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

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Colleagues, before we begin our proceedings, I would like to say a few words regarding the special measures in place today.

Pursuant to an order made Tuesday, May 26, the application of Standing Order 17 will be suspended for the current sitting to allow members to practise physical distancing. Members desiring to speak and address the Chair may do so from any seat in the House.

Additionally, as members know, this will be a hybrid sitting of the House. Some members will be participating via video conference and some will be participating in person.

To avoid issues with sound, I remind members participating in person that they should not also be connected via video conference. For those joining via video conference, I would like to remind you that when speaking, you should be on the same channel as the language you are speaking.

Lastly, I ask all members who are tabling a document or moving a motion to sign the document and bring it to the Table themselves.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is rising on a point of order.

Business of the House

July 8th, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent to adopt the follow motion.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House, during the debate on Government Business No. 8 later this day, a member of each recognized party and a member of the Green party may speak to the motion for not more than 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments, provided that members may be permitted to split their time with another member and, at the conclusion of the time provided for debate pursuant to this order, the committee shall rise, the motion shall be deemed withdrawn and the House shall adjourn until Wednesday, July 22, 2020, pursuant to the order adopted on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

Business of the House

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Normally when there is a request for unanimous consent, the Chair asks in the affirmative whether members agree.

Since this is a hybrid sitting of the House, if the Chair proceeds in this manner and there are any dissenting voices, especially from members participating by video conference, they might not be heard.

Therefore, for the sake of clarity, I will only ask for those who are opposed to the request to express their disagreement. In this way, the Chair will hear clearly if there are any dissenting voices, and I will accordingly be able to declare whether or not there is unanimous consent to proceed.

All those opposed to the hon. minister's moving the motion will please say nay.

I am hearing no voices, so it is agreed.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

There being no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Pursuant to an order made Tuesday, May 26, the House shall now resolve itself into a committee of the whole to consider matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters.

(House in committee of the whole to consider matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters, Mr. Anthony Rota in the chair)

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The committee will begin its proceeding with the questioning of ministers on matters relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters for a period not exceeding 95 minutes.

The Chair will 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 meetings of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Each member will be recognized for not more than five minutes, which may be used for posing questions to a minister of the Crown. Members are permitted to split their time with one or more members by so indicating to the Chair.

Please note that we will briefly suspend this part of the sitting partway through to allow employees who provide support for the sitting to replace each other safely.

We will now begin.

The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan

Conservative

Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is under investigation for granting a $900-million contract to an organization to which he has personal ties.

Did the Prime Minister officially recuse himself from the decision-making process to give a contract to a friend, yes or no?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the answer is no.

The non-partisan public service clearly indicated that this was the only organization able to provide this service in the timeline needed. Obviously, the way this unfolded was not as intended, and that is why this charity is no longer administering the project.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister was under investigation for the SNC-Lavalin scandal, he refused to give the Ethics Commissioner all the evidence that was asked for. He also prevented nine people from providing their full testimony.

I have a simple yes-or-no question. Will the Prime Minister commit today to waiving all privileges and confidences so that the Ethics Commissioner can do a full and proper investigation?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite has laid out is simply not the case. We will always co-operate fully with officers of Parliament, including the Ethics Commissioner.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Actually, Mr. Speaker, it is the Prime Minister who said something that was not true. When he was under investigation the last time, he refused to waive full and complete privileges and confidences, preventing not only the former attorney general but also people within the PMO from being able to fully participate in the investigation. That is his modus operandi when it comes to a scandal investigation: He does everything he can to prevent the full truth from coming out.

I have a simple yes-or-no question. Will he waive all cabinet confidences and privileges this time?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, 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. It was an unprecedented step we took because we deeply believe in transparency and accountability. That is what we did, and we will continue to work with all officers of Parliament.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, it was an unprecedented step because it was an unprecedented thing that the Prime Minister did. No other prime minister has tried to personally intervene in a criminal court proceeding, so pardon me for not giving him a gold star for handing over some documents to the Ethics Commissioner. We know that he will not waive full cabinet confidences and privileges, as he has refused to do so.

The Prime Minister claims that several organizations were considered to manage the grant program that WE Charity eventually got. Could the Prime Minister name the other organizations that were considered?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

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

We will work with the Ethics Commissioner and answer any questions the Ethics Commissioner may have, as we always do.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, this charity has received many sole-source contracts from the Prime Minister, some for millions of dollars. In the last few years, the real estate holdings that WE has accumulated have gone from $11.9 million to $43.7 million. That is 43 million dollars' worth of real estate holdings.

Could the Prime Minister inform the House whether any of the money that was allocated to this charity went to purchase real estate holdings?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, youth organizations in this country have done an exceptional job over the past years, and governments of all stripes have supported various youth organizations.

I can highlight, indeed, that the previous Conservative government provided half a million dollars in funding to WE over the period of 2012, 2013 and 2014. We believe in investing in young people, particularly during a time of pandemic, when they want to be involved and can be involved.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, who in the Prime Minister's Office discussed the grants program with WE?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the non-partisan public service made the recommendation to move forward with this organization, as it was the only organization capable of delivering what we needed in the time necessary.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves-François Blanchet Bloc Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I express my concern with all due respect, given the very good relationship we have with the Chair.

The Bloc Québécois legitimately represents a significant proportion of Quebec and does so, in many instances, in conjunction with the Quebec National Assembly and the Premier of Quebec. I am concerned that there is no appropriate penalty for a verbal aggression, for a significant harm, for an injury. Those are dangerous precedents that should not be set because things can be said without thinking. I think that the Prime Minister will understand what I am saying because he himself got a dose of the same medicine this morning. I will not say anything more about it, and I want to put all my trust in the Chair as to the future of this issue, but we have a duty to be extremely vigilant.

Today, the government is going to provide more details about a deficit the likes of which this country has never seen. A huge deficit can be justified depending on what is being done with the money. The Deputy Prime Minister made a very clear promise to adapt the Canada emergency response benefit. I may not be the Conservative Party's biggest fan, but I appreciate its members' support for using a modified CERB as a way to get people back to work. However, when the government fails to consider the unique needs of seasonal industries and artists, when its $14-billion transfer to the provinces and territories comes with strings attached, and when its fixed-rate program fails spectacularly, that means it did not always do as well as it could have with the money it borrowed to dole out during the crisis.

Another glaring example is all the money Air Canada got. Air Canada got some $800 million and access to the emergency wage benefit despite atrocious use of French in its service delivery, flooding the market in the Quebec regions to bring prices down and kill the competition, and, now, major service cutbacks across Canada, including a lot in the Quebec regions.

Does the Prime Minister agree that Air Canada has not served the Quebec regions well at all?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the hon. member's question. I would point out that his preamble was a bit long, so I will try to condense his comments and reply the best I can. I will start with Air Canada.

This is not the first time the members of the Bloc Québécois have suggested that we should not be helping the workers of certain organizations or certain companies because the Bloc disagrees with their objective or their behaviour.

In the early days of the pandemic, the government made the decision to help Canadian families who needed it. We were not going to worry too much about what company they worked for, because workers who have jobs need that income to pay for groceries, support their families and pay their rent. We therefore made the decision to invest in and support families across the country, whether they work for Air Canada or a small business at the end of their street.

That is the choice we made, because if we did not invest in helping these families or spend money on helping the workers, they would have been forced to borrow money on their credit card, add to their mortgage and get further in debt. The federal government has the best interest rates, and it costs us less to borrow money. That is why what we were able to do is manageable. We were able to help Canadians during this crisis, first, so that we could control the spread of this pandemic and, second, to get the economy going again as soon as possible.

That is the choice we made as a government, as a party. Obviously, our opponents may have wanted us to do a bit less. That would have meant asking Canadians to go further into debt. That was unacceptable to us because that would have put the population at risk and undermined our economic recovery.

That was the choice we made, and it was the right choice.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know that our country is in a difficult situation and that will require making some difficult choices.

Will the Prime Minister choose to stop the help for Canadians who are desperately in need, or will he choose to ask the wealthiest Canadians, those who are at the very top, to finally start paying their fair share?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, our choice as a government was very clear. We chose to help Canadians. We chose to send the help that was needed to families right across the country.

Over 11 million Canadians benefited from the Canada emergency response benefit and the wage subsidy, and we will continue to help those families in need. That is the choice we made and that will allow us to both control the spread of the virus and assure that our economy comes back strong.

We will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable and for all Canadians who need it.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will take that as a no then.

I will ask more directly. Will the Prime Minister commit to ending the use of offshore tax havens, which cost our economy billions of dollars?

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, everyone must pay his or her fair share of taxes. That is why, when we took office over five years ago, we invested over $1 billion in the Canada Revenue Agency to be able to crack down further on tax avoidance and tax evasion. We have taken many measures since.

We will continue to work extremely hard to ensure the integrity of—

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Burnaby South.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Other MattersGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess I will take that again as a no. The Prime Minister is not willing to take on offshore tax havens.

How about this? Will the Prime Minister put in place a wealth tax on those who have fortunes of over $20 million so that those richest Canadians are actually paying their fair share instead of putting the burden on working families?