House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pandemic.


Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, if you seek it this time, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be amended as follows: Ms. Vecchio (Elgin—Middlesex—London) for Mr. Richards, (Banff—Airdrie), Mr. Lukiwski (Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan) for Mr. Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil) and Mr. Doherty (Cariboo—Prince George) for Mr. Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry).

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:50 p.m.


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

Normally when there are requests for unanimous consent, the Chair asks in the affirmative whether members agree.

This being a hybrid sitting of the House, were the Chair to proceed in this fashion, if there were any dissenting voices, particularly for members participating via video conference, they may not be audible.

Therefore, for the sake of clarity, I will only ask 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. member moving the motion will please say nay.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. There being no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Government Business No. 1Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, my whip gave a much better response than I will. On behalf of the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, it is an honour to speak after the master class; that is the member for Thornhill.

This year has been unlike any other in at least 100 years. A deadly virus has impacted all our lives and necessitated a significant pause on our economy. Just yesterday the total worldwide death toll from COVID-19 passed one million people. Even now that things are opening, until the virus is dealt with, there can be no going back to normal.

In the face of unprecedented job and economic impacts, the government has created the largest social assistance program ever, the Canadian emergency response benefit. In the face of a recovery insurance system that simply could not manage the scale of requests and millions of Canadians were not even eligible for EI, all parties came together to support this program.

As we now debate the next phase of COVID benefits, I want to be clear that we will not stand in the way of Canadians getting the benefits they need. Many sectors of the economy are still paralyzed by COVID and may not come back any time soon.

Those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic need support. However, the government's handling of this benefit has been shameful.

The Prime Minister prorogued the House to avoid scrutiny on his WE scandal. We all know this. The day after prorogation, the government announced these benefits, several of which would need legislation. Instead of spending time over the last month debating and passing these benefits, the Prime Minister shut down Parliament. Now that the CERB has ended and many Canadians are not eligible for EI, the government is playing politics with the well-being of Canadians.

They come to us and tell us that if we do not pass everything at once with no debate, people will not get support.

We could have debated this three weeks ago, and it could have gone through proper parliamentary review. The government is becoming far too contemptuous of the House.

At the beginning of the crisis, we all understood the urgency and need to pass bills quickly, but now the government thinks that this is how all bills should be passed. Why have real debate when the government can pass everything it wants immediately and blame the opposition for being callous when it wants to have even the bare minimum of scrutiny?

What the government wants is to eliminate Parliament and treat the House as a rubber stamp for its program.

This is unacceptable, and it cannot go on.

We wanted to work on this bill over the weekend and the government said no, that it would rather pass it on Monday with no debate. Canadians deserve better. They expect better from the government. I will do my job for the people who have sent me here and participate in the sacred responsibility with which I have been entrusted.

Parliament is not an inconvenient annoyance for the government that believes it knows better. It is a demonstration of the democratic will, the will of the people of Canada, not the unelected staffers in the Prime Minister's Office.

When the question emerges as to why debate and scrutiny are so important, I have a good example why. When the government proposed the CERB originally, people lost the entire benefit if they made one dollar. In many cases, people were forced to chose between the CERB or turn away clients who kept their doors open, but could not pay their rent or put food on the table.

The opposition pointed this out, but it took a while for the Liberal government to pay attention and set a $1,000 threshold. That was certainly better, however, there were still major problems. Through the spring and summer, we in the opposition repeatedly pointed out how the threshold would be a disincentive for workers to pick up extra shifts. Doing so put them right above that $1,000 threshold that would remove their entire CERB. We proposed a back to work bonus where workers would have their CERB slowly phased out to ensure people were never worse off for having worked. We presented it and the government ignored it.

The minister even said that the disincentive to work, the CERB, was problematic. That was at the beginning of the summer, and the government had options. What did it do?

The government refused to make any changes and just accepted the problems in the CERB until now, in the fall, when it is getting around to making this change. The Liberals were either stubborn or lazy, or did not want to admit the opposition was right or maybe just did not care. If we had a chance to debate these bills and study them at committee, we could uncover these issues and propose changes that would make the bill better.

Another bill the government put forward this summer was designed to create a one-time payment for people with disabilities, a payment I will note that has not been given yet. When the government first proposed the payment, it only applied to existing disability tax credit holders. Many people highlighted that was far too narrow a group and it should apply to Canada Pension Plan Disability recipients as well as those on a veterans disability benefit.

I and many opposition MPs were ready to debate it and work to make that bill better. However, the government refused to allow a debate, demanding to pass the bill immediately or not at all. Our then leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, proposed a full debate and the government said no. Therefore, no improvements could be made.

Soon after that, the government introduced a new bill to make these changes. However, the purpose of this assembly is to improve bills or reject them if they are a bad idea.

Rather than work with others, the Liberal government took a much longer road to pass a bill to support people with a disability, support, as I said, has not even come yet.

We have all been sent here for a reason. I was sent here by my constituents just the same as the member for Papineau was sent by his. He should remember that. Why are these benefits important? As we see a surge in cases through the country, we are constantly reminded of the danger of this pandemic to our health and to our economy.

I have heard workers say they really have no idea when they can go back to work. Entire sectors of our economy, such as hospitality, food services and entertainment, could be shut down for quite some time. Those affected by these job losses did nothing wrong; they are the victims of a terrible virus, and they need support.

I think of parents who are unable to go to work. Their children cannot go to school because they have medical issues that make it far too risky. I think of people who develop symptoms and must wait a week or more for test results and cannot work during this time even if they want to.

Data comparing this recession to the previous one shows that people are looking for work in the same numbers as before despite the new benefits. We know Canadians want to work. Many can however many cannot. That is why we are not standing in the way of these benefits. Our system was simply not designed for this situation. Our EI system is built on a house of spaghetti from the 1970s.

In a briefing earlier this year, I was told by government IT officials that fixing the system would take a decade. Many people have not paid into employment insurance, usually due to being self-employed or gig workers.

However, in a time of crisis, those individuals need support. The impact the pandemic is having on white-collar jobs has been largely addressed. Workers in lower-paying jobs are the ones still feeling the worst repercussions of these job losses.

Sectors like accommodation and food services are significantly down, as are sectors that generally employ lower-paid workers. We see from Statistics Canada data that unemployment remains considerably higher than average among racialized Canadians. The people with the least are bearing the largest burden, and they need help.

I understand the need for new benefits to flow to people who need them, but the government has to stop playing political games. It is clear as crystal what the Liberals are doing here. They prorogue and wait until the last possible moment to introduce this bill and then exclaim that if we do not pass it all today at once, people will not have support.

We could have done this last month. Instead, the government continues to play political games with benefits and gets up in arms when the opposition dares to propose that Parliament operate as it is supposed to: as a deliberative body. In the Liberals' minds, Parliament is an inconvenience at best. They know what is best for everyone and they will do it, Parliament be damned.

I was sent here by the voters and I will come here every day to do my best to make government programs work. I wish that the Prime Minister and his marketing department at the PMO would understand that too.

Government Business No. 1Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Government Business No. 1Government Orders

2 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order. The hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola will have five minutes of questions and comments coming to him when we return to this.

Government Business No. 1Government Orders

2 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

I have many questions. Can I pose them to myself?

Government Business No. 1Government Orders

2 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

We will see if no one else is interested, but I am sure there will be plenty of interest.

Caleb's Courage MovementStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Mike Kelloway Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, each September Cape Breton—Canso residents Mike and Nicole MacArthur, along with their family, prepare for the annual Caleb's Courage Superhero Walk, Run or Fly. It is a community fundraiser in honour of their son Caleb, who bravely battled cancer until he passed away in 2015. He was only four years old. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the MacArthur family was unable to host this fundraising event as planned this year. However, knowing the impact it continues to have on the community, they have decided to host the event virtually, inviting participants to join from across the country. The Caleb's Courage movement has raised more than close to a million dollars to support critically ill children in Cape Breton. It is thanks to Caleb's Courage the Cape Breton Regional Hospital is now home to the Caleb's Courage Superhero Suite, a superhero-themed pediatrics room that allows so many children to receive their treatments, often life-saving, and at home.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and today I want to honour all the little superheroes who have fought or continue to fight big battles just like Caleb's.

I would also like to thank Mike, Nicole, Ella, Aubreigh, Lauchlin, Emery and all those involved with the Caleb's Courage movement for doing their part to strengthen health care in Cape Breton—Canso.

Simcoe—Grey TelecommunicationsStatements By Members

September 28th, 2020 / 2 p.m.


Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, throughout this pandemic, my riding has been put at a significant disadvantage as lockdowns and working from home have become the norm. People in the cities have the privilege of reliable high-speed Internet, which allows them to work from home or their kids to learn online. They are also able to stream and connect with friends and family without worrying about exceeding their monthly data allowance. Canadians in my riding of Simcoe—Grey are not so privileged. Our parents cannot reliably work from home and often must head into the city despite the health risks. Our kids often cannot connect to online courses and fall behind their peers. Also, our isolated seniors suffer as they are unable to visit loved ones in person at this time. With all of this, we still pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra fees for less than what other Canadians are taking for granted.

The government had some nice words in the throne speech about connectivity. There were nice words about many things, but actions speak louder than words. We need a plan to connect rural Canada to high-speed Internet now.

Women EntrepreneursStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Élisabeth Brière Liberal Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, in early September, I joined Marianne Auclair, the executive director of the Eastern Townships branch of Femmessor, on a tour of SOS Odours. Josée Samson is the president of this family business, which specializes in making air fresheners. During the pandemic, Ms. Samson was proactive and innovative, designing a modern assembly line to produce hand sanitizing gel that she could sell to her clients and the governments of Quebec and Canada.

We have a host of examples of women entrepreneurs who are helping to fight the spread of the virus and contributing to the economic development of our communities. However, even today, only 16% of Canada's small and medium-sized enterprises are owned by women.

I am proud to be part of a government that is investing nearly $5 billion to boost the number of women entrepreneurs and make the business world fairer and more dynamic.

Suzanne TremblayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our leader and all of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I want to express our sadness at the passing of a great sovereignist and one of the first Bloc Québécois MPs.

Suzanne Tremblay passed away on Saturday, and this staunch defender of our interests is being mourned not just in the Lower St. Lawrence region, but all across Quebec. I once had the privilege of working with her to showcase what our corner of the country has to offer, and I can assure the House that she was extraordinarily dedicated to regional and rural development.

She will be remembered for her outspoken nature, her audacity and her indomitable spirit, as well as for the enormous contribution she made to cultural issues and the way she defended the industry as a whole from international giants. I am grateful to Suzanne Tremblay for standing up to promote Quebec and our region. Her career is an inspiration to the new generation, which I belong to.

Thank you for everything. Farewell, Suzanne.

ALS TreatmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, ALS patients in Canada suffer from a lack of access to new therapeutic treatments and a quarter of Canadian ALS patients do not have access to clinical trials within their own provinces. The current system is prohibitive to ALS patients who wish to access new therapies that could significantly improve their quality of life. We have a duty to care for those individuals who are vulnerable, and we must do better. We must work with our international partners to uncover and approve new treatments for ALS patients, ensure that ALS therapies are covered by provincial health authorities and make certain that ALS patients have equal access to the treatments they need. Pursuing these goals will see the burden of ALS decrease with patients living longer with less severe symptoms and a greater ability to contribute to society.

Jim MerriamStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, on September 19, Canada lost a great Canadian, rural media personality and columnist. Jim Merriam passed away surrounded by his loving family after a 21-year battle with cancer.

Jim's “Funny Farm” column was well known and well read. Whether sharing his opinions on newsworthy events or controversial decisions, details about his farm and beloved mules, light-hearted jokes or promoting charitable events, his was a loud, reasoned voice that came directly from the heart. Jim loved to tell those personal stories and connect people with each other right across the region. It was that ability to tell a story with a sense of humour, yet get to the crux of the issue, that was fundamental to who Jim was. Maybe most telling about Jim is that he was approached by different parties to run for politics. He was smart enough to stay away.

I consider myself lucky to have known Jim my whole life. I am confident that many others still can through his written work.

Rest in peace, Jim. You have earned it.

Amnesty International Secretary-GeneralStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, Alex Neve is a fierce defender of human rights and the conscience of his nation. As the outgoing Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, Alex has fought to preserve, promote and protect the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of individuals and peoples around the world. A man who speaks with purpose, listens with humility and acts with conviction, Alex's work is defined by countless compelling victories overcoming many injustices in the world.

Alex continues to inspire and challenge all of us to advance human rights. Some of his recent work includes advancing refugee rights, ensuring corporate social responsibility, implementing the optional protocol on torture and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as seeking accountability for atrocity crimes in places like Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

This week, Alex passed the torch to Ketty Nivyabandi, a passionate human rights defender who will lead Amnesty. I want to thank Alex, his partner Patricia Goyeche, and his children, Brennan, Sean-Daniel and Selina, for all of their sacrifices to make our world a better place.

Kitchener NBA PlayerStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the talent and accomplishments of a truly exceptional member of my community. Like most members, I take special pride in the success of all of our citizens from coast to coast to coast. Whether it is an athlete, musician, businessperson or any other Canadian, we are here to root for them, which why I rise today to highlight one of Kitchener's finest, Jamal Murray. As a basketball player for the Denver Nuggets, Jamal has shown remarkable leadership, poise and determination while taking his team to the NBA conference finals.

Jamal is an inspiration for basketball fans in Kitchener Centre and in communities across Canada, not only for his plays on the court but also off the court. He is an advocate for the Black community and youth sports, including assisting in building local basketball courts and providing backpacks for children returning to school.

Although Jamal's team was not successful, he was successful in uniting a nation and elevating our hope and pride. I ask all members to join me in wishing Jamal all the best.

We are all rooting for Jamal.

Burgers to Beat MSStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate Randy Nickle and the entire team at Kenora's A&W for raising over $27,000 for research and support for those living with MS.

There are 77,000 Canadians who have MS. It is a chronic illness that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing pain and weakness as well as issues with vision, speech and coordination. There is currently no cure, but research is being done into new therapies to improve quality of life.

This year, A&W's Burgers to Beat MS campaign raised $1.3 million in support of the MS Society of Canada. Randy and his team in Kenora have cracked the top five in fundraising seven years in a row, and this year they were number one nationwide. They went above and beyond the scope of the campaign by finding a number of creative ways to raise money, including holding bake sales, collecting personal donations and even selling rain barrels. I salute them for their continued passion for this cause and thank everyone who donated or helped to raise funds.

Together, we can beat MS.

David SmithStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been some time since David Smith died. David was a lawyer, MP, cabinet minister, senator, chairman of the world's largest law firm and a born raconteur.

I got to know him through the Liberal Party politics and the Wednesday morning prayer breakfasts. His standard greeting was, “How's brother John today?” Regardless of the scripture passage or prayer concern, David would have a story. My favourite featured he and Colonel Gadhafi sitting around a campfire in a Libyan desert and being serenaded by fornicating camels. I do not know what a fornicating camel sounds like, but it was extremely difficult after David's story to maintain a prayerful attitude.

David also liked to sing the great old hymns of the faith. The hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus became infinitely more poignant when David told us about the deeply tragic life of the Port Hope man who wrote the hymn, Joseph Scriven.

I miss that raspy voice. I miss that off-key singing. I miss those hilarious anecdotes. May my friend rest in peace.

Yom KippurStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday at sundown, Jewish communities across Canada and the world gathered to observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Marking the end of a 10-day period of prayer, fasting and introspection, Yom Kippur is a sacred day of atonement when those in the Jewish community seek forgiveness for the past year and reflect on where better choices and actions could have been made. However, this is not only a time for reflection, but also a chance to look forward to the future for new and more hopeful days of joy and opportunity.

Hamilton is blessed with a vibrant Jewish community. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of Beth Jacob Synagogue, Temple Anshe Sholom and Adas Israel Synagogue, along with all Jewish Canadians, for the profoundly positive contributions they have made to Canadian society and will continue to make for generations to come.

As Yom Kippur draws to a close, I hope the day has been an easy fast and brought meaningful reflection to all Jewish people who are celebrating this solemn, sacred day.

G'mar chatima tova .

COVID-19 PandemicStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, today I am proud to rise in the House of Commons to honour Nova Scotia and particularly the residents of West Nova.

Back at home, as elsewhere in the country, our communities work very hard supporting each other during the many difficult challenges that have deeply affected our entire population due to the current pandemic. We all know that the strength of a community can certainly be defined in tough times, and God knows how much our community in Nova Scotia has gone through over the past number of months.

I want to send out a special thanks, a shout-out to the Kingston-Greenwood Isolation Support Network, which was created to respond to the need for help during the first peak of the pandemic. The network's goal was to get essential items like groceries to individuals remaining at home, whether for their safety or the safety of others, due to the pandemic.

Congratulations and a big thanks to the local Lions Club, 14 Wing Greenwood, and Sobeys, as well as all the volunteers who made sure our residents did not go without during this difficult time.

Forest FiresStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, after several catastrophic years, we had relatively few forest fires in Canada in 2020. In my riding, there were only three fires that threatened homes.

Unfortunately, after those fires were brought under control, southern British Columbia was beset with thick, choking smoke from fires south of the border, as California was beset with temperatures not in the 30s, but in the high 40s and even in the range of 50°C.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the firefighters on the ground and in the air for battling the fires in southern British Columbia, especially the volunteer crews who worked in extreme terrain and in extreme temperatures to keep family homes safe.

We had only three serious fires this year, but I can remember only one fire that came close to homes when I was growing up in the Okanagan in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, there is no going back to the cool days of the sixties, but we can hold global warming to 1.5 degrees if we take bold action now. I call on the government to do just that.

Aviation industryStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, there was not a word about aerospace in the Speech from the Throne. It is inconceivable that it be left out.

Aerospace is to Quebec what the automobile is to Ontario. Greater Montreal is the third-largest aerospace hub in the world, after Seattle and Toulouse. It is the leading exporter, which translates into 40,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs. It is big, granted, but it is on shaky ground.

That is why we have been asking for an aviation policy for years. The pandemic has made the need more pressing. With COVID-19, aircraft are grounded, maintenance activities are limited, and order books for new aircraft could remain poorly stocked for years. The precarious situation is even forcing aviation technicians into the construction industry to make ends meet.

While Quebec is starting to envision a carbon-neutral plane, Ottawa remains at a standstill, with no vision, no targeted support. There is nothing. Ottawa must listen to reason. We need an aerospace policy and we need it now.

COVID-19 PandemicStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I received an email from an Innisfil resident who, like roughly 780,000 Canadian homeowners, chose to defer her mortgage payments when COVID-19 forced businesses to close and workers to be laid off. In the email, she spoke of not being fully back to work as a result of the shutdown, yet her financial hardship is mounting because, as it is for many Canadian families, a deadline is looming this week when mortgage deferrals end, and payback will be required with interest. This means she will have to pay a lump sum of $3,750 in principal and interest, which is more than her monthly income.

In last week's throne speech, not one word of this looming crisis was mentioned. Instead, what we heard was the Prime Minister delivering no plan to get our economy back on track, no plan to secure investment, no plan to secure jobs, no plan for rapid testing, and no plan to pay for the mounting debt and deficit. What we did hear was a Prime Minister willing to bankrupt our country to win the next election.

HomelessnessStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important to keep in mind that, well before the virus arrived in Canada, winter was already a major challenge for marginalized people experiencing homelessness.

This year, these people will face significant additional hardships. Implementing public health measures such as physical distancing is a massive challenge in enclosed spaces like the shelters that take them in.

As indicated in the throne speech, our government is aware of these realities. This is a major issue that matters to us all, and the government is focusing on it. We are concerned about Canadians living in extremely precarious situations.

Homelessness can happen to anyone. More than ever, solidarity and compassion must guide us through this trying time together.

HomelessnessStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before continuing, I just want to remind all the members who are joining us virtually that they have access to headsets that are provided by the House. The members really have wonderful voices, so we want to make sure that those voices come through in their true colours. I want members to take that headset and use it, as opposed to the ear buds. Not that there is anything wrong with ear buds, but they do not bring out the full force of their voices.