Evidence of meeting #26 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was prorogation.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Justin Vaive



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

That's correct. We did not have unanimous consent. On a point of order, she would only be able to do such a thing if she had unanimous consent. There was not unanimous consent for her to move it at that point, on a point of order. Later on, like I said, if Ms. Vecchio chooses to do so when she has the floor, she would be able to do that again.

Is there anyone else on that? We've clarified it, I think, to the point where we have gotten to complete clarity now, so thank you, Mr. Kent, for adding that and reminding me that it was seeking unanimous consent.

Mr. Long, I'll give the floor back to you.

March 9th, 2021 / noon


Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I will say that I think it's important... Obviously the amendment is relevant to the motion and so on and so forth. Right now, for clarity, we are talking about Mr. Turnbull's amendment.

That being said, it's important to understand, as Canadians—because I know Canadians are watching this—what Ms. Vecchio's motion was, which Mr. Turnbull suggested the amendment to, so that we're clear on that.

If everybody can sit back and indulge me, I want to revisit Ms. Vecchio's motion. I think I'm certainly allowed to do that because of the amendment to the motion. I think they go hand in hand, for what it's worth. I'm going to read this out:

That, in respect of the Committee’s study of the government’s reasons for the prorogation of Parliament in August 2020, the Committee

(a) renew the invitation issued to the Prime Minister to appear before the committee, provided that if he does not agree, within one week of the adoption of this motion, to appear for at least three hours, the Chair shall be instructed to report to the House forthwith a recommendation that this committee be empowered to order his appearance from time to time;

That's (a). That's the Prime Minister of Canada.

(b) renew the invitations issued to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, each to appear separately before the committee, provided that in respect of each of them who does not agree, within one week of the adoption of this motion, to appear for at least 90 minutes each, the Chair shall be instructed to report to the House forthwith a recommendation that this committee be empowered to order her appearance from time to time;

(c) renew the invitations issued to the Honourable Bill Morneau, Katie Telford, Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, each to appear separately before the committee, provided that in respect of each of them who does not agree, within one week of the adoption of this motion, to appear for at least three hours each, a summons do issue for his or her appearance before the Committee at a date and time determined by the Chair but no later than one month following the adoption of this motion;

Madam Chair, I think I also bring a unique perspective to this. I've been lucky enough to substitute in on ethics too, where the Kielburger brothers have testified again.

What screams at me, Madam Chair, is that the opposition is not getting the answers that they want. It's not the answers that Canadians want. It's not the answers that Canadians care about, that's for sure. They're not getting the answers that they want.

I'm going to have a lot to say about the Kielburger brothers and their testimony also at ethics, but I'm going to continue here.

(d) renew the invitations issued to Farah Perelmuter and Martin Perelmuter, to appear before the committee, provided that if they do not agree, within one week of the adoption of this motion, to appear for at least 90 minutes, a summons do issue for their appearance before the Committee at a date and time determined by the Chair but no later than one month following the adoption of this motion;

(e) issue an order for the production of all memoranda, e-mails, text messages, documents, notes or other records from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office, since June 25, 2020, concerning options, plans and preparations for the prorogation of Parliament, including polling and public opinion research used to inform the decision to prorogue Parliament, provided that these documents shall be provided to the clerk of the committee within two weeks of the adoption of this motion;

(f) issue an order for the production of records of all communications between the government and any of WE Charity (or its affiliated organizations), Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger, or Speakers' Spotlight, since June 25, 2020, in respect of the prorogation of Parliament, provided that these documents shall be provided to the clerk of the committee within two weeks of the adoption of this motion;

(g) issue orders to WE Charity (including its affiliated organizations), Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger and Speakers' Spotlight for the production of all memoranda, e-mails, text messages, documents, notes or other records, since June 25, 2020, concerning the prorogation of Parliament, provided that these documents shall be provided to the clerk of the committee within two weeks of the adoption of this motion; and

(h) all documents provided to the clerk of the committee in respect of paragraphs (e) to (g) shall be published on the committee's website as soon as practical upon receipt, once they are available in both official languages.

Now, Madam Chair, this is what the opposition is expecting this committee to move forward with. How much more can possibly be pulled out of the Kielburgers or Perelmuters that hasn't already been flushed out and talked about?

I saw the motion by MP Vecchio. Obviously, we have the amendment. This is what we're talking about now. MP Turnbull, I know, gave a lot of thought to this. He's a great MP. I called him a rookie MP, but he's not a rookie anymore. His dedication, his preparedness and the way he articulates his points are really to be commended. They really are. We are lucky as parliamentarians to have somebody like MP Turnbull join us. He certainly adds to all of us.

He put forth an amendment:

I. by deleting paragraph (a),

II. by replacing paragraph (b) with the following: “(b) renew the invitations issued to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, each to appear separately before the committee for at least 90 minutes; and”

III. by replacing paragraph (c) with the following: “(b) renew the invitations issued to the Honourable Bill Morneau, Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, each to appear separately before the committee for at least 90 minutes.", and

IV. by deleting paragraphs (d) to (h).

It looks reasonable. This is his amendment but, no, it's not good enough. It's frustrating to me, I'll be honest, when I know that each and every one of us on this committee and each and every one of us in Parliament, in the House, is elected to serve our constituents. Sure, we have differences in ideologies; that's what it is. I have a certain belief. Conservatives have certain ideologies, as do NDP or Green Party or Bloc members or independents, and what have you.

I believe government can do good things. Government is there to undertake initiatives and support people who need help. Good government can bring forth transformational programs, such as the Canada child benefit, which is an incredible program.

There is also the old age pension, the GIS and the Canada housing benefit, which my province unfortunately hasn't picked up yet. It's another bone of contention I have. Hopefully my province will pick it up.

Why are we here? We're elected to serve our constituents, and I'm passionate about that. This motion isn't serving our constituents. There's no one on this committee from any party whose phone is ringing off the hook about prorogation and the reasons we prorogued. We've talked about that before. Some members say, “They prorogued to avoid this, and they did that”, forgetting what the Harper government did with respect to proroguing. I'm disappointed, and I'm a part of it too. I'm disappointed that we can't move on, we can't move forward and we can't work together on things that Canadians care about.

What has my phone been ringing about in my constituency office today? It is Bill C-24, the Supreme Court ruling and reaffirming of the federal right to move forward with a price on pollution. We certainly saw Conservative premiers across the country resist and challenge this, and I was certainly thrilled that my premier, Premier Higgs, pulled out of the lawsuit. It was probably a year ago. He basically said that he was not going to go down a road that wastes his time. That's what my constituents care about.

I don't want to take up too much of the committee's time today, but last night I gave the amendment a lot of thought. I gave a lot of thought to the meeting too. I knew I would be talking. I'm certainly never at a loss for words, but I wanted to try to articulate what I really feel with respect to MP Turnbull's proposed amendment to MP Vecchio's motion.

I have a number of thoughts that I thought would be relevant and that needed to be shared with my colleagues on this committee and with Canadians with respect to my support for Mr. Turnbull's amendment. I know he has given it a lot of thought. I'm jealous because he's eating his lunch right now and I'm not. I don't know if that's popcorn he has there, but hopefully he is enjoying his lunch.

First of all, I want colleagues to think of the precedents they are setting with some of the stunts they've been pulling with regard to the calling of witnesses and requesting documents. I won't read it again so don't worry, but when I read through MP Vecchio's motion, I can't believe the depth of the people and documents they want. There's no end to it. There is no end to this, and again, I implore the opposition to see that Canadians have moved on. Canadians have made judgments.

It's time to move on. It's time to move forward.

When you're in opposition, you're always looking for new and creative ways to try to hold government to account. That's what Her Majesty's loyal opposition is supposed to do. That works on both sides.

I wasn't around before 2015, obviously. I was very busy running a hockey team, for those of you who don't know. MP Blaikie knows. It was the Saint John Sea Dogs, which is certainly one of the most successful major junior organizations in the country. Yes, MP Lauzon, they're more successful than the Gatineau Olympiques. I take that back. Maybe they're not quite as successful as the Olympiques. We've only been in the league for a very limited number of years.

I know the opposition's job is to hold us to account. I applaud you. I give you credit. You have held us to account. That's how Parliament is supposed to work. The NDP, the Bloc, the Conservative Party and the Green Party are there to hold us to account. You did a good job doing it.

You did your job and you held us to account. You beat us up here, you did this, you did that and now you're going to move on. You're going to now be seized with governing and helping to govern. You do that, Madam Chair, by working together across the aisle and being bipartisan. You work on legislation and policies to better Canadians' lives. That's why we're here.

For those watching at home, from time to time we all use parliamentary procedure or all the tools in the tool box to challenge the government of the day. Just be transparent. We did it too in opposition. It's how Parliament works. It's acceptable and it's something that has been done since the advent of the Westminster parliamentary model. However, as with everything in our line of work, Madam Chair, there are boundaries.

What has been true, at least until 2020, is that prime ministers only testify before committees in rare and exceptional circumstances. In a sign of openness, transparency and to answer pertinent [Technical difficulty—Editor] appeared before FINA back in August of 2020. Before that time, a PM only spoke in committee in a handful of circumstances.

I find concerning that this debate we are now having in regard to inviting the Prime Minister to this committee, and everybody else—anyone who ever drove by the House of Commons it seems at times.... Frankly, if the members opposite really did want the Prime Minister here to speak about prorogation, there would at least be a small amount of relevance to that request.

Not long ago, we heard from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that there was some relevance to his appearance. It made sense to hear from him in regard to the prorogation study. Mr. Rodriguez provided the government's reasoning and decision on behalf of the Prime Minister and cabinet, as well all other matters that come before this committee in regard to government policy. We heard from the relevant minister as part of the testimony on this subject.

How many other times has the Prime Minister appeared before this committee to testify on a matter that falls into the wheelhouse of House operations or matters pertaining to the Privy Council Office?

The answer is easy. He hasn't.

Let's lay it on the table for each other here today, Madam Chair. Opposition colleagues want to call the Prime Minister here today to talk about WE Charity matters. We all know that is what they're trying to get at, and we all know why they are making it in this prorogation study. Relevance is an issue.

They have tried this at several other committees, tried to tangentially connect WE to all facets of government operations in the COVID-19 response. Obviously I'm tuned in, Madam Chair. I was asked to sit in on the ethics committee a few times, and it was great to be back at the ethics committee. I sat on the ethics committee in the previous Parliament with people like Joël Lightbound and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. Blaine Calkins, I believe, was the chair.

I was surprised to see an opposition member in the chair of ethics. I was not aware it worked that way, but I sat on ethics and saw the Perelmuters with respect to Speakers' Spotlight and heard testimony in ethics that really made me sad about how their lives had been literally shattered and their organization shattered, all in the pursuit of trying to find an answer—not the truth, not an answer that satisfied—an answer the opposition wanted, and they wouldn't stop. There were threats against these people and their staff. For what? What was the end here?

I saw with respect to ethics, literally.... I'll be blunt: the committee, I thought, was almost turned into a circus. The finance committee had heard from the Kielburger brothers for four hours. This meeting was remarkable inasmuch as, for all the hype and accusations that were made by the opposition, at the end of the day, all the questions put forth were answered, and documents were requested, which they agreed to provide to the committee.

The Kielburgers were at the committee for hours. Ask yourself this; ask all of us this: What new did we learn, really? For the opposition now, Madam Chair, and the prorogation, let's kind of wrap in the WE; let's throw this altogether. Let's cast this net. Let's cast this net out as far as we can throw it, and let's see what we can reel in.

I'll be blunt. What surprises me is that there is nothing new, but yet we're still looking for answers to questions. Last week there was really still nothing, yet now we're still going to put a motion out there that we want to get them back to testify again. We want to compel them to come before us, Madam Chair. We want documents, and we want this, and we want that.

I sometimes try to put myself out there, Madam Chair, just objectively. I step away. I'm a very proud Liberal, of course. I love the programs and policies that we stand for in the government that we give Canadians. Sometimes I try to step back. I'm going to be objective. I'm not going to put my Liberal hat on. For the life of me, I can't see why the opposition continues down this road. I know I can't ask for a raising of hands here, but there are no phones ringing in any office about prorogation.

I see Mr. Calkins has joined us. I just talked about Mr. Calkins as chair of ethics. I look up, and lo and behold, there he is. He has actually joined the committee. I don't know if that was some magical little thing I did to compel him to come on, but there he is with his hunting trophies behind him.

I hope things are all well Blaine. It's good to see you. You did a good job as chair of ethics when I was there. I learned a lot. You were fair. You were balanced. We had some fun. We did a lot of great work too. It is good to see you, even though you're in another part of the country. We're probably a four-hour time change. I'm not even sure about that, to be honest.

I believe it's time to move forward. Mr. Turnbull's amendment is doing that. It's saying that if you want to hear a little bit more, and if you want to flush out a little more information from here or there, okay, we'll give you that, even though we probably....I know Mr. Lauzon actually talked about this too, with respect to Mr. Turnbull's amendment. When I first read it, I was surprised that Mr. Turnbull was....We're meeting halfway here.

That might be the wrong analogy in the political world, but we're meeting here. We're moving forth with something that you should take. You should vote on this. You should support it. We can move on and get on to things. It seems very reasonable to me.

In fact, when I first read it I was like, “Oh my. Oh my. This, even more than I thought, Mr. Turnbull may want”, but it's a reasonable amendment. Yet, here we are.

I'm disappointed that the prorogation....That was talked out, and debated in committee very well on both sides. The opposition members have a job to do, and they put forth their thoughts, and why they wanted to go this way. We certainly were quick to remind them about Prime Minister Harper, and how he prorogued to avoid a vote. I guess that was irrelevant then. We debated that through. There were points on both sides.

It's the WE thing. Let's get that WE thing back, because we haven't yet got the answers we want.

Yes, we've talked about it in ethics and finance, and we're trying to get it in every little nook and cranny we can, but we still haven't got what we want. Not what Canadians wanted, or what's relevant to Canadians, we haven't got what we wanted, pardon the pun on WE.

Colleagues on the other side will try to say that this isn't the case with WE, yet all one has to do is look at the witnesses they are calling and it becomes very obvious. The Prime Minister, let's get the Prime Minister in here; let's get Katie Telford,Minister Chagger. All appeared before the finance committee, and in the case of Minister Chagger and Ms. Telford, provided over two hours worth of testimony. The Prime Minister took questions for an hour and a half. I watched Ms. Telford's testimony, how much more open and transparent could somebody be? You asked, she answered, but no, that wasn't good enough, we want more.

Throughout questioning time and time again, theories advanced by opposition colleagues were discounted and thoroughly shut down. Mr. Poilievre tried a gotcha moment on the PM; it fell flat. Mr. Cooper tried with Ms. Telford; he fell flatter. Why is that? Because there was and is nothing there. This ridiculous theory that the Prime Minister and his family were personally invested in the decision to marshal a federal program to the WE Charity is absurd, and has been particularly disproved.

I remember, and I think I alluded to this the last time I spoke, that the opposition obviously wants to get that gotcha moment, they want that clip, that five o'clock news story, and there's nothing there. How long has this been going on? Again, I'm lucky to have my office in a mall—Market Square—and I told you this last time, colleagues, if I walked out that door today and asked the first 100 people who walked by me on a scale of one to 10 where they would prioritize this committee, the Conservative Party trying to compel the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister about prorogation and WE, I'm telling you it would be a zero. They've moved on, they're concerned about getting vaccines in their arms, where we're doing an amazing job. They're concerned about benefits, whether the wage subsidy is going to be extended, whether the recovery benefit, the sickness benefit are going to be there for them.

I'm proud, too, as a government. We're shifting now—you can see it—from support to recovery, and we're focused on doing the right things to make industries recover, help Canadians recover so we can move forward past this. Yet what are we doing? We're sitting here. The Conservative Party, the opposition party, wants us to get all these witnesses back in to talk about proroguing.

Time and time again, from finance committee to ethics to government operations, multiple attempts were made to try to keep the WE matter alive in the eyes of Canadians and media. However, no one was buying what the Conservatives and their opposition allies were selling.

Frankly, Madam Chair, Canadians know better. They saw this cheap political stunt for what it was and promptly moved on. They wanted a government that is serious and focused on them. If people are watching, we should be focused on you, what you're concerned about, what you need to get through the week, the month, the next six months.

Yet, here we are. Here we all are. I'm just a sub. I'm happy to sub, but I'm just a sub-in here, probably a pinch-hitter, doing my best. Here we are staring down what is the last-ditch effort of a desperate opposition trying to keep the non-story alive.

Look, you want a little free advice? I have some thoughts.

I don't believe that it's helping you. I don't believe that there's a massive movement of public opinion behind you. I don't believe that it benefits you. You can say, “Well, it's Wayne Long in Saint John—Rothesay. Of course, it's benefiting us. Of course, it's going to help our Conservative Party. It's going to make Canadians want to vote for us, if and when there's an election in the next..”. Well, we certainly know there's going to be one in the next...what, three years or two and a half years, whatever it is?

However, my advice to you, my colleagues on the other side, would be to move on. Spend your time focused on coming up with policies and a vision for Canada, something that Canadians can look at and say, “You know, I like that vision. I like what they're offering.” That's what makes politics fun and that's how politics should work. It's not this....

Let me be abundantly clear, Madam Chair. This motion before us today is nothing but a cheap political stunt aimed at breaking the last remaining boundaries of the decorum we have left. The Conservatives and other opposition parties have taken the cue of some other politicians and are willing to completely disconnect from reality and say whatever is necessary to achieve their goal of attaining power. Frankly, I believe it is completely unacceptable. It's unbecoming of this place.

I'm proud of the work I do, proud of the work that we all do. However, I think we need to reflect, to really step back.... I don't want to see a show of hands, but I think that Mr. Turnbull's amendment should be supported. Think about it. It's reasonable. I know MP Turnbull put a lot of work into that amendment—a lot of work and a lot of time. It's just one man's opinion, but I think it should be supported.

As it's been said over and over again, let's.... I know MP Duncan talked about this when she spoke the other day, and she spoke quite passionately to it: We are in the midst of an international pandemic, and we are seized with, and should all be seized with, running this country and being there for Canadians. It's not too late, even for a guy like me, to learn this.

If I've ever seen value in a strong government, it's now. I am so thankful that we have been able to answer the bell to be there for Canadians. I think we've all been changed by it. We've all been challenged by it. It has certainly made me a different person. I'm more thankful, more reflective and more appreciative. I now understand the incredible challenges that we all face as parliamentarians and as government in being there for our constituents and our citizens.

I'll never forget—and I know I echoed this before—coming home over a year ago now, which is crazy, and not knowing what to expect, not knowing what was in front of us. I walked into a mall that was basically shut down. I had to call security to get into my constituency office. I remember the calls I got from Canadians who worried about where they were going to get support to buy groceries for their kids and to pay their rents. They had the legs cut out from underneath them, and we were there.

We're seized with a pandemic, and Canadians want us to act aggressively yet responsibly. Do we see light at the end of the tunnel with respect to it? Yes, there is light. I believe in my heart that we're in a race now against variants and with respect to the vaccine, but there are better days ahead. There are brighter days ahead for all of us. That's what we should be concerned about.

By August 2020, with restrictions loosened and some normalcy returning to the country, we took stock and realized that the road map that had been set out was not even close. Therefore, a reset was needed to ensure that the whole country was ready and prepared for the impending second wave and the economic recovery.

For us, we needed to prorogue. We needed to step back, assess and reboot. Prorogation is a parliamentary tool, at the disposal of the government of the day, to wipe the slate clean and refocus the governmental agenda. No one, not even my colleagues on the other side, can argue that the previous throne speech was no longer relevant. A new plan was needed. We had to come forth with a new plan. However, colleagues would rather see the ghost of the WE Charity around every corner and are doing everything possible to tie these two issues together.

Madam Chair, do you mind if I get a drink of water?

I'm not sure where my opposition colleagues are looking to go with this motion by having these witnesses come before us and provide the same testimony they have already given elsewhere, which can be read into the record here, other than to put on a political show. We've heard from these people. How much more do we expect? Perelmuters, Kielburgers, Katie Telford—what more do you want them to say?

It's not what they've said—well, I guess technically it is what they've said—it's the fact that it's not what the opposition wants to hear. That's what this is really about, isn't it? They're not getting the answers they want, so they want to continue on. They want to see if they can find something else.

The truth is the opposition have already made up their mind on the issue of the prorogation and the WE Charity matter. They've repeatedly been presented with evidence to the contrary of their theories on the matter, and yet they continue to look for ways to make the narrative true. Madam Chair, this is one man musing.

Unless the opposition party polling is telling them that Canadians want more on WE—and indeed if that's what they're getting from their polling, I'd suggest they talk to their pollsters or ask their pollsters who they are actually polling. [Technical difficulty—Editor] I don't see it. I'm not saying that, Chair, to be a smart guy or to say “ha ha ha”. I don't see it, and Canadians don't see it.

This committee shouldn't be used as the opposition's kangaroo court. That's not what this is for. This committee should be seized with much more important matters, Madam Chair. This committee does not exist to serve narrow political interests. This is not a court of law. We are not Crown prosecutors. The public does not believe that Her Majesty's loyal opposition is looking at this issue for the public good.

Canadians realize that the point of this motion is to advance the political interests of the Conservative Party and the other opposition parties. I know everybody's keenly interested here. I can tell by looking at the screens. I can tell people are extremely interested, especially my colleague MP Drouin, who's listening with bated breath to everything I say.

This will be the third time I've asked this question to the committee. Ask yourself this: Has anybody's phone rung over the last week with respect to prorogation or WE? Be honest with yourselves. Obviously you don't have to show your hand.

Why should witnesses have to come before us at all if the opposition has already determined the outcome of the testimony?

The testimony we've heard before this committee in regard to this study has been clear. Public servants, politicians and constitutional experts alike are all in agreement that the power to prorogue Parliament rests solely with the Prime Minister. It's an inherently political decision. There is nothing wrong with that, because governments are elected based on their political leanings. Their agendas themselves are political in nature. It makes complete sense, then, that resetting the government agenda would be a political decision.

I apologize for being loose with the date and time, but I remember when Stephen Harper prorogued. I was travelling with the Sea Dogs at that point. I know I referenced this before. I remember watching The National or CTV News that night. I don't know if MP Kent was actually reading the news at that point. He might have been. Nonetheless, I remember watching and looking at Prime Minister Harper. People were really upset that he did it to avoid a confidence vote. That wasn't the case. It was just a reset. Times have changed. But yet here we are.

The opposition party wants this investigated more and more. Let's get the Kielburgers in. Let's get everybody else in. Let's throw the kitchen sink in there too. Let's stir the pot all around. Let's get a big brew going here and see what we can find.

I mean, the previous Conservative government prorogued for weeks. They cited extraordinary times due to the 2008 economic crisis. In many ways, late 2020 was much worse than the situation the Conservatives faced in 2008. The government was faced with both an international pandemic of mass proportions and sizable economic issues. This was not the time to produce a governing blueprint overnight. The government took its time to consult and ensure that the right approach was taken on behalf of all Canadians. That's what good, responsible government should do.

We needed to step back. We needed to reassess. We needed to take account of everything that was happening around us. The well-being of Canadians has always been the number one priority of this government and always will be throughout its time in office, and especially during this unprecedented pandemic. I will tell you that all of us are privileged to have the support of our constituents. All of us are privileged to be members of Parliament. I will certainly look back at this time, as a member of Parliament, not with fondness but with pride at the response our government gave at one of the country's darkest, most challenging times.

I mean, think about the fact that we were literally writing and turning pages before the ink was dry. The odd Conservative critic in my riding would be, “Oh, these programs are poorly thought out.” Poorly thought out—are you kidding me? We were rolling out these programs within weeks, not years.

I'll look back with a lot of pride. We don't need political stunts rights now. It is very clear that there is no need whatsoever for the witnesses requested to appear.

The Prime Minister, Ms. Telford and Minister Chagger all have testimony on file. They have already testified. It's already in the record. Our clerk could easily make the request to FINA for that testimony.

Frankly, I'm not even sure why Minister Freeland is on the list or what she has to do with the prorogation debate. Can someone tell me that? While the minister plays a key and central role to the management of government, she is not the prime minister and would not have played a role in deciding to exercise prorogation.

I read MP Vecchio's motion and while reading it I thought, “Oh my lord, it would compel this, we want this, we want that, we want him, we want her....” To what end?

Mr. Turnbull's amendment is extremely reasonable and well-thought-out.

What Canadians need going forward is for parliamentarians to focus on the task at hand. The economic recovery that we have before us is going to be the most important since the Second World War. Canadians do not have time for narrow and cheap political games. We need to shift to recovery. We were there for support and now we need to shift to recovery. That's where our focus should be.

Colleagues have said time and time again that they are willing to join the team Canada approach to rebuilding our economy post-pandemic. Here we are ready to extend a hand and ask them to join us to work together toward that end.

I want to finish up with an appeal to whoever is watching this. Let's work together. Let's call a spade a spade. Testimonies have occurred in other committees. Tough questions have been asked. Difficult questions have been asked. I respect that. I respect that people needed to come before certain committees to testify. I totally respected that, supported it, in fact. They testified and it's on the record. Transcripts can be given to this committee.

I will close with this. I thank the committee for the work we do. I know you are all good MPs. I have an abundance of respect for all of you. I know you care deeply about your ridings, Canadians, the country. I know we stood together on many things and many votes, especially with respect to supporting Canadians.

I know we did the right things when we had to. We put partisanship aside. This is my appeal to you. I ask you sincerely to support the amendment to the motion. Please support the amendment. We meet you more than halfway.

Madam Chair, thank you for letting me say a few words. I respect you very much. You do a great job, Ruby, a fantastic job as chair of this committee. I know it's not easy. I thank you for what you're doing. Certainly on behalf of my riding of Saint John—Rothesay, I thank you. I'll leave it at that.



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Thank you, Mr. Long. Your speeches are always very captivating.

Thank you for those compliments.

Now I know why you're so well dressed all the time. You have a constituency office in a mall. I know that would not be good for me, though. That's for sure. I would be far too distracted.

We're moving to Dr. Duncan next.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Chair, I'm pleased to speak to the amendment that has been brought forward today by my excellent colleague, Mr. Turnbull. I would like to thank him for his always thoughtful work and his thoughtful proposition.

It's nice to see Ms. Normandin this morning and Mr. Calkins as well.

I would like to thank my colleagues, Monsieur Lauzon and Mr. Long, for their speeches this morning. I really appreciate hearing about Monsieur Lauzon's teaching and Mr. Long's life in hockey with the Sea Dogs.

I think we should absolutely be inviting to the committee our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, as well as the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. I think it's important that this amendment has been put forward. After all, we are a government that believes in ministers being accountable, effective and transparent, raising the bar on openness and answering the questions of members of Parliament at committees.

While I will speak very directly to the motion, I will once again make the point that there is nothing more important than addressing the global crisis that we are still fighting, That is what this committee should be focused on. While this is about politics, I would just like to share with my colleagues that 1.2 million people developed COVID in the last three days globally, and over 23,000 people died. Now there have been over 124 million cases worldwide and 2.7 million deaths—so many lives, a tsunami of suffering.

Here in Canada, 22,000 Canadians have died. They were grandparents, parents, loved ones and neighbours, and they mattered to so many more people. My heart goes out to all those who have lost family, friends and loved ones. I honour all our health workers for their dedication and sacrifice and all our other essential workers who have kept society running. They put the interests of their neighbours, communities and country ahead of their own every day. Beyond saying thank you for their heroic efforts during COVID-19, let's each of us do our part to slow the spread of the virus. That means working from home if you can, keeping two metres apart from others, wearing a mask and downloading the COVID alert app.

The point is, COVID-19 remains an unprecedented global health crisis that has shaken the foundations of economic, political and social security, and it should be the focus of this committee.

However, with respect to the amendment before us, let me explain why I think we should reinvite our Deputy Prime Minister. She is extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary, and not only led our COVID-19 response through the spring and the summer, but also now serves as Minister of Finance. I would just like to recognize that the Deputy Prime Minister is the first woman in Canadian history to be sworn in as finance minister. This is a milestone 153 years in the making, and we should celebrate this.

From the beginning of COVID-19, our government understood that the pandemic turned our lives upside down, with office buildings emptied, streets quieted and schools closed. Canadians and communities had to adapt, and our government had to find the balance between health and the economy. In some public debate, the response to the pandemic was framed as a choice between health and the economy, but that's a false choice. They always go together. Health and the economy go hand in hand.

We promised to be there for Canadians through the pandemic to our recovery. Our government had a number of overarching goals to protect the health and safety of Canadians, to provide the necessary economic supports to allow Canadians to isolate at home, to try to slow the spread of the virus and to protect jobs and livelihood.

In order to protect the health and safety of Canadians, we closed the borders. We directly funded the provinces and territories: $19 billion for the safe restart agreement. We bought personal protective equipment, testing kits—



Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

On a point of order, Madam Chair, with all due respect to Dr. Duncan, I really respect all of the great information, because COVID is important to all Canadians, absolutely, but we have heard much of this evidence that has been provided—or these notes—before. I am intervening, because one hour ago when I intervened already....

Could we get back on topic to the actual amendment that was put forward by Ryan Turnbull? If we could get back to that, that would be wonderful and brilliant.

Thank you.



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

I believe Dr. Duncan is speaking to why Ms. Freeland should be invited to committee, so I'll let her carry on.

I feel that she was interrupted a lot on Tuesday, so we should let her make her remarks.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you so much, Madam Chair, and I'll thank Ms. Vecchio, who is a dear colleague, as well.

I really am here to represent my constituents of Etobicoke North. I stand here debating the motion at hand, which is to invite several ministers to appear in front of this committee. I am here to support this motion and explain why I think it's important that we extend the invitation to them.

As I was saying, we bought personal protective equipment, testing kits, and we pre-ordered vaccines.

The most important thing we can do to address the spread of COVID19 is to vaccinate, test, contact trace and isolate. I want to make it clear, our government bought the vaccine doses, tests, provided contact tracers and quarantine hotels.

Here in Canada the largest immunization campaign in our country's history is well under way. According to our country's top vaccine coordinator, there should be enough COVID-19 vaccines available to give every Canadian who is eligible a first dose by the end of June. With this vaccine rollout, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In the spring, when the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces were needed, they went in to care for our elders. We know that our long-term care facilities really bore the brunt of wave one in Canada, and tragically it happened again in wave two.

I think of several long-term care residents in our Etobicoke North community. Deaths among seniors are not just numbers. Our seniors are people we know, people we have listened to. We have heard their life stories, learned from them, laughed with them, sang with them and danced with them. We owe all of our seniors who have helped build this country safe and dignified care. The greatest tragedy of this pandemic is the lives lost in long-term care homes.

I took every opportunity to stand up for our seniors and particularly those in long-term care.

I think it's relevant to bring this up, because if we have the Deputy Prime Minister, we can hear about the action that is planned. Although long-term care falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, our government will take any action it can to support seniors while working alongside provinces and territories.

Our government will work with Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to explicitly penalize those who neglect seniors under their care, putting them in danger.

Our government will work with the provinces and territories to set new national standards for long-term care so that seniors get the best possible support, and we'll take additional action to help people stay in their homes longer.

These important actions were outlined in the throne speech that was delivered after prorogation and after tremendous consultation. I think it would be very important to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister on where we are on implementation. Our seniors are an integral part of our communities and we must do everything possible to protect them.



John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota




John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Perhaps on the Simms protocol to Ms. Duncan, if I may, having—



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

I guess we'll have to ask Ms. Duncan if you may.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

I would like to continue to have the opportunity to speak. Everyone has been given their turn. I am speaking in support of this motion. I am bringing the concerns of my constituents to this committee, and I am supporting the motion to bring in our Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth. I would like to be able to make these arguments why I think they should be here.



John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

That's exactly what my Simms question was going to be focused on. If I could just ask you a quick question, Dr. Duncan, and if you could respond, if you're willing.... Again, this predicates working together. If that's not an option, that's fine.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you to my dear colleague.

I really appreciate our committee. I think we work well together.

I really would like the opportunity to speak for my constituents today and to speak in support of this motion.



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

I guess not, Mr. Nater.

Go ahead, Dr. Duncan.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you so much, Madam Chair.

We must value our seniors. We must value their wisdom, knowledge and talents, and address the challenges they face in society.

To protect jobs and livelihoods, our government put in place strong measures to protect businesses and workers. We had to do this because the virus could only be slowed or stopped by limiting social contacts. This meant reducing economic activity. It meant shutting down workplaces and later limiting the number of people restaurants serve. It meant asking people to stay home from work if they were sick or their children were sick. It simply would have been unfair to ask businesses to shut down and workers to stay home without compensating them for lost income.

Within one week of shutting down the country last March, our government announced a stimulus package, which included $27 billion in emergency aid for workers and businesses and $55 billion in tax deferrals. We injected billions of dollars into businesses to help with their cash flow and to keep workers on the payroll, while bolstering federal benefits and support programs for people who had lost their jobs.

This money really matters to our communities. Those funds helped Canadians pay for rent and groceries, and they helped businesses continue to pay their employees and their bills.

Our government created CERB, which helped more than eight million workers. We call our Etobicoke North community daily to hear how our families are doing, what additional help they need. We hear right across the board that CERB was a lifeline, which allowed people to pay for rent, groceries and transportation.

Our government put in place the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which supported three million Canadian workers to stay on the payroll.

Our local businesses are at the heart of our communities. They are our friends and neighbours. We can support them by ordering takeout from the restaurant down the street, shopping at the store around the corner or ordering online. These economic programs we have put in place are good reasons to hear directly from the Deputy Prime Minister.

Our government also understood that parents were worried about the costs of raising our children. That's why we invested in families. For the year 2021, we increased the Canada child benefit to a maximum of $6,765 per child under six years of age and $5,708 per child age six to 17. Later on, we invested $625 million in emergency federal support to ensure that safe, sufficient and affordable child care was available.

Our government understood that additional support was needed for local food banks and organizations. Without that support, COVID-19 would have had additional impacts on vulnerable communities. We know that many Canadians rely on food banks and local food organizations to feed their families and find support in hard times.

In our Etobicoke North community, I would like to thank the Salvation Army, the International Muslim Organization of Toronto and Mount Olive Church for the work they do to provide healthy and nutritious food to our families.

Our government understood that young Canadians were facing unprecedented challenges, so we doubled the Canada student service grant and created the Canada emergency student benefit. We wanted to ensure that students had the help they needed to continue their studies.

My own research area was pandemics and helping governments, industry, businesses and organizations prepare for a possible pandemic. In Etobicoke North, parents and teachers told me their concerns about their children heading back to school. As a former educator, I understood and that's why I pushed so hard for our government to invest $2 billion in the safe return to class fund in support of provinces and territories.

Our government was committed to protecting students and staff from the challenges of COVID-19. Learning is different this year. The school year has been difficult for many Canadians, including teachers, students and parents. Let me just say thank you to our educators for teaching during difficult times and inspiring the next generation.

Let me also acknowledge our children and young people. One year is a long time in their lives. One year for a five-year-old is 20% of their life, and for a 15-year-old is 7% of their life. We have asked so much of children.

Our students work so hard. Let's remember that all children are born curious. They innately discover, explore and ask questions and it's the job of all of us to inspire them, to encourage them, to reach for the stars and to make sure that every child has a place to shine. All these programs are good reasons we should hear from the Deputy Prime Minister.

I also fought very hard for a $1-billion investment in a national medical and research strategy to address COVID-19, because science and public health are key to fighting COVID-19, research for vaccines and treatment, support for clinical trials and expanded testing and modelling, but research matters beyond the pandemic. Research is a fundamental building block of our country that requires attention, nurture and support for a better future, environment and quality of life for all.

Hearing about investments in science and research would be another good reason to hear from our Deputy Prime Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister understood that the best economic approach was to stop the spread of COVID-19, and until that was possible through a vaccine, the next best approach is to help Canadians, businesses and our families weather the pandemic without losing their livelihoods and without going broke.

Vaccine equity would be another good reason to hear from our Deputy Prime Minister. Vaccines are necessary to help the world move from locking down societies to locking down the virus. More transmission means more variants. The more variants that emerge, the more likely it is that they will evade vaccines. As long as the virus continues to circulate, people will continue to die, trade and travel will continue to be disrupted and the economic recovery will be further delayed.

The global vaccination campaign represents the greatest moral test of our times. The many low-income countries [Technical difficulty—Editor]. I know Canada has agreed to top up its funding for vaccine rollouts in lower-income countries, pledging $75 million more to the COVAX international vaccine-sharing program. That new pledge brings Canada's total contribution to $940 million. It would be good to get the Deputy Prime Minister's thoughts on how the world needs to unite to produce and distribute sufficient vaccines for all, which means at least doubling manufacturing capacity around the world. This really matters.

The inequitable distribution of vaccines is a moral outrage. It makes no sense for stopping the spread of the disease and it's economically self-defeating.

Only together can we end this pandemic and recover. Only together can we revive our economies. We know that our eventual recovery will be faster and more complete in direct proportion to how much we limit the economic damage caused by the coronavirus. According to the World Bank, the pandemic pushed 124 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. The Economist estimates that two years of COVID-19 will create a downturn twice as deep as the Great Recession.

Hearing about the economic recovery would be another important reason to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister. We entered this crisis with significant fiscal firepower. When COVID-19 hit, Canada had the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. I'd like [Technical difficulty—Editor] what investments will help our economy come back stronger than before. How are we going to lay a foundation for a green economy, an innovation economy and a fair economy that supports good jobs for all Canadians? We want to emerge from the pandemic healthier, wealthier and greener.



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

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.

Once again, I apologize. I don't normally like making interventions when one of my colleagues is speaking. Similar to the intervention I made yesterday, I'm a little confused. I wonder if you could help me out here.

I still don't see the relevance. Even though Dr. Duncan's comments may be worthy in another light, I don't see the relevance to the amendments that we should be discussing. As you know, Madam Chair, the rules of relevance come into play when anyone is speaking, particularly during a filibuster. If we can keep on topic and keep focused, then I have no difficulty whatsoever listening for many hours. It's a little disheartening to hear members continue to speak off topic when they should be speaking to the amendment brought forward by Mr. Turnbull.



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

I was trying to follow along to see the relevance of it. The way I see it, we're on a study of prorogation. Dr. Duncan is speaking to the reason that the government had to prorogue and what information these ministers could bring to light as to why we prorogued and why this amendment could maybe bring those issues to light.

I'll give it to Dr. Duncan.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you so much, Madam Chair, and of course—



John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

I have a point of order, Madam Chair.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

For my thanking...?



John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

It's not on that. It's on the question at hand.

We are debating the amendment. The change in the amendment from the main motion is that the Minister of Finance is invited in both the main motion and in the amendment. The amendment basically just takes away the capacity for Parliament to compel the Minister of Finance's testimony. I think the debate we're having right now is on that aspect of it. It's why the Liberals are proposing to take away that aspect of the power of Parliament to compel the testimony from certain people—not whether to hear from the Minister of Finance or not. That's baked into the original motion.

We are on the amendment, which the Liberals have introduced and which would take away the power of Parliament to compel the testimony. It's a very constrained amendment. I did not write the amendment—the Liberals did—so I would hope that they would speak to their amendment rather than trying to speak to the main motion. If they want to speak to the main motion, I'm ready to vote right now on the amendment and we can get to the main motion.



The Chair Liberal Ruby Sahota

Maybe we can, but we have allowed Mr. Long, Mr. Lauzon and all of them to speak to what impact this amendment would have.

Dr. Duncan, go ahead.



Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you so much, Madam Chair.

Of course, I'd like to thank my colleagues. Mr. Lukiwski and I go back a long time and I appreciate his comments, and of course Mr. Nater. I've never been interrupted, I can tell you, for saying “Madam Chair” before.

I really would like to continue. I'm absolutely focused on the amendment and why we should be bringing in our Deputy Prime Minister and our Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth.

Another reason I would really like to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister is that we want to emerge from the pandemic healthier, wealthier and greener. For now our focus remains on fighting the pandemic, and we have to do everything in our power to keep Canadians healthy, safe and solvent.

Another reason I would like to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister is for any thoughts she has about lessons learned. Let me be clear. There will be ample time for a review of our response in the future, but what have we learned to date? What are her thoughts about preparedness? I really believe we must all be prepared—governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and international organizations—because when we are not prepared, we face not only deadly impacts but also devastating economic consequences and new inequalities and vulnerabilities. A virus can quickly undo any economic progress.

I would also like to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister on the other global crisis we face, and that's climate change. This year we have literally been facing two global crises. We are in a climate emergency. The global response is inadequate and we must urgently change course.

I think there are lessons to be learned from COVID-19. The world came together. Countries listened to the science. Governments put in place detailed plans to protect the health and safety of their people and there was an understanding that we really are all in this together, with international partners coming together to guarantee COVID-19 vaccine access—



Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Chair...?