House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was support.


Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario


Paul Lefebvre LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-215, an act respecting Canada's fulfillment of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligations.

The purpose of Bill C-215 is to ensure that Canada fulfills its obligations under the Paris Agreement, including by establishing targets for reducing Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and accountability mechanisms for emissions reduction.

More specifically, Bill C-215 includes a target of zero net emissions by 2050 and an interim emissions reduction target of at least 30% below the level of greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 by 2030. It also requires a centralized action plan that establishes five-year interim targets, from 2025 to 2040.

An annual report on the progress made in reducing Canadian greenhouse gas emissions must also be prepared and tabled in Parliament. The bill provides for a review of the action plan and annual progress reports by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development and a review of the act every four years.

Achieving a prosperous future and net-zero emissions by 2050 remains a priority for the Canadian government. Canadians know that climate change is a threat to their health, and the government will continue to work on this issue.

Even as the world copes with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change continues to worsen, and it is nearly certain that 2020 will be one of the four hottest years on record. As UN Secretary General António Guterres pointed out, climate change is not taking a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we cannot put climate action on hold.

Just as our government committed to supporting Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to do the same with climate action. Canadians are already living the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events, such as the changing intensity and frequency of flooding, storms and fires, coastal erosion, extreme heat events, melting permafrost, and rising sea levels. All of these effects pose a significant risk to the safety, security, health and well-being of all Canadians, our communities, our economy and our natural environment.

Our existing measures to fight climate change and those to come will help Canada further reduce its emissions, support a growing economy and make life safer and more affordable for Canadians. In addition to these national commitments, Canada is a leader when it comes to international measures and the fight against climate change.

Climate change is a major global challenge, and that is why Canada and 194 other countries adopted the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. This agreement seeks to strengthen efforts to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C and, if possible, to limit it to 1.5°C.

As a reminder, under the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada is also determined to strengthen existing greenhouse gas reduction measures and implement new ones in order to exceed the greenhouse gas emission reduction goal by 2030.

Canada is also a founding member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which was created to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity. The alliance currently has over 110 members.

Canada is taking part in many other climate change initiatives. For example, Canada is involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. From 2016 to 2018, it was co-chair of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which works to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. It is a member and co-chair of the Global Methane Initiative, an international partnership aimed at reducing methane pollution and advancing the recovery and use of methane as a cleaner energy source.

Despite the fact that COP26 was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada is still making its international commitments to fight climate change a priority.

COP is not only a forum for negotiations that guide international climate action, but it is also an important forum for pursuing progress with international partners on many initiatives and maintaining bilateral relations on climate action and environmental protection.

COP will remain a forum where the Government of Canada can continue to showcase not only its efforts to combat climate change, but also many other initiatives that strengthen the integration of solutions based on nature, biodiversity and the oceans, such as phasing out coal, targeting zero plastic waste, enhancing protection for nature and promoting funding for coastal resilience.

Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can assure my colleagues that Canada is pursuing and will continue to pursue initiatives and collaboration with its international allies. Our actions are more important than ever because the science is clear: we cannot wait for future generations to stop polluting or take action to adapt to the effects of climate change. We must act now.

If we are to meet our Paris target of holding the temperature increase to 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C, global emissions will have to achieve the net-zero emissions target by 2050. Canada recognizes these conclusions and agrees that additional work is needed, hence its commitment to achieving its net-zero emissions target by 2050 through a five-year national greenhouse gas emissions reduction milestone, based on the advice of experts and consultations with Canadians.

Canada is not alone. Nine countries have passed or are in the process of passing legislation to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. These countries include France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Including Canada, at least 120 countries, 14 regions, 398 cities, 786 businesses and 16 investors have committed to meeting this target. Clearly, several components of Bill C-215 reflect both the national and international priorities of our government.

I thank the hon. member for presenting such an important subject. I look forward to continuing discussions on measures that will enable us to fight climate change and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak this evening about the bill sponsored by the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

The stated objective of this bill is to ensure that Canada fulfills its obligations under the Paris Agreement. That is definitely an objective that I support and my leader has pledged that the Conservative Party will fulfill it.

In fact the Paris targets themselves are Conservative targets. During my first mandate, the previous Prime Minister consulted every province on their reduction capacity and settled on a reduction of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. That was presented as Canada's commitment under the Paris Agreement and continues to be the target today. This work was done in collaboration with the provinces and it focuses on maintaining economic opportunities. Furthermore, the Paris commitments are on all points in line with what my party stands for: environmental protection that is not at the expense of the economy, and respect for provincial jurisdictions and expertise.

Unfortunately, since this agreement was signed, the Liberal government has not taken any significant action to meet these targets and instead has led an ideological and divisive campaign. The Prime Minister said that we are on track to meet the 2030 objective. During the last campaign, he said several times that Canada was on track to meet the objectives.

That is not true now, and it was not true then. He now claims that they will exceed our objectives but he refuses to provide details. They cannot even achieve the bare minimum, yet they promise to exceed the targets without providing any reason other than a promise. That sounds about right for this Liberal government.

Let us look at the facts. The latest report from Climate Transparency shows that not only is Canada not on the right track to meet its Paris commitments, but we are also among the least prepared countries of the G20. Climate Action Tracker ranked this government's measures as “insufficient” and the government's own projections, which are surely the most charitable, say that Canada is not even close to meeting its objectives.

Let us look at where we are right now. Even with the massive spending on programs such as electric vehicle subsidies, even with the Liberal government's total destruction of our oil and gas industry and even with the federal government's complete refusal to co-operate with the provinces and instead favour a top-down approach, Ottawa knows what is best. We are not even close to meeting our targets.

We are now in a position where the government did not keep the Paris commitments made by the Harper government. However, the Liberals expect us to believe that everything is fine and that they are even going to exceed those targets. We should not ask questions because the Liberals simply cannot tell us how that will happen.

We therefore have a bill from a Bloc Québécois member. As I already said, I support the stated objective of developing a responsible plan to meet the Paris Agreement commitments made by the Harper government. In that sense, there are many aspects of this bill that I like and support.

It is a very intelligent idea to not merely legislate targets but instead focus on creating a plan. As we all know, Parliament cannot bind Parliament.

As such, enshrining targets in law with no plan to achieve them essentially has no legal force and would amount to nothing more than virtue signalling.

Fortunately, this bill calls on the government to create a framework and to present it to the House, where it can be studied and debated. We know the Liberal government detests parliamentary scrutiny. It even shut Parliament down to avoid scrutiny. As such, this bill's move to force the government to present a plan is welcome.

I am always in favour of greater parliamentary oversight. I like the requirement for the environment commissioner to review the plan. In addition to mandatory parliamentary review by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I like that the plan called for in the bill requires specific measures to achieve the targets and assess progress.

However, there are provisions in this bill that I find hard to accept. The Paris targets were negotiated with the provinces and supported by every party here, but the commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 was not among them. I am therefore surprised to see this concept in the bill when its stated objective is to comply with the Paris Agreement, which does not include a net-zero emissions target.

It is troubling that the bill is linked to our international commitments under the Paris Agreement and that it states at the outset that Canada is committed to an ideological goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Whether 2050 is the right date should be debated in the House and should be the subject of extensive consultations with the provinces. The date of 2050 appears to have been chosen because it is a round number chosen by other nations, contrary to the Paris targets, which were based on science and consultation.

A promise in a Liberal platform is not the same as a well-established and agreed-upon target. This commitment requires further debate and study, and it is simply inappropriate to include it in this bill. I would have more confidence in the bill if it focused on the Paris targets, which all parties support, rather than an ideological commitment like achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

I hope the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia is listening to these concerns and is prepared to make a few changes.

I think we can agree on many areas where we are on the same page, but that means focusing on science, not ideology. We agree on the Paris targets and want to see a plan brought forward by this government to get us there. Let us move forward with that.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very glad to be speaking in the House today in support of climate accountability legislation.

While the world has been reeling from the impacts of COVID-19, the climate crisis has not gone away. It poses an ever-increasing threat to our environment, our ecosystems, our food systems, the health of our families, the future and our children's future. It also threatens the economic well-being and health of our communities. I do not know if I can adequately communicate the fear and anxiety that young people have communicated to me about their future or that parents have expressed about what kind of world we are leaving to our children, but it is not just about the future. The impacts of climate change are already being felt in Canada, in the smoke from the climate fires, the fact that temperatures in Canada are increasing at twice the global rate and the impacts on permafrost. The impacts are felt particularly in the Arctic and along the coasts and are disproportionately felt by indigenous communities, rural communities and marginalized and racialized communities.

There is a broad scientific agreement that an increase in the global average surface temperature of 1.5 °C or more above pre-industrial levels would constitute dangerous climate change. Canadians want real action on the climate crisis, and they want a government to not just promise to fight climate change, but to actually deliver on that commitment. The Liberals have missed every single climate target, and we are not even on track to meet Stephen Harper's weak targets. In a fall 2019 report, the commissioner of the environment said there is no evidence to support the government's statement that its current or planned actions would allow Canada to meet its targets.

The list of Liberal commitments on environmental targets that the current government has missed or is on track to miss is long. We are not even close to being on track to meeting our targets of selling 100% zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. The government committed to plant two billion trees by 2030, and not a single dollar has been allocated to that target. The clean fuel standard, a key part of the pan-Canadian framework on climate change, has been delayed. I could go on, but in many ways, all of these are symptoms of a government that has not been accountable to its climate commitments. Climate accountability is needed. This bill focuses on our climate targets. Reporting on how we get to those targets should include how the government intends to meet all of these vital climate-related policies.

As has been mentioned, in 2008 the United Kingdom created a climate accountability framework, the Climate Change Act. This act was the first of its kind and remains very highly regarded. It has served as a model for legislation in other jurisdictions including Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and New Zealand. The U.K. has set five carbon budgets, and regular reporting to Parliament has enhanced transparency and accountability. The U.K. has an expert advisory committee, the committee on climate change.

Two years before the U.K. implemented its bill, in 2006, the leader of the NDP at the time, Jack Layton, introduced the first climate change accountability act in Canada. This bill passed third reading by a vote of 148 to 116, with the Harper Conservatives voting against it, but Jack Layton's bill died in the Senate. The NDP has introduced the climate change accountability act as a private member's bill in the 39th, the 40th and the 41st Parliaments, by Jack and also by former MP, Megan Leslie.

In this Parliament, my NDP colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre, has put forward a bill, Bill C-232, an act respecting a climate emergency action framework, which would provide for the development and implementation of a climate emergency action framework. It explicitly outlines the need for an action framework ensuring the transition toward a green economy; increasing employment in green energy, infrastructure and housing; and ensuring economic well-being.

Importantly, it explicitly states that the climate emergency action framework, climate accountability legislation, must be built on a foundation that upholds the provisions in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The bill we are debating today, put forward by my Bloc colleague, is a really good start. It is headed in the right direction, but I see some gaps and some areas that need strengthening.

First, as outlined in the member for Winnipeg Centre's bill, Bill C-232, climate accountability legislation must be explicitly built on a foundation that recognizes the inherent indigenous right to self-government, that upholds the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that takes into account scientific knowledge, including indigenous science and knowledge, as well as the responsibilities we have toward future generations.

I applaud, in Bill C-215, the inclusion of interim targets every five years, although 2045 seems to be missing, and applaud the requirement to outline the methods, measures and tools for measuring and assessing greenhouse gas reductions. However, the bill needs strengthening in relation to what these targets will be. It relies on the Paris Agreement, and we need to acknowledge that the Paris targets and net-zero by 2050 are not enough. Our greenhouse gas reduction targets need to be ambitious and consistent with Canada’s fair share contribution. They need to be strong targets that help us stay below a temperature increase of 1.5°C.

The last IPCC report is telling us that we need to at least cut our emissions in half by 2030, and the new targets need to reflect this. Yes, our targets need to be set into law, but we also need to include mechanisms so that they can be strengthened when the experts advise.

The next area that is in need of strengthening is accountability. We need experts involved not only in strengthening targets, but also in reporting and analyzing our progress. It is essential that these experts be at arm’s-length, and their mandate needs to focus on climate accountability.

The NDP has pushed for an independent climate accountability office and the appointment of a climate accountability officer, who would undertake research and gather information and analysis on the target plan or revised target plan; prepare a report that includes findings and recommendations on the quality and completeness of the scientific, economic and technological evidence and analysis used to establish each target in the target plan; and advise on any other climate change and sustainable development matters that the officer would consider relevant to climate accountability.

Environmental advocates and organizations have also called for an independent arm’s-length expert climate advisory committee drawn up from all regions of the country, one that would specifically advise on long-term targets, the five-year carbon budgets and climate impact reports. These experts would also monitor and report on governmental progress toward achieving the short-term carbon budgets, long-term targets and adaptation plans, and would provide advice to the government on climate-related policy.

Another element that we need to look at is carbon budgets, both national and subnational.

While all these areas need attention, I believe they can be addressed in committee. It is essential that we move forward with climate accountability legislation immediately. We needed it back in 2006, when Jack Layton first put it forward. We needed it when each iteration of the IPCC report came out, outlining the catastrophic impacts of global warming. We needed it last year, when young people were marching in the streets begging politicians and decision-makers to listen to science. We need it now.

The Liberals promised climate accountability legislation in their election platform and again in the throne speech. In fact, in the most recent throne speech, they said that they would immediately bring forward a plan outlining how they are going to meet and exceed Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction goals. They also committed to legislating net-zero by 2050. That was back in September. I am not sure what the Liberal government's definition of “immediately” is, but it is now November and neither of these things have happened. If the Liberals vote against this bill, it will be another example of how they are content to make climate promises but are unwilling to take climate action. We need to remember that this is the government that declared a climate emergency one day and bought a pipeline the next.

I implore my fellow MPs to support this motion. I will be—

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


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

The hon. member for Repentigny.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today next to my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, who is introducing Bill C-215.

Accountability is a welcome word. We approve of it when we see it at work in our everyday lives, in society. It is reassuring to be around people who are accountable. Being accountable means behaving in a meaningful and commendable way.

In this case, what does it mean to be accountable? For elected members like us, it means legislating climate accountability. It means honouring the wishes of those who expect us to take action and make progress.

In 32 years under four prime ministers, no fewer than nine different targets have been announced by the federal government. Canada failed to meet its targets for 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2012 and will fail to meet its targets for 2020, which were introduced by the Harper government.

Thirty years ago, Canadian greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions were 602 megatonnes. In 2017, they had increased by 18.9% while in the same period Quebec had reduced its emissions by 8.7%.

The federal government needs to fully grasp what is happening. The most optimistic scenario would still see us fall 77 megatonnes short of meeting the target that Canada set for itself.

There is no excuse for inaction. Canada accounts for just 0.5% of the world's population but emits 1.5% of GHGs worldwide and ranks 10th among some 200 countries. Canada is among the developed countries that have been especially responsible for producing GHG emissions and destroying our planet.

As my colleague said earlier, a lot of analysis and thought went into this substantial bill. It is flexible enough to be sustainable, because sustainable climate action is how Canada can hope to join the ranks of countries that have taken action. With this bill, successive governments through 2050 and beyond will have the flexibility needed to continue working on it. Everything can be adapted depending on what has been achieved: plans, mitigation measures, policies, sectorial targets, and so on.

This climate accountability bill is measured and it was designed to guarantee that Canada can both take climate action and combat the health crisis. Our efforts will improve the health of humans and the environment. I often speak about the connection between the two in my speech, so I will repeat myself.

It is important to know that the links between human health issues and the impacts of climate change have been extensively studied and demonstrated. Whether it is air pollution or the virus, whose undeniable increase in transmission is rooted in the loss of biodiversity and climate upheaval, all populations are vulnerable. COVID-19 has provided some insight into this, but we should know that the effects existed before this pandemic. They were measured, and thousands of researchers were and are still working on the links between health and the environment.

I therefore believe that supporting this bill at this specific moment in time is undoubtedly one of the best ways to contribute to the government's efforts to combat the pandemic.

In 2007, the House of Commons passed the bill sponsored by the opposition member who today is the Leader of the Government, our hon. colleague from Honoré-Mercier. The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act was intended for the most part as legislative protection for Canada's international ambitions and commitments.

In 2020, the Bloc Québécois is taking the initiative in the same spirit, but in the context of a climate crisis of unparalleled urgency. This bill seeks to ensure that Canada fulfills its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also its responsibility to take the essential steps needed to attain the reduction targets that the government itself has set.

I will now talk about a specific case, that of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Canada has shown leadership, in particular by helping less wealthy countries eliminate these substances through the deployment of resources for atmospheric monitoring of the Arctic and much more. Since 1987, this treaty has been signed by 165 member countries and the list of substances continues to be updated. This is a success story.

However, the challenge presented by the requirements and context of the Paris Agreement is so great that it is hard to believe we did not implement suitable measures. Even with the elimination of the substances listed in the Montreal Protocol, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase.

I participated in the various COPs since Paris. It was an opportunity to learn about the acceleration of the climate crisis in particular but also about the growing engagement and expertise on the issue.

Despite the fact that these are priorities in every forum—political, academic, economic and social—reminders are still needed. The way things are going, global warming could reach 4°C to 5°C by the end of the century, 2100.

Parents and grandparents should consider the fact that today's children will suffer the consequences throughout their lives. Children born today will be seniors at the end of the century. What will we leave them? A planet that is 4°C to 5°C warmer?

Oceans, freshwater and air and soil quality are all affected by phenomena linked to climate change. Other considerations are plants, animals, man-made structures, public health, public safety and the economy.

Clearly, not all legislation to fight greenhouse gases has the same impact, as my colleague said. Let us take a quick look at some of the nations with a record that inspires hope, courtesy of National Geographic and Climate Action Tracker. Other colleagues have named some of them this evening. Norway adopted legislation to reduce greenhouse gases to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 80% to 95% below 1990 levels by 2050. Electric cars made up 60% of the vehicles sold in March. We are not even close to that.

Would the United Kingdom be a case study? It cut greenhouse gas emissions by 44% between 1990 and 2018 all while growing its economy by 75%. In June of this year, the U.K. passed a law to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

I now want to talk about India. Its economy was booming, and the country made a choice to prioritize investments in renewable energy. It has already achieved its objective of meeting 40% of its energy needs through renewable energy. India had set this objective for 2030, but it is just 2020.

My colleague mentioned Morocco, which has the largest solar panel farm in the world. It is the size of 3,500 football fields. There is also Gambia, which committed to restoring 10,000 hectares of forest and savannah.

These examples show that everyone is doing their part. Countries big and small have a role to play in avoiding disaster. Canada should not be lumped in with Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia or its neighbour to the south when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Canada needs to step up and aim for progress. To make progress, however, you have to take action, and my colleague's bill offers a way to do so.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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, it is always a pleasure to add some thoughts with regard to our environment. We all recognize how important it is not only for those of us here today, but also for future generations. I can assure members that the government and the Prime Minister take the environment very seriously, and I look forward to contributing more to this debate when it comes up next.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


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

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

SeniorsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, on October 23, I asked when the government would be implementing national standards for long-term care. I was pleased with the response from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, and I am eager to hear him expand on his comments. However, I will take a moment to underscore the gravity of the situation facing workers and residents in long-term care homes.

I speak today as a Canadian, as a New Brunswicker, as a granddaughter and as a human being. This conversation must be centred squarely on the needs of people. COVID-19 has asked us to face ugly truths about our society, ones we knew existed but were happy to ignore until, sadly, for many it was too late.

As we know, it is older Canadians who face the greatest risk when it comes to COVID-19. Despite early warnings, our statistics demonstrate that while individuals 80 years and older represent only 12% of all COVID-19 cases to date, they make up 71% of the deaths. While only 15% of COVID-19 cases in Canada have been in long-term care facilities, they still represent 77% of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada.

We know the seniors living in these homes, of which around two thirds are women, are vulnerable. Unfortunately, the people tasked with their care and protection are also vulnerable. A recent report has demonstrated that up to 90% of direct-resident care in long-term care facilities is provided by resident aids or personal support workers. These professions are notorious for their low wages and part-time hours. Of note is that almost 90% of these workers are women, often from racialized and marginalized groups, including newcomers; 25% to 30% work more than one job; and 65% report having insufficient time to properly complete care tasks. We are failing to support vulnerable workers to succeed and, in turn, we are leaving older Canadians with inadequate access to care.

I always like to bring these numbers home. Resident assistants in New Brunswick at a long-term care home will make between $14 and $16 an hour. They will work enough hours over the course of a year to bring home just $24,635, which is $6,000 less than the Canadian average for their colleagues in other provinces. To put that into perspective, it is only a little more than half of the 2018 market basket measure for Fredericton.

The New Brunswick Nurses Union recently released an eye-opening report, blowing the whistle on the state of long-term care in New Brunswick. Even though a 2019 study by the Canadian Health Coalition identified 4.1 hours of care per resident per day to be the minimum standard for quality care, the number of care hours prescribed by the Government of New Brunswick is only 2.89, and some homes are unable to meet even that low standard.

It is clear that long-term care homes, both private and public, take advantage of low-income, part-time and often marginalized workers. They struggle to maintain a full staff complement because the work conditions and pay are so meagre. They do not balance their teams of RAs and PSWs with adequate numbers of LPNs and RNs to handle the increasingly complex care required in these homes. The residents see fewer and fewer hours of care time with staff and their conditions worsen. Then in a pandemic, we see front and centre just how vulnerable they can be and what real risks emerge.

This is a question of how we treat our elders and it is a women's issue. However, at the end of the day, this is about human dignity, dignity for the residents of long-term care homes and dignity for the workers.

I have used data points from several different organizations, many of which have called for elements of long-term care to be pulled under the Canada Health Act. Many of these groups have called explicitly for the implementation of national standards. On October 26, I added my voice to that of the Canadian Health Coalition, the Royal Society of Canada and the Council of Canadians, among others.

The parliamentary secretary confirmed for me that day that his government would work with the provinces and territories to continue setting new national standards for long-term care. Could he please expand on those efforts?

SeniorsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Dartmouth—Cole Harbour Nova Scotia


Darren Fisher LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, as I have said in the past, I really value the member and the work that she does in the House. I know that she puts her money where her mouth is when she says that this is something that is very near and dear to her heart.

Canadians expect and deserve to receive the best quality of care no matter where that care is being provided. That is why it is absolutely critical to take action on long-term care in Canada, working with provinces and territories.

The pandemic has revealed long-standing issues in long-term care. There is no doubt about that. We saw this spring a number of facilities were not prepared to prevent and manage outbreaks. Facilities were frequently understaffed. In addition, lockdowns prevented family caregivers from visiting, making the staffing problems even worse. Infection prevention and control guidance was not always being followed. In some homes, rooms and bathrooms were shared, making containing the spread of outbreaks extremely difficult, and as we saw, the most vulnerable in our society suffered the consequences.

In light of COVID-19 and respecting provincial and territorial jurisdictional leads, the federal government has been working collaboratively, as I have said in the past, with our provincial and territorial partners to protect vulnerable Canadians in long-term care.

During the spring, Canadian Armed Forces members were deployed into long-term care facilities in order to assist the facilities experiencing the most difficulties controlling the spread of COVID-19. During the current resurgence, we are working with the Canadian Red Cross to support provinces and territories facing outbreaks in long-term care.

Up to $3 billion in federal funding has been provided in support to provinces and territories to provide wage top-ups for low-income essential workers, which includes front-line workers in long-term care facilities. In addition, the safe restart agreements have been reached, which included $19 billion in federal investments to help provinces and territories restart the economy while making Canada more resilient to waves of the virus.

This included $740 million in funding to provinces and territories to support our most vulnerable populations, including infection prevention and control measures in long-term care, home care and palliative care. The Public Health Agency of Canada has published guidance to support the care of residents in long-term care facilities, as well as for infection prevention and control in long-term care and assisted living facilities as well as in-home care.

This guidance was developed with the National Advisory Committee on Infection Prevention and Control and endorsed by the pan-Canadian special advisory committee. In order to support changes to infrastructure in long-term care facilities, the investing in Canada infrastructure program has been adapted to provide provinces and territories with added flexibility to fund quick-start, short-term projects, including health infrastructure such as long-term care facilities.

The federally funded Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and Canadian Patient Safety Institute have launched an initiative to spread promising practices in preventing and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care and retirement homes. The goal of this initiative is to prepare participating facilities to be better able to prevent and manage any future outbreaks.

We are going to continue these efforts. In the recent Speech from the Throne, the government announced its intention to work with the provinces and territories to set new national standards for long-term care so that seniors get the best support possible. We will also look at further targeted measures for personal support workers who do an essential service helping the most vulnerable in our communities. We must better value their work and their contributions to our society.

Our government is committed to working in collaboration with provinces and territories to address the pressing needs in long-term care facilities, explore measures to increase the resilience of long-term care facilities and help prevent such significant challenges from ever recurring again.

SeniorsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments and commitment.

The pandemic is underlining the deep inequalities rooted in our communities, including the lived realities of those connected to the long-term care sector. I realize that what I am asking for is bold, but that is what we need, bold leadership that centres decisions around people. We need national standards in long-term care that will address the dignity of residents in their final years of life and respect the dignity of the workers. We need elements of the long-term care sector brought under the Canada Health Act.

However, leadership does not occur in a vacuum. We need to pair these changes with bold leadership on other fronts. The implementation of a guaranteed livable income would ensure Canadians have the means to enter their elder years on the solid foundation of a life lived with access to shelter, food and essential medications. National universal comprehensive pharmacare would ensure no one is forced to compromise essential medications just to make ends meet. A national mental health strategy that recognizes that mental health struggles are health struggles, with dedicated resourcing, would ensure Canadians can finally get the mental help that they need.

I know it will be a tough sell to the provinces as well. I know Premier Higgs in my home province has already indicated as much, but Canadians need it.

SeniorsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, our government is committed to helping our most vulnerable receive the best possible care in long-term care facilities. Our government has taken, and will continue to take, steps to respond to the significant challenges faced by long-term care facilities across the country in order to help avoid a repeat of the experience of the spring of 2020.

This commitment has been reaffirmed through the safe restart agreements, which include investments to support infection prevention and control in long-term care facilities, and through the Speech from the Throne, which outlines the intention of working with provinces and territories in setting new national standards for long-term care.

Residents in long-term care facilities should get the best support possible, no matter where they reside. We will also look into targeted measures that better value the work our personal support workers do in helping the most vulnerable Canadians across the country.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

November 4th, 2020 / 7:15 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, undetected and untreated mental health challenges can lead to grave consequences. A bad day can become a bad week, a bad month, and then a broken life. Absenteeism, job loss, dropping out of school, family breakdown, drug addiction, homelessness, violent behaviour and suicide are all strongly linked to mental health. How much suffering could we prevent if we recognized the real value of early intervention in mental health problems?

The downstream effects of poor mental health have heavy social costs associated with them that affect both families and communities. These include loss of business due to employee absenteeism, loss of tax revenue, classroom disruptions, loss of customers due to unsafe streets, increased policing costs, ambulance call-outs and emergency room visits. The list goes on. These costs are borne by all of us, and they leave us with fewer resources to put toward other important priorities.

Julie Chadwick recently wrote a three-part series that highlighted the fact that Nanaimo’s homelessness crisis is a mental health crisis. During a point-in-time count in Nanaimo earlier this year, 60% of individuals experiencing homelessness self-reported ongoing mental health issues. Mental health services in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, as well as in communities all across Canada, are under-resourced and underfunded.

When institutions such as Riverview Hospital in Vancouver were shut down in the 1980s, there was no plan in place to care for people with complex mental health issues. There is still no plan in place, and the ramifications of the lack of planning and lack of action are being lived out on the streets of our communities. The amount of suffering is enormous. We need housing with wrap-around services for individuals with complex mental health needs. These people are among the most vulnerable in our society, and they need specialized care and protection to stabilize their lives.

In addition, more accessible treatment facilities are needed for people who have self-medicated with alcohol and drugs to relieve mental health issues and are now suffering with substance use disorders.

It is far easier to help someone going through a rough patch in life than it is to try to help someone whose life has fallen apart. Helping people in the early stages of mental health challenges begins with eliminating the stigma. Men, in particular, suffer from fear, shame and even guilt associated with asking for help. We need to make mental health care accessible.

As the Minister of Health pointed out, mental health support is available to all Canadians free of charge through the Wellness Together Canada portal. I acknowledge the government’s efforts in providing this service to Canadians in response to the COVID crisis. Unfortunately, it is not accessible to everyone and it is not enough. The services offered through the Wellness Together Canada portal require Internet access. They require the ability to navigate to different websites and register for different services. Online counselling requires privacy.

These are circumstances and abilities that most of us take for granted, but when we pause and think about it, we understand that many people in Canada are left out. The Wellness Together Canada portal does not replace the need to fully cover mental health care services in the Canada Health Act. It cannot replace the need for an ongoing relationship with a professional when a person is experiencing mental health challenges.

Canada needs to invest in early detection and treatment of mental health problems, from our education system throughout our society. Fully including mental health care in the Canada Health Act is the right thing to do, and now is the right moment to act.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Dartmouth—Cole Harbour Nova Scotia


Darren Fisher LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his care and concern on this very important topic, and for giving me the opportunity to speak about mental health and how we are supporting Canadians during this very difficult time.

Prior to COVID-19, mental health was a significant concern, with one in three Canadians experiencing mental illness or problematic substance use during their lifetime. Our government recognizes the seriousness of this problem and has taken a comprehensive approach to mental health. In budget 2017, we provided $5 billion over 10 years to provinces and territories to improve Canadians' access to mental health services.

Through these investments, jurisdictions have expanded access to community-based services for children and youth, provided integrated health and mental health services for people with complex needs, and spread proven models of community mental health care and culturally appropriate interventions.

We recognize that COVID-19 has created stress and anxiety for many, particularly for those who do not have ready access to the regular support networks or have a pre-existing mental health condition.

In April 2020, a survey conducted by Mental Health Research Canada showed that self-reported levels for high anxiety had quadrupled compared to pre-pandemic levels, and those for depression had doubled. In addition, it found that significantly fewer Canadians had been able to access in-person mental health supports since the start of this pandemic. The positive impacts of various social supports and other coping mechanisms have diminished considerably.

In response, our government took quick action to address the immediate mental health needs of Canadians and to alleviate some of the burden on provinces and territories. We launched Wellness Together Canada on April 15, offering a broad range of free mental health and substance use supports in both official languages to all Canadians on a 24-7 basis.

These supports include access to peer support networks, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions, phone calls and counselling. In addition, Wellness Together Canada features a dedicated text line for health care workers and front-line personnel. As of October 27, over 530,000 individuals from provinces and territories have accessed Wellness Together Canada in over 1.5 million distinct web sessions.

We have provided $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide young people with mental health support during the pandemic. Since the start of this pandemic, it has experienced a significant surge in demand and is projecting to reach at least 3 million young people in 2020, in comparison to just 1.9 million in 2019.

In July, $500 million of additional support was provided to provinces and territories for immediate mental health and substance service needs as part of the $19-billion safe restart agreement. These initiatives, taken collectively, provide a comprehensive response to address mental health needs arising from the pandemic and lay the groundwork for long-term improvement.

We recognize there is more to do. The mental health of Canadians will continue to be impacted by the pandemic over the coming years. As stated in the Minister of Health's mandate letter and the 2020 Speech from the Throne, the federal government is committed to doing even more to improve access to mental health resources. This includes the development and implementation of national standards to improve access to timely, high-quality mental health services across Canada.

Improving access to mental health services will require the combined efforts of all levels of government and many stakeholders. Our government will work closely with provinces and territories to develop access standards that are evidence-based and consistent with the level of services Canadians expect and deserve. Canadians have made it clear that they expect more from their health care system, and that is—

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


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

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, the COVID-19 crisis has created anxiety and has negatively impacted the mental health of many Canadians. Swift and bold action by the government helped ease the worst of that anxiety and gave people hope that help was available.

Too many young Canadians today are suffering from severe climate anxiety. The climate emergency is draining away their hopes for the future. Swift and bold government action is needed to combat climate change, and the anxiety and despair it creates.

COVID-19, climate anxiety, financial and work stress, loneliness and alienation are a few of the causes of the mental health crisis, which could hit any one of us and affects all of us. We need to help people before their lives fall apart. Fully including mental health care under the Canada Health Act is the bold action needed to address this crisis.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for the kind words and the acknowledgement of the work that our government has done and is continuing to do.

Our government is committed to increasing the availability of high-quality mental health services. Wellness Together Canada does provide Canadians access to needed mental health supports, including tailored content and approaches for vulnerable populations. We are promoting Wellness Together through targeted social media and communications campaigns. We will continue to work with the Wellness Together consortium to make improvements to this very important mental health resource.

We look forward to further continued collaboration with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders to improve the quality and accessibility of mental health services and supports for all Canadians.

I thank the member for his continued collaboration on this very important topic.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to raise an issue that is of increasing concern to, I think, parliamentarians from all parties without regard to partisanship or advantage.

As Canadians, we are keenly aware that the region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Armenia is experiencing a conflict that is disproportionately affecting the people of Armenia. There is real risk of an ethnic cleansing in the offing.

I raised this issue on October 27, and I have to say that I was very pleased that the Prime Minister responded to my question, but there are many areas that need to be further discussed. I wish we had the opportunity to have more time on the floor of the House to discuss what is happening in the region and how we, as Canadians, can exert more influence.

As we all know from discussions that we have had in the House, Canadian drones sold to Turkey ended up being used by Azerbaijan against Armenia. We know that Azerbaijan has by far the greatest cache of weaponry and sophisticated modern weapons. From the media accounts I have seen, it is estimated that it has bought as much as $20 billion of weaponry compared to Armenia's half a billion dollars. Azerbaijan is better funded for building up armaments after the completion of a pipeline that allowed it to have oil wealth to pour into munitions. This is a tragic situation since the 1980s, in this region that the Armenians regard as their homeland of Artsakh.

We have many Armenian Canadians and a huge diaspora. They are friends and constituents of mine. I think of Raffi, and his contribution to our culture and society, and film director Atom Egoyan. They are all calling out to us to do more to protect family and friends they have left behind in Armenia.

I heard that the Azerbaijani army used white phosphorus munitions recently to try to bomb Armenians who are were hiding in the old forest outside of the cities, and imperilling endangered species as well. Clearly, the military sales from Turkey, Israel and Russia to Azerbaijan have created a much worse and more dangerous conflict than what we have seen over decades.

The question I raised is: What more can we do?

The Prime Minister said that we have a rigorous arms control export strategy. I think it needs to be more rigorous. We certainly could exert more pressure on Turkey, because we are both NATO allies. Turkey is a member of NATO. Canada and other NATO allies could do more to push for a peace process that is meaningful. However, I am certainly concerned by the fact that Canada does not have a diplomatic presence on the ground. The closest embassy and diplomatic service that we have to this conflict is all the way in Moscow. I think there is more we can do.

The hon. parliamentary secretary is here for adjournment proceedings this evening, and I know him to be very thoughtful and also concerned.

Peace-building is hard work. We tend to pay attention to peace-building when regions around the world flare up, but this flare-up could not be happening at a worse time for the people of Armenia as they lose their shelters and homes while also in a COVID pandemic, and the impacts are all that more severe.

I certainly look forward to the conversation we will have over the next six minutes or so to discuss what more Canada can do and what more the world can do to protect peace in the region and restore it to stability.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Don Valley West Ontario


Rob Oliphant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is quite an honour for me to be surrounded by Green Party questions. They are all thoughtful and important questions for us to be dealing with in Parliament and for the government to consider.

We remain deeply committed and concerned about the continuing military action that is going on in Nagorno-Karabakh. We are concerned the ceasefires that had been negotiated, which were facilitated most recently by the United States, were very quickly violated, and we continue to call on external parties to stay out of this conflict as we support the creation of a verification mechanism by the OSCE Minsk Group. The government has been clear that a comprehensive resolution can only be achieved through negotiated settlement, not military action.

With respect to our diplomatic presence, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has raised an important point. Canada's bilateral relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan are managed through our embassies: in Moscow for Armenia and in Ankara for Azerbaijan. These diplomatic missions have allowed us to develop strong ties with both Yerevan and Baku.

There are advantages here. I will be very clear that I have always called for a greater diplomatic presence in many parts of the world, including in Yerevan, and I have done it over many years. However, even without an on-the-ground diplomatic presence, I think our diplomats in Moscow and Ankara have been very good at providing clear and concise information to the Canadian government. We also get our information from diplomatic sources within those countries and from like-minded partners, particularly OSCE partners and members.

Our embassies in Moscow and Ankara have been proactive. They have done good work on this conflict situation. They have kept in contact and have provided us with important information. Of course, they also support Canada's regular communications with the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan through their diplomatic representatives in Ottawa.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been in direct and frequent contact with his Armenian counterpart on this issue, as well as his European counterparts. They are working toward a peaceful solution. As we all know, Canada is a member state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Through its permanent mission to the OSCE in Vienna, Canada contributes very importantly to the multilateral efforts, and supports the work of the Minsk Group in trying to bring an end to this conflict situation.

The issue of arms exports was raised, and I want to comment on that briefly. As soon as the minister heard there was a possibility arms were being used for purposes they were not intended for, he immediately suspended export permits. That is still under consideration for sure.

We remain very concerned about the humanitarian response too, particularly in this time of COVID. To date, we have contributed a total of $450,000 to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to address humanitarian needs. We will continue to do more as we are called upon to share in our responsibility.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, indeed the OSCE Minsk Group has been doing very significant work. However, it has been unable, despite many years of effort, to bring the parties together for a durable peace. It seems as though the conflict that has simmered and raged in different eruptions over a period of decades merely needs the application of more armaments to blow up, as it did through the summer and to this moment.

I certainly hope Canada can do more. We are seen by the world as a “good guy” country in this conflict, and I believe there is more that can be done.

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his comments. I think that all of us in Parliament should put a larger priority on what we do in peace building, in investing in peace and in making sure the world knows that crimes against the people of Armenia will not be tolerated. We will not stand by.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, we remain deeply committed to the continuing problem and to trying to find peaceful solutions. We recognize that armed solutions are never the right way to go. We will only achieve peace through a negotiated settlement and not through military action.

A number of years ago, I visited the region and I know the existential crisis that many Armenian Canadians, we well as Armenians around the world, find themselves in. We take that seriously and we will continue to engage, knowing that the best way is for Canada to contribute whatever we can to a peaceful solution, to a negotiated settlement and to ensure that we will establish peace and goodwill in this region once again.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


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

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:35 p.m.)