House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

July 8th, 2020 / 1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Madam Chair, we always encourage competition across Canada. If there are options other than Air Canada I encourage the other airlines to provide services if they decide it is cost-effective. In the meantime, as far as the Mont-Joli airport is concerned, I would remind my hon. colleague that for a flight to be cost-effective, in general, 75% to 80% of the seats have to be filled.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Chair, as my colleagues keep saying, Air Canada is shamelessly abandoning the regions in Quebec, regions like mine, the Gaspé, the Lower St. Lawrence and the North Shore, regions that are struggling to recover from this crisis. Air Canada is heavily subsidized by the government. These people, who pay the same taxes as those in large centres, are entitled to the same services. People back home are resilient. They are quick to roll up their sleeves, and we are already seeing new initiatives. They need some help.

Will the government commit to funding a Quebec project that would ensure a reliable and lasting regional service and prevent us all from being stuck in the same loop where Air Canada is again given funding without being required to serve the regions?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount Québec

Liberal

Marc Garneau LiberalMinister of Transport

Madam Chair, service in Canada's regions depends on the airlines that decide to offer this service across the country. Air Canada is in an extremely difficult situation right now.

I would like to correct one thing that my colleague said. Air Canada is not heavily subsidized by the Government of Canada.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Chair, Air Canada received far more financial assistance than many businesses in my riding and in several other ridings, which always fall through the cracks during this pandemic.

Will the Minister of Transport commit to supporting Quebec initiatives by taking concrete action, such as reducing administrative delays in obtaining the authorization for new airlines and providing access to the national network instead of continuing to subsidize companies such as Air Canada which, once again, is abandoning Quebec regions?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Madam Chair, once again, we encourage all airlines that think they can provide cost-effective service to these regions to make themselves available for these regional flights. We have been encouraging competition since 2015. It is a decision that the airlines themselves must make. In some cases, there are other options in Quebec and Canada. It is up to the airlines to decide whether they—

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Chair NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member has time to ask a brief question.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Chair, when it's not Air Canada, it's Service Canada.

Non-essential businesses reopened in Quebec weeks ago, but people still do not have access to Service Canada. There was an announcement that offices in Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau were reopening, but nothing has been said about the offices in Canada's regions.

When will the government give the regions the same services as everywhere else?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Families

Madam Chair, our government committed to ensuring that Canadians have access to the benefits they need through Service Canada. We are beginning a safe and gradual return to work in 90 centres across the country. Decisions regarding reopening are based on public health advice.

We will be there for Canadians as they attempt to seek access to services and benefits, which we have continued to make available. We have increased access to services by redeploying 3,000 staff and opening a call centre with 1,500 agents.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Centre.

The opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control, with 170 deaths in the month of May alone in British Columbia. That is about equal to how many people have died of COVID during the entire pandemic. Opioid use tears families apart, leads to homelessness and causes massive increases in street-level crime.

Residents and business owners in my riding are fed up and are looking for action and leadership. The government has had nearly five years to provide action and leadership, and instead the problem worsens.

How much worse does it need to get before words and virtue signalling are replaced by action, especially support for recovery.?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing forward an important question about the opioid crisis and overdoses.

As he knows, our government has been working over the last five years to undo a decade of damage to the work of substance use in this country, damage resulting from extremely restrictive Harper government policies. I was on the front lines in Thunder Bay at that time, watching people die of overdose time and again and pleading with the federal government to take action. It did not, but we have.

We will continue to work hard to ensure that we can prevent these deaths.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, a month ago, in this committee, I raised the issue of Canada summer job applicants who have been denied. The minister kindly asked for more information, which my office provided to her.

Six organizations, including Maple Ridge's downtown business association, are still without funds. When can they expect to receive their funding?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that I thought those challenges were addressed. I will follow up right after this committee.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, with the alarming rise in new COVID cases in the U.S., people in my riding, which is not far from the border, are worried about the abuse of border loopholes. Writing people tickets will not stop the spread of the virus.

What measures are in place to ensure that American travellers do indeed travel to Alaska swiftly? What consequences exist for those who violate our trust and put the health of Canadians at risk by engaging in non-essential activities like sightseeing?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, again I will repeat for the member that there are in fact strong measures in place. The CBSA clearly articulates our rules and ensures that people have a plan for moving quickly from the United States through Canada into Alaska. There are real consequences for people who do not follow those rules, and there have been cases in which local law enforcement and the RCMP have enforced those rules.

There are significant penalties for people who break them, and we are working very closely with officials and local law enforcement in our various jurisdictions to ensure that people do not put Canadians at risk as they transit through this country. There are also potential long-term consequences for those who choose to break the rules—

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Calgary Centre.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, Marc Kielburger of WE Charity reported that the Prime Minister's Office called in April to offer his organization the contract to administer the Canada student service grant. Subsequently, Mr. Kielburger stated that he “misspoke” and that the call was with a senior official at Employment and Social Development Canada.

Could the Prime Minister confirm which official contacted Mr. Kielburger? Why did the Prime Minister not recuse himself from involvement in a $19.5-million payment to his friend?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Mr. Speaker, as I have stated, the non-partisan public service made a clear recommendation that this was the only organization that would be able to provide the service in the timeline needed. We accepted its recommendation.

I will state once again that yesterday the finance committee passed a motion, supported by all parties, requesting these answers. That information will be provided, and people will get answers.

We always work closely with independent officers of Parliament, and we will make sure the Ethics Commissioner receives the information.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago the Prime Minister said that WE Charity is the only organization in all of Canada that could administer the grant. Could the Prime Minister tell us which official misspoke to him on this matter that he so badly misrepresented to Canadians?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, the non-partisan public service made a clear recommendation that this was the only organization able to provide this service in the timeline needed. We work with the public service to deliver programs for Canadians. It made a recommendation. We accepted its recommendation.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, PSAC National President Chris Aylward said, “[The Prime Minister's] claim that WE Charity is the ‘only one’ that can administer the new grant program is not only factually wrong, it's also insulting to our members.”

Charity Intelligence, which ranks charities across Canada, says that WE Charity's financial filings are not current, and this contract alone is at least four times higher than its net administrative expenses from over the last number of years. It is also offside with its banking obligations.

Could the Prime Minister indicate to this committee today how he could have possibly been so badly misled by his officials as to grant this lucrative contract to his friend?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have stated, the non-partisan public service made a clear recommendation that this was the only organization able to provide the service in the timeline needed. Obviously the way this unfolded was not intended, and that is why the charity is no longer administering the project.

We will work with the Ethics Commissioner. We will also work to satisfy the motion that members of all parties passed at the finance committee yesterday to ensure that this information is received.

Our focus is on working for Canadians and ensuring that they have the services and supports they need during this unprecedented and challenging time. That will remain our focus. We will ensure that we work together to support Canadians right now. We will continue to strive to do better to ensure that supports are in place.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

That is all the time we have for questions today.

We have a question of privilege from the Leader of the Opposition, and I see the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has a point of order.

We will start with the Leader of the Opposition.

Response by the Prime MinisterPrivilegeGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege that arises out of the exchange from earlier today. This is the first opportunity I have had to raise it, since that period just ended.

I would like to draw your attention to the Prime Minister's answer to my question about the Ethics Commissioner and the co-operation that his office will or will not be providing. His answer says, “in the last situation, we did the unprecedented step of waiving cabinet confidentiality and of waiving solicitor-client confidentiality in the situation so that the Ethics Commissioner could fully investigate the matter at hand.” This is in reference to the SNC-Lavalin scandal and the subject of the “Trudeau II Report”.

Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the words “fully investigate the matter at hand” to show why I believe we have a case of the Prime Minister deliberately misleading the House. The Ethics Commissioner, in his report, mentioned three things I would like to read. I hope that you will find there is a prima facie case of an attempt to deliberately mislead the House.

The first quote is as follows:

In the present examination, I have gathered sufficient factual information to properly determine the matter on its merits. Because of my inability to access all Cabinet confidences related to the matter I must, however, report that I was unable to fully discharge the investigatory duties conferred upon me by the Act.

The second quote states:

Because of the decisions to deny our Office further access to Cabinet confidences, witnesses were constrained in their ability to provide all evidence. I was, therefore, prevented from looking over the entire body of evidence to determine its relevance to my examination. Decisions that affect my jurisdiction under the Act, by setting parameters on my ability to receive evidence, should be made transparently and democratically by Parliament, not by the very same public office holders who are subject to the regime I administer.

The third quote states:

During this examination, nine witnesses informed our Office that they had information they believed to be relevant, but that could not be disclosed because, according to them, this information would reveal a confidence of the Queen's Privy Council and would fall outside the scope of Order in Council 2019-0105.

I believe this case speaks for itself. The Prime Minister earlier today said that in the last scandal he was involved with, he fully co-operated with the Ethics Commissioner. I have just read three quotes that are directly from the Ethics Commissioner himself that fully contradict that.

One of the tests that must be met in order for the Speaker to find there is a case of an attempt to deliberately mislead the House and a breach of privilege is that the member who makes the statement must know it to be false. This report is entitled “Trudeau II Report”. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister knows about its findings. It was the subject of multiple exchanges in question period before the last election.

I leave it to you, Mr. Speaker, to find a prima facie case of misleading the House.

Response by the Prime MinisterPrivilegeGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank the hon. member. I will take it under advisement and return to the House, should I see fit.

On a point of order, we have the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Response by the Prime MinisterPrivilegeGovernment Orders

2:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to briefly correct the record. In my earlier question, I referred erroneously to a Texas loophole. I was thinking of the people from Texas who claimed they were driving to Alaska. It is generally known as the Alaska loophole. I apologize and hope to correct the record.