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


Provision of Documents to the Standing Committee on FinancePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

I would like to take a few minutes to add some comments to the excellent presentation given by my colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

I would like to add some points, in part because it was my NDP motion that was brought forward to the finance committee on July 7. I very carefully wrote that motion to ensure that any redactions necessary be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel at the House of Commons. The idea was very clear that any redactions to take place would only be made through the Office of the Law Clerk. As members are well aware, all MPs from all parties voted for that motion. Therefore, this is not a partisan issue it all; it is an issue of ensuring that the privileges of the House of Commons are maintained.

It was with shock and consternation that the same day we became aware of this, through the Office of the Law Clerk writing to the clerk of the Standing Committee on Finance, saying very clearly that departments had made certain redactions to the documents on grounds that were not contemplated in the order of the committee and also stating, ”As my Office has not been given the opportunity to see the unredacted documents, we are not able to confirm whether those redactions are consistent with the order of the Committee”, the committee was shut down.

Of course, the committee would have acted immediately, but as the member points out, at the very same moment we became aware of the censorship of these documents, of which there are 5,000 pages, with 1,000 of them completely or substantially altered and censored, Parliament was prorogued, and the committee will not be meeting again potentially for several weeks.

As the House is aware, and as the member has cited, this work of the finance committee comes through an order of the House of Commons. Unanimously, because of the pandemic, we agreed at that time that the finance committee would provide oversight for all spending related to the pandemic. Surely, in this case, it means the House of Commons was mandating the finance committee to do that work.

As members know, Standing Order 108 states, “Standing committees shall be severally empowered to examine and enquire into all such matters as may be referred to them by the House....” This is clearly what happened in this case.

As the member has cited, chapter 20 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which we very clearly follow as a bible with respect to the directions it provides us, states:

The Standing Orders do not delimit the power to order the production of papers and records. The result is a broad, absolute power that on the surface appears to be without restriction. There is no limit on the types of papers likely to be requested; the only prerequisite is that the papers exist in hard copy or electronic format, and that they are located in Canada. They can be papers originating from or in the possession of governments....

Clearly, a House of Commons mandate was given to the finance committee and the committee was endeavouring to provide that oversight.

Unanimously, on July 7, with the support of all members from all parties, an order was made for the production of papers. On August 18, we found out they had been censored or substantially redacted. Over 1,000 pages had basically been wholly or substantially blacked out.

I know other members will be intervening on this, hopefully today, because it is important that you, Mr. Speaker, be given the opportunity to come to a rapid decision in this respect.

The decision made on April 27, 2010, by Speaker Milliken against the Harper government at the time. states the following:

It is the view of the Chair that accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would in fact jeopardize the...separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts. Furthermore, it risks diminishing the inherent privileges of the House and its members, which have been earned and must be safeguarded.

He also stated:

...procedural authorities are categorical in repeatedly asserting the powers of the House in ordering the production of documents. No exceptions are made for any category of government documents, even those related to national security.

At the time, he was referring to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan.

My caucus and I are of the opinion this definitely constitutes a question of privilege. If a debate were to be held on this matter, our caucus would be ready to participate because this matter is extremely important to parliamentary privilege.

Provision of Documents to the Standing Committee on FinancePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank hon. members.

The House resumed from September 23 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech delivered at the opening of the session.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:15 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak on behalf of Canada's Conservatives and the official opposition to respond to the government's Speech from the Throne.

I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, the House Leader of the Official Opposition.

We heard another Liberal Speech from the Throne. It was another speech full of recycled Liberal promises, with grand gestures and lofty visions, but with no real plan to deal with the pandemic, no real plan to deal with the urgent health care needs of the provinces, no real plan to deal with the lack of jobs and no real plan to deal with Canadian unity issues or western alienation. There was no plan to deal with the economy.

The Liberal Speech from the Throne was full of the same old promises and recycled ideas that we have all been hearing for years and years. Many of these promises have been unfulfilled and they leave countless people behind.

I am talking about people like the single mom from Burlington who has to choose between staying home with her sick kids and picking up another shift at the local Subway to pay the rent. I am talking about the fish harvester down east who is not sure how they are going to afford their next season. I am talking about the producer in Brandon, Manitoba burdened by the carbon tax and worried about a trade war keeping their goods from market. I am talking about the dad in Hinton, Alberta who does not know what he is going to do when the bank's mortgage deferral program comes to an end.

I am talking about the family in Cantley, Quebec that is trying to get their minivan to last through just one more winter, and they cannot afford an electric car. I am talking about the people who drive Ford 150s, like thousands of Canadians. They are tired of being insulted by Liberal elites. I am talking about the family in Yukon that runs a fly-in guide outfitting business. They rely almost entirely on international tourism.

These are the people that Conservatives are standing up for. These are the people who we know have been left behind in this Liberal Speech from the Throne.

Let us just make sure that it is clear: The Prime Minister shut down Parliament. He prorogued Parliament, he shut down committees and he stopped everything dead in its tracks when he was being exposed for his scandal. Why was this? He said he was going to present a Speech from the Throne that would give Canadians a plan. It did none of that. It is clear the only reason the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament was to cover up and distract from his own scandal.

It is also very disturbing that there was no plan to deal with this pandemic. When our leader spoke with the Prime Minister last week, he asked the Prime Minister to ensure that Canadians had better and faster access to COVID testing options. It is vitally important right now that Canadians have options to get tested for COVID and they get the results back in a timely manner. It is unacceptable that we trust countries such as Japan, Germany and the U.S. with our national security intelligence, but we do not trust their approval of 15-minute saliva tests.

Just last March, the Prime Minister promised that rapid testing for Canadians would be his top priority. Half a year and half a trillion dollars later, Canadian families are still waiting in line for hours and sometimes days for tests, let alone for results. The Prime Minister has failed to deliver. Maybe the wealthy, well-connected friends of the Liberal elite can afford to stay quarantined. Maybe they can afford to wait, but hard-working Canadians cannot afford to take weeks off to quarantine if they come up in a contact-tracing list. They deserve a plan and they deserve to have some hope.

There was no commitment to increase health transfers, which was the provinces' top ask. Instead of giving the provinces the resources they need to fight the pandemic, the Liberals are once again interfering in provincial jurisdiction.

Last week, on behalf of the provinces, Premiers Kenney, Pallister, Ford and Legault were here in Ottawa, presenting a united front and asking the federal government to do the right thing by providing appropriate health care funding to the provinces with no strings attached. Contrary to what the Prime Minister thinks, and who believes Ottawa knows best, it is the provinces that are best placed to deal with issues that fall within provincial jurisdiction.

Last week, to highlight the extent of the health care funding problem, my premier, Manitoba's Premier Pallister, explained it this way. He said that never has there been a higher demand for health care, never have federal contributions to health care been so low and, because of this, never have wait times been so long. This was before the pandemic even started. Now, with the second wave of the pandemic upon us, people are hurting and sometimes even dying because the federal government is not giving the provinces the health care funding they need to look after their people.

Furthermore, the Canadian Medical Association had this to say about the failure of the current Liberal Prime Minister's Speech from the Throne. It stated:'s speech falls short of delivering on the promise of ensuring a resilient health care system and keeping Canadians healthy.

The top issue we are dealing with today is a health crisis, and the Liberals failed to address it in the Speech from the Throne. It is absolutely unacceptable. While I could continue on the issue of health care, I know that my colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill and our shadow minister for health, will have a lot more to say during this debate and during the days and weeks ahead.

I want to close my remarks today with a very important issue. I understand that for some who are here in the east it may not be top of mind. For those who live in Ontario, Quebec and maybe the Atlantic provinces, I fully understand and I can see why they do not see this as top of mind. I wish the Prime Minister would help to bring it to the forefront. It is the issue of unity in this country and the issue of the western provinces, including the one I come from, feeling alienated by the Prime Minister and the current government. The Prime Minister likes to say that we are stronger when we are united and we are all in this together, yet our country is more divided than ever.

Our Conservative leader made it clear during his first call with the Prime Minister that if the Prime Minister is serious he must make addressing national unity concerns and western alienation a priority. However, there is not a single thing in the throne speech to even acknowledge that there is a problem.

Our government needs to show Canadians that it values and respects all of them and their contributions to this country. This respect starts with an understanding that revenue generated by various resources in each region of the country helps to build roads, hospitals and infrastructure in other parts of the country and not just in the provinces where the resources are found. The lack of respect by the Prime Minister for our natural resource industries is unacceptable because these industries form the backbone of our economy.

In the words of Alberta premier Jason Kenney:

In a 6,783 word throne speech, not one word recognized the crisis facing Canada’s largest industry: the energy sector that supports 800,000 jobs.... Instead, we got a litany of policies that would strangle investment and jeopardize resource jobs when we most need the industry that generates 20 percent of government revenues in Canada.

To highlight the failure of the Liberal government to deal with the issues facing Alberta, Premier Kenney went on to say:

Alberta is disappointed that instead of listening to Canada’s provinces, the federal government doubled down on policies that will kill jobs, make Canada poorer and weaken national unity.

In fact, agriculture, forestry and energy resources were not mentioned once in this speech. This is completely unacceptable given that we found out yesterday that Canada recorded its largest ever drop in natural resources employment in the second quarter.

Under the leadership of the hon. member for Durham, Canadians can rest assured that we will hold the Prime Minister and the Liberal government to account. We will not support this Speech from the Throne, but we will put forward a plan that keeps Canadians safe, protects jobs and gets our country back on track.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:25 a.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

Mr. Speaker, we on the government's side recognize the importance of working with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders to do what we can to minimize the negative impact of a second wave.

I would like to provide a quote from the Premier of Manitoba. It is a response to the safe restart agreement that contradicts most of what the deputy leader of the Conservative Party says. The letter states:

This federal funding will help support work already undertaken by the Government of Manitoba to increase daily testing capacity from a baseline of 1,000 tests to more than 3,000 tests per day.

It further states:

The Government of Canada will provide $700 million to support health care system capacity to respond to a potential future wave of COVID-19. A further $500 million will address immediate needs and gaps in the support and protection of people experiencing challenges related to mental health, substance use or homelessness. This investment will help to keep Canadians safe and healthy with the health care supports they need.

Does the member agree that it is time we get co-operation from the official opposition, as we are receiving it even from Conservative premiers in Canada?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:25 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, as an opposition, the Conservatives have shown ourselves to be very co-operative since the pandemic hit in passing emergency legislation. We had to be very careful because we saw the Liberal government try to make a power grab during the pandemic. We had to be careful, but we have been very co-operative. I will take no lectures from my colleague from Manitoba on the Liberal side regarding co-operating. We have done our fair share of co-operating.

Today is the day, and the opposition will take this day, to stand up for Canadians who are left behind by the Liberals. This is not just about throwing money at something. This is money that the Liberals are very good at promising and very bad at delivering, as we have seen over the last five years. The money never gets to its intended place. We saw this when times were good and the Liberals were promising money for infrastructure. We can ask Manitoba how far that money went and whether it was even delivered. I can say it did not get to its intended place.

We are not impressed by Liberal promises. We have heard them. We have seen them. We got the T-shirt.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:30 a.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne offers supply-managed farmers full and fair compensation for recent trade agreements.

I have some questions and I would like my colleague to comment. First, is this the last time this promise will be made? We like this promise, we agree with it and we want it to be kept, but this is not the first time we have heard it. There needs to be action. Farmers are fed up. They have run out of patience. It is time for them to be properly compensated.

Second, when it says “full and fair” does that include the agreement with Europe, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CUSMA? Does that include the limits on exports of dairy by-products to other countries, which makes no sense? Does that include the fact that CUSMA came into force on July 1? We are worried. It is time for the government to stop interfering in provincial jurisdictions, start minding its own business and, most importantly, do what it promised.

I would like my colleague to comment on the compensation for farmers.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:30 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague, as I come from an agricultural riding in Manitoba. I have been so disappointed, as have all of us on this side, by the lack of value, attention and credit given to our agricultural sector in Canada. This includes those who are part of the supply management system, but also livestock producers and grain producers. Every sector of the agricultural industry in Canada has been ignored and disrespected. People have pretended that the sector does not exist and what it contributes does not exist. The Speech from the Throne is another example of that.

We have to continue to advocate for farmers. The Liberals seem not to have set foot on a farm in many years, and I would invite some of them to visit some rural areas. I know they do not represent those areas, but they need to understand the sacrifices our farmers make in producing food not only for Canada, but for the world, and they do it in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. They should be congratulated, rewarded and supported instead of ignored.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:30 a.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent and, very humbly, as the official opposition House leader.

I want to sincerely give thanks for all the support for my colleagues in the official opposition and, obviously, for my leader, the hon. member for Durham, leader of the official opposition and of all Conservatives in Canada from coast to coast. As we know, he and his wife are now fighting COVID-19. He will get back here stronger than ever; I can assure the House of that.

We are gathered here today after the House was prorogued for five weeks. During the summer, committees were working to shed light on the government's serious, unacceptable ethical lapses, but the Prime Minister decided to prorogue the House. Parliamentary committees were all suspended. We could not do our jobs in the House or in committee. We are now back in the House after the throne speech.

A Speech from the Throne is a unique and exceptional opportunity to bring Canadians together, to talk about national unity and the fact that the provinces and the federal government must work together and respect jurisdictions. This is an opportunity for the government to show that it has a clear plan and knows where it is going, all while effectively managing government spending. The throne speech is an opportunity for the government to show that it has a plan. What we saw yesterday was anything but a plan. The government gave a classic Liberal speech and completely ignored these three fundamental elements.

First let us consider the issue of spending. We all realize that in a crisis like the one we are experiencing now, investing is essential. Yes, unfortunately, that creates deficits. We faced that reality in 2008-09. We are not happy about it, but we understand that it has to be done. However, we still need to know where we are heading. What the Prime Minister and his government showed us yesterday, given the speech delivered by the Governor General, is that they do not realize that the money being spent today does not belong to us. Yesterday's speech was all spend, spend, spend, but there was nothing about controlling that spending. That is unacceptable.

Of course we must invest in certain sectors. Yes, we must do something for the workers who have lost their jobs because of the crisis. Yes, we must do something for the businesses that have to close temporarily, and will have to take advantage of a potential economic recovery. We must be there to support them. We still need to know where we are heading, and the government has done everything but control spending. We all remember the economic snapshot provided by the former finance minister. We all saw that the deficit was approaching half a trillion dollars and that our debt load had reached over one trillion dollars. The former finance minister never mentioned those two significant figures, and with good reason, because that is not a record to be proud of.

We believe that investments must be made, but there must be a plan. Yesterday's throne speech shows us that the government wants to spend money we do not have and does not know where it is heading. I remind members that money we do not have is a debt that must be paid by our children and grandchildren. The Conservatives are thinking of the younger generation. Yes, the next generation will have to pay for the government's unbridled spending. When we ask for better control of spending, we are thinking first and foremost of young Canadians.

Furthermore, true to Liberal tradition, the government is picking fights with the provinces. No sooner was the Speech from the Throne a wrap than the Premier of Quebec took to social media to express his disapproval on the grounds that the speech sidelined collaboration and scorned jurisdiction. I want to make it perfectly clear that jurisdiction is no mere academic notion meant for the likes of professors and constitutional experts. The government needs to understand and act on its responsibilities while allowing the provinces to take care of theirs. Yesterday, the government said it would invest in health, education, child care and so on, but those are basically provincial responsibilities, not federal ones. What the federal government is responsible for is making sure tests are approved so they can be done as efficiently as possible, but the government is not even meeting its own expectations in that regard. It is minding the business of others instead of taking care of its own.

There is a solution to this, one that the leader of the official opposition proposed two and half weeks ago after meeting with the Premier of Quebec, and that is increasing health transfers to the provinces. That would be a legitimate and important step forward, as indicated by the member for Durham, the leader of the official opposition, our Conservative leader, after meeting with the Premier of Quebec, and we are proud of it. This is classic Conservative: We respect provincial jurisdictions.

As we all know, there are new needs related to health care. The COVID-19 crisis has brought this to light with regard to seniors, among others. We know that transfers do need to be increased, and if there is one area where we need to spend—if we are fortunate enough to win Canadians' trust—we would definitely invest more in health by increasing transfers to the provinces, since health is a provincial jurisdiction. That happens at the provincial level, not the federal level.

Lastly, a Speech from the Throne should emphasize Canadian unity. All of us Canadians need to stand shoulder to shoulder and work together. Whether we are from Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, or wherever, we need to work together. There was absolutely nothing in yesterday's speech that would support and foster a strong, united Canada. There was not a single word about Quebec's aerospace industry, not a single word about natural resources in the west, nothing in the speech to bring Canadians together.

Let me be perfectly clear. Some hear “natural resources” and automatically think of the west, but 50,000 people in Quebec work in the petrochemical industry. That is a lot of people. That is why we believe all provinces must be involved and must work together to make Canada a better place.

The Speech from the Throne is a unique opportunity to underscore that. It is the ideal time for us all to work together for the good of Canadians, and for all Canadians, no matter where they live, to make a tangible contribution to our recovery.

Sadly, the Prime Minister failed to do that. I therefore move, seconded by the member for Lévis—Lotbinière, that the motion be amended by adding the following:

And regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide a plan to approve and deploy new rapid testing measures to aid the provinces in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic;

Further regret to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide an adequate plan to support the future of Canadian workers and small businesses inclusive of a program for wage subsidization that protects Canadian jobs while effectively promoting the value and dignity of work, along with a more extensive plan for commercial rent assistance and effective small business supply chain protection;

Further regret to inform Your Excellency that your government continues to neglect the unity problems that its policies have created in the Western provinces by undermining the role that resource workers, and resource producing provinces have played in paying for quality public services across the Federation;

Further regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has not acknowledged the need for a new policy regarding Communist China that reflects its responsibility for imposing a new police state-style security law on the over 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, as well as committing a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Uyghur Muslims in the Chinese area of Xinjiang; and

Also further regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide adequate transparency to the House with regard to the relationship between the organization known as the WE Charity, the Prime Minister’s family, the relevant government ministries, and outside organizations involved in the development of the Canada Student Services Grant program.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:40 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion in amendment is in order.

Before we begin, I respectfully request that hon. members remember that time is very limited during during questions and comments. I know that this hybrid format is new. Therefore, it is vital that we respect the time members have.

That is why I am asking hon. members to keep their interventions short so as to allow as many members as possible to have an opportunity to ask questions or provide comments to the member who spoke.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Malpeque.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, there are some regrets on this side too. I was hoping the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, in his new capacity, would get up and thank this government for the leadership it has provided since COVID first hit in March.

His remarks were full of contradictions. On the one hand, the member and the party opposite are saying we should stop spending and that the government is spending too much. On the other hand, members have said that the government should transfer more money to the provinces, and spend here and spend there.

Does the member not realize that we have already transferred $19 billion to the provinces under the safe restart recovery program? Does he not realize that we have transferred $2 billion to assist the provinces with education? Does the member think that is important? Also, the throne speech outlines so many things for individuals and businesses to get the economy started again and protect individuals and businesses during the second wave.

Could the member get up and just say thanks?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

No, I will not say thanks to the government, and this is why, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, there is a real miss in this throne speech: control. Where is the control in spending money? It is too easy for the government to say that today it will spend $2 billion for this and $4 billion for that, will create brand new programs and will give $900 million to family friends to create a brand new program with WE Charity.

This is what we have seen in the last six months. Obviously we have to seriously address this issue. Obviously we have to help Canadians. Obviously we have to help businesses. However, the point is that we have do it with control, and the government has absolutely no control—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House leader for the official opposition for his enthusiasm and spirit and for talking about our working together.

In talking about working together, one thing we put forward was to call on the government to extend the amount of sick days to 10 so that when someone is sick, they will stay home instead of possibly going to work because they have to pay their bills and feed their family. Instead of going to work and spreading the virus in this pandemic, they should be at home taking care of themselves, and their children if they are sent home from school sick with symptoms of COVID. This is something that we are calling on the government to take action on to make sure that people are getting the support they need. During this pandemic, we have seen the gaps in the social safety net. People need help right now.

Does the member and does his party support us in calling on the government to take care of those workers and to extend sick days, and not just during the pandemic but once and for all?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the NDP for this important question.

Obviously, there are a lot of people who were put aside by these government policies in the last six months. My colleague, the deputy official leader of the opposition, the member for Portage—Lisgar, said very clearly that this throne speech and this government have failed in the last six months to directly help people who needed it.

Yes, obviously, there are a lot of people who have been served, which is fine, but, unfortunately, what we have seen is a government policy is that continues help some people while creating another problem.

Canada is experiencing a serious labour shortage in every sector because of the Liberals' policies, yet they want to renew these policies as though there is nothing wrong with them.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.


Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the new opposition House leader. Congratulations to him.

I am proud to be a Quebecker, and I am proud of Quebec. I will say a few words about the Speech from the Throne. I did not make a note of all the ways that it intruded into provincial jurisdiction, nor all of Quebec's models that the Canadian government wants to copy for Canada-wide programs.

I am thinking specifically about the child care program. The Canadian government wants to bring in a Canada-wide child care program based on the Quebec model. I would point out that this model has been around for about 25 years. It is unique in North America and is held up as an example around the world.

Would the hon. member agree that the proposed Canada-wide program is just another intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, especially since Quebec has its own program? Would the hon. member agree that the right thing to do would be to transfer the money to Quebec, since it already has its own program?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a proud federalist, I am also very proud to be a Quebecker and to represent Quebec.

Yes, we believe that, unfortunately, the government's proposal is a direct intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. It was rather odd to hear the Governor General state during the throne speech that the government plans to learn from Quebec's example. Since the government wants to use Quebec's model, which has been in place for 25 years, is that not proof that this is an area of provincial jurisdiction?

The Liberal Party already made this promise two decades ago, but it never kept it. It promised care for children who are now too old for child care.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. opposition members for their comments.

First, I would like to state what I believe to be a fundamental fact in this moment in our country's history: COVID-19 is still very much here. We have not yet beaten this pandemic. We are fighting a battle, and this is a battle we must win.

I know the fight against this disease in the past six months has been difficult for Canadians. For too many people, especially our seniors, the most vulnerable, it has been a matter of life and death. This ordeal is unlike anything that we, as Canadians, have lived through in modern history.

I wish I could stand in this place and say that it is over, that the hard work is behind us, but that is simply not the reality. In the four biggest provinces of Canada the second wave is not just starting, but is already under way. On March 13, when we went into lockdown, there were only 47 new cases of COVID-19. Just yesterday we had well over 1,000 new cases. The fact is this fall could be worse than last spring. That depends on the actions we all take in the coming days and weeks, because we all, collectively, have the power to beat down this second wave. We can and we must. All Canadians need to wear their masks. We need to wash our hands. We need to avoid gatherings, especially indoors, and remember that this is not the time for partying. We need to maintain social distance. We need to download and use the COVID Alert app. Of course, we all need to get our flu shots.

As for us parliamentarians, we have a job to do as well, an important job, which is to ensure that Canadians, and the businesses that employ them so they can feed their families, get the support they need to help them pull through this pandemic. We need to do whatever it takes to support people through this crisis. The reality is that the best way to support our economic recovery is by making sure that we are supporting the health and safety of Canadians right now.

There are folks, including members on the opposite side of the aisle, who think that we should have moved more quickly to help businesses and more slowly to help individual Canadians. That is simply wrong. We know that supporting hard-working Canadian families, our seniors and young people is the best way to make sure that our economy comes roaring back as quickly as possible. It is disappointing that the Conservative Party has chosen to put politics first. It would rather vote to have an election in the midst of a pandemic than to vote to extend badly needed help to Canadians at a time of unprecedented need.

Our sole objective since March has been to help Canadians get through this crisis, to protect their health and their businesses, and to protect workers and their livelihoods.

We know that the pandemic has hit some groups more than others. This includes our seniors, working mothers, racialized Canadians, indigenous peoples and youth. We intend to address these inequalities.

I listened carefully to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition made yesterday and the interventions by the two hon. MPs who spoke to the Conservative approach today. I think they are faced first with a fundamental challenge. The deputy leader got up and started by saying that we have no plan, and then proceeded to explain how she disagrees with all the different elements of our plan. Again, the Conservatives cannot have it both ways.

We know that the preoccupation of many Canadians, as highlighted by the hon. deputy leader, is with the health and safety of Canadians. That is something we all share, we as elected officials and Canadians. That is why, from the very beginning of this pandemic, we have worked with top scientists, doctors, public health agencies across the country, premiers and municipal governments. We have worked with everyone to focus on keeping Canadians safe and healthy through this challenge. From the very beginning we sat down regularly with the premiers. Indeed, I think we have had close to 20 first ministers meetings just over the past six months to talk about how we need to work together to help Canadians.

I will come back to the contention by the Conservatives that we are somehow in a national unity crisis, just to highlight the reality that Canadians across all orders of government and all regions of the country have never been more united in working together to deliver safely for all Canadians. Indeed, as we look around the world and contrast how we have managed through this pandemic with places where the positioning around a pandemic response has been a source of partisan controversy and discourse, we see the fact that Canadians have come together has been very significant in contributing to our well-being. The reality is that from the beginning of our meetings with those premiers, our position as a federal government has been, how can we help?

We were there to encourage more testing. We were there to give them the tools to do more testing, whether it was money, resources or equipment they needed. From the beginning, we have been encouraging and helping the provinces to expand their testing capacity. Across the country, we are seeing an increase in testing capacity, thanks in part to the $19 billion we gave the provinces for a safe recovery.

Since the pandemic started, we have sent the provinces half a billion dollars in health transfers. To support a just recovery, we then transferred another half a billion for health care systems, since we realize that this is an unprecedented public health crisis.

We are going to continue making decisions based on science and listening to the experts who are doing everything they can to keep Canadians safe. At the same time, we are also taking action to make sure we have the means to boost testing numbers.

That is why, with our international procurements and the incredible innovative work being done here right here by Canadian scientists and researchers, who are creating new alternatives to testing moving forward with new equipment that we can produce right here in Canada, we have significantly stepped up the federal government's ability to support the provinces in their responsibilities around testing. We will continue to do that.

We recognize that big questions around health care are being brought forward by the crisis of this pandemic. That is exactly why we have not only transferred, as I said, a billion dollars to the provinces to help with the immediate, acute supports, on top of the $19 billion we transferred to the provinces through the Safe Restart Agreement, but we have also committed to absolutely sitting down with the provinces this fall to talk about the future of the Canada health transfers, recognizing that our health care systems are changing and that there are new needs. We recognize, for example, that more and more of health care is not going to be delivered in institutional settings but in home settings. That means investing in home care, investing in supports for the delivery of health services, not just to hospitals and institutions, but through a broader range of ways. The federal government will be there to be part of that conversation.

We also recognize that increasingly treatment for diseases is not through surgical intervention or institutionalization, but through increasingly sophisticated medications and pharmaceuticals. Of course, as pharmaceuticals becomes more complex and sophisticated, their costs go up. That is why as a federal government we have already stepped up over the past years to drive down the cost of prescription drug prices, to be there to support the provinces with rare disease, high-cost drug strategies. We will continue to do that as we move toward a national universal pharmacare program, working first with the provinces that want to move quickly on it. Those are also parts of the conversations that we need to have about the future of health care in this country.

Let me be very, very clear that the federal government continues to have an important role to play in ensuring the safety and security of all Canadians. We will be there with the health care system and with supports for social programs, as we have been from the beginning.

As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, which cannot come fast enough for any of us, we know that we have to learn lessons from this pandemic. However, while we are in this pandemic, the federal government will be there every step of the way with a focus on supporting the health of Canadians.

Of course, we recognize the provinces' responsibilities and jurisdictions when it comes to health. They do great work in their jurisdictions.

However, we also recognize that we need to help them when they become overwhelmed or face particularly difficult challenges. That is why, when the Premier of Quebec asked us to send in the army to help in long-term care facilities during this crisis that Quebec could not manage alone, we did not hesitate to help. We are there to help protect our seniors and to support Canadians. That is a promise that we made from the very beginning of this pandemic and we are keeping it.

We are showing that, yes, we are there. We sent the Canadian Armed Forces to help our seniors. We are continuing to help thanks to the Canadian Red Cross, which is still working in Quebec's long-term care facilities to help the province regain control of this tragic situation.

We will help Canadians in partnership with the provinces. Some people are recommending that we should simply send transfer payments and give the provinces blank cheques for their health care systems, but that would not have helped because we needed people on the ground, soldiers and Canadian Red Cross personnel.

This is not just a question of money, although we will certainly continue sending money. We have transferred over $40 billion to the provinces for their health care systems, and we will continue to take action to protect the health of Canadians. However, we will do so as Canadians would expect, in other words, in partnership with the provinces. That is what we will continue to do.

Despite everything, the Conservatives continue to suggest that we have not been there for Canadians.

The Conservatives say that our plan has left everyday Canadians behind. When the pandemic struck, the Conservatives were more concerned with austerity than with helping people, and now they have doubled down on that view. When they say we have not been there to help ordinary help, I can say that almost nine million Canadians who received the Canada emergency wage subsidy would disagree with them. We were there to support Canadians right across the country despite the Conservatives saying that we should not be.

We were there for the millions of workers who managed to keep their jobs or get hired back to their jobs because of the wage subsidy that supported payroll. Those people needed support through this pandemic.

The issue that keeps coming back from the Conservatives is that we are doing too much, we are investing too much in Canadians, we are helping Canadians too much and that it is irresponsible for the future. The reality is, as I said, the best way to recover the economy of the country is to support Canadians through this health crisis. That is what the Conservatives do not understand.

In the short term, while we are living with this pandemic, we will continue to invest in Canadians and support them.

What we are not hearing from the Conservatives in their response to the Speech from the Throne is specifically what spending measures they disagree with. Do they disagree with the extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy, because that is in the Speech from the Throne. We are extending it through to next summer. Do they disagree with the $500 a week that people got through CERB, which we are now going to be continuing to deliver through the EI system and with a benefit that is going to support those Canadians who still cannot access EI? We know that supporting Canadians who need the $500 a week through the continuation of this pandemic is essential, yet the Conservatives do not seem to want us to do that.

Therefore, my question continues to be this. What do the Conservatives actually disagree with? What is it that they do not think we should be doing for Canadians right now? Where do they leave Canadians aside? Where do they say that we have to recover the economy, so we have to stop spending?

If we had not stepped up as a federal government right across the country, in every province and territory, to put money directly in the pockets of people from the beginning of this pandemic, what would Canadians have done? First, they would have had to go further into debt to pay for groceries or to pay their rent. The help we gave was significant, but not only did it prevent them from going deeper into debt, it also prevented many people from having to use food banks and from losing their homes and jobs.

The reality is that there were still far too many people who had to go to food banks. That is why we invested hundreds of millions of dollars in food banks, shelters and supports for the most vulnerable across the country. Every step of the way, we had the backs of Canadians. We are committing now, as we approach this second wave, to continue to have the backs of people, and the Conservatives would rather vote for an election right now rather than support people.

The Conservatives are asking a lot of questions that Canadians are asking, such as what the path is for our deficit and if we will be fiscally responsible. This is where we have to make a very clear distinction between the short-term measures that are there to support Canadians and the long-term recovery plan in a post-pandemic world. The short-term measures we need to support Canadians will be there for them. We will support Canadians through this pandemic in all the ways we need to, because that is the best way to get us to a strong economy on the other side. Again, what the Conservatives do not understand is doing less to support Canadians will actually hurt our economy in the long run. It will lead to a slower recovery and greater deficits.

Absolutely, once we are through this pandemic, it will be extremely important to be fiscally responsible and sustainable. That is where the investments we are proposing in the throne speech on child care, on housing and on pharmacare are not just things that support the social safety net. It actually leads to better growth; more women in the workforce; more families not facing impossible choices when their kids have to stay home; more support for businesses that do not have to pay the same level of prescription drug coverage with a national universal pharmacare program; more people who are not costing us through shelter systems and vulnerabilities, but have their own homes and are able to contribute to our country.

These are not simply social measures. They are economic measures as we move forward and they will be done because the pandemic has shown us the cracks in our society that Canadians need to fill.

The Conservatives often talk to us about our seniors and the need to support them better in these tough times. We have provided an additional $2.5 billion in support to eligible seniors in the form of one-time, tax-free OAS and GIS payments. We are supporting community-based projects aimed at improving seniors' quality of life and reducing their social isolation. To that end, we invested an additional $20 million in the new horizons for seniors program.

The Speech from the Throne lays out the work we will do with the provinces and territories to set national standards for long-term care. We will take action to ensure that seniors are able to stay in their own homes longer. We will work with our colleagues here in Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to hold those who neglect seniors under their care accountable.

The Speech from the Throne also states that we will look at new measures to ensure better pay for personal support workers, who do a difficult but essential job. Our society must better value their diligence, their skills and their hard work. We must keep trying to do better by our seniors. If the Conservatives disagree, they can keep saying so and vote against the throne speech, which offers real help for our seniors. If they disagree with these measures, they can tell seniors themselves. That is what they are saying.

When it comes to job creation, we know that we have a lot of work to do to get the economy back to where it was before the pandemic and create an even stronger economy. In our first five years in office, we created more than a million jobs for Canadians. During the pandemic, our country saw record job losses, as did every country in the world.

The Conservatives keep saying that the CERB and the support we are giving people who have to pay rent and buy groceries are a disincentive to work. The reality is that we are always going to be there to support workers. We know that Canadians want to contribute and work, but there is a job shortage because of the pandemic. Many sectors were hit extremely hard by this pandemic. We will continue to be there to help people who want to work but have no job to go to. The Conservatives claim that if we stop providing support to millions of people, they will find jobs, but that is a totally ridiculous and irresponsible thing to say.

Once again, I am asking the Conservatives to list the specific measures in the throne speech that they disagree with. Since they do not like the Liberal Party and its approach, they ought to suggest something else. However, they have nothing to suggest. They know that our priority from the beginning has been to be there for Canadians. Since they have nothing to suggest, they talk about a national unity crisis. In reality, Canadians have never been so united.

That has been the story of this pandemic: Canadians coming together to work together in all orders of government to deliver for people; to work together in communities; to work together in workplaces; to be there for opposite sides of the country; PPE produced in Ontario, making its way across the country; supports in scientific resources developed in the west, in B.C., sharing their impact across the country; seafood harvested on our coasts, feeding the rest of the world; and energy workers in Alberta, who continue to innovate and look forward to a better world where their kids will continue to have jobs and opportunities.

The members opposite have asked me about Alberta and are highlighting it. Let me tell them how this government has been there for all Canadians and specifically, because they keep asking, for Alberta.

From the very beginning, the Canada emergency response benefit helped thousands upon thousands of Albertans who were already being challenged with a crisis in the oil and gas sector that is global and is particularly acute in Alberta.

We were there with the CERB. We were there with the emergency wage subsidy to keep people on. We made investments in cleaning up orphan wells, which was a provincial area of jurisdiction but that we are happy to support because we need to give people opportunities to do the right thing and to have work through this difficult time.

On top of that, we sat down and delivered part of $19 billion that we transferred to provinces that has helped Albertans and people across the country with that safe restart. Those transfers to keep people safe were worked out and agreed with all premiers, including the premier of Alberta. Just a few weeks ago, when school boards and parents across the country were worried about kids getting back to school, we signed a $2 billion safe restart agreement with the provinces to make sure, among other things, that school boards in Alberta would have some money to make sure that kids get back to school safely.

However, the Conservatives are choosing to create a national unity crisis. All Canadians are challenged by this, with some areas being much harder hit than others: the tourism sector, the oil and gas industry, and certain cultural sectors that are based on performance. There are many sectors that are hurting and we are continuing to look at ways to deliver supports to them right across the country. I know the deputy leader did not mean to mislead the House, so I am hoping she is going to be able to correct herself. She said that the agriculture, the forestry industry and natural resources are not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. That is not true and she can check on page 24 if she really wants to, but we took a lot of time to reassure people and talk about the challenges faced by people across the country.

If we want to talk about agriculture, we know that the capacity of hard-working farmers and fishers across this country to put food on our tables and contribute to important global supply chains by working hard even through a pandemic is incredibly important. Our farmers have been absolute heroes in making that happen. That is why when we look at the things they are worried about with increasing flooding and increasing droughts because of climate change, we realize that the deputy leader's party and former government did really hurt farmers in the Prairies. They killed the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. The PFRA was there to help manage water in the Prairies in a way that is only becoming more important with the impacts of climate change. However, the previous Conservative government killed it. The reality is that we know that managing our water resources, particularly for our farmers in the Prairies, is essential. That is why this throne speech promises to deliver on a Canadian water agency to replace and continue the good work of the PFRA. For that alone, Conservatives on the Prairies should be voting for this throne speech; but no, the Conservatives killed the PFRA so they would not want to highlight that we are actually bringing it back.

We talk about how important our forestry workers are going to be in building good jobs for the future, how important our natural resources industries and miners are going to be in building jobs for the future. We know that we are moving toward a society and a world where more and more high-tech solutions are going to rely on rare minerals, on good-quality and well-extracted products. Look at the fact that Canada's clean aluminum is so important to so many supply chains across the country.

Canada's clean aluminum is produced with minimal greenhouse gas emissions and is prized by industries from around the world that want to be able to say their electronic devices do not contribute to climate change. That is good news for aluminum workers. It is also great for workers in our natural resources sector that we can show that electric car batteries are made with minerals extracted here, in Canada, in a responsible, forward-looking way.

I was very happy to have a chance to speak to people in the mining sectors, and I know what Canada has to offer in terms of both natural resources and natural resource processing. This will help us secure a place in the economy of the future, which will be more prosperous and more sustainable. That is critical. We spoke about this in the throne speech. We will continue to recognize that the best way to restart the economy is to also look at where the economy is going. A low-carbon economy is the way of the future. However, the reality is that we will not be able to reach net zero by 2050 without the full participation and innovation of workers in our energy and natural resources sectors.

There are energy experts in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. These workers are always looking to innovate, plan for a better future and find concrete solutions. We need them to make our economy cleaner, more efficient, and more successful on the global marketplace. This is an integral part of our future, and we will continue to invest in this sector.

The Conservatives want to turn this into a national unity crisis. I am sorry, but that is frankly irresponsible. More than anyone else in the world, Canadians showed that they were there for one another during this pandemic. To try to make this into a political attack is simply irresponsible and ridiculous.

We will continue to be there for Canadians through this pandemic. We will continue to support the families and the workers who need it right across the country. We will continue to do what is necessary to have Canadians' backs, regardless of what the Conservatives might say. We will continue to recognize the cracks in our systems that the pandemic has revealed: the challenges around homelessness, the challenges around women excluded from the workforce, the challenges around access to health care and pharmacare and the challenges around systemic racism that continue to hold back far too many people across the country. That is why, as we move forward in fighting systemic racism, we move forward first and foremost on economic empowerment for Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses.

It is interesting, because I heard a lot of people say that there are so many other things to do. Yes, there are. If one sits down with Black community leaders and talks to Black entrepreneurs, one of the first things they will ask for is better access to capital. That is why we were so glad a few weeks ago to be able to announce that we have worked with Canada's top banks on delivering access to capital to start rebalancing the economic scales and the barriers that exist because of systems that are discriminatory, but there is so much more to do and we talk about that in the throne speech. We need to reform our justice system. We need to improve outcomes for Black communities and young people. These are the things we are going to continue to do not just for Black Canadians but for all racialized Canadians.

On the flip side, that pathway toward reconciliation continues to be more important than ever before. All the commitments this government has made over the years on moving forward on reconciliation that we have been steadily working on and living up to now need to be accelerated. We need to continue to protect indigenous brothers and sisters from the impacts of this pandemic, but we also need to be giving them the tools and the ability to thrive and prosper in their communities right across the country. That is where we are going to be accelerating many measures of reconciliation. That is why we will be bringing forward in the House, before the end of this year, legislation to enact the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, despite the fact that the Conservatives are already set to vote against it.

We know that Canada is an incredible country. It is an incredible country, not because of geography, not because of history as much as because of Canadians themselves: people who are there to support each other, to work hard for each other, to build their success and to make sure that their communities feel success as well, to stand up for each others' rights and opportunities and to build a better future. That is what this pandemic has shown, Canadians stepping up to do what really matters.

It is unfortunate to see the Conservatives choosing to focus on politics at this time when Canadians are pulling together, trying to create divisions instead of recognizing that Canadians are working together. On this side of the House, we will continue to work not just to support Canadians, but with all members of the House to move forward on meaningful, tangible ways to help Canadians now and into the future.

This moment in our history is going to make a big difference, not only for the next few years, but for decades to come.

This is about how we are going to help the most vulnerable people and rebuild a forward-looking economy with opportunities for everyone across the country. This is about how we are going to ensure that the barriers that exist because of systemic racism are reduced and eliminated. The choices we make today as a country are extremely important to the life of our nation.

Our parents and grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, worked very hard. They laid the foundation of our society and the country we live in today. They faced crises and made changes with the future in mind. They created the world as we know it today. That is what they lived through. That is what they accomplished.

There are two things I would add. First of all, we must learn from their example. They successfully created the incredibly prosperous world we enjoyed at the end of the 20th century. We must emulate the way they responded to a crisis by coming together and working hard to build a better future.

As we ponder that, we need to learn from their example and understand what we need to do to make things better. We need to acknowledge that the seniors who built the country we love today are now extremely vulnerable, living in long-term care homes across the country. It is our duty to focus on them and do everything we can to protect them. As a country, we will be there to honour their sacrifices and recognize their vulnerability.

Together, we will overcome this challenge. I know we can work together. I know we can keep our promises to Canadians. I know the future will be better because of the work we are going to do together.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:30 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise after the Prime Minister, who today has delivered his second partisan speech in the last several hours because last night he had a so-called national address to the nation, which was anything but a call from the Prime Minister and rather a call from the Liberal Party leader.

What we saw today was a Prime Minister who is completely out of touch with Canadians. When it comes to national unity, the Prime Minister chose to fan the flames rather than focus on what Canadians are going through.

Yes, there is a national unity problem in this country. Yes, westerners are fed up with federal policy. Yes, the government of Quebec is fed up with the current government meddling in provincial jurisdictions.

Concerning this reality, the Prime Minister said it was “irresponsible and ridiculous”. What we are currently going through is anything but ridiculous.

What people in the west are living with right now is not funny. However, the Prime Minister is saying that it is irresponsible to raise the issue. That is funny. How can the Prime Minister be so arrogant today?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:30 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Madam Speaker, the story of the pandemic in Canada is the story of people working together. Since the beginning of the pandemic we have had 18 meetings with the provincial premiers. At each meeting the federal government asked how it could help the provinces protect their citizens and what it could do, together with the provinces, to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. During those 18 meetings with the premiers, we made record investments to the tune of $19 billion to help the provinces achieve a safe reopening. We invested $2 billion to ensure a safer return to school in Canada.

We are in the midst of a crisis. At the same time, Canadians are coming together from coast to coast to coast. The reality is that pointing out we are divided is pure Conservative spin. Yes, some people have different political views, while others are frustrated, and I understand that. However, it is wrong to say that Canadians are divided when we are more united than ever, especially in comparison with our American neighbours. We are working together to protect each other. The reality is that we will continue to work together.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:30 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard the Prime Minister say that the Conservatives are going to have to answer a lot of questions. I think the Prime Minister is also going to have to answer some questions, especially about seniors.

He spoke about seniors a moment ago. He is going to have to tell us why, for the first time ever, he is creating two classes of seniors, namely “young” seniors and “old” seniors.

He is also going to have to answer some questions about WE Charity.

The federal government does not run any hospitals. It does not run any seniors' homes. The provinces are the experts, yet the federal government is still trying to tell them what to do, instead of just transferring the money they need to provide high-quality services in the provinces, including Quebec.

With an air of condescension, not to say contempt, he said that we are asking for a blank cheque. We are not asking for a blank cheque. All we want is for the federal government to keep its word and cover 50% of Canada's health care costs. All we want is for the federal government to respect the Constitution that the Prime Minister's father foisted on Quebec.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:35 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to correct the hon. member, who I am certain did not want to mislead the House. The federal government is responsible for providing health care to indigenous people living on reserve and to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

It is worth pointing out that we have military health care expertise, because it means that our soldiers were able to help Quebec's long-term care facilities. Our military has considerable expertise that helped Quebec better protect its seniors. We will continue to respect jurisdictions. We will continue to be there for Canadians.

The member also referred to our promise to increase old age security for seniors aged 75 and over. We recognize that people are living longer and longer, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, as people age, their expenses increase, and their pension does not go nearly as far as it used to. We therefore recognized the importance of doing more for seniors so that they can live longer in dignity, and we will continue to do just that.

We will always continue to work in partnership with and respect the provinces. That is what makes our beautiful country, our great confederation, work. As a federalist, I know that there are things that my sovereignist friend and I will not agree on, but we will always agree on the fact that we all need to work to protect Canadians, no matter where they live in this country.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:35 p.m.


Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, so many people in northwest British Columbia continue to struggle with the loss of their income as a result of this pandemic. This includes people working in retail, people working in tourism and people working in hospitality.

The government's original plan for the transition from CERB to EI included an unexplained reduction in benefits of $400 per month. Will the Prime Minister please confirm that he has now accepted the NDP's demand that there be no reduction in benefits in the transition from the CERB program?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:35 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to highlight that we recognize the challenges faced by Canadians right across the country. From the very beginning, with the Canada emergency response benefit, we were there to support Canadians, even though the Conservatives continue to insist that we should not have been so quick with the CERB, should not have been so quick to help Canadians and should have focused on businesses first instead.

We know that supporting workers and families across this country was the right thing to do. We all want to imagine a country in which our economy will be running again at full steam without this pandemic, but we are not there yet. We still have far too many people who are out of work, far too many people who would love to find a job or would love to be working but simply cannot.

That is why we are transitioning the CERB into a robust EI system that will continue to offer $500 a week to people who are looking for work or who cannot find work and to people who need that support because they simply have to be home to support their families during this difficult time.

For the people who have not been able to access or cannot access EI, we are creating a Canada recovery benefit that will support them with $500 a month, because that is the support that all Canadians deserve.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:35 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I am so glad that the Prime Minister talked about CERB, because it was a program that not only helped so many individual Canadians, but in fact put our economy in such a place that it could continue to survive throughout this pandemic.

I will take this opportunity, as I have done before, to thank the incredible public service that delivered on that program. The reality is that we went from the World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic to having money in the bank accounts of 5.4 million Canadians in one month and four days. By any standard that is an extreme accomplishment, and it is all due to the incredible public service we have.

The Prime Minister would know that the economy and our environment are incredibly important to me. The throne speech hit on the government's aim to legislate Canada's global goal of net zero by 2050. I am curious if the Prime Minister could expand on how he sees the changes to our economy, and what parts of the economy we will push and support to make this a reality so we can meet our goals.