out there that are negotiated.

This one, too, didn't cost any more money. There was no money difference in this one. The one the Liberals voted for—and the NDP this time—was a money difference. I would understand the first two in the sense of how it went on the vote and why they said they supported that because it's a change of money. It wasn't a change of money. This one was a change of money. Of the three, the rationale for it didn't make sense.

That's where I have a problem with what's going on here. I would suggest that this has all been decided. Everybody knew what the ruling of the chair would be on each one of these ahead of time. They knew how they were going to vote, either for or against the chair on each one of these, before the meeting started.

It still doesn't take away from the fact that the rationale makes no sense, for the second one in particular. The first one I agreed with, but for the second one, we're in a federation. The Liberals as a party, in the things they have been implementing, have been working with partnerships, like with day care. With this one, they're not.

On the one you voted to overrule the chair on, you changed the monetary one on that one. It's going to go through. We're going to have a third reading in the House. You've been around here long enough to know this goes back to the House without asking that, and you'll vote on it. The NDP and Liberal bloc will get together and pass it. You know that.

Mine was with the rationale that it was pre-decided. You knew. I've been around long enough. The chair knows his ruling. He's seen these before. You've decided you're going to go this way. You'll vote for this one; you'll vote against that one.

Think about the Bloc's number two and what that means in provinces, in the sense that we're in a federation. You have just kicked the federation. I'm not talking about Quebec. I'm talking about the other nine provinces and territories. You just said that it's not important.

That, fundamentally, causes me a problem. We have a federal government that's willing to not work in partnership with the provinces, but becomes dictatorial. That's when you're going to face problems in this country. You're going to face them from more than one province. That kind of dictatorial decision-making is not how this federation works.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Dr. Powlowski, go ahead, please.

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marcus Powlowski Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

I'd like to respond a bit to that, in that there have been a lot of accusations that we're not following the democratic process.

The House was elected by all Canadians. It was in the House where all representatives from all the ridings in Canada voted on this. They decided to limit the number of days we had to do this. They're the ones who decided when the amendments had to be in by. It's not up to us 11 people, elected by people in 11 ridings, to make the rules for all of Canada.

Really, you lost your fight over in the House, not here. We are obliged to follow the rules given to us by the House. Rightly or wrongly, that is the democratic process.

As for changing and making amendments that have financial implications, again, that's a matter that requires royal recommendation. Again, that has to go back to the House. It can't be done by us.

I do believe we are following the democratic process, which certainly isn't unflawed.

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Mrs. Goodridge, go ahead.