House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pandemic.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.

Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook Nova Scotia

Liberal

Darrell Samson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I really appreciated how my colleague was able to link the many programs with the people in his riding. I also want to thank him for his leadership on the long-term care national standards, which are so important to help seniors right across this country.

I would like the member share how, throughout the pandemic, he was able to communicate some of the challenges that his community was facing with our government programs, and how those changes or tweaks and the many projects helped the people in his community.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 6th, 2020 / 3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his very kind words. I would like to thank him for his support, along with all of the members on this side who have been so supportive on the advocacy for national standards for long-term care. This is truly a demonstration of a team effort.

On the question around how I was able to articulate those things, I think all of us on this side have had opportunities over the course of the summer to meet with ministers, the Prime Minister and other decision-makers to make sure that the concerns of our communities are heard. It is thanks to that kind of advocacy that—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Resuming debate, the hon. member Lethbridge.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, this is a time when Canadians are looking for stability, safety and comfort. Ultimately, they are looking for a plan. They deserve more than simply a show, which, unfortunately, is what they got. They are looking for answers, for a solid plan, for a way forward, for more than simply the empty pages that they received.

Instead of working collaboratively with opposition parties to come up with a solution, the Liberals made the decision to shut out those on the opposition side. In years past when there have been wars, it has been common that there would be a war cabinet. Individuals from different parties got together and were given the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the policy that would bring us forward.

What resulted from the team Liberal approach were significant delays in the delivery of support for Canadians. Tens of thousands of Canadians got left behind.

Earlier in the year, provincial governments across the country pushed for temporary shutdowns so that plans could be created to get up and running in a very safe capacity. Parliament was also shut down, businesses were closed and people stayed home for long periods of time. Everyone assumed that it was simply a provisional pause that would allow us to put a plan in place to move forward within a framework of safety. Months have passed and still there is no economic recovery plan present. It begs the question: Why not?

On August 18, the Prime Minister had the Governor General prorogue Parliament. He justified this extreme action by saying that he would deliver a Speech from the Throne, and within it he said that he would deliver, “a “bold” agenda for [Canada's] economic recovery”.

After the shutdown, many speculated that this was not in fact going to be the case, that really he prorogued Parliament in order to bring a stop to the scandal with respect to $912 million being rolled out the door and given to the WE Charity Foundation, a foundation that has benefited his friends and family. Those were the speculations; however, the content of the speech would prove that perhaps the speculations are in fact true.

There were three parliamentary committees that were starting to get to the bottom of the WE scandal. Documents that would bring light to the government's involvement were on their way to the committees, just when the Prime Minister pushed the big red stop button. Is it a coincidence? I think not.

A throne speech is an opportunity for the government to outline a vision and a plan, a way forward for the people of Canada. My colleagues and I were hoping the Prime Minister would use this as an opportunity for a reset. He would have prioritized the approval for rapid test kits, the acquisition of vaccines and support for local communities across this country. We were expecting a detailed economic recovery plan that would emphasize the importance of two economic engines that are necessary for our recovery as a nation: namely, energy and agriculture. We anticipated a message of unity that would cast a grand vision to bring the people of this great country together from coast to coast toward a common goal called “recovery”.

There was no leadership taken. There was no vision put forward. There certainly was no plan presented. It was an absolute disappointment. The throne speech instead was filled with fluff, visions of rainbows and the promise of unicorns. Rather than presenting a concrete plan, the speech contained platitudes and regurgitated, recycled promises from Liberal platforms of old. There was nothing new, only a repackaging of what had previously been stated. There was no leadership, no vision, no plan.

What we can expect now is millions and millions of dollars to go out the door. Do not get me wrong: Millions and millions and billions have already left. There was no plan to balance the budget, but the money continues to roll out. Where is all the money coming from? No one seems to know. Following the speech, in his address to the nation, the Prime Minister said, “I don’t want you or your parent or your friend to take on debt that your government can better shoulder.” The fact of the matter is there is no money tree and governments can only get their money from one source: taxation, Canadians.

The Prime Minister is spending the next generation's paycheques. He wants our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to pay for his spending long after he is gone. Programs will be cut. Essential services will be cut. Taxes will skyrocket.

Individual Canadians will be left on the hook. They will have to pay the bill for the Prime Minister's spending, which comes at a significant cost to Canadians, simply for his political gain.

Again, there is no plan, just a lot of money rolling out the door.

No other conclusion can be drawn, except that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to distract Canadians from his massive ethical breach within the WE scandal. He shut everything down to protect himself. Once again, the Prime Minister proved that he is more about protecting his image than serving the well-being of Canadians by presenting a concrete way forward.

He keeps saying that we need to build back better. What he really means is that he is taking his time to choose which sectors he believes are worthy of resurrection and which deserve to die. He is picking winners and losers based on his ideological agenda. Those in the west are entirely shut out. It is shameful.

The Prime Minister has turned a blind eye to energy and agriculture, never mind that the need for energy grows day by day, or the fact that food is essential to life. These two industries do not make the cut when it comes to the current Prime Minister and his political agenda, so they just get left out in the cold.

The worst thing about having an activist prime minister is that he rarely focuses on the things that are good for everyone, that are good for the whole and that would unify this country. Instead, subgroups, pet projects and ideological agendas are what take the cake. They reign supreme, while entire parts of the country and key responsibilities of the government are shelved. They are completely ignored.

The Prime Minister often speaks about clean growth and a green future, but what he fails to mention is that Canada's oil and gas industry has some of the highest environmental regulatory schemes of anywhere in the world. It has leveraged technology and Canadian ingenuity to continuously reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are leading in carbon capture and storage technology worldwide. By punishing Canada's energy sector, the Prime Minister is indirectly boosting production in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, where human rights atrocities are common and where environmental protections do not exist.

The Prime Minister is standing for that type of energy development, instead of basing it right here at home, and that is wrong. A responsible government would insist on developing energy ethically. A responsible government would insist on taking care of the environment, and we can do that right here in Canada.

Here are the facts. Millions of Canadians are still unemployed and eager to return to work, but instead of showing leadership and presenting Canadians a clear path forward through the pandemic, the current government continues to let Canadians flounder. There was a time, not so long ago, when countries around the world were looking to Canada to help them navigate the 2008 recession. They were looking to us for leadership, but now we are at the bottom of the G7, and certainly not being looked to as an example.

What we have witnessed over the last several months is akin to a play where actors are delivering rehearsed lines to an audience that has been forced to watch and forced to pay. Trained actors give grand performances on a large stage, trying their best to tickle the ears of their audience members as they offer dramatic monologues in hopes of eliciting applause. As the evening show comes to an end and the curtain is drawn, the audience members leave with a massive bill in hand. Some feel wowed. Some are disappointed, and others feel utterly exploited. This show was not as advertised. Meanwhile, the actors gather backstage, patting one another on the back and going out for beers. They are excited to come back tomorrow and take centre stage once again. Meanwhile, the audience members return home, fighting for their very existence.

Canadians are full of ingenuity, hope and a vision for the future. They have the ability to help bring this country back. They simply need a prime minister who will empower them to do so. When will the Prime Minister recognize that leadership of a country is more than just a show?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there is a great deal in the throne speech that clearly shows a vision and the way in which the government has and will continue to work to fight COVID-19, along with re-establishing and supporting Canadians in all regions of the country.

My question for the member is in relation to when she spoke about the need for support and working together. Would the member reflect on the safe restart agreement? It was achieved by the federal government working with provinces and territories, and it is worth approximately $19 billion. This demonstrates just how, and to what degree, the country is coming together during this pandemic.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, this is the problem. This is Liberal logic 101. The Liberal government thinks that if it continues to cut the cheques, continues to put money out the door and continues to throw dollar bills at it, then it cannot be accused of doing anything wrong and that it has somehow acted in the best interests of this country.

Since when is success based on how many dollars roll out the door? Would it not be better to measure success based on what is accomplished? Sure, the Liberal government can spend $19 billion, but what is it accomplishing?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I agree with several things she said, including the part about spending. We have indeed reached the point where we must carefully consider every expense, and that bears repeating. Some kinds of spending can be more productive than others.

Unlike the hands-off approach to tax havens and taxing web giants, some spending is justifiable, such as spending to help our seniors more. The Bloc Québécois thinks the government should increase pensions permanently by $110 per month. These people do not have much income. That money would be reinvested in society. These people need that money so they can improve their quality of life.

I would like to know my colleague's and her party's thoughts on that.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, certainly two groups within Canada that were very much left out by the Liberals' plan were our seniors, who live on a fixed income and find it difficult to make ends meet during this time, and those who live with a disability, who also live on very tight budgets, often with a fixed income of sorts that is provided to them through supports.

It is a shame. The government has had months to roll out a benefit with regard to people who live with a disability, and it still has not.

My question to the Liberals is this: Why? Why is there a holdup? Why the lack of care for people who live day in and day out with a disability? Why are they not being prioritized in this country?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, one thing in the throne speech was the Liberal's plan to deal with firearms in this country, which is not at all popular where I am from.

Would the member have any comments about the Liberal firearms plan? What did her constituents have to say about it?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, when it comes to firearms regulations within this country and what the current government has done, we again see that common sense is lacking.

We see the Prime Minister putting forward a plan that is simply about putting on a show. He wants to tell Canadians, in particular moms and dads and the individuals who are concerned about the safety and well-being of their communities and their children, that they are safe, they are okay, and he is making provisions for them. It is a noble goal. Governments should absolutely be concerned about the safety and security of their citizens.

However, here is the problem. To do that, the Prime Minister is going after the women and men who lawfully own their firearms, who lawfully use their firearms, and who have gone through the necessary training and background checks in order to possess the licence to acquire and use their firearm and ammunition.

The Liberals are going to go after those individuals while turning a blind eye to the gang-related activity that is taking place in downtown Toronto and Vancouver, and ignoring the illegal firearms that are coming—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be back in the House.

Once again, this is proof that what we said in the spring is feasible. It is realistic to sit in a Parliament that is adapted to COVID-19 conditions. Of course, we need to follow public health guidelines. Once again, the Conservatives were right.

In my riding, much like in Canada's 337 other ridings, things got turned upside down. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for their solidarity and resilience. Canada responded to this unique, special situation with an outpouring of mutual support. We are writing the manual as we go. As the Premier of Quebec so aptly put it, we are building the plane in flight.

The second session of the 43rd Parliament will be nothing like other sessions. We are in a crisis, and it is important to say that. On March 13, Parliament was prorogued. I think it was to be expected. We have adapted. Faced with the unknown, we reacted. In my opinion, some good things were done.

Parliament reopened two weeks ago. However, the Prime Minister of Canada had decided to prorogue Parliament when Canada was in the midst of a crisis. This meant that the administrative process and committee meetings, among other things, were on hold. Furthermore, parliamentarians' rights were curtailed.

I remind members that the Prime Minister decided to prorogue Parliament six weeks ago to get the Liberals out of a jam. The government served its own interests instead of serving the interests of Canadians. This summer, we were talking about WE Charity. The Prime Minister's wife had received money from WE Charity. It was public money. Recently, the Liberals stated that we cannot do indirectly what we cannot do directly.

The Prime Minister's wife received money, the Prime Minister's brother received money and the Prime Minister's mother received money. Nearly $300,000 made its way into his family's pockets. That is unacceptable. This all happened just before Parliament was prorogued. That organization paid for trips taken by the former finance minister. He has since stepped down. His daughters were part of or associated with WE Charity.

Rumour has it that WE Charity helped draft the framework to ensure that it would be able to participate in the government tendering process. That is just a rumour, but where there is smoke, there is fire. WE Charity was awarded a nearly $1-billion contract without any competition at all. On top of that, they forgot to include rules for francophones in Quebec and across Canada. They were forced to subcontract to a bilingual company, one that was able to serve francophones but could not bid on the whole project. That was the situation.

Remember, this is a time of crisis. Today, Quebec reported the highest number of new cases since the pandemic began. More than 1,360 cases were announced. This is serious. We need to act.

Canadian workers are desperate to work. Support organizations that help people in need are ready on the ground. I met with them in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. We need to help people and businesses get through this unique and unforeseen situation.

I must admit that some measures made sense. Some of the measures brought in by the government were logical. A responsible government takes that kind of action. It helps people and businesses. Some programs that were brought in were good. I am not afraid to say it.

However, programs must evolve. The problem with this government is that it was unable and unwilling to advance and improve the programs. I am thinking about the CERB and the CESB, which disincentivized work. As the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, I get up every morning to make sure that we have a good society that values work. That is the future and potential of a society. We have to value work and hard-working people. We cannot lower our standards.

I would remind hon. members that we are in a crisis and that the Prime Minister decided to shut down Parliament. When Parliament resumed, we were treated to a Speech from the Throne.

Since the government had six weeks to prepare it, I was anticipating a unique Speech from the Throne for a unique situation. I was expecting the Speech from the Throne to announce immediate measures for finding solutions to help workers, businesses, seniors, and persons with disabilities in our country. There is nothing like that, nothing concrete. It announced that money had been given to the provinces for school re-entry. That had already been announced two weeks prior.

I was expecting to hear about a test deployment plan. Testing is a problem right now. People do not know whether or not they have COVID-19, and what is more, they cannot get a test. The Prime Minister and his government are supposedly in the process of approving tests that will arrive next week, from what I hear. The tests will arrive in Canada next week, but when will they be distributed?

I was expecting to see a clear plan in the throne speech for rolling out testing. The Prime Minister's friend, the Governor General, was given this pre-election platform to read. Then, since this is a serious crisis, the Prime Minister asked the national networks for air time to address Canadians and deliver a clear public service announcement. I will call it that since I cannot remember the right term. Unfortunately, I learned nothing from it.

I watched the Prime Minister provoke the provinces, his allies, in a time of crisis. He looked into the camera and said that things needed to change and were going to change for long-term care homes and seniors. What has changed since? Nothing. It was all lip service, empty words.

I was expecting to see a plan for economic recovery. France, Germany and South Korea have presented practical plans. I want to be proud to be Canadian. I want to be a leader. I want to emerge from this crisis with my head held high. Yes, it is a crisis, and yes, we need to help people, but we need to find a way through this crisis as quickly as possible. When he was facing an economic crisis, Prime Minister Harper implemented measures to ensure that we would be the first to emerge from it. I am proud of this fact.

I look forward to my colleagues' questions. I expected much more from the Speech from the Throne.

Members will have understood from my speech that I will probably be voting no this evening.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, since day one this government has been working with Canadians, different levels of governments and non-profit organizations, understanding and appreciating the difficult times this pandemic is putting all of us through.

When I look over the last six to eight months, I have seen a great deal of co-operation from the individual to the group to different levels of government. We can see that with the restart program. The federal government has worked with the provinces to ensure the interests of Canadians are being served in all regions of our country. The throne speech provides very strong and clear action and a vision going forward to deal with the pandemic and minimize the negative impact to the economy.

Has the member actually read through the throne speech? If he has read it, he may want to reconsider some of his previous statements.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, before I answer my colleague, the term I was looking for was “address to the nation”, and it was my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup who helped me think of it.

Yes, I did read through the Speech from the Throne, and yes, I did watch the address to the nation. My Liberal colleague says that his government collaborated with the provinces and territories. Please excuse me, but I will ask him the question: Did he read the Speech from the Throne? Does collaboration mean interfering in provincial and territorial jurisdictions, talking about a pharmacare program, professional training and a day care program?

Furthermore, in his address to the nation and throne speech, the Prime Minister provoked the provinces by saying that things must change and that he would put things in place to protect seniors in long-term care. What has he done since then? We are in a crisis right now.

That is my answer to my esteemed colleague.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, at the end of his speech, my colleague brought up the 2008-09 economic recovery. Don Drummond, a former TD Bank economist and a professor at Queen's University, said that the measures were drafted quickly and that the country derived no long-term benefit from that recovery.

In light of this assessment, I would like to know if my colleague has suggestions for ensuring that the economic recovery has long-term benefits this time.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, we are in the midst of a crisis and we need to respond quickly. To do that, we need real answers.

Even if some people are saying it had no impact, at that time, we were the first country in the G20 to get our heads above water. Now, I do not understand what my colleague is saying because, when we left office and the Liberals took power, we left them a country with no deficit. There were debt arrears, but we balanced the budget in 2015. Why is she saying that there were no long-term benefits?

It is very difficult to turn an economy around. When the Minister of Canadian Heritage came out of the cabinet retreat just before the House resumed sitting, I was concerned to hear him say that it would take another three or four months before the Liberals had an economic recovery plan but that he was not going to lose any sleep over it. That is the issue, right there.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very surprised at my Conservative colleague's speech. He seems to want to dismiss proposals that would actually help people, such as the new social and pharmacare programs.

Like me, he is a member from Quebec. I would therefore like him to answer the CSN, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec and the Union des consommateurs who are all calling for a universal public pharmacare program.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Quebec needs to understand that pharmacare is a provincial responsibility and that it is up to the provinces to work on it. The federal government will probably contribute financially, and there will be compensation for Quebec.

Sadly, whenever I talk to NDP members, I feel disappointed that they have sold their souls to the Liberals.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to reply to the Speech from the Throne.

I will be splitting my time with my good friend from Humber River—Black Creek.

Like other members, I have been out and about with constituents and others. The general pattern of the conversation is to lament the progress of this pandemic and then the conversation tends to move toward how we will pay for this. The programs the government has put in place are generally well received, very welcome and are life rests to people in real desperation. It is quite right to say that the government has made its balance sheet available to Canadian citizens. Nevertheless, there will be a day of reckoning.

I will focus a bit on the necessity of fiscal anchors, but before I do, I want to point to the central truth of the Speech from the Throne, and that is that we need to do all we can to restore the nation's health. This is the pre-eminent priority of the Government of Canada and should be the pre-eminent priority of the Parliament of Canada. Without the restoration of the nation's health, there simply will not be any restoration of the nation's wealth. The saying that the first wealth is health has never been more true than it is today.

In 1993, The New York Times nominated Canada as an honorary member of the third world. Our debt and deficits had risen to unsustainable levels, vulnerable to inflation, runs on the dollar and other economic shocks. In 1997 through to 2006, the Chrétien and Martin governments paid down the national debt by something in the order of $100 billion, taking the debt-to-GDP ratio from north of 65% to somewhere in the order of 25%. Fiscal discipline and a robust economy allowed Canada to exit its honorary status as a third world nation and become the envy of the G7, the G20 and other OECD economies. We have been living on that legacy ever since.

The emergence of COVID-19 has driven our debt-to-GDP ratio much higher and it is now in the range of 49%. Recently the Parliamentary Budget Office issued a fiscal update. It has made three sobering assumptions: first, that there will be no widely available vaccine for the next 12 to 18 months; second, that current response measures will be withdrawn on schedule; and third, that the Bank of Canada will maintain a prime rate of 0.25% through to 2023 and further maintain its program of quantitative easing.

Between December 2019 and June 2020, Canada's real GDP collapsed by 13.4%, and the PBO does not expect it to recover to the December 2019 levels until March 2022. As the GDP goes, so also go the revenues of the government.

I appreciate the PBO's candour and recognize that all projections, whether they are from the Department of Finance or the PBO, are subject to some very significant caveats.

Canada is a trading nation. It is both a strength and a vulnerability. Our most significant trading partner has been in turmoil for the last four years. We might all hope that November 3 might bring a more stable and predictable relationship, but we cannot count on it.

Our number two trading partner, China, seems to be determined to turn Canada into a vassal state, kidnapping Canadian citizens, making arbitrary trade decisions, practising a hectoring diplomacy and introducing mass surveillance, all of which make the Chinese Communist Party an unreliable partner. The pandemic has woefully exposed our dependence on any supply chain that runs through China. In addition, our third largest trading partner seems to be consumed yet again by Brexit discussions.

In this gloomy context of unreliable trading partners, an unpredictable virus and unsustainable spending, what is a finance minister to do? Ultimately, the finance minister is the Dr. No of cabinet. However, it is helpful when saying no to attach the no to a stated rationale.

I, for one, would like to see a joint statement from the Department of Finance and the Parliamentary Budget Office giving their best projections on the GDP of the nation. In addition, I would like to see some effort to reconcile any differences. It would be in the national interest to have a common understanding of our fiscal and economic picture.

Second, I would like to see a fiscal anchor or series of fiscal anchors. If there is no fiscal anchor, the ship of state will inevitably go in dizzying circles. There are plenty of anchors to choose from. A stable debt-to-GDP ratio has the advantage of being widely accepted and easily understandable. The disadvantage is in the short run: It will deteriorate very quickly, as both the numerator and the denominator are going in opposite directions.

Another fiscal anchor is a balanced budget. At this point it is an unrealistic fiscal anchor, as implicitly acknowledged by my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, who recognized that balanced budgets may be more than 10 years away. By the way, I was pleased to see him in the House and look forward to his being Her Majesty's leader of the official opposition for many years to come.

Another fiscal anchor is inflation. Some say we should let inflation be the only anchor, or otherwise simply let programs expand. Still others propose a cap on spending. The disadvantage of a cap on spending is that it is entirely arbitrary and lacks flexibility.

David Dodge, the former deputy minister and former governor of the Bank of Canada, suggests a fiscal anchor tied to the cost of the national debt. He suggests that the cost of servicing the national debt should not exceed 10% of government revenues on an annual basis, and that, in addition, we should eventually reduce annual deficits to no more than 1% of GDP. Mr. Dodge also wants all government investments, all programs, tied to an increase in productivity. Canada has for quite a number of years now been a laggard in productivity.

My purpose here is to urge the government to pick a fiscal anchor or anchors to recognize that the Government of Canada is not the economy of Canada. At some point Dr. No has to say no, because to say otherwise would be to cut the ship of state from “wise and prudent management”.

Canada is not like the U.S. It can do wild and crazy fiscal things and get away with it because it is the world's currency. The Canadian dollar is a small currency in a very large pool. If either inflation or a run on the dollar occur, all the presumptions of cheap money are out the window. At this point we do have cheap money. Let us hope that it continues, because a number of the assumptions are based upon this.

With that, I hope the government will commit to fiscal anchors and we can have a realistic conversation about the program mix.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for a shockingly sensible speech, a speech I would not have expected to hear from any member of the government caucus.

He made a lot of very good points. He quite rightly gave credit to the Chrétien and Martin government for adopting balanced budgets and reducing our debt. He quite rightly pointed out that in the early 1990s this country literally ran out of money when finance officials went to lending markets and could not find a single person on earth willing to lend a dollar to the Government of Canada for fear it could not pay the money back. At that time, our debt-to-GDP ratio was 66.6%. A half-year ago, it was 30%. In other words, we had about a 36% buffer of space between where we were and where we could expect to go bankrupt.

Today, it is at 50% of GDP. In other words, the government has more than eliminated half of the buffer that existed between where we were and where we go off the cliff. That means the trajectory we are on is not sustainable. The problem with cliffs is that while one approaches them gradually, one falls off them suddenly, and once off the cliff, it is too late.

Does the hon. member agree with Her Majesty's loyal opposition that a firm and clear fiscal anchor is necessary and necessary now?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, one always has a degree of trepidation when one is being complimented by the member for Carleton. However, his numbers are accurate, and I was trying to make the case that we need to articulate a fiscal anchor or anchors. Without fiscal anchors, we will simply pile up debt.

We have seen this movie before. When the Chrétien government took over in 1993, we were in an unsustainable position. We need to get back to some position whereby we can sustain the necessary programs.

The government rightly put the government 's balance sheet in the service of desperate Canadians. However, in the words of the great philosopher Wayne Gretzky, we need to know where the puck's going, not where the puck is.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, our Conservative colleague raised a rather important point about spending levels and the need to start considering the repercussions of that spending.

In his speech, our Liberal colleague pointed out that the government was helping Canadians. However, one thing that Bloc members find particularly disturbing is that the throne speech created two classes of seniors because it is not increasing pensions starting at age 65.

I would like to know if the member has been putting pressure on his party to change that. How does he feel?

How can he justify this unacceptable position?

That is one example of smart spending. People need that money. They will spend it to improve their quality of life, and that will keep our system going. That is how the government should be spending.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with the general proposition of trying to put money in the hands of the people who will stimulate the economy the most. Certainly, whether it is seniors or poorer people with families, it is probably the best spending the government can do.

My own riding of Scarborough—Guildwood is the number one recipient of the Canada child benefit. All that money goes directly to food, clothing and transportation, and goes directly into the local economy. I am in favour of any program that generates funding to go directly into the hands of poorer Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, it is great to see you again in the chair.

It was very interesting to follow my colleague. He pointed out some of the finance challenges the country is going to face. I want to talk about my constituents and the people of Canada who are benefiting as a result of those investments.

As members have heard, we are experiencing unprecedented times around the world. The pandemic has been a true test for all Canadians, from the public health measures keeping us from our loved ones to the widespread business closures and layoffs threatening our livelihoods. We are in the fight of our lives and are not out of the woods yet. The last six months have shown just how important it is to come together to support each other through these trying times. Now that the second wave has arrived, we must do everything we can to flatten the curve and help bring this virus to an end. We flattened the curve once and we can do it again, because we are all in this together.

It is clear to me that the impacts of COVID-19 are going to be felt for generations. To rebuild a stronger Canada and ensure the safety of Canadians, we must look to the future and take some bold actions to protect everyone.

The Speech from the Throne is an opportunity for our government to step back, take stock of where we are and set out the priorities of where we want to go to come through this in a positive way. It is an opportunity for parliamentarians to discuss and debate the role and direction of the government. I know this government will help Canadians across the country. That is what we are committed to doing.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a few aspects of the throne speech that clearly will help assist the residents of Humber River—Black Creek.

We all know, and continue to lecture, to wear a mask, wash our hands and keep our distance. These are not easy things, but they are inevitable if we want to save ourselves from the epidemic. Most importantly, we must make sure Canadians will be able to get a vaccine once it is ready.

It is going to take all of us working together to keep each other safe and beat this virus. I have had to make requests for multiple test sites in my riding, as unfortunately it is a hot spot. I was pleased we were able to set up temporary sites at the Humber River Hospital, at Church Street and at the Gord and Irene Risk Community Centre, as well as at several other places, to get testing done. Until we can ensure that everybody gets a test when they need it and gets results in a timely fashion, with timeliness being key, we are not going to be able to end this pandemic. Contact tracing and testing are paramount, and I know that our government is committed to working with municipalities and the provinces to achieve this goal. I do not want anybody who needs a test to be turned away.

I know my constituency staff have done a wonderful job and have received a number of positive calls from constituents and business owners expressing their gratitude for the various programs our government has created. Without them they would have never been able to make ends meet. The CERB program has provided immense assistance and relief to the constituents of my riding. Frankly, I am immensely grateful to the government for creating programs that were very much needed.

Let me give the House a few examples.

My office staff helped a young single mother with two kids under five. She was laid off in March because of COVID-19, living on her own and managing everything without help. When my office first spoke to her she really did not have any faith that the government would help her.

She applied for the CERB and waited for it to come through. It came through just in time for her to pay the rent. My office was able to assist this young woman to successfully receive her CERB payment, a true success story at that particular moment. In the last conversation I had with this constituent, she said it had restored her faith in government and she thanked us very much. The woman has gone back to work and remains grateful for the assistance she received from my office staff every day.

There are a number of cases like this where constituents are hopeless and if it were not for the CERB they would never have been able to survive. Everyone I have spoken with who has lost their job during this pandemic, which is a lot of people, would not have known what to do if it were not for this benefit and the many others our government has created that are helping Canadians every day.

Before I continue to highlight more of the positive benefits of our government's assistance for Canadians, I would like to take a minute to acknowledge the hard work of my staff and the staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially the member for Don Valley West, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is a true leader with a caring heart.

During the start of the pandemic, he was an immense help to my office as we successfully repatriated numerous constituents and their family members from around the world. This amazing work should not go unnoticed. The repatriation of Canadians during these difficult times is heartwarming.

The reason I am so aware of the repatriation process of Canadians is that my office worked closely with a local travel agency, which is the heart of the riding. Lina Matturro, a small business owner, operates Islington Travel in the Humber River—Black Creek riding. She has experienced many ups and downs during this pandemic.

I would like to share some excerpts from a piece of correspondence my office recently received from Lina. She wrote, “The travel industry has undergone severe trauma, and while we are strong and resilient, we are definitely dealing with new experiences in unprecedented times. I have owned and operated a small travel agency in a local community for just over 43 years, and clearly was not prepared for COVID-19. Even before the Canadian government declared a state of emergency, our office was already working 24-7 to rearrange flights for our clients. We frantically worked on getting passengers back to Canada. The financial hardship has been unbelievable. I have zero income coming in and still have a ton of expenses. The rent relief program has been a lifesaver. Without that program, I would have had to close the door months ago.”

Small businesses in Canada, like Islington Travel, have been hit especially hard. We know this. Forced closures, reduced capacity, supply chain disruptions and reduced revenue are just some of the challenges our resilient small businesses have faced. We all know that small businesses are the economic backbone of Canada. We know that it will take some time for their businesses to return to pre-COVID-19 performance levels. That is why we have taken, again, decisive measures to help keep Canadian small businesses operational, such as with the extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy to the summer of 2021. We have expanded access to the Canada emergency business account and made improvements to the business credit availability program, and that is just a sample.

We are working hard to ensure that small business owners, like Lina, will have quick and easy access to meaningful financial support so that they can get through this tough time.

I have been advocating, alongside several of my colleagues, for national standards on the issue of long-term care. I was appalled at what happened with the long-term care home in my riding, Hawthorne Place, and many others. I have worked with my colleagues to push forward the request for us to have national standards of care. We have national standards for everything else in this country. Why would we not have national standards for something as important as how we treat our elderly in long-term care?

I am pleased to say that the government, in the throne speech, and the Prime Minister, in particular, heard that call. He was appalled at what he saw and heard through that process. We will see the long-needed implementation of national standards for long-term care as soon as possible, and I am talking about actual implementation, not just a commitment, not just words on a piece of paper or a report.

I know that people will say that the federal government has no right to be into this as it is a provincial issue. I have said it myself, but that did not stop me and my colleagues from pushing forward. This is an issue for all Canadians. We have to improve on this area, and we are going to start now. It is an issue that will soon see progress with the implementation of much-needed standards of care across the board.

We are building back better. As the Prime Minister said, this is not necessarily the time for austerity. We are here to help Canadians. Ensuring that Canadians are supported through this health crisis is the best thing we can do for the economy. Canadians should not have to choose between their health and their jobs. We will continue to help Canadians to put food on the table, keep businesses open, create jobs, support women in the economy and ensure our fiscal sustainability.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague said at the end of her speech, “this is not necessarily the time for austerity”.

I am trying to understand what the government's working definition of “austerity” would be, because every day, every week, we see new expanded spending announcements push the deficit up higher and higher. At what point would that spending be too much?

If the government were spending a deficit of $500 billion, $600 billion, $700 billion, at what point would the member say to hang on a second because we need to slow down that spending? If we were spending a little less than we are now, say, a $300-billion deficit instead of $343 billion, would that be austerity? Would spending $250 billion in deficit be considered austerity? Where are the actual cut-offs in terms of the member's concept of what would be too much spending, and what would qualify as austerity?