House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was questions.

Topics

Order Paper

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I wish to inform the House that in accordance with the representation made by the government pursuant to Standing Order 55(1), I have caused to be published a Special Order Paper giving notice of a government motion.

I therefore table the document in question.

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for unanimous consent for the House to adopt the following motion.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House, the application of Standing Orders 15 and 17 be suspended for the current sitting.

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for unanimous consent for the House to adopt the following motion.

I move:

That the provisions of paragraphs (l) and (n) of the order adopted on Saturday, April 11, 2020, continue to apply to committees scheduled to meet by videoconference later this day.

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the House

May 25th, 2020 / 11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

(Motion agreed to)

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House:

(a) following the adoption of this order, the House shall adjourn until Wednesday, June 17, 2020, provided that, for the purposes of any standing order, it shall be deemed adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28;

(b) during the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order, a minister of the Crown may transmit to the Speaker a message from Her Excellency the Governor General recommending Supplementary Estimates (A) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, provided that

(i) the said message may be transmitted electronically,

(ii) the Speaker shall inform the House of the receipt of such message and the tabling of the estimates based thereon by causing them to be published in the Journals, and the said estimates shall be for all purposes deemed tabled before the House,

(iii) the votes therein shall be referred to a committee of the whole;

(c) on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the House shall meet at the conclusion of the proceedings of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic for the sole purpose of considering the business of supply, provided that

(i) notices may be filed with the clerk no later than 6:00 p.m. on Monday, June 15, 2020, and shall be printed in the Order Paper and Notice Paper to be published for that sitting,

(ii) the application of Standing Orders 15, 17, 36(8)(b), 39(5)(b) and 56.1 be suspended for the sitting,

(iii) the sitting shall not be considered as a sitting day for the purposes of Standing Orders 34(1), 37(3), 51(1) and 110 and subsection 28(12) of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons,

(iv) consideration of all votes in the Supplementary Estimates (A) shall be taken up by a committee of the whole at the opening of the sitting for a period not exceeding four hours, during which time no quorum calls or dilatory motions shall be received by the Chair, no member shall be recognized for more than 15 minutes at a time and the member shall not speak in debate for more than 10 minutes during that period, the 15 minutes may be used both for debate and for posing questions to a minister of the Crown or a parliamentary secretary acting on behalf of a minister, when the member is recognized, he or she shall indicate how the 15 minutes is to be apportioned and, at the conclusion of the time provided for the consideration of the business pursuant to this subparagraph, the committee shall rise and report the votes in the estimates to the House,

(v) when the committee of the whole rises, all questions necessary to dispose of the business of supply shall be put forthwith and successively, without debate or amendment, and, if a recorded division is requested, it shall not be deferred;

(d) at the conclusion of the consideration of the business of supply on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the House shall adjourn until Wednesday, July 8, 2020, provided that

(i) on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, the House shall meet at noon and the House shall resolve itself into a committee of the whole to allow members to question ministers for a period not exceeding 95 minutes on matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters provided that the rotation used for questions pursuant to this subparagraph be the one used by the Special Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesdays and Thursdays prior to the adoption of this order and, during the proceedings of the committee,

(A) the Speaker may preside,

(B) the Chair may preside from the Speaker’s chair,

(C) the Chair shall call members from all recognized parties and one member who does not belong to a recognized party in a fashion consistent with the proportions observed during Oral Questions,

(D) no member shall be recognized for more than five minutes at a time which may be used for posing questions to a minister of the Crown,

(E) members may be permitted to split their time with one or more members by so indicating to the Chair,

(F) members may participate in the proceedings either in person or by videoconference,

(ii) following the questioning of ministers, the committee shall consider a motion “That the House take note of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken by the government to respond to it” which shall be conducted pursuant to the terms of Standing Order 53.1 except that proceedings pursuant to this subparagraph shall last not longer than 2 hours and 20 minutes and members may participate in the proceedings either in person or by videoconference, when the committee rises, the motion shall be deemed withdrawn and the House shall adjourn until the next sitting day provided for in subparagraph (iii),

(iii) on Wednesday, July 22, August 12 and August 26, 2020, the House shall meet in the manner described in subparagraphs (i) and (ii), provided that, when the House adjourns on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, September 21, 2020,

(iv) notices may be filed with the clerk no later than 6:00 p.m. on the Monday preceding the sittings provided for in subparagraphs (i) and (iii), and shall be printed in the Order Paper and Notice Paper to be published for that sitting,

(v) the application of Standing Orders 15, 17, 36(8)(b), 39(5)(b) and 56.1 be suspended for the sittings provided for in subparagraphs (i) and (iii)

(vi) the days on which the House sits pursuant to this paragraph shall not be counted as sittings for the purposes of Standing Orders 34(1), 37(3), 51(1) and 110 and subsection 28(12) of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons,

(vii) during any period the House stands adjourned between Wednesday, June 17, 2020, and Monday, September 21, 2020, if the Speaker receives a notice from the House leaders of all four recognized parties indicating that it is in the public interest that the House remain adjourned until a future date or until future notice is given to the Speaker, the House will remain adjourned accordingly,

(viii) during any period the House stands adjourned between Wednesday, June 17, 2020, and Monday, September 21, 2020, for the purposes of any standing order, it shall be deemed adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28;

(e) until Monday, September 21, 2020, the Standing Committee on Health, the Standing Committee on Finance, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans may hold meetings related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters, provided that,

(i) committee members shall attend and witnesses shall participate in meetings via either videoconference or teleconference,

(ii) committee members attending by videoconference or teleconference shall be counted for the purposes of quorum,

(iii) all motions shall be decided by a recorded vote,

(iv) notwithstanding any deadlines established by a committee, any request or any order for the production of documents be responded to when possible, given the constraints that exist as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,

(v) public proceedings shall be made available to the public via the House of Commons website,

(vi) in camera proceedings may be conducted, for the purpose of considering draft reports or the selection of witnesses, in a manner that takes into account the potential risks to confidentiality inherent in meetings with remote participants,

(vii) notices of membership substitutions pursuant to Standing Order 114(2) may be filed with the clerk of each committee by email,

(viii) in relation to their study of matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic, these committees may each receive evidence which may otherwise exceed the committee’s mandate under Standing Order 108,

(ix) these committees shall meet within 48 hours of the receipt by email, by the clerk of the committee, of a request signed by any four members of the committee;

(f) the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to review and make recommendations on how to modify the Standing Orders for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of an incremental approach beginning with hybrid sittings of the House as outlined by the report provided to the committee by the Speaker on Monday, May 11, 2020, including how to enact remote voting, provided that (i) the provisions applying to committees enumerated in paragraph (e) shall also apply to the committee, (ii) the committee be instructed to present a report no later than Tuesday, June 23, 2020, (iii) any report which is adopted pursuant to this paragraph may be submitted electronically at any time with the Clerk of the House, and shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House on that date, (iv) following the presentation of any report pursuant to this paragraph, the House leaders of all four recognized parties may indicate to the Speaker that there is an agreement among the parties to implement one or several of the recommendations of the committee and the Speaker shall give effect to that agreement;

(g) the following provisions remain in effect until Friday, June 19, 2020:

(i) paragraphs (m) to (o) of the order adopted on Friday, March 13, 2020,

(ii) paragraphs (i), (j) and (m) of the order adopted on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, provided that in paragraph (i), the words “until April 20, 2020, or any date to which the adjournment period is extended pursuant to paragraph (f)” shall be deemed to refer to June 19, 2020,

(iii) paragraph (k) of the order adopted on Saturday, April 11, 2020,

(iv) paragraphs (g), (i) and (j) of the order adopted on Monday, April 20, 2020, provided that, in paragraph (j), the reference to paragraph (l) of the order adopted on Saturday, April 11, 2020 be deemed to refer to paragraph (e) of this order,

(h) the Special Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic, composed of all members of the House, be continued provided that the committee meet for the purposes of

(i) considering ministerial announcements,

(ii) allowing members to present petitions,

(iii) allowing members to make statements,

(iv) questioning ministers of the Crown, including the Prime Minister, in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters, and provided that

(v) during the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order at noon every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, provided that the committee shall not meet on a day referred to in Standing Order 28(1),

(vi) the committee shall meet in the chamber and members may participate either in person or by videoconference,

(vii) the Speaker shall continue to be the chair of the committee,

(viii) seven members shall constitute a quorum,

(ix) ministerial announcements shall be considered at the opening of the meeting and the proceedings shall be conducted in the same manner as Statements by Ministers under Standing Order 33(1), provided that a member of the Green Party also be permitted to reply to the statement,

(x) after any ministerial announcements, any member desiring to present a petition may do so during a period not exceeding 15 minutes, provided that the provisions of Standing Order 36 shall apply, except for Standing Order 36(5), and any petition presented shall be deemed for all purposes to have been presented to the House,

(xi) after the presentation of petitions, members may make statements in a manner similar to those made pursuant to Standing Order 31 for a period not exceeding 15 minutes,

(xii) after members’ statements, proceedings on questioning ministers shall be conducted, for not more than 95 minutes, in the same manner as provided for in paragraph (d) of the order adopted on Monday, April 20, 2020, provided that the rotation used for questions pursuant to this subparagraph be the one used by the committee on Tuesdays and Thursdays prior to the adoption of this order and that questions shall be answered by ministers,

(xiii) upon the conclusion of proceedings on questioning ministers the committee shall adjourn to the next day provided for in subparagraph (v),

(xiv) if the Speaker receives a notice from the House leaders of all four recognized parties indicating that it is in the public interest that the committee remain adjourned until a future date or until future notice is given to the Speaker, the committee will remain adjourned accordingly,

(xv) meetings of the committee shall continue to be televised, following the usual practices observed for sittings of the House,

(xvi) any document may be presented by a minister of the Crown, or a parliamentary secretary acting on behalf of a minister, at any time during a meeting of the committee and shall be deemed for all purposes to have been presented to or laid before the House,

(xvii) the committee shall have the power to sit while the House stands adjourned and to print, from day to day, such papers and evidence as may be ordered by them,

(xviii) the committee shall cease to exist upon its adjournment on Thursday, June 18, 2020;

(i) until Monday, September 21, 2020, documents deposited pursuant to Standing Order 32(1) shall be deposited with the Clerk of the House electronically.

Mr. Speaker, we are gathered here today at a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. We live in a world that is gripped by the greatest public health care crisis of our lifetime. Canadians are worried about their own health and the health of the people they love. They are anxious about the economic fallout from this crisis, whether they will keep their jobs and what will happen to them if they should lose their jobs. Quite simply, Canadians are worried about how they will pay the bills and feed their families in the months ahead.

It is a spring that we will never forget, a season in which COVID-19 completely changed our lives. Canadians acted responsibly. They listened to the advice of our public health experts. They stayed home as much as possible. They learned the importance of physical distancing to protect themselves, as well as their families, relatives, friends and community. In other words, Canadians did what they needed to do and continue to do so. As they grapple with the unknown aspects of this pandemic and all of its effects, they are asking us, as parliamentarians, to also do what we need to do.

As parliamentarians, this spring, we had to adapt our practices. Both the government and the opposition parties had to adapt to everything that is happening. We have a role to play, and I think that we played that role together. Despite all of the challenges associated with these unprecedented times, I believe that we proved to our voters that we can find ways to adapt, to give voice to their concerns, worries, questions and needs and to take action.

Our government has been transparent about everything we have done. We have taken responsibility for our decisions. It might not have been perfect, but the government and the opposition parties have done some good work together. As a member of the House of Commons, I can say that we have done and are continuing to do our job. We can and we must keep doing our job on behalf of all Canadians.

Our government firmly believes in this institution's central and fundamental role and in the fundamental role of democracy in our society. That is why the motion we are moving today is reasonable, ensures accountability and transparency, and follows public health guidelines. This motion strikes a good balance. Finding that balance is essential, especially at a time when Canadians are turning toward us with the expectation that their government and their elected representatives provide non-partisan, constructive, accountable leadership. That is exactly what our government is committed to doing.

For many weeks, we have been working day and night to respond to the concerns of Canadians who have been impacted by this pandemic. We have worked closely with our public health officials to develop and put into action the many responses needed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

We have worked hand in hand with provinces, territories and municipalities as they battle the virus on the front lines of their communities. We have worked with the opposition parties and our colleagues from everywhere in this country, and we have come forward with economic and financial assistance measures that are unprecedented in this country's history. Simply put, we recognized that Canadian employees and businesses were in jeopardy. They needed the government to provide help quickly, and that is exactly what we have done. That is exactly what we have delivered.

We chose to stand by Canadians in their time of need. That meant support for Canadians who are not working because of COVID-19, for students who cannot find jobs and for seniors who are concerned about the impact of the crisis on their fixed incomes. It also meant support for employers who want to retain their employees, as the economic shutdown has created great uncertainty. It meant support for businesses to help them through the unsteady waters of this storm so they can emerge into a brighter economy.

These are the actions of a government that cares deeply about its citizens. The Prime Minister has shown strong leadership throughout this crisis. He has never forgotten our top priority, which is to look after the people of this country, in every region and every province.

It was crucial, and it remains crucial, that we be there for every Canadian. My government colleagues and I have been working very hard to come up with the answers Canadians need as this pandemic changes their lives. We have often reached out to the opposition parties and have been working closely with them. Often, they have even improved upon the solutions proposed by the government, and I thank them for that.

In hundreds of ridings across the country, members from all parties and political stripes continue to do their jobs, despite the limitations of physical distancing. One only has to look at all the questions members have to answer regarding the various programs. There are many programs, because our main priority was to help Canadians and businesses and not leave anyone behind. It has presented a challenge for all members, but they have risen to it brilliantly. Fundamentally, regardless of their political stripes, members from across the country work here, but they also work in their constituencies.

I want to take a second to express my sincere gratitude to the public servants who have done amazing work day and night, seven days a week, so the government can provide these programs and services to the people. I thank them for their dedication and their hard work. None of this would have been possible without them.

Ever since March 13, the House of Commons has, for the most part, not held the normal sittings we were used to pre-crisis. We were not here for the usual five days a week. The 338 men and women from across the country who are usually here were not. Unfortunately, because of that, some people said Parliament was shut down. That is completely false. It could not be further from the truth. The truth is that parliamentarians have been doing their work this whole time. Members on both sides of the House have been doing their work, and they are doing it well.

In these extraordinary times of physical distancing, the House has now met six days since the middle of March to discuss the priorities of the country, and that has included time to debate and pass important legislation to quickly provide financial assistance to Canadians who need it. Also during this period, dozens of members on eight standing committees have been holding public hearings virtually. They have called cabinet ministers to testify at their hearings to explain and justify their decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers tell the story. Since mid-March, those committees have held 74 meetings and heard from 580 witnesses. There have been 23 appearances by ministers to answer questions. Clearly our committees are working hard, and I thank them. I thank all MPs on those committees for the work they are doing for Parliament and all Canadians.

Of course, we have seen the unprecedented work of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, which has met 11 times. All MPs are members of this committee, whatever region they come from. It has been a success. It is not perfect, but it has been a success.

The committee has made history by holding virtual meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays that have seen participation by hundreds of members through video conferences. In seven of those meetings, ministers had to answer many questions. There have also been four in-person meetings of the committee on the floor of this chamber, on Wednesdays, and many questions were asked and answered.

Again, the numbers tell the story. In a typical week, when the House sits five days, members ask 190 questions in 45 minutes. Recently, when the special committee met Tuesday through Thursday, there were, on average, more than 300 questions asked over three days. We can see that the committee has been a very good place for accountability, with hundreds of questions. The motion we have put forward proposes to continue the work of this committee and strengthen the work of the House.

I will go over a few elements of this motion.

The Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic would meet more often. We would be here four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in a hybrid format. It is a genius solution that would allow several MPs who are unable to be here to participate in the democratic process and be a part of it. They could participate via video conference and ask the government all questions they want.

This guarantees that all MPs can participate regardless of where they live and without the restrictions associated with travelling and having to quarantine. During these meetings, MPs will have a host of opportunities to ask their questions. In fact, out of the four days that we are proposing, there will be the equivalent of eight question periods. I do not know why anyone would be against that.

We are talking about eight question periods instead of five, which means more time to ask questions. This motion would provide more hours for that than if the House were having normal sittings, to allow MPs to ask all the questions they want. It adds up to more than six hours of questions, when in a regular week we would have just about 3.75 hours of questions.

This hybrid model, therefore, allows much more time for question period, for those who want to participate here in the House and also for our Conservative colleagues from the west and our Bloc and NDP colleagues from across Canada. This is a tremendous expression of democracy that will enable parliamentarians from all corners of the country to ask questions because they were elected, not just because they live near Ottawa. That is fundamental.

Furthermore, this motion would have the House hold summer sittings so that members could question ministers about all issues, as well as the possibility of debating the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, when we come back here this summer, we will obviously be open to answering any and all questions about the pandemic, but we will also debate other issues and answer other questions that are important to the opposition parties.

We are going to continue the virtual committee meetings with committees that will be free to study any topic in accordance with their normal powers. The committees will get to conduct their business as they see fit, to do their job of examining important policy matters and any other matters that the committee members consider to be important and necessary to debate. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs would study potential changes that could be made to the rules of the House to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as hybrid House sittings and electronic voting. This study would build on the critical work that the committee accomplished this spring on the subject of a virtual Parliament.

We believe that this motion strikes the right balance between ensuring that MPs can hold the government to account and protecting the health and safety of everyone during this pandemic. I would ask my colleagues, all members, to consider the many merits of this motion and support it.

Canadians are watching us and want us to work for them. I pledge to work in collaboration with all my colleagues in the House. Once again, I am reaching out to them.

We will all face this challenge together, and we will all get through this together.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the government House leader for his comments and for his expressions of gratitude to all of us. I would agree with much of what he said, but there are a few things we do not agree with.

My question is very simple. First of all, I think we need to state for the record that Motion No. 7 does not reconvene Parliament. It reconvenes, establishes and continues a committee.

My question is twofold. First, does the government House leader believe that Parliament, not a committee, is essential to Canadians? Second, if we can meet here face to face four days a week, as this committee is going to be doing should this motion pass, why can Parliament not meet here face to face four days a week?

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the questions, and for all the work she does and all the discussions we have had and keep having, which are contributing to the important work we are doing here as parliamentarians. I agree with her that the work of parliamentarians is absolutely fundamental. That is why we are here, and we are proposing that we come here four days a week—not one, not two, not three, but four—and the opposition gets more time for questions.

I think it is a great balance between making sure parliamentarians do their important work and respecting all the directives from the Public Health Agency. We are here to debate. That is what we are doing today. I am really glad that we will still be debating and answering questions from the opposition, because that is fundamental for us.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, the government's motion was a proposal and, like every proposal, it is subject to negotiation.

We have often negotiated with the government, as we did on April 29 when we created the Canada emergency student benefit, the CESB. During the negotiations, the Bloc Québécois was of the opinion that a student who works more hours must automatically earn more money, no matter the circumstances. The government made a commitment to act on this proposal. The Deputy Prime Minister personally confirmed the government's commitment and agreed to follow up with the Bloc Québécois. Three weeks later, we have heard nothing more—it has been radio silence.

I like to negotiate with people of good faith who keep their word. Is it possible to negotiate agreements with a government that does not keep its word?

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague knows very well that I have always acted in good faith and kept my word, as he does.

With regard to students, we have ensured that when they apply for the CESB they can check off a box to confirm they are looking for work. We have also established links with job banks. We could do many other things.

If my Bloc colleague wishes to put forward his party's ideas, he must be seated at the table. We have not had any discussions with the Bloc recently because that party decided it would not come to the table with us. This is a bit like asking a hockey player to score a goal while sitting on the bench.

I continue to reach out and I am always ready to speak with my colleague. I very much enjoy our discussions because they are frank. I am convinced that we can continue to have these types of discussions to improve the lives of Quebeckers and Canadians.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, for over 15 years, I have seen all kinds of political shenanigans and engaged in all kinds of partisan debates, but I have never seen a crisis that has damaged our country to the extent COVID has. The role of parliamentarians here is about speaking for the people who need us, not an attempt by some politicians to give themselves more airtime. It is about coming here to negotiate, to figure out how we get through this together. We came here as New Democrats to try to find a solution so that we have accountability mechanisms. We should never forget that the reason we are here is for the people back home who are falling through the economic abyss.

I know the Conservatives are already saying that there are slackers who do not want to work. We are here to defend people, so I would like to ask my hon. colleague this. We are more than willing to work with the government, but we still have serious shortfalls. For example, we are sending many people back to work who do not have proper sick benefits. That is why we are here, for them, not to score partisan points. We are asking if the government is willing to work with the New Democratic Party to put Canadians first at this unprecedented time and show that this Parliament can rise above the normal partisan bric-a-brac and actually do something to get us through this crisis.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I totally agree with my colleague that this is no time for partisan politics. Canadians do not want that. I am sure all my colleagues across the aisle agree on this. This is the time to work together. I understand how important the question of sick leave is for the NDP members and how hard they have been working on this. Of course, we agree with them on the importance of working on this, on the sick benefits, to make a difference for all Canadians.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I am really pleased to be here today in the chamber because this is a very important debate. One of the things I have found absolutely important as a parliamentarian, which I take particular interest in, is looking at the estimates in committee. We have a minority government. The committee I am on, which is the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, is not sitting. The government is spending $250 billion more, which is the anticipated deficit, and there will be no scrutiny of the government's spending by departments.

Why is the natural resources committee not going to be sitting, and why is it not going to be able to do what it needs to do, especially in a minority Parliament, where we might need to make adjustments to the government's spending plans? That is one of our fundamental roles, and it is not included in the motion.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, there are many committees sitting and I made reference to that. There have been dozens and dozens of MPs on different committees meeting regularly, and hundreds of witnesses. Those committees were agreed upon by the parties. Which committees would be sitting was agreed upon by the parties through motions, over and over again.

There is one thing I ask my colleague not to forget: We are here. We are here debating. The member is asking questions and I am answering the questions. We will be doing this four days a week, and also our colleagues who cannot be here. Any MP who has been elected should be able to answer questions, not just an MP who lives in Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, on April 20, we discussed the $73-billion wage subsidy. The program is so big that even the two richest parties in Canada used it. Imagine that. In a motion that we negotiated with the government, we said that we wanted a program to help people and businesses through the crisis by subsidizing fixed costs. We all agreed that this important program was needed. Almost nothing was done. The government implemented a weak, poorly designed program. We asked the Liberals to keep the promise they made on April 20. Before we even started the latest negotiation, the government said that it had kept its word, even though that is not the case.

I have a question for the government House leader. How can I negotiate with someone who does not keep their word?

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I will not take that personally, since I do not think my colleague was talking about me specifically.

We completely agree with the Bloc Québécois that it is important to help businesses cover their fixed costs. We have taken a first step by providing assistance for rent. There are a thousand and one things going on. We are working on these different issues. We are working on helping businesses. We did some things, and we will do some more. We will continue to work in the interests of all of our SMEs and in the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians.

Proceedings of the House and CommitteesGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I understand I have unlimited time. However, I would like to split my time with the member for Kelowna—Lake Country. I would ask for unanimous consent from the House to do that.