House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pandemic.

Topics

Bills of Exchange ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-5, an Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

moved:

That the House:

(a) concur in the report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner entitled “Peschisolido Report”, tabled on Wednesday, February 5, 2020, and thank him for his work;

(b) resolve that Joe Peschisolido's 10 breaches of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons cast unacceptable reflections upon the House and its members, amount to an offence against the dignity and authority of the House, and warrant sanction; and

(c) order Joe Peschisolido, former member of the House of Commons, to provide, no later than the 15th sitting day following the adoption of this order, a written apology to the House, in respect of his breaches of the Code by way of a letter addressed to the Speaker, provided that the Speaker shall, at the conclusion of Oral Questions next following its receipt, read it to the House and lay it upon the table.

It is unfortunate that I find myself having to move this motion today. Over the last almost six years, we have seen a slow and steady degradation of the confidence Canadians can have in this democratic institution.

The issue of Mr. Peschisolido's conduct and the 10 breaches of the Conflict of Interest Code causes me great concern. They certainly were found to have contravened the rules of this place.

This is a problem that has been caused by a trickle-down effect in the Liberal government. We have a Prime Minister, the head of the Liberal Party, who started out his tenure as leader, as Prime Minister, as head of the government, with an act that broke the law. That is contained in “The Trudeau Report”. This is that famed and unfortunate event, the trip to billionaire island. We know that that first breach of the act, which is the first time a prime minister in Canadian has been history found guilty of breaking ethics laws, had a ripple effect across Parliament and, really, across this country.

However, what followed afterwards was a domino effect that led to Mr. Peschisolido's conduct and the finding of guilt against him. It included multiple investigations and multiple findings by the Ethics Commissioner that members of the Liberal Party, members of the Liberal government, had broken ethics laws.

Bill Morneau, the former finance minister, found himself embroiled in scandal on a number of occasions. The first, of course, was the forgotten corporation and forgotten French villa, which was a disingenuous explanation at best.

We have in this case with Mr. Peschisolido, just as we have in the case of the WE scandal, just as we have in the case of clam scam, and just as we have in the case of so many of the breaches of the ethics, regulations, rules and laws of this place, claims from the Liberal members that it is not true. We heard that from the Prime Minister when he infamously claimed that the story in the Globe and Mail was false, but which later led to the “Trudeau II Report” finding that the Prime Minister had interfered in the criminal prosecution of his friends at SNC-Lavalin.

When we have, rooted at the head of the cabinet table, at the head of the governing Liberal Party, a member who has repeatedly breached ethics laws and is under investigation again, it is no wonder that we see members of his party flout the rules. It is serious when a backbencher does it, and it is serious when the Prime Minister does it.

These behaviours are unchecked, as we have seen when members of the Liberal caucus are given the opportunity to walk out the back door when they are facing serious questions about their conduct, including conduct that has led to criminal charges. There was one for a member who was elected in 2019 alongside the Prime Minister and these Liberals, and one for a member who did not re-offer, but who was elected with these Liberals in 2015 and is now under investigation for breaking the Criminal Code of Canada.

We have seen members of that same caucus ejected for trying to uphold the rules. We saw that with the former president of the Treasury Board, Dr. Jane Philpott. We saw that with the former attorney general, the member for Vancouver Granville, who was booted from caucus and unceremoniously kicked out of cabinet.

Canadians need to know that the integrity of the House and its members is second to none. We have a case here where we do not have one breach, or two, or five. We have 10 breaches of the code that governs members. Ten breaches by this now former member and no consequence will be brought to bear on him. That cannot stand. That cannot be what Canadians see from the House.

In this place we use the term “honourable member”. We refer to each member as hon. members, and our honour is not something that is to be called into question by another member. However, when we have the Ethics Commissioner make a finding like this, when we have the Ethics Commissioner continue to identify events that are breaches of the code and where ethics laws have been broken, then it is incumbent on those who took on the responsibility, who swore the oath, to protect the reputation of this democratic institution and all its members. That is why the motion calling for this apology is eminently reasonable and very necessary.

Members need to know that there will be a reckoning if there is a breach of the code, even if they did not re-offer in an election or were not successful in their bid for re-election. This place goes on. It was here long before any of us arrived, and it will be here long after, God willing. While we temporarily occupy the seats for our 338 constituencies, we need to defend this place, so that whoever comes next, whatever party they represent, can be called an hon. member as well. That is not to be called into question by Canadians who wonder was there not that case of this prime minister, or that finance minister, or this individual who broke the code. There was no consequence for them, and members of the House did not see fit for an apology from them.

I am asking all members of the House, across party lines, to do as they would do if they looked across the aisle and saw a member of the opposing party breach the code 10 times. Would we want that member to deliver an apology to the House? We absolutely would. That is what we are looking for here today. It is important that we all take our role seriously and that we take these breaches seriously, because they are. It is important that we do what little we can in terms of seeking restitution, of seeking some repair to the damage to the reputation of this place and its members by soliciting and tabling an apology from Mr. Peschisolido.

We are bound by the code. We must follow the code, and when we fail to follow the code, there must be a reckoning. That is what we are calling for here today.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, if we take a look at what is happening around us today, Canadians from all regions of our country are very much concerned with the second wave of a very serious pandemic. We were supposed to be debating legislation and having a discussion about the many things we could be doing as parliamentarians to assist, both directly and indirectly, literally millions of Canadians. That is what we were supposed to be debating here today.

The member has a choice. He can continue to have this debate, which he has chosen to advocate for today, or he could gain an appreciation of what it is that is on top of mind for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. He had a choice. It is something that he did have to raise today.

My question for the member is this: Why did he specifically choose today? Why not wait until after we deal with the legislation that is so critically important in providing the resources that Canadians need now?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, I will take no lessons from that member or from these Liberals on what can be done by the House. The Liberals shut down Parliament six weeks ago. They shut down committees, just like they did last night at PROC. To be clear, the hon. member knows very well we are not debating the benefits that Canadians could receive. We are going to be debating closure of the motion.

Again, the Liberals are shutting down debate in the House. It is ridiculous to hear from the member that we are delaying the work of government. The Liberals shut down the House for six weeks. They shut down committees for six weeks. It was again to avoid accountability.

Instead of addressing the issue that has been raised, and my motion is in order, the member is looking to deflect. We are talking about protecting the integrity of the House, the House which the member and his party shut down for six weeks. We are going to continue to do our job to hold the government to account, and I am going to continue to do my job to make sure that the integrity of democratic institutions is protected and preserved.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, it is hard to disagree with the member's motion, especially since the only thing a member has is their integrity.

The parliamentary secretary pointed out earlier that this is a time when we should be focused on helping Canadians. The government is not helping Canadians by using the special powers it was given only to wind up in a situation like the WE Charity scandal.

I would also like to tell my colleague that another conflict of interest may have slipped under the radar for some. I am talking about the use of the wage subsidy. I do not understand how a political party managed to double dip, taking money from a program designed to help struggling businesses and using it to fund the party.

I do not know whether my colleague agrees.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Jonquière is absolutely right. The government did use the goodwill of the House, and powers that were given to it during extraordinary times, to attempt a power grab. Then it took the extraordinary benefit of the doubt that was given by all members of the House, the team Canada approach that we all engaged in, to look to give half a billion dollars to an organization that had given half a million dollars to members of the Prime Minister's family. Again, when the current government looks to avoid accountability, and to avoid proper use of the resources and the powers given to it, it must be held to account by all members in this place.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, it is with some disappointment that I rise to address the motion that my colleague from across the way has decided to bring in on what I believe is a very important day for all Canadians.

We have gone through a great deal over the last eight months. We have seen a great sense of co-operation in our society. We have a Prime Minister and cabinet who virtually work seven days a week, trying to be there in a very real and tangible way. We have very strong national leadership that is supported by provinces and territories across the country. There is a strong sense of co-operation and teamwork among Canadians, not only among provincial, territorial and national governments, but in our cities, municipalities and non-profits. It is a very long list of people who came together, recognizing the importance of what Canadians are rightfully concerned about: the pandemic. It has killed thousands of people and will continue, unfortunately, to kill others.

As a government, we have been aggressively pursuing the best interests of Canadians, and we have made it very clear that we will be there for Canada every day. We will have the backs of the people of Canada, and we have seen a wide spectrum of programs that have been brought forward to support Canadians in this time of need.

Today, we are supposed to be debating the pandemic and how we can continue to support Canadians, and this is why it is so disappointing. Of virtually all the different stakeholders, the only stakeholder group I can think of that consistently puts up a roadblock is the Conservative Party of Canada. We see that, at every opportunity those members get, they are more than happy to try to change the topic and lose the focus of what Canadians want us to be concerned about and debating.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind members they will have an opportunity to ask questions and comment. I would ask that they hold on to their thoughts at this point and allow the member to be able to deliver his speech without interruption.

The hon. Parliamentary secretary has the floor.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, whether the Conservatives want to hear that or not, it is the truth.

I spend a great deal of time inside the chamber, whether during summer sittings, fall or spring. I can tell members that, with my years of experience in opposition and more than 20 years as a parliamentarian, never have I seen as much waste of parliamentary time as with the measures taken by the Conservative opposition members since virtually 2015, and their focus is very simple. All they have focused on, since day one, is how they can be critical of the Prime Minister of Canada. That is their only concern, and they try to expand that to other ethical questions. From day one, that has been their focus. One would think that it would be the pandemic and issues surrounding the pandemic. The bill that was introduced earlier today was seconded by the leader of the New Democratic Party. MPs of all political stripes, and I suspect there might even be some quiet ones within the Conservative Party, understand that we all have a role to play in this matter. All of us have a role to play.

As I have said in the past, I and other Liberal members of Parliament appreciate having our deputy House leader provide the opportunity for daily contact and for sharing the experiences we were hearing from our constituents. From the Prime Minister's perspective, it was important that, as members of Parliament, we listen to how the pandemic was affecting our constituents, and then get that information back to the government. The deputy House leader, working with some fantastic colleagues and support staff, was able to gather many different ideas, and that facilitated the modifications necessary for a wide spectrum of programs that this government brought forward. It has not been just Liberal MPs doing this, but MPs of all political stripes. Why is this? It is because we are listening to what Canadians are talking about, and we can appreciate their anxiety and worry.

We need to be there for our seniors. There is a great deal of concern regarding their accommodations. Many people are looking to Ottawa to continue demonstrating the leadership needed to get us through this pandemic. That is why it is so important that we continue what we have started since the throne speech. When we prorogued the session, we turned the page and got even more focused on what would be taking place in the coming months and years. Based on what we were hearing from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, that is what Canadians want, and that is what Canadians are going to get from this government and from all those individuals who want to deal with this proactively.

The motion brought forward today is an attempt to change the channel. However, it is interesting that Rob Anders, a former Conservative MP, is facing allegations of tax evasion with Canada Revenue. Members can check the news.

Do the Conservatives want to deal with that? No, of course not. Instead, they want to bring up an issue where they can expand upon their hopes of being able to talk about nothing but the Prime Minister, other ministers, Liberal members and ethics.

I have listened to many of their arguments. No one is perfect, but throughout this pandemic our Prime Minister has been very clearly demonstrating the importance of all of us working together to be there in a very real and tangible way for Canadians at a time when we need to be there for Canadians.

The legislation we are talking about is an extension of programs that were very effective at putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of Canadians so that they would have disposable income to buy the basics of life. That is what we should be talking about. Instead, the opposition wants to have endless votes, they want to change the topic of the debate in the chamber and then they want to cry that they do not get enough time to talk about what they really do not want to talk about. Really? I have seen that show before. I have seen all the filibustering and wasting of time.

As the official opposition they can spend the time on whatever they want, but as the government we are going to continue to cover the backs of Canadians in all regions of our great nation.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I again want to remind the members that when somebody has the floor to please be respectful and allow that person to finish their speech or thought.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, the member talked about covering people's backs. We know who the government is trying to cover for. It is for the insiders; it is for their Liberal friends, just as in the case of “The Trudeau Report”, just as in the case of the “Trudeau II Report” and just as in the case here. They don't want to address the issue of the rules of this place being broken.

For six weeks, and in fact even before that, the Conservatives called for the doors of this place to be opened and for us to continue to meet like this. We could have had the new program in place that they want to talk about today.

If the measures the Liberals wants to present today are so important, why are we debating closure of the motion instead of having passed this motion six weeks ago, when they shut down the House to further a cover-up of the corruption in the government?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we are not debating that. We are not debating it because the member has brought forward a motion that could have just as easily been a topic of discussion at the procedure and House affairs committee.

There are many different ways the member could have dealt with the issue. This is the first time I have heard this particular member say that the opposition would like to have a discussion about this particular issue. If he had approached me with regard to this, I would have entertained having a discussion and maybe looked at ways we could have addressed it along with other concerns.

Let us realize that what we should be talking about today is how the House of Commons of Canada can continue to assist Canadians in all regions of our country.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, one thing is really hypocritical. I was in this chamber with Stephen Harper, and during his regime the Conservatives closed debate over 300 times. They did it on the environment. They did it on unemployment insurance. They did it on defence. They did it on veterans. They did it on a whole series of different issues that we dealt with over a number of years.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

I am getting heckled, but members can check Stephen Harper's record to find that. It is totally hypocritical.

However, there is a problem with the Liberals. We do not need to put a black light on them to see all the scandal and hypocrisy they have had as well. That is a distraction.

Do you not think you have brought a lot of this on yourself by the behaviour of some of your government people over this tenure? This problem and distraction could have been avoided had you not gotten into this yourself. That is the—

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I remind the member, and all members in the House, to be very careful with the language being used. Members can talk about the parties, but when it comes to individual members it is not acceptable. Also, all comments and questions should be put to the Chair.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to give credit where credit is due in a situation witnessed here this morning. A minister moved forward a very progressive piece of legislation that would assist many Canadians in all regions of this country, and what is worth noting is that the seconder was the leader of the New Democratic Party. In certain ways on certain pieces of legislation, the NDP recognizes the value of Canadians by supporting legislation and is prepared to assist the government in getting important legislation through. I recognize that and thank the NDP for it.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague opposite spoke about turning the page, but on what?

Is he talking about turning the page on WE? Turning the page on an important report that was to be tabled at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, or on a report that was to be submitted to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women regarding the impacts on women? Turn the page on what?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is not necessarily an issue of turning the page as much as it is one of remaining focused on what Canadians in all regions of our country want us to be focused on: fighting the pandemic and working to ensure that we minimize the negative impacts on our society and economy as a direct result of the things taking place during the pandemic. That is really what the expectation is.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, that was a nice try by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government. He was very eloquent as usual.

However, as my colleague pointed out earlier, this is not the first time that this government has been caught in a conflict of interest or apparent conflict of interest. The standard that we should set for ourselves as parliamentarians, and we have a code to keep us on the right track, is that an apparent conflict of interest is just as serious as a real conflict of interest.

That is because it undermines people's trust in the institution of Parliament and in us as elected officials. We must fulfill the mandate they gave us with honour and dignity. When we put ourselves in a position of conflict of interest, it tarnishes the reputation of the entire political class.

When I say that this was a nice try by the parliamentary secretary, it is because his main argument, if I understood correctly, was that we were and are in the midst of an important debate, the debate on the throne speech. However, it seems to me that the prorogation of Parliament was part of that sequence of events. I do not believe that it was necessary to prorogue Parliament to come up with solutions and put everything in place to get through this health crisis.

I would like to remind the parliamentary secretary that, for the past six months, Parliament was forced to discuss only this crisis. However, it seems to me that voters deserve a Parliament that can deal with all governance matters. Obviously, the Ethics Commissioner's decision is final. If it was so urgent to work together to get out of the crisis, why prorogue the session and come back with a throne speech that, quite frankly, provides very few solutions?

That said, I remember WE Charity and the finance minister's resignation, and he is not just anyone. Earlier I was talking about how this is not the first time the Liberals have perhaps not been as forthcoming about conflicts of interest as they should be and about the conflict of interest rules we are supposed to follow. Maybe they were careless? Maybe it was not a priority for them? People who are just a bit nastier or more spiteful than me might say it is in that party's DNA. I would not go that far. I cannot prove it, but I can come up with a list of conflict of interest issues that the Liberal Party itself brought to light. It got itself in trouble.

I remember rising in the House during the previous Parliament to ask the Prime Minister about wealthy Chinese investors in British Columbia making $1,500 contributions to his campaign fund in the riding of Papineau and the fact that he raised $70,000 in just 24 hours. What a coincidence. As it turned out, the real coincidence was that those investors were given a charter for a new bank they wanted to set up.

That is an apparent conflict of interest. Since when has the riding of Papineau or any other Quebec riding raised funds through events purported to have taken place—though this event was never listed—miles and miles away?

We also saw this Prime Minister get himself in trouble for a trip to visit the Aga Khan. This is not the first time.

A Conservative colleague says that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner recommends imposing sanctions on parliamentarians.

I note that in his report, the Ethics Commissioner found that Mr. Peschisolido contravened subsections 20(1) and 21(3) of the Code with regard to the private interests he no longer had in Peschisolido Law Corporation after its administrative dissolution on November 26, 2018. He failed to file an accurate statement of his personal interests during his annual review on December 11, 2018. He also failed to to file a notice of material change within 60 days of the change.

The following four issues were raised: his marital status, his shareholder's loan, his corporation's debt to the bank and the change in status of his law corporation. He had ample time to account for all this. The Ethics Commissioner recommends to the House that a sanction be imposed on the former member. However, today my colleague is moving a motion that asks only for an apology from this former member, surely out of respect for us and the institution we represent.

We have to be thorough and very careful about any apparent or potential conflict of interest. There is a guide. If I were the government parliamentary secretary I think it would be worth calling all members of the House to order.

I do think that an apology is needed, but I did not hear the parliamentary secretary say that he agrees with the motion. Instead, he is questioning the motives of the mover. The substance of the issue is important. Does the parliamentary secretary agree, yes or no, that the former member in question must apologize in writing by way of a letter addressed to the Speaker?

That is what we are debating. It seems that we could have agreed on that quickly and moved on to other things. I am rather disappointed by this approach of saying, “let's work together” except when it comes to respecting our institutions and the codes of conduct that we all supported. No one has risen in the House to say that they are opposed to the conflict of interest guide or to challenge the rule that we must comply with every year.

However, when a problem arises and someone breaks those rules, some members look for red herrings to try to minimize the impact.

The Ethics Commissioner already has a lot on his plate, and his job is not easy. Codes of ethics exist so that people take responsibility prospectively. That means being responsible and anticipating what could happen before it happens. Given that we are representatives of the people, it is not just about recognizing our responsibility after the fact. That is not it at all. Ethics are intended to be prospective. We have a prospective responsibility toward our constituents and this institution.

In this debate, I would expect the speakers on the other side of the House to agree with me and the other parliamentarians who are saying that when someone puts himself in a conflict of interest, that person should recognize it and apologize before we move on to something else.

However, it is unacceptable to say that we are discussing something that is not all that important. That is why I support my Conservative colleague's motion.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his excellent speech and salute his remarkable parliamentary experience. He has been here for nearly five years and was also a member of the National Assembly, which is what I wanted to ask him about.

In his vast parliamentary political experience, has the member ever seen a government display such arrogance towards one of the fundamental principles of any parliament, in other words, the opportunity to debate?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, to be honest, I have to say yes. That is why parliamentarians often find themselves in a tough situation. People look at us and would prefer democracy to happen in the street. That is why no one can say that what we are talking about this morning is not important. It is very important.

What is at stake this morning is the absolute confidence of those watching us in relation to how we conduct ourselves. We must set an example. In that regard, of course governments often use parliamentary sparring to try to put off those questions. I think some soul-searching is needed, and this morning presents a great opportunity to avoid doing what others would do in the Liberals' position. Some folks like to say that the Liberals and Conservatives are Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech.

I am absolutely in favour of this motion, but it is terrible that we are always attacking one another. These problems are a result of the weakness of our ethics rules, especially with regard to pressure from lobbyists.

Does my colleague believe that we should improve our rules?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I am open to improving the rules. Still, we can write all the rules we want, but the important thing is to adopt them and rigorously apply them with dignity and with respect for the voters who elected us. We must represent them with honour and dignity.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, there are hundreds of people in the province of Quebec today who will find out that they have COVID-19. The Government of Canada and MPs on all sides of the House are gravely concerned about what we could be doing collectively as a House in this time of crisis.

Would my colleague across the way not agree that the crisis should be the issue we are dealing with? There are other opportunities through which the motion before us could be dealt with. Would he not agree that the priority for Canadians is the pandemic?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, when there is a conflict of interest, I think it is important to point it out and debate it openly, not behind closed doors. We must have a debate here, in this place, the people's Parliament. I believe that this matter deserved to be debated this morning.

That does not prevent us from discussing other issues. I am pleased that we are getting back to having a Parliament as it should be. I will repeat to my colleague that I expect this government to implement sustainable and meaningful measures to get through this crisis. If I have the honour of speaking to the House, I could make several proposals. Yesterday, we introduced a recovery plan with sustainable solutions that will help us get through this crisis.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very proud to take part in this virtual debate. I am here, at home, in the small town of Cobalt in northern Ontario.

It is a historic moment for me in my 16 years of Parliament to participate virtually, and we are doing this because we are in an unprecedented economic and medical crisis. It is the biggest crisis our country has faced in nearly a century. The pandemic has upended everything and it is actually inspiring to see how Parliament is attempting to find ways, including virtually, to maintain the integrity of voting and debate. I am very proud to speak for the people of Timmins—James Bay this morning on the concurrence motion on the ethics report on Mr. Peschisolido.

I have spent many years taking on corruption in Parliament and pushing on the issues of ethics. I have to admit, there was a moment this morning when I was saying, “What report was that? Oh yes, the 'Peschisolido Report',” because we have had so many ethics violations against the Liberals that they stack up. We have to keep track of them. This was about his role with his law firm and his failure to disclose his clear conflicts of interest.

Why does that matter? It matters because I was doing an interview recently with American journalists about the WE scandal. They said, compared with the scandals they have in the United States, how do we think our scandals are serious? I said to them that it is because we have the Conflict of Interest Act, the Lobbying Act, Elections Canada and the elections financing rules, and we expect politicians to maintain them, that we are not in a situation like the United States right now. The rule of law and the obligation of Parliamentarians to follow the rule of law has to be maintained as a primary principle.

We have had a number of scandals under the Liberal government, including the Mr. Grewal scandal. I wrote to the Ethics Commissioner about that scandal and that has gone on to the RCMP. The initial issue with the Grewal scandal was his using his position as a member of Parliament to further the financial interests of friends, and that was in the notorious India scandal.

Mr. Morneau, the former finance minister, quit in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis because of his complete failure to even read the Conflict of Interest Act and to know he had been put in a position of conflict in his dealings with WE Charity. It is absolutely unacceptable.

The Prime Minister is now under his third investigation. The question at the heart of the WE scandal is how it is possible that a group who has built such close ties with all the key Liberals in power, in the midst of their own financial crisis, were able to get upwards of $500 million because of who they knew. We should not be running government like this. In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, Canadians need to be assured that the government is not putting the needs of their friends before the needs of Canadians.

In my riding, the people of Kashechewan have been waiting for years for the government to sign off on basic things like a road so that they can begin to move to a new community. In April of this year, the community had to live in tents on the land because of COVID. They could not be evacuated and they had no safe place to go. When they heard about the WE scandal they asked me how it was possible that these guys could get $500 million so easily, when they have to fight and beg to get the government to recognize even the most basic changes in their communities.

That is the principle we have to keep front and centre when we are talking about conflicts of interest. It is about the role of powerful insiders who should not have that access. I am certainly looking forward to the return of our committees. The finance committee was doing excellent work on the WE scandal. We need answers. The official languages committee will be looking at the WE scandal because of the fact that this was a group completely unprepared to present their program in Quebec, let alone the rest of the country.

The ethics committee has certainly raised a number of questions about the relationships between key government ministers and the Kielburger brothers. We also have just had a finding of guilt against Liberal insider David MacNaughton, after I raised a questions to the Ethics Commissioner about the former ambassador's work on behalf of Palantir Technologies.

This is a huge issue. Palantir is a deeply problematic surveillance company. This is a company run by billionaire tech giant Peter Thiel, who has some very extreme right views and some very questionable views on democracy. This technology has been used to target migrant families, and we know about the horrific abuses that are taking place in the detention centres. We know that Palantir honed its technologies in Iraq. It has been tied to the CIA and the FBI. I do not think people can say that this company has Canadian values, yet, because it hired a top Liberal insider, it got an all-access pass to everybody, such as Rick Theis, the Prime Minister's confidant; the Deputy Prime Minister; the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry; and the chief of the defence staff.

How is it possible that people at a company like Palantir could get this kind of inside access just because they hired a top Liberal? I am certainly looking forward to having that discussion at the ethics committee, and I am hoping my colleagues in the Bloc, the Liberals and the Conservatives will support me in ensuring that Mr. MacNaughton comes to explain how he got this kind of access.

These issues of ethics and accountability are vitally important. However, we also need to remember that the discussion this morning is happening in the midst of a massive crisis that is facing us right now. The fact that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to escape accountability on the WE scandal is something we need to investigate. The reason we have an urgency this morning is that the Prime Minister did not let Parliament sit when it should have sat. The CERB benefits are ending and people are facing deep financial crisis right now. Our obligation at the end of the day is to ensure that we are there, rising up to meet the issues of the pandemic, because this second wave looks like it might be even outpacing the first wave very quickly.

In terms of what the CERB and its cut-off means, we know the Prime Minister and the Liberal government were looking to jail people who were not eligible for CERB but were getting it. The Liberals promised money for disabilities and they never delivered it. In their last trial balloon, when they modified CERB into its new form, they were going to cut it from $2,000 to $1,600 a month.

What would that mean for people who have lost work or who have no work to go back to? Just the other day, I spoke with a woman who just moved from Alberta to Ontario. She set herself up in a practice as a naturopath. She had taken on huge amounts of student debt. She set up the practice. She was going to be a self-employed businesswoman and then COVID-19 hit. She has had no ability to practise her work. Sixteen hundred dollars a month will be economically devastating. Two thousand dollars a month through the winter will get her through to the other side. That is the focus right now.

I was speaking with a woman who spent years as a self-employed broker, helping with tourism and tour plans for people. Well, there is no tourism going on and without this money, she is economically destitute.

Therefore, our priority right now has to be getting things fixed and being able to answer for the crisis we are in. As much as I enjoy and think it is really important that we get to talk about Liberal conflicts of interest, our priority this morning is to get back on the issue of dealing with the crisis and the pandemic, to start showing Canadians that we can work together in this Parliament to deal with issues for people who have to take time off work because they are sick, without being economically devastated, and ensure that the CERB gets through. It is about getting people through to the other side of this winter. This is going to be a hard winter and we have to be there for them.

As for the ethics violations, I think our committee is going to be very busy in the coming months, but we still have other issues as well.

I am very pleased to participate in this. I thank my colleagues in the Conservative Party for bringing this motion forward. It is a good motion; it is worthy of study. However, we need to get these measures passed today, so people can get some economic security at this time. They are looking to us to do this.

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11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, could the hon. member share his thoughts on prorogation? The timing seemed interesting, as was the fact that it was for six weeks. If the Liberals were so adamant about a new throne speech, they essentially could have prorogued overnight. What are his thoughts on that?

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11:05 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, the issue with the prorogation was it happened just as the government did its massive document dump on the WE scandal, of which it had blacked out many of the pages. However, the pages that were not blacked out raised some seriously troubling issues, for example, the secret meeting between the youth minister and Craig Kielburger on April 17. That meeting really set the tone for giving the Kielburger group the inside track.

What we also saw in those documents, which is staggeringly unacceptable, was that in their promotion to key ministers and key departments, the Kielburgers included photos of the Prime Minister's family, his mother and his wife, to show how close they were. This put the Prime Minister in a serious conflict of interest. The Prime Minister has an obligation under the Conflict of Interest Act to have his personal affairs in order so he is not in a conflict. The fact that the documents were using pictures of his family for promotion is very troubling.

We were not able to ask those questions when we should have. That prorogation has actually affected people economically. It was not right.

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11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

We spent part of the summer trying to shed light on WE Charity. We also found that people no longer trust the government. Since the hon. member has 16 years of experience and I am a new MP, I would like to ask him what can be done to increase Canadians' trust and stop the torrent of conflicts of interest and ethics violations coming out of this government.

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11:05 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a good question.

It is essential that the Parliament of Canada take measures to ensure compliance with the law. The government and all hon. members must abide by the conflict of interest code. Clearly, the Prime Minister and the Liberals have a history of ignoring their obligations. In my opinion, Parliament needs to start a new conflict of interest investigation and impose penalties to ensure that the Prime Minister and cabinet comply with the law.

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11:10 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, could my colleague comment on why it is so important that not only the national government but governments across the board look at ways to support Canadians?

The legislation, which his leader has seconded, reinforces just how important the role is for government to be there in that real, tangible way for Canadians, because of a loss of income and the need to survive.

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11:10 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, it is essential. COVID-19 upended so many myths about our national economy.

Within two weeks of the shutdown, people did not have enough money to pay their rent. To get through what will be a very hard winter, the federal government has the tools and the power to play a huge role, working with the provinces. We need to say to Canadians that we will get them through to the other side.

That other side has to be a better Canada. We are going to spend unprecedented amounts of money. It needs scrutiny. We need to ensure it is going to the right places. We need to be there and show that we can work together at this time. This crisis has been unlike anything we have ever seen since the Second World War or the Great Depression.

I am encouraging my colleagues to work together so we can do this.

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11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I was a little late getting to the House this morning and have now reviewed the motion. Why now? Why today?

I remember making a speech in the session just past, the one that was prorogued. I know there is opposition to that and that is fine. That can happen in a democracy. However, I remember saying that Canadians had put in place a minority Parliament and we should take the opportunity as parliamentarians to show we could make this Parliament work. Errors happen, and I am not saying the government is errorless because it is not. However, if Canadians are watching Parliament right now, are they proud of us? I do not think they are.

I have had the opportunity, as the Canada-U.S. chair, to go to the U.S. many times. I have seen how partisan the situation is there. The Democrats are here, the Republicans are there and never shall the two meet. I have always said that I am so proud of us as Canadians that we have not let that happen. However, this motion tells me that it is happening. Yes, this issue needs to be debated. There is nothing wrong with the motion, but today is not the day. Canadians are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses are concerned about where they sit.

I spent a half an hour this morning on the phone with one of the food processors in the country. It believes the government is still continuing to move ahead with new regulations. I personally would oppose on front of pack labelling. Now is not the time for that either. Companies have suggested that other countries have brought in some tax measures that make them non-competitive here. That is one of our main industries. We should be debating issues like that, not this one today. There will be a time and place. That is why we have separate committees. These issues should be at least before a committee first, the ethics committee or some other. There is limited time to have debate on Bill C-2/Bill C-4. We have seen a slice of where this Parliament can work.

The government side came together with the leader of the NDP and made changes to improve the assistance to individuals and for improved sick leave. That is fine. We should debate that issue. Several people in the House were on the finance committee, during which we held hearings in late May, after Parliament shut down due to COVID-19. We heard some 300 witnesses who had a lot of concerns, such as where they would be as went go through this pandemic? We should be talking about those issues.

I am suggesting that for the next couple of months we concentrate on the issues about which Canadians are concerned. This is political theatre in terms of this motion. I have been in opposition and I played these kind of games. I admit that. However, we are in a pandemic and we need to deal with the issue that is before us.

My request is that we deal with the issue Canadians want us to deal with, specifically for the next six weeks or so. Let us let our committees deal with some of the other issues such as the WE scandal, which needs more work on. We have had hearings at the finance committee. We went through the documents. I know issues will continue to come up, but today in the House is not the place for that to occur.

The tourism industry in my area is gravely concerned about where it finds itself. The airline and transportation industries are gravely concerned about where they find themselves. The airports in my region are down 94% in business. What are we, as parliamentarians, going to propose to those industries so they can survive until next season? Hospitality and tourism industry members are telling me now that while they figured 2021 would be the rebound year, they are now looking at it as the transition year and that hopefully 2022 will be the rebound year. We need to look at what we can do to strengthen the economy.

The debate on Bill C-2 and Bill C-4 is going to be about assistance to individuals, and yes that assistance has to be there, but what are we going to do beyond that to strengthen businesses so they can be there and be the backbone of our economy in the future? Those are some of the things we need to be talking about.

The other thing I heard, more over the summer and not so much at the finance committee, is about whether the chartered banks are pulling their weight. Right now, the bank deferrals are starting to come due. I have been talking to some in the business industry who are saying that they are having a rough ride with the banks in rolling over their operating capital and loans.

The government and Canadian taxpayers have basically backed the big banks such as the Business Development Corporation, the Export Development Corporation and Farm Credit Canada with additional liquidity to basically give them a guarantee as they provide monies during this pandemic. I do not believe this place and the banks are pulling their full weight in getting us out of this pandemic. Those are some of the issues we need to be talking about.

Over the summer, we heard a lot of talk from a lot of people on a guaranteed annual income. That is an issue we should be discussing. Personally, I do not think we can go holus-bolus, but I would not mind seeing a few pilot projects across the country to see how it goes. Would those be able to replace some of the other programs we had to quickly bring in as a result of the pandemic? We need to be discussing those issues.

I want to turn to where I come from, the farm community. I am hearing a lot of concern from members of the farm community about the safety nets in place for them at the moment. I strongly believe the business risk management program must be improved. I could go through a litany of things and blame the previous government on that because it cut back the business risk management from 85% to 70%, but let us get it back up there again and work together to do that.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

An hon. member

You just did it.

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11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

The member said that I just did. Yes, I guess I did, but I could go through a heck of a lot more issues that the previous government did that really are not helpful to us today but will not bother doing that because I really believe we need to find a way to work together, especially in the short term.

Let me sum up my thoughts, which will be hard to do in the 25 seconds I have left.

When we all stand in this place in this kind of debate, what do Canadians think of their Parliament and do they think we are doing what they see as a priority? This motion is not what I believe they see as a priority. Let us get on with putting in place the programs and then we can have these kinds of debates in the House, at committee, wherever.

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11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a joy to rise and take part in this debate. I have a quote from December 31, 2009, that I would like to read and get the member's feedback on. It is a CBC article, which states:

...it's an affront to the citizens of Canada and their purpose in electing members to Parliament in the last election.

“We have men and women fighting abroad for democracy and we have our own prime minister shutting democracy down,” he said.

“People have to understand when you prorogue Parliament you lose everything that was there. Committees can no longer function now — they're gone. How do we raise questions with the prime minister on the biggest deficit in Canadian history? How do we question and propose things to them in terms of what are they going to cut? What programs are they going to take away?”

This was talking about the prorogation of Parliament in 2009.

What is the difference between the member for Malpeque in 2009 and the member standing here today?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, there is really no difference in the member then and the member now. I have made it clear that I am not in favour of prorogation, I stand by that, but I do believe that the prorogation then was a little worse than it is now in that it was to prevent a vote that could have brought down the government, and it was a much longer prorogation. I underline this clearly. If a government is going to prorogue to open another session, it should be for a very short number of days. I am not one who is in favour of prorogation.

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11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, on the one hand, I note that our colleague across the way did not indicate whether or not he was in favour of the motion. It would be interesting to find out.

On the other hand, in my opinion, the argument that we have more important things to discuss is a waste of time, and that is truly unfortunate. Prorogation delayed things by almost a month. It could have been much shorter.

What purpose did the prorogation serve? It was used as a diversionary tactic, because the government was in a conflict of interest with WE Charity.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about the following: If there was truly a need to prorogue Parliament, why not just prorogue for a few days? That would have saved us a tremendous amount of time. Now we are under pressure. We are being asked to rush the bill through when it would have been better to have time to debate it. The Liberals are trying to find red herrings to avoid talking about ethics issues. They have a problem with ethics.

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11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the member's main argument was that it would be good to have more time to debate the bills before us. The motion right now is absolutely taking away from that time. As I said in my remarks, why today, why now? That is political gamesmanship and I do not believe the people in the member's riding think this is the issue that we should be dealing with in this House.

Time is important in this House and we need to take time to get all the ideas from everyone, because there are good ideas. I saw that at the finance committee. There are good ideas from all parties. That is what we need to be doing: getting those good ideas to strengthen our economy and look after individuals and businesses. That is what we ought be doing.

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11:25 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree with a number of the points the member raised in his speech. When we think about whether Canadians are proud of the Liberal government, the answer is no. The Liberal government threatened to put people who were applying for the CERB in jail or giving them exorbitant fines when its own members were telling Canadians that if they are not sure they are eligible, they should apply anyway. Now they are seeing their government, consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments, mired in scandals. What does the member think Canadians think of the Liberal government right now?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I think Canadians are very proud of what this government has done in terms of the pandemic. I think they are very proud of how quickly we acted. There were 10,000 applications a minute going through in order to get the CERB, which kept food on the table and gave people the confidence to stay home and help fight the pandemic. I talked to a lot of my constituents, a lot of Canadians, and I think that they are really proud of how the government acted with the pandemic. What the member is talking about are other side issues, which are not the issue of the moment.

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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, as I enter into this debate, it is unfortunate that, once again, parliamentarians are seized with having to discuss a Liberal ethical failure.

I would like to respond a little to some of the members opposite who seemed to be so concerned that we in this House have to deal with the long list, the big pile, of ethical failures when, in their words, we should be debating the things that matter to Canadians. It is unfortunate that these Liberals seem so concerned about their own political aims that they would do something like prorogue Parliament when we could have been debating the very issues that they say are so important. We could have been debating them weeks ago. We offered, as the Conservatives, to come in on Sunday to debate the very legislation that they are saying we need to spend more time on. We offered that, and they said no, and so I find it tragic, but this is typical in true Liberal fashion.

The Liberals will be so quick to say that there is an emergency, that we need to be part of a team Canada approach, whatever the case is, when, really, they have no interest in listening to anyone other than those narrow perspectives that they decide are important. It is unfortunate that, in the process over the past eight months, so often this House and the perspectives of many in it have been silenced. If they were interested in a team Canada approach, I truly believe that we could have looked at many of the programs that have helped Canadians and they would have been made better. We see something like the emergency wage subsidy. The Liberals started at a 10% subsidy, which, after significant pressure from members of my party, the Conservative Party, and many Canadians and business groups, it was raised to 75%. That is called a team Canada approach, and I am glad that there are instances of that, but we could have done so much more had they not sidelined Parliament.

If we look at the prorogation, it is unprecedented in using a legitimate parliamentary tool to shut down the investigations into the actions of the Prime Minister and his senior cohorts. It is unprecedented that a prime minister would abuse executive authority in such a flagrant manner. It is unbelievable.

One of my colleagues across the way used the word “disappointment”. Now, in his context, he said that he was disappointed that we are debating Liberal ethical failures, and I am sure he is. He would rather be talking about anything else, I am sure. I will tell members what I hear each and every day from my constituents: disappointment in this Liberal government, disappointment in the laundry list of ethical failures, disappointment in the fact that there is a Prime Minister across the way who is saying that the idea of a national unity crisis is crazy. It is unbelievable, and a true shame for the honour that needs to be represented in the House from coast to coast to coast.

I find it tragic that we have government members who are so embroiled in their own scandal, so embroiled in their own political aims that they would refuse to acknowledge the crisis. It is not for lack of trying from every western MP, and not just Conservative western MPs, although we do make up the vast majority of them. Western MPs have been making it clear that there is a unity crisis, yet the government refuses to acknowledge that it even exists; for shame.

We have before us today another Liberal ethical failure of a former member of Parliament breaching the ethics code 10 times. This is a code that was put in place to ensure that members of this place had a framework to ensure that their ethical conduct fit within the expectations of Canadians. One of my fellow Conservative colleagues was reflecting upon his many years in this place and said that, back when it was first introduced, the idea of naming and shaming was enough, that the members of this place were concerned about how they conducted themselves, and they were concerned about the fact that they wanted to do what was best for Canadians.

However, when we look at the conduct of the top of the current government over close to the last five years, let alone the conduct of many others, we see time and time again the absolute disregard they show toward ethics and the conduct that Canadians expect us to uphold. There is real disappointment in the actions of the Liberal government. It is so consumed by its own scandals, waste and mismanagement that it is truly distracting from its ability to do the things that Canadians expect it to do.

It is important for us to continue to debate the other items that are before the House, but if we do not ensure that the trust and integrity of this institution is upheld, we are in an incredibly difficult place. When the trust in this institution is eroded, we see significant challenges. We see that there is a lack of trust in anything the government says, not just its political leaders, but anything that the Liberals say. Canadians cannot trust their Prime Minister when he has truly misrepresented himself in this place, and it has been found to be the case, whether regarding his Aga Khan vacation or the SNC Lavalin scandal.

I sat on the ethics committee this summer and every day there was a new development about the government's unbelievable conduct. It was an absolute embarrassment to the institutions and places that each one of us represents, all 338 of us and the seats that we are temporary custodians of. The erosion of trust that has been taking place is unbelievable.

Therefore, it is important that we debate issues like this, for we have to ensure that when somebody makes a mistake there is a full accounting of that. The motion that my colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes has brought forward is a step to ensure that there is an accounting and that responsibility is taken, because Canadians demand nothing less. There is a need to ensure that responsibility is taken for the actions of the government.

Canadians cannot trust the words of the current government, and it is causing a breakdown of the trust in our society. It is truly a societal issue: when we cannot trust the words of our leaders, it causes a societal breakdown that is concerning beyond all belief. We need to take this issue very seriously, just as we all need to take ethics and our conduct very seriously. We need to work diligently to ensure that trust is brought back to the institutions of Parliament and that we demonstrate that this place matters. There is one place in this country where every square kilometre of this beautiful nation is represented, and that is on the green carpet within the walls of this chamber. We need to demonstrate to Canadians that we are all worthy of that.

I represent a large rural riding with many communities. I had a conversation with constituents the other day and asked them to give me a brief report on how things were going in their communities and how they feel the government is doing. I listened on Zoom calls with person after person, about 20 of them in all. Time and time again, what I heard most was that they were tired of the scandal, the waste and the mismanagement of the government, and that they were looking forward to a day when good governance was brought back to this country: governance that Canadians could trust.

I am proud to support the motion brought forward by my colleague and look forward to answering questions in that regard, so that we can bring trust back to the hallowed halls of this Parliament.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I am wondering, given that we have burned up this much time instead of talking about the things that are truly right there in front of Canadians and important to them, if the member would be willing to expand upon his colleague's motion and deal with a very long list, that I could go into great lengths of time to describe to him, as compiled by The Tyee five years ago, entitled “Harper, Serial Abuser of Power: The Evidence Compiled”, and the 70 occasions on which that Conservative crew offended democracy and Canadians.

Shall we ask for apologies from them, too?

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11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, that can be answered quite simply. There is one prime minister in this country's history who has been found guilty of the Conflict of Interest Act, and I can assure members it is not a Conservative prime minister. It is the Liberal Prime Minister who sits across the way, who self-aggrandizes every day, and who is eroding the trust Canadians have in this place. Accordingly, it is a shame there have not been appropriate consequences.

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11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. We all want to help people and try to find a way out of this crisis.

What happens when human beings go through a crisis? When everything is fine, we do not try to change things, but when things go wrong, we grab the bull by the horns and get to the bottom of things.

What is stopping us from scrutinizing the government's conflicts of interest and ethical lapses while at the same time making changes that will help our fellow citizens during this pandemic?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely right. We should be dealing with both. That is exactly what we are doing.

It would have been great if we had been doing this for the last number of weeks. The Liberals, in typical fashion, shut everything down, say there is an emergency and, because they have shut everything down, at the last minute come up with some miraculous solution that they then have to ram through with no regard for the process, no regard for constructive feedback that could be given. They just ram it through. They manufacture these circumstances so they can use urgency for their own political ends.

Canadians deserve better. In this place today we are seized with a number of very important issues, including the help that Canadians need, but also the fact that we need to stop the erosion of trust that is taking place within our institution of Parliament. That is what this motion is about.

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11:40 a.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, for the last couple of hours we have watched the Liberals and Conservatives point fingers at each other. Before I sound like Mercutio and call for a pox on both their houses, let me say this. I believe the member should be careful, for those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. He did evade the question from my Liberal colleague previously. This motion does not have anything to do with the Prime Minister. It has to do with a former Liberal MP.

In that vein, would my hon. colleague accept that this motion be expanded to look into former Conservative MPs Dean Del Mastro and Rob Anders, if he is found guilty of evading taxes?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, every member of the House is subject to the Conflict of Interest Act and every member of the House should be expected to be held to those high standards. Therefore, absolutely any violation needs to be held to the same standards so that we can do exactly what I referred to in my speech, which is repair the erosion of trust in the institution of Parliament and ensure Canadians can trust their members of Parliament, from coast to coast to coast, to do what is best and act in a way that Canadians expect.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Liberal

Chris Bittle LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, this is my first opportunity to speak in the virtual Parliament, and I have to say I am disappointed that I am speaking to this motion. Like my colleagues across the way and in my own party, I have been meeting with constituents daily, hearing that their businesses are struggling, that they do not know if they are going to make their mortgage payments or pay rent or put food on their tables. I am hearing from people at local charities that things are tough, that donations are not coming in anymore and they are trying to find a way to make that up. I hear that affordable housing is not getting better in our riding or in Niagara. Despite the fact that people are struggling, housing prices are still going up but we are not seeing the jobs associated with that. I hear that the opioid crisis continues to rage on. I am worried.

The previous member, the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot, pounded his hands on the desk, saying that we need to help Canadians and we need to deal with the issues. However, he made one point that I was concerned about. I am worried it reflects the views of his party, because I believe I heard another member say in this debate that the Liberals will stand up and say that there is an emergency.

It is truly unfortunate that the Conservatives do not believe that there is an emergency. This motion reflects the lack of seriousness they feel for the crisis that Canadians are facing. It is a crisis that has seen 9,000 Canadians die. It has affected members of the House. It has affected the leader of the Conservative Party and the leader of the Bloc Québécois, and other politicians across the way are in confinement. I know colleagues, and their families and their friends, have suffered through this illness. We all know someone who has been affected or has lost a loved one. We have seen the army go into long-term care facilities in this country because of this devastating crisis. To make the allegation in this place that we are only saying that there is a crisis, and that we are inventing this as some reason to ram legislation through, is unconscionable.

Canadians expect us to work together. Canadians have a lot to be proud of. They have seen the Prime Minister working with Conservative, Liberal and NDP premiers, as well as with the premier of Quebec, in this crisis. We are not always going to agree and we should not always agree. That is not what this place is about. This is a place for debate. As the hon. member for Malpeque stated, there are good ideas on all sides, but let us debate that.

I have been hearing from members of the Conservative Party that we need to be debating issues like unemployment. We need to be getting people back to work, looking after their businesses and helping out.

What have the Conservatives deemed the priority issue for today when the government is bringing forward legislation to help Canadians? It is this motion. I think my constituents would be embarrassed that this is the priority. This is what we are debating and not how we can help them, how we can bring relief to them and continue to ensure they are able to pay the rent and put food on their tables.

I know the Leader of the Opposition tweeted that the Liberals were going to cancel CERB. However, it is being replaced and that is what we are talking about today. At least we should be, but the Conservatives wish to discuss a former Liberal member of Parliament and ethics violations. That is their priority, even though committees will meet again and there will be plenty of opportunity for the ethics committee to deal with this if it deems this to be its priority.

I saw another hon. member bring up this fact. If we are talking about former members of Parliament, I have not heard the Conservatives bring up Rob Anders and what we have learned today about tax evasion. He was a member who for years railed against the CRA and the work it was doing. We do not see that level of priority.

We see a lack of seriousness. They see an opportunity to play some political games to delay this debate. I do not know what the end goal is. It is truly unfortunate.

My constituents, our constituents, the people of Canada, want us working toward solutions. Do they want the opposition to hold the government to account? They absolutely do. However, bringing forward a motion on a former member of Parliament to delay debate on a serious discussion about bringing immediate relief to Canadians should shock their consciences. It should shock the conscience of members of the Conservative Party that they are picking up where they left off during the pandemic.

I keep coming back to this because it really impacted me when the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot suggested that there was no crisis. The motion shows that. The motion shows the lack of seriousness among the federal Conservatives. We see in Ontario and across the country that provincial Conservatives and their governments understand that there is a crisis and that there is a need for assistance. There is a time to put these types of partisan games aside, and this is that moment. However, here we are.

We really do need to get back to this crisis. It is true that this is the greatest crisis we have faced as a nation since the Second World War. The economy has been dramatically impacted. Over 9,000 Canadians have died. We are in the midst of a second wave of this pandemic. I want to be there in the House, but I am home because of agreements between the parties. It is too dangerous for us to all gather together.

There is a crisis. Parliament has not seen anything like this. In their lifetimes, Canadians have not seen anything like this. They want us to be debating help for them, not some Conservative talking points that take cheap political shots to try to get something, though I do not know what it is. I am at a loss.

Members of the Liberal Party are anxious to debate the legislation that has been proposed to help Canadians. As another member mentioned, there are changes that need to be made. I will give credit. l have mentioned a few times that the member for Battle River—Crowfoot said there are opportunities for changes to be made. He mentioned the Canada emergency wage subsidy and how it was changed. We heard from businesses and the opposition, and changes needed to be made. This is the place to do that and debate those ideas.

There will be time for partisan fights. There will be a time for committees to meet. They will be ramping up again. However, what Canadians want to hear from their elected representatives is how we are going to help them, how we are going to get a vaccine, how we are going to get businesses through this and how they are going to pay their rent. However, what we are stuck debating again is a former member of Parliament.

I am at a loss, and I hope the Conservatives are not playing on the cynicism of Canadians and that Canadians will not be paying too much attention to this. The Conservatives can post a few angry rage videos on Facebook that show they have stood up, but they have not stood up for Canadians.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, the member for St. Catharines talked about a lack of seriousness. I will tell members what the official opposition finds serious. It is the work that the House should have been doing for the last six weeks. The Liberal Prime Minister slammed the door on Parliament, slammed the door on democracy and locked committee rooms. That is what is unconscionable.

We wanted to do work over the last six weeks, not when this benefit was set to end. We wanted to have debate and discussions about it, not wait until the eleventh hour and call it an emergency. We obviously recognize the seriousness of the pandemic, but the business of holding the government to account goes on and so do Liberal scandals, which happen regularly.

It is unfortunate that the member wants to conflate different sets of rules. The conflict of interest code and the Conflict of Interest Act are what we are discussing here today, not other issues.

Was the six-week cover-up prorogation the best that your government could do for Canadians?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I remind the member that he is to address questions and comments to the Chair.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I think the hon. member is referring to the two days of time for debate that was lost during the prorogation. It is interesting to hear the Conservatives complain that we have lost two days of debate and that they are going to make up for that by wasting a lot more time in not talking about the issues.

There is a lack of seriousness from the members of the opposition, because if they were truly serious about making up for lost time, we would not be debating this. We would be talking about the issues that matter most to Canadians, which are not about a former member of Parliament.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague's words left a bad taste in my mouth because I feel like I have to defend my Conservative colleagues.

I find it a bit hypocritical to say that the motion we are debating today lacks seriousness and is a political game. Throughout his speech, my colleague talked about debates. What does the word “debate” mean? I get the impression he has not grasped all the subtleties of debate. Debate takes place between two parties. Sometimes that means letting go of some concerns in order to achieve a certain degree of consensus. That is why I wonder why the Liberals did not immediately agree to the motion and prove, for once, that ethics matter to them. They would have saved us all that time.

Why did my colleague not immediately support the motion and allow us to move on to another debate? That is what I want to ask him.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, we are locked into two hours of debate. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but I did not quite understand the question from the hon. member about this not being debate.

Again, Canadians want us to debate. We are talking about issues that matter, and to be locked into this debate for two hours takes away from the discussion that could be had. I do not think the members on the other side of the House are going to put these speeches in this debate into their householders.

Canadians want us to talk about the issues that matter to them: putting food on their tables, helping them out and getting them through a crisis, even though members of the Conservative Party will say that there is no crisis. This entire debate is truly unfortunate.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House of Commons. It is great to return to Ottawa to represent the constituents of the great area of southwestern Saskatchewan.

I want to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, who serves as our shadow minister for ethics, for bringing forward this very important motion. It is a shame that it did not come from leaders or members of the Liberal caucus. We have heard from several senior Liberal members who believe, quite frankly, that ethics really matter. They had a great opportunity to show they take it seriously.

I am disappointed that we have to consider and discuss the misconduct of one of our former colleagues, the member for Steveston—Richmond East from the last Parliament. It is something we have to address if we are to maintain any integrity as an institution and show respect to all the people who sent us here.

As it says in the text of the motion, the actions of the member have “cast unacceptable reflections upon the House and its members, amount to an offence against the dignity and authority of the House, and warrant sanction.” It is especially disappointing for me to consider this, as I am a member of Parliament in my first term. I believe we have the ability and opportunity to make a difference for our fellow citizens, which is why I am here.

I want to touch briefly on that very point. I am a new member of Parliament. We have several senior members trying to skirt debate about ethics and about the importance that it has in our role as parliamentarians. A question for one of my colleagues, the member for Battle River—Crowfoot, was about whether we take this emergency seriously. Ultimately, proroguing Parliament proved that the government does not take it seriously, because we had the time to debate the help that Canadians need and deserve to get through this emergency, but instead six weeks was completely lost to political games. So much for the team Canada approach that we keep hearing about from the government.

Being a newly elected member of Parliament, I am looking at members from all parties to see the example that is being set. There is a long list from the government. Canadians are looking to the government to set the tone and the example for what the standards should be for citizens in our great country.

We have different reports. We have “The Trudeau Report”—

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

Noon

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind the hon. member not to mention the first or last name of anybody who sits in the House. I would ask him to refer to titles instead.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, with all due respect to the Chair, I disagree. Since this is the title of the document, it can be quoted in the House of Commons, whether it is the “Trudeau Report“ or the “Trudeau II Report”. It is not our fault if that is the same name as the Prime Minister.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

Noon

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I will follow up and get back to the House. Normally members cannot do indirectly what they cannot do directly.

I will allow the member to continue. The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Conservative

Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I will take the liberty to apologize right now for that. We will refer to it as the Prime Minister's report going forward here.

The Prime Minister's report number one, on the Aga Khan, states:

No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the Commissioner.

It is very easily laid out. The Prime Minister chose to ignore that and was found guilty.

We move on to the Prime Minister's report number two, which involves SNC-Lavalin. The report concluded that the Prime Minister violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. The report was simply entitled “[Prime Minister] II Report” as it was his second violation, setting quite the tone for the people of Canada.

Then we keep moving on through other members of his cabinet. We have the clam scam report, for lack of a better term, where the Liberal government violated Conflict of Interest laws when it awarded a contract to a company where the wife's cousin had significant influence. Again, that was setting the tone for Canadians.

Next up is the former finance minister. We have the “Morneau Report” number one, with the French villa. He only had to pay a $200 fine. Recently we had Morneau report number two. When he was campaigning he was found in contravention of the Elections Act. What were the consequences of that? It was merely a $300 fine. That is $500 so far in total.

He is implicated in a third scandal, which is ongoing and which many of us here in the House suspect is the reason why Parliament was prorogued by the government. We are also waiting on the Prime Minister's report number three, which we are certain will be coming from this very same scandal.

Once again, why was Parliament prorogued? It was to avoid further scrutiny. That is the way it seems. That is the way Canadians are perceiving this as well.

When we talk about hearing from our constituents, yes, they are all absolutely concerned about the emergency situation that we find ourselves in. However, when we talk about the national unity issue that we face in this country, one of the main objectives that western Canadians see the government undertaking, which undermine the institutions we have, is the ethics breaches, the ethics violations that continue to happen.

Again, it starts at the very top. It did not take very long in the Prime Minister's mandate to be convicted and charged with his very first ethics violation. Then we had number two and we are waiting for report number three. This is a systemic issue within the government, starting from the top and filtering its way down. We are talking here today about a motion on a former member who was not in the cabinet, so it made its way from the top all the way down through all different levels of the government.

What are we going to do as parliamentarians to uphold ethics? The whole notion of the system that we have as hon. members is that we would do the right and honourable thing when we are found guilty of these types of breaches and violations. In particular, the noble thing would be for members to step down. We are serving in public. The public demands and expects the utmost from us as members. We should be held to a higher standard than people who are not in public life.

There is one other point I would like to make to emphasize that. When we look at the Elections Act, if a financial agent makes a simple mistake on a campaign return, they are threatened with jail time, yet when we look at the Morneau report number two, he had only a $300 fine. We need to make sure we have actual teeth in our ethics laws that will dissuade people. Merely being named and shamed, as we talked about earlier, obviously is not doing enough. It is a $300 fine for a second breach. What is going to happen if there is a third or fourth that ever comes out? Will it be $400? I do not know. When we look at the history of its going from $200 to $300, one could assume that is the direction that it is going to go.

In talking about the motion before us, I want to bring up another point from the commissioner's report:

Where I conclude that a Member has contravened the Code and I find no mitigating circumstances, as was the case in this inquiry, I may recommend a sanction for the House to impose on the contravening Member. However, in the present case, given that Mr. Peschisolido is no longer a Member and therefore not subject to the rules governing Members of the House of Commons, issuing such a recommendation would serve no purpose.?

As members of the House of Commons, we must take it upon ourselves to ensure that ethics standards are upheld to the highest degree. Whether one is in Parliament or not, we need to make sure that we are doing something. That is what we are striving to do here today. Our constituents, especially in western Canada, are bringing this issue up. This is an issue that pertains to national unity. We need to ensure that all members of government are holding ethics to the highest centre that they possibly can, because that is what our constituents demand from us.

Going back to the issues that we have from the top down, again, the finance minister held a pretty high portfolio. He was one of the top government cabinet ministers. I have to wonder right now if the most recent cases with the former finance minister will turn out to be similar to the case in front of us here today. Are we going to be discussing this further on down the road? I do not know. Are we going to continue to see what happens with the WE Charity scandal? I do not know.

Again, the government prorogued Parliament to get rid of the scrutiny and the digging that we were doing on the government. I am just wondering where that is ever going to take us.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for the debate on the motion to concur in the report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner entitled “Peschisolido Report” having expired, it is my duty to put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion.

The question is as follows. Shall I dispense?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

[Chair read text of motion to House]

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

As this voting process is new, I ask members to be patient. I heard a few “yeas” and “nays”.

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, September 23, we will proceed with a voice vote.

I see the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to defer the vote.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday September 23, the division stands deferred until later this day at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Thank you once again for your patience. Since this is a new process, I need to make sure that it is done correctly.

Maternity and Parental LeavePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this House, on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation, to present a petition to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development from many petitioners across Canada.

This relates to something that touches all of our constituencies, and that is, of course, parents dealing with COVID who are trying to take care of their kids, particularly parents who are on maternity or parental leave and who have had to be in lockdown, missing important social and bonding opportunities for their children that are crucial for early childhood development. It also touches those who are currently on leave and have missed out on having support from family, friends and grandparents, also due to COVID.

The petitioners ask that the minister extend paid maternity or parental leave by three months in response to COVID and the consequent lockdown.

CardingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the electronic petition, e-2663, which has 5,654 signatures on it, on behalf of my constituents. It calls on the Government of Canada to ban the practice of carding in Canada. The practice of carding, which is random street checks to obtain identifying information by police, has had a disproportionate impact on Black, racialized and indigenous communities and it has not led to a reduction in crime.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition that recognizes an article by the Associated Press that revealed an ongoing campaign of Uighur birth suppression by the Chinese Communist Party.

The petitioners state that they would like to recognize that Uighurs in China have been and are being subjected to genocide, and ask that the government use the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Magnitsky act, to sanction those who are responsible for the heinous crimes being committed against the Uighur people.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I as well am very proud to stand in the House to present petition 432.

In addition to my hon. colleague's reference to recent news of coordinated Uighur birth suppression, there is also a body of mounting evidence showing that Uighurs are being subjected to political and religious indoctrination, arbitrary detention, separation of children from families, invasive surveillance, destruction of cultural sites, forced labour and even forced organ harvesting. Moreover, it is estimated that up to three million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in what have been described as concentration camps.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.

The first one is on the treatment of the Uighur population in China. They are being subjected to what amounts to genocide, and the petitioners call for the justice minister to use Magnitsky sanctions to end these horrific atrocities.

Physician-Assisted DyingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second one that I would like to table is a petition from Canadians who are calling on the government to protect the conscience rights of physicians in this country, particularly as we do a review of the euthanasia laws.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have petition 432, which is calling on the undersigned, with the House of Commons, to take the following actions to address the situation: formally recognize that Uighurs in China have been and are being subjected to genocide, and use the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act to sanction those responsible for the heinous crimes being committed against the Uighur people.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I remind hon. members who wish to present a petition to lay their documents on the table as soon as possible in the next few minutes.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Considering we are in a hybrid sitting, are there any members dissenting with that request?

There being none, I declare it so ordered.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker in relation to the consideration of Government Business No. 1, I move:

That the debate be not further adjourned.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 67(1), there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places the usual way or to use the raise hand function so the Chair has some idea of the number of hon. members who wish to participate in this 30-minute question period. I ask members to rise now.

We need to count the number of members who used the raise hand function, which is a new function in this hybrid system.

We will now proceed with the 30-minute question period.

The hon. opposition House leader.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Gérard Deltell ConservativeHouse Leader of the Official Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the cat has been let out of the bag. Are we surprised? Unfortunately, no because for months now it has been clear that the government does not like parliamentary debates.

The government is doing everything it can to stifle the work of MPs, who are here to hold it accountable. At a time when the Prime Minister was caught up in the WE scandal and parliamentarians were doing thorough and serious work in parliamentary committee, the Prime Minister decided to prorogue the House for six weeks, shutting down parliamentary work. That happened in the middle of summer.

Knowing full well that there were sunset clauses on financial commitments that are due to expire on September 30, the government was in a position to continue on if it wanted, while showing respect for democratic debate and parliamentarians. But no, the government decided to deliver an inaugural speech last week, barely a week before the deadline. It informed us that the plan to deal with these commitments would be debated over two days.

We were prepared to meet last Sunday to sit in committee of the whole. Four ministers would have had a great opportunity to testify and explain themselves. The government refused. Worse yet, it wants to put a four-hour limit on the debate on spending, which could reach $50 billion.

Why is the government limiting members' speaking time during extremely important debates?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, we told Canadians over a month ago of our plan to transition from the CERB to EI.

We talked about the changes made to the system that would allow more people to transition to EI. We said we were going to create three new benefits, namely, the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. We also explained the details of those three benefits.

We worked very closely with public servants to make sure that the transition to EI would happen without any interruption to Canadians' benefits. It was very important to us that we continue our work behind the scenes, in co-operation with officials from the Department of National Revenue and Employment and Social Development Canada, who are working very hard for Canadians.

Quite frankly, there should be no big surprises here. We shared all the details of our plan over a month ago. I hope everyone will be happy with this. It is very important that these benefits get paid out so that workers—

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

For the purposes of getting to all members who wish to speak during this 30-minute question period, I ask members to keep their interventions at around one minute, both for the questions posed and the responses. I am sure that will work out well.

The hon. member for Jonquière.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, some may find it puzzling that debate needs to be limited because of the urgency of the situation, especially since Parliament was prorogued for six weeks. Before then, the Liberals did not believe the situation to be urgent.

During a pandemic, we must apply a rather simple principle, the precautionary principle. We must act in the initial stages to prevent problems from occurring later on. Clearly, the government did not do that. The leader of my party stated some time ago that the government perhaps did not have the focus to manage the current crisis. The Prime Minister was mired in the WE scandal. We suggested that the Deputy Prime Minister take the reins. That might have prevented a six-week prorogation. Today, we might be at a different point and we might be discussing the recovery plan.

I am struck by the fact that when my Liberal colleagues speak about collaboration, I sometimes think that they are confusing their own interests with those of the general public. Collaboration means working with the other parties, and not putting one's interests before the interests of Canadians. I would like to hear what one of my Liberal colleagues has to say about that.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have been working together for a long time to help Canadians during this pandemic. It truly is an emergency. We all agree on that.

My government colleagues and I are listening to the opposition parties. We are aware of their concerns about the CERB and we understand what they wanted in this bill. When we created the new benefits, we tried to include what all the opposition parties wanted to see in there.

We do not want to discourage people from working. We want to be sure that there are integrity measures in place. We want to be sure that people are looking for work and that they accept employment when it is offered to them.

The three benefits really reflect that.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the minister mentioned fraud. Before prorogation, the industry committee had a motion from the NDP, which was was supported by all parties, including hers. It is a really good report on fraud and I hope we get that released in the House of Commons. We will need unanimous consent and I hope that happens.

Specifically on supplementary employment benefits, the minister and her colleague know that many people might have their CERB clawed back or be punished by employer incentive programs that were negotiated, which might increase their benefits over that amount.

I would like to hear from the minister what she is doing about that to ensure the sub-benefits, as she has been made aware of several times, do not affect workers. Their benefits should not be clawed back and they should be made ineligible for some of the benefit programs that have been rolled out. Could she please update the House?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly can. In fact, I can advise the House that we are working with every employer that has a sub-plan to ensure that it is as seamless as possible, working with individual employees, and that nobody is put in a situation that is untenable, given their individual circumstances. This is an excellent example of the changes that one will see in the new benefits.

In transitioning so many people to EI, we are back to a system where sub-plans are in place. We are back to a system where people can seamlessly be on both EI and earn an income. It is an excellent example of why we and officials have been working so hard to transition people back to EI.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to hold the minister accountable, because in March we gave her incredible powers to assist people, like parents who were seeking parental benefits, and to deal with sub-plans. The minister sat by and did absolutely nothing until the EI system resumed. Retroactive or not, she let people down and she is letting Parliament down by having a press conference with the Deputy Prime Minister, now finance minister, saying that somehow this is sharing the plan without offering any specifics. She has let this place down.

Is this the way she wants to be remembered, as a minister who let people down, including the House?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we made a lot of effort and took a lot of time in the past six weeks telling Canadians what the plan was to transition from the CERB to EI, what the new benefits would look like, and I would say “retroactive or not”. A lot of women out there, because of the credit of EI hours, will be able to get retroactive maternity leave and parental leave. That is not just a thing one says, it is an important aspect of this transition.

We all know that the EI system was clunky and unable to serve us well when the pandemic hit. People have been working flat out to make changes and fix the system so we can now offer these better situations for Canadians. It is incredibly unfair to the people who have worked so hard to get us here to say that somehow they were not working hard enough.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, unlike the previous member, I would like to thank the minister for the tremendous work she and her officials have done over the past months. They have really moved mountains to help Canadians.

With the devastating impacts of the global pandemic, we have seen the many tragedies families have had to go through. We have seen families experiencing budget shortfalls. Also, about 50% of Canadians are saying their household income has been impacted by this global pandemic. Would the minister not agree that Canadians are anxious about wanting to see what services and future programs we are going to be able to offer Canadians as we face a possible second wave?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have been dealing with this in real time, course correcting and working very hard for Canadians. One of the benefits of the plan we have put forth is it is a longer-term plan. The world changes every two to four to six to eight weeks. We have given Canadians a year-long runway so they know they will have access to these benefits for 26 of the next 52 weeks. They will have continuity, certainty and a little breathing space, because we do not know what is going to happen. Absolutely, Canadians are anxious and this recognizes that.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief.

I think there is some confusion. The government is extolling the virtues of the new measures, the new benefits and the transition from the CERB to a more flexible EI system. The government said that it informed us of all that and that Canadians have known about this for a month. The problem is that the government announced all of this to us in a press release two days before proroguing Parliament. Three of these measures really need to be examined by parliamentarians, by elected members. As parliamentarians, our role is to vote. What we take issue with is the process that we are dealing with today. Yes, the measures were announced, but we have to hastily vote on them on the pretext that they are good for us. However, the government is not giving us the right, as legislators, to take the time to examine those measures.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I understand. I am here today, we will be here tonight and I will be before the Senate in a few days. Frankly, this is an urgent matter. We decided to include these benefits in legislation that will help Canadians much more than the CERB did. It is far better to make the transition to employment insurance. The changes to EI are not legislative, they are regulatory. They do not involve legislation, but rather the regulations. Everything has been done. Over three million people are now making the transition to EI. The goal is to help Canadians and all workers.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, obviously, in its desperate rush to get NDP support, the government did not consult with the provinces, which have jurisdiction over most workers in Canada. Does the minister realize that Ontario workers who take two weeks of federally paid sick leave could lose their jobs? Provincially regulated workers with three job-protected unpaid sick days could be dismissed if they take two weeks of federally paid leave without the permission of their employer.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me correct the record. I recently had a meeting of all employment ministers in provincial and territorial governments and spoke with them directly about the three new benefits we intended to create. I respectfully requested that they amend their labour codes so they would parallel the changes we would like to make to the federal labour code to offer worker protection in both provincial and federal jurisdictions.

This happened during the CERB and I expect it to happen again. I have every confidence that the ongoing constructive relationships we have with provincial jurisdictions will result in worker protection in job to job to job, whether provincial, territorial or federal, it will not matter.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, so many people are left out. As I mentioned the other day, many people are unable to work or should not work, including seniors, for example. Because of the pandemic, students were unable to work. We know that with the WE scandal, any sort of support that was supposed to be provided for students is not there. I still wonder where those monies are.

There are many people in our society who fall through the cracks. Not addressing this is also a public health and safety issue. I think of the many people in my riding who are dealing with very complex trauma and mental health issues and who cannot hold a full-time job. We need to beef up our guaranteed income programs in this country. They are not liveable. OAS is not liveable. Motion No. 46 certainly offers a path forward for guaranteed liveable income programs so that all human beings can live with human rights and dignity in this country.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, if one thing this pandemic has certainly laid bare, it is the massive gaps in our social safety net and how many of our systems do not respond to the needs of our citizens, workers and most vulnerable. It has also given us an opportunity to, as a legacy, do better by Canadians.

One of those systems that is dear to my heart is the employment insurance system, but we only need to look at our systems of delivering, or lack thereof, directly for our citizens with disabilities. There is a lot we need to fix. There is a lot we need to do working with provinces, as many of these programs are in other jurisdictions, but we have a mutual interest to support.

The benefits we are talking about today are for workers, for people who have lost employment income, but in no way does that diminish the importance of addressing the poverty and isolation felt by so many of our citizens who are vulnerable, at risk and for whom the pandemic has taken an incredible toll.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are grateful for the programs the government has been able to roll out, whether it was the CERB or the wage subsidy, and now we are here to talk about the CRB. Can the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion add one important piece that is missing? How are we going to get people back to work safely? What is the plan? The throne speech did not outline a plan. I am wondering if the minister has a plan, seeing as she is the minister for employment and workforce development. Can she elaborate on what that plan might be for Canadians when they elect to transition off of CRB and EI?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are trying as much as possible to parallel these new benefits to the EI system, because that system has many benefits, such as providing the incentive to work and transitioning workers back into the workforce, as well as the ideas of working while on claim and accessing training. We announced last week a $1.5-billion investment in training to be delivered through our workforce development agreements with the provinces and territories.

The plan was laid out last week in the Speech from the Throne. We have an ambitious goal of creating a million new jobs. That will be done in a number of ways, whether it is by shoring up and fortifying jobs, or filling the jobs we have in this country that are available. A lot of that is due to a skills mismatch. We want to create strategies to develop new jobs with appropriately skilled workers. One thing we hear time and time again, both nationally and internationally from employment ministers, is that training has got to be at the heart of any economic—

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Shefford.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, we cannot oppose this legislation because we need it. Our local businesses are asking that the CERB be changed to include an incentive to work, something the Bloc has been requesting for weeks, even months.

Once again, there is the issue of cynicism. The Liberals are putting parliamentarians back to work and then taking their work away as we return from a period of prorogation that took its toll on our economy and democracy. Upon our return, the government introduces major legislation but limits the time for debate. Do the Liberals like this culture of cynicism? Do they enjoy limiting our role as parliamentarians?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have put a lot of effort into ensuring that there are no disincentives to work. These new benefits really work like employment insurance: People must be looking for work, be available for work, accept a reasonable job offer and be present in the country. They really need to be actively looking for work.

It is always more beneficial to work than to not work and receive benefits.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as an opposition member of Parliament, I want to begin by thanking the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. I am absolutely confident that she has been working diligently and very hard. She was one of the few ministers to actually say out loud that she would have perhaps handled the WE Charity scandal a little differently.

I would still like to say that I regret we have such a short amount of time to debate this critical legislation. I would like to ask the minister if, instead of constantly trying to fill the gaps, cover the holes and rescue people who are left behind, she thinks it is time to bring in a guaranteed livable income.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this pandemic has really revealed the gaps in our social safety net. We have taken a more targeted approach than perhaps a basic income approach would have been. We are trying to give more to the people we thought needed it the most, particularly workers and their families, and the most vulnerable.

However, I think there is an important conversation to be had in this country about income support, about how we can seamlessly incentivize transitioning to work instead of putting barriers in place that prevent people from actually working because they so desperately need the services, programs and supports they get when they are on social assistance. There are really important conversations that need to be had.

However, today we are talking about employment income and replacement support for workers who are impacted by COVID-19. Let us not in any way take that as me saying those other conversations are not important.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for the minister across the way.

She talked about creating jobs. The Liberals talked about creating a million new jobs in the throne speech, which was very vague on details. Then the minister said it was going to be done through training. There would be training, and the jobs that are vacant right now would be filled.

My question for the minister is as follows. We are at 10% unemployment. We have the highest unemployment rate of the G7 countries across the world. If there are jobs that are going to be filled, why are they not being filled right now? If people are going to be trained, what are they going to be trained for? The Liberals say they are going to create a million new jobs in the new green energy industry.

What I would ask is for the government to clear the path for energy workers to go back to work now. There is 20 billion dollars' worth of private investment ready to go in Alberta and Saskatchewan. If the private sector could be harnessed, that would do a lot more good than training people for jobs that are not available anywhere in the country.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, even though we have an incredibly high rate of unemployment, there are also jobs out there. There are businesses that require appropriately skilled workers, and those are the jobs I was talking about when I was talking about filling jobs.

We know there is a skills mismatch in this country. We know that we need to have a targeted, incredibly sophisticated training strategy coming out of this pandemic to make sure that workers have the skills of the future that will get them the jobs of the future.

We also know that workers want to be properly skilled. They want to get the jobs that will provide for their families. They want to avail themselves of the opportunities to earn a good living. They can do that, and we can help by investing in skills training.

Again, these programs are delivered through the provinces and territories, and we provide the funding. It is very successful. Many of the training programs we have in this country are delivered by the provinces. I look forward to seeing what they can do with even more resources.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her speech.

I think steps in the right direction have been taken. Access to employment insurance has been a big problem for years. The NDP has been calling for it, and we welcome it.

I have three quick questions. Since these are temporary programs, when can we expect permanent EI reform? Will self-employed and freelance workers be included? Will there be 50 weeks of sick leave for people who are sick and on employment insurance?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, in answer to those three questions, we have already started working on EI reform. We have set the stage for some very important conversations with Canadians about a new iteration of the EI system that will be more generous, more accessible and more inclusive.

These are issues we will be looking at over the coming months. We need to act fast though, because we know we need a better system. We want to include self-employed workers, but we have to figure out how to do that. It is very hard. No other country does it particularly well. However, there are some examples out there that show it can be done creatively.

Regarding EI sickness benefits, our government committed to increasing them from 15 to 26 weeks. We remain in favour of that. We will do it as soon as possible.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, we have been cramming this debate through at the last minute when we should have brought it up over the summer, discussing it among ourselves and the members in the House.

The members opposite have talked about how they want to be part of a team, yet they do not want to hear any aspect of what is going on from the other side of the House.

I think the minister should be very familiar with the fact that Service Canada is now asking employees for records of employment. Records of employment, which are normally handed out to people once they have been released, gone on leave or are no longer working, are now sitting somewhere.

The reality is that the Phoenix organization, which the member is very familiar with, has said that if it gives out records of employment now, while people are still employed at a minimum amount, they will not be recognized after the fact for finances. These are discussions that should have gone on beforehand.

Where does the minister stand on Phoenix as it deals with people transitioning into that aspect of employment insurance?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, after still having a bit of PTSD from my time with Phoenix, one of our number one priorities was to make sure that we could deliver for Canadians. We need systems that are reliable, efficient and can deliver quickly.

We have learned a lot from our experiences with the Phoenix system. I can assure colleagues that, if we are asking for records of employment from some employees, those records of employment will not, in any way, be impacted by the workers' application for benefits.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, for several days now, our Liberal friends have been emphasizing co-operation and accusing us of wanting to pick a fight. In my view, a good way to co-operate is to admit to being wrong or making mistakes.

Why will the Liberal government not simply admit that it was wrong to prorogue Parliament and make Quebeckers and Canadians wait for six weeks? If it would acknowledge that mistake, perhaps we could start with a clean slate and work together once again.

We managed to work together for the aluminum sector. The Liberals acknowledged the mistakes they had made during the CUSMA negotiations. We worked together and came up with a solution. We can do it again.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we were flexible when we were developing the details of our plan six weeks ago.

We understood that school was going to reopen. We did not know what that was going to look like. We did not know the August job numbers. We did not know what state the pandemic would be in when we put forward this legislation, so we signalled very clearly that there would be flexibility in our approach to these benefits.

Certainly, I have tried my best to work collaboratively with my colleagues and with my critics. I have felt, time and again, that our laws have been bettered during this pandemic because of that collaboration. I think that is what is in the best interests of Canadians.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

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

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to an order made Wednesday, September 23, 2020, we will not proceed to a voice vote. I see a member rising.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The list of members voting by video conference has now been established for use by the table.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedProceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

As mentioned earlier, assuming that you did hear the question, if you wish to register your vote and are not able to do so due to technical difficulties, use the raise hand function and the Chair will recognize you.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #2

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I declare the motion carried.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Last night at the vote, I clarified that members need to have their video on from the time the vote begins and the question is read until the end. I have a list of 25 individuals who shut their video off or were not here. While I will not read out their names nor send you the screenshots, I would remind you to remind members that in the future, as the government can rise or fall on these votes, it is critical that their video be on from start to finish.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton for that reminder.

I want to remind all members that the video must remain on from the beginning to the end.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment in that regard.

I saw the member for Calgary Nose Hill leave and come back in during the vote. I do not know whether that is allowed, so this should be clarified. I also saw the deputy leader of the Conservative Party come in and then leave.

I am not blaming anyone. We are in a situation where we are all learning together. Is this allowed or not? I can more readily overlook this than some who refused to return to the original vote as requested yesterday by the Bloc Québécois member. We have more class than that.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill would like to respond.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker—

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar would like to respond.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did step out after the votes were completed, but before you announced the results. I defer to your decision regarding the validity of my vote.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

We will adjust the numbers accordingly.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I heard the rule yesterday about not taking pictures of the screen or of other members. What is the rule on taking screenshots during the voting proceeding? Could you clarify the rule on that?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

For taking screenshots, it is the same as being in the House. If a member takes a picture, they are taking a picture, and posting it just adds to that. Members are not permitted to take photos in the House.

I wish to inform the House that because of the time required to complete the recorded division, it will not be possible to proceed to Statements by Members. Accordingly, the House will now proceed to Oral Questions pursuant to Standing Order 35.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby has a point of order. It came up just before I started.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and if you seek it, I hope you will find unanimous consent, notwithstanding the usual practice, for proceeding to members' statements prior to proceeding to Oral Questions today.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

This being a hybrid sitting of the House, for the sake of clarity I will only ask those who are opposed to the request to express their disagreement.

The question is on the motion. All those opposed will please say nay.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

There is no unanimous consent.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government's disinterest and disdain for small businesses have left many small businesses behind during the pandemic. In fact, billions of dollars have been announced, but still the commercial rent relief program has been massively not used. Why? The Liberals got it wrong because the Prime Minister's top-down “I know best” way is not the right way and does not work.

When will the Prime Minister and the Liberals start listening to the needs of small businesses and adjust this program so that it helps them today?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we moved forward quickly to support Canadians with the Canada emergency response benefit. Then we moved forward with the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which helped hundreds of thousands of businesses across the country. We also moved forward with the Canada emergency business account to help small businesses and, yes, we moved forward with the commercial rent subsidy. The commercial rent subsidy program, not being within federal jurisdiction, was delivered in partnership with the provinces. It has not worked as well as any of us would have liked, which is why we continue to work on ensuring we can support businesses even better.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the heart of the problem is that the Liberals keep ramming through bills without proper consultation and without letting members of Parliament, who represent these small businesses, be part of the debate. In fact, they rammed through six pieces of legislation, many of which the Prime Minister just talked about, without adequate consultation or debate. Today debate is being shut down again on another piece of legislation that could help Canadians but will probably be very flawed.

Why will the Prime Minister not let us do our job? Why will the Prime Minister not listen to Canadians and do a little consultation before ramming through these pieces of legislation?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in the spring we were facing an unprecedented challenge that caused all parties to come together. Yes, we passed historic legislation to support Canadians during this time of crisis, and it helped millions upon millions of Canadians. I was pleased to see the collaboration of all parties working to get it right as quickly as possible.

We are in a second wave right now. While the opposition is playing politics, we continue to focus on delivering for Canadians the help they need because we will have their backs.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, we could have debated this legislation for six weeks, but the back the Prime Minister had was his own when he shut down Parliament to cover up for the WE scandal. We will take no lessons from him on playing political games.

The Prime Minister refuses to listen to small businesses, farmers, energy workers, fishers, everyday Canadians and the members of Parliament they have elected. He is acting in a dictatorial way and is doing this primarily to avoid accountability and to cover up his own scandal.

Why does the Prime Minister put his own interests ahead of the interests of Canadians and democracy?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are facing a second wave of the pandemic right across the country and the Conservatives continue to want to talk about the WE Charity. We on this side of the House are focused on the pandemic. We are focused on delivering for Canadians.

While I am up here, allow me to take this opportunity to express to Canadians my encouragement to download the COVID Alert app. It is safe and free and an easy way to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. I encourage everyone across the country to download COVID Alert and do their part to keep us all safe.

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, for nearly two months now, the Prime Minister has been doing everything he can to prevent parliamentarians from doing their job.

Last night I saw something interesting on Twitter. The tweet said: “I wonder what the great Prime Ministers (PMs) of the past might think. During the entirety of the Second World War, neither the British [PM Churchill] nor the Canadian [PM Mackenzie King] ever sought to limit debate, especially on matters involving financial appropriations”. That tweet was by the Hon. Andrew Leslie, retired general and former member of Parliament and Liberal Party whip.

What does the Prime Minister think of this keen observation about letting all parliamentarians do their job?

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with an unprecedented pandemic, a crisis that requires everyone to work together. That is exactly what we have been doing since the spring. As parliamentarians, we worked with all the parties to implement ambitious programs to help Canadians, such as the CERB, the wage subsidy, and measures to help seniors and youth.

We will continue to address Canadians' needs and work with members of the House, because we know that this is what Canadians need.

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, the work we did in the spring was all well and good, but what has been happening in the past two months is exactly the opposite.

The Prime Minister unilaterally decided to shut down Parliament for six weeks. Then he refused to allow proper debate in committee of the whole. Now he is limiting a very important debate on more than $50 billion in spending to barely four and a half hours.

Why not draw inspiration from Churchill, who held proper debates even in the middle of World War II?

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, during this time of crisis, we must all work together. That is what we are doing to address Canadians' needs. It is a shame to see the Conservatives playing politics while Canadians are in need.

In the meantime, I want to take this opportunity to encourage all Canadians to download the COVID Alert app. We know there is a chance it will be available in Quebec soon. We want everyone to do their part by downloading this great app, which is free, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

HealthOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, most Quebeckers learned that they are now in the red zone. On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would first like to express my solidarity with the people of Quebec who just received this terrible news.

Today, a survey revealed that 81% of Quebeckers want the federal government to increase health transfers. That is only natural, since we are in the midst of a health crisis. Yesterday evening, the Bloc Québécois introduced an amendment to that effect. We want more health transfers. The Liberals voted against it, the Conservatives voted against it, the NDP voted against it, and the Green Party voted against it.

Why is the federal government turning its back on Quebeckers when we are in the midst of a second wave?

HealthOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, while the Bloc Québécois is complaining, we are taking action. This week, we will be sending $19 billion to the provinces to help them fight the second wave. These are agreements that we signed with all of the provincial premiers because we have been there, from the beginning, to support the provinces in the important work that they are doing with us to control this pandemic.

I spoke with Premier Legault yesterday evening to once again express our solidarity. We will be there to help the provinces and to send money where it is needed.

HealthOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals put $500 million into health care. Quebec and the provinces want $28 billion. Honestly, can the Prime Minister count?

Eighty-one per cent of Quebeckers and 73% of Canadians want health transfers to increase. In Quebec, the National Assembly is unanimous: They want health transfers to increase. All provincial premiers want health transfers to increase.

What is it going to take for the Prime Minister to understand?

HealthOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, Bloc Québécois members are very good at shouting, but they do not always listen.

Since day one, we have transferred billions of dollars into health care systems to counter this health crisis in Quebec and across the country. We also made a formal commitment to work with the provinces on increasing health transfers; there will be a first ministers meeting this fall on the matter. We have had 18 first ministers meetings since the pandemic began. We are going to have more and we are going to talk about health transfers. We have promised to do that.

TaxationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, according to the report we received today, the deficit is now $300 billion.

I am afraid of what the government might do in this situation. It will do one of two things: it will either cut help to Canadians or shift the entire burden onto ordinary people. That is exactly what it must not do.

I urge the government to shift the burden onto those who have turned a profit. Is the government ready to make sure that the very wealthy pay their fair share?

TaxationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the first thing we did when we took office in 2015 was raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% so we could lower them for the middle class. That was a very good idea. Unfortunately, the New Democrats voted against that initiative.

We will continue to help the most vulnerable people all across the country by creating economic growth for everyone and ensuring long-term fiscal responsibility. That is what Canadians expect, and that is what we will deliver.

TaxationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has announced that the deficit is now over $300 billion. I am worried because, in that case, governments often do two things: either they cut the help to Canadians in the midst of a pandemic. or they put the pressure of paying for the pandemic on the shoulders of working-class families. Both of those are the wrong things to do.

So far, the Liberal government has talked about taxing extreme wealth inequality, but no one knows what the Liberal government means when it says that. Will the Prime Minister commit today to something direct, making sure that those who have profited off the pandemic pay the price?

TaxationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the very first thing we did when we took office in 2015 was raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% and lower them for the middle class. Unfortunately, the New Democrats voted against that initiative.

Every step of the way, we have had Canadians' backs, supporting the most vulnerable, ensuring that our businesses can come back strong through this pandemic and ensuring, every step of the way, that we do so in a fiscally responsible way. That is what Canadians expect of us, and that is what we will keep doing.

HealthOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister just talked about wanting Canadians to do their part with contact tracing very enthusiastically, but that is really easy for him to do given his privilege. The reality is that somebody wanting a test has to wait in line for hours right now and then might have to isolate for days, taking time away from work and family members. It is not that easy. People around the world have access to at-home testing or rapid testing, but nobody in Canada does. That is his fault.

If the Prime Minister is asking Canadians to do their part, when is he going to do his job?

HealthOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I share the enthusiasm of the member opposite for more testing opportunities and technology across the country.

No matter where a Canadian lives, they should have access to testing when they need it. That is why we have been working so diligently with all of our partners to ensure that we have access to rapid, point-of-care testing, of which we have approved two. Of course, testing at home is more complex and it is a challenge for countries all around the world. We will continue, we will stop at nothing, to make sure that we have the most current technology that is accurate and that helps contribute to defeating COVID-19.

HealthOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are people in Montreal today who are being faced with another economic lockdown. It has been seven months. Standing up here and saying that is not going to fix the problem. We do not have these tests, yet other countries around the world do. That is because of incompetence.

Canadians need to know, without any pretty words, when we are going to have access to those tests. When are they going to be in the hands of Canadians?

HealthOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the pandemic we have worked closely with provinces and territories to make sure they have the resources, both financial and technological, to manage COVID-19. We will continue to be there for Canadians, no matter which province they live in, because no matter where Canadians live they should have access to rapid testing regardless of their circumstances.

On our side, at the federal government, we are working with our industry partners and regulators to make sure that, as soon as new technology is available that is accurate and will help contribute to a reduction in COVID-19, we have those tools on the market.

HealthOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister likes to say that he is focused on the pandemic. He should tell that to his Minister of Health. Today we found out that we just bought millions of saliva tests. The only problem is that they are not approved in Canada. The same tests were approved months ago in the United States, and people are using them.

When is the Minister of Health going to fast-track the process so we can get the tests quickly?

HealthOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite has noted, we are not waiting to procure emerging technology. We are working in combination, across government, to make sure that as soon as new technology is available and approved for safe and accurate use, we will have access to those tests.

I thank the Minister of Public Services and Procurement for her incredible hard work on this file and on all the files to ensure that Canadians are safe and have access to the technology they need in their jurisdictions.

HealthOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the provinces need saliva tests, rapid tests, very quickly, not months from now.

The government's sluggishness has resulted in red zones in Quebec. Montreal and Quebec City are designated red zones. Individuals and families have to get tested and wait several days. Mario Dumont, the television host who is famous across Quebec, is stuck hosting his show from home because he has to wait for his results. This is ridiculous.

When will these tests be approved?

Can Health Canada do it faster?

HealthOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the $3 billion that Quebec has received to improve its testing capacity, to ensure that it has the contact tracing capacity it needs, to ensure that it has the data it needs to accurately contact trace and to ensure that they have the people in place to do that work, we have also accelerated our processes at Health Canada to make sure that as new technology arrives we are well placed to approve it. We have doubled our regulatory capacity. We have people standing by, working day and night with corporations and technology developers, to ensure that we have the tools necessary to approve those tests when they are safe and accurate.

EmploymentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada has a million missing jobs. That is how many more people are without work today than in February. Now, we have the highest unemployment rate in the G7. It is higher than the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy, Japan and Germany. They all have COVID as well, but their people are getting back to work. Our unemployment is three percentage points higher than in the OECD.

When will the government table a real jobs plan so that Canadians can get back into the jobs they love, to put food on their tables and to provide the funds for our cherished social safety net?

EmploymentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the Conservatives' partisan spin, our economic policy is working. In fact, just last week, DBRS Morningstar reaffirmed Canada's AAA credit rating, saying:

[We view] the overall fiscal response positively, as the stimulus has been timely in delivery, temporary in design, and sufficient in size given the scale of the shock.

That is an independent ratings agency reaffirming our AAA. That is who to trust.

EmploymentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, every time I stand up and ask about the plight of working people who desperately want their jobs back, the minister stands up and quotes some banker or some high-paid consultant at one of the major consultancies in town saying how much they love the policy. Maybe they do. They have had all kinds of benefits showered upon them, but everyday working-class people want their jobs back. They want the chance to earn a living. They want a paycheque, and they know that we have a million missing paycheques and the highest unemployment in the G7.

When will the government get out of the way and let people get back to the jobs they love?

EmploymentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is simply absurd to suggest that a credit ratings agency is somehow financially benefiting from our government's policies. I mean come on.

If the member for Carleton does not like hearing quotes from external experts, let me quote someone the member may prefer listening to: himself. I would like to remind people that in March, he said, “You might want to address [COVID-19] with big, fat government programs. We're Conservatives, so we don't believe in that.” Let me say to the nine million Canadians who benefited from the CERB, that is what—

EmploymentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît.

HealthOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is talk of going back into lockdown as of tomorrow evening. I stand in solidarity with my constituents and all the businesses facing this nightmare once again. Because of the pandemic, families, business people, individuals, seniors and everyone else are having to make huge sacrifices.

That is why 81% of us are demanding that the federal government increase health transfers. Quebeckers understand that the solution to a health crisis lies first and foremost in stable federal investments in health care.

When will the federal government deliver?

HealthOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is there to support Quebec. Here are some examples: $675 million to increase testing; $270 million to support the health care system, including $112 million for mental health; $166 million for vulnerable populations; and $675 million to purchase PPE. We are introducing sick leave for Quebeckers who do not already have it and must self-isolate.

What Quebeckers need is co-operation, not partisanship. Let's work together.

HealthOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Premier of Quebec wants ongoing funding for orderlies, not just for a few months, but for years to come.

Also, 81% of Quebeckers want the federal government to increase health transfers. Quebec's priority is to support its care staff that is battling COVID-19 as well as burnout. By being better protected, people can better care for others. Everyone in Quebec is on the same side. Everyone is working together to get through this crisis as quickly as possible. Only the federal government refuses to do its utmost.

When will it provide ongoing funding for health care?

HealthOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is talking about personal protective equipment.

I will repeat what I said earlier. We have spent $675 million to purchase personal protective equipment. We are giving more money for tests, more money for this type of equipment and more money for mental health. We are there for Quebeckers, we have been there from the very beginning.

However, the Bloc Québécois does not like that. It is happiest when there are squabbles. When we do our job, when we collaborate—and that is what we are doing—the Bloc does not like that. That is too bad, but we will continue to collaborate.

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are still looking for the truth when it comes to the WE scandal. Just last night the Liberal committee chair of the procedures and House affairs committee violated the rules by adjourning the debate. The chair then cancelled the morning meeting as well.

This has the PMO written all over it. We looked at this during the prorogation of Parliament, but this time it is happening at the PROC.

My question is for the chair of the procedures and House affairs committee. When will the committee get back to work to study the WE scandal?

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion that was brought to committee is quite complex. I am looking into this motion to see if it is in order. I am conferring with the procedural clerks and the table officers in order to do so.

I will be getting back to the members of the committee about when the next meeting is as soon as I have completed this task.

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am just very concerned because last night as we were sitting at the procedures and House affairs committee, the meeting was adjourned.

There was supposed to be a meeting at 11 a.m. today. Why was it cancelled? Once again, it should not have been cancelled. The meeting should have been suspended. It is part of our procedural rules, and that was not done.

I am just wondering why the government is going outside of procedural rules to cover its butt when it comes to WE. When is it going to answer the question on the WE motion?

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, because this motion was fairly complicated, I still have not had enough time to complete the analysis of the motion. As soon as I have done so, after conferring with the procedural clerks, I will get back to the members.

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Speaker, cover-ups have been the name of the game under the Prime Minister. Time and time again, he has broken ethics laws, been caught and then tried to cover it up. We saw it again last night at the procedure and House affairs committee, when Liberals scrambled to shut it down to prevent WE documents from coming to light. Canadians have had enough and they deserve answers.

What exactly are the Prime Minister and his Liberals trying so desperately to hide?

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we are here to work on behalf of Canadians. We are here to serve Canadians. That is why we are working so hard in the middle of a pandemic.

We are in the middle of this pandemic. This is an emergency, and the best thing the Conservatives found to do this morning was to bring a motion to lose two hours, debating on a former MP who has not been here for the last year. That is what they did.

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is coming from the government that just shut down Parliament for six weeks and locked the doors on committee rooms. We will certainly take no lessons from the Liberals on how we will spend our time.

They say they are working in good faith with committees. They shut them down and they block investigations at every turn. They went so far as to shut down the entire House and all its business for six full weeks. Actions speak louder than words.

It is simple: Will they unlock the doors and answer questions at PROC as to why they really shut down Parliament?

Procedures and House AffairsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we have this bill in front of us. It is a very important, crucial bill. It is there to help Canadians, those who have lost their jobs and who have to stay home to take care of family members. It would also provide sick leave for people who need it. We are here to debate that.

What is the problem with the Conservatives? They prefer to debate a motion on an MP who left a year ago. We know our priority. They know theirs.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second wave of COVID-19 is hitting Quebec hard. Times are tough. The Government of Quebec is making difficult decisions that could have consequences on thousands of SMEs, their owners, their workers, and their communities. Some entrepreneurs narrowly avoided bankruptcy last spring, but they are worried about how the next few weeks will unfold.

Do the Liberals understand the challenge? Will they support the restaurants, bars and the entire cultural sector, such as movie theatres and performance halls that are just starting to get their heads above water?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question because it is important. We want the business community and the cultural sector and all employees and entrepreneurs who are affected by this new lockdown to know that we are with them.

We will be there. We have been there for them over the past few months. We are there for them and will continue to be there in the days ahead whether through the Canada emergency wage subsidy, direct assistance for businesses, loans for small businesses and help through the EI system.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, York Factory, an isolated first nation in northern Manitoba, has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 and other people are symptomatic. The community desperately needs tests, medical personnel, PPE and mental health supports. The rapid testing team could not land, but there are other ways of getting it there. This first case is someone who had to go to Winnipeg for medical treatment.

I have been in touch with the parliamentary secretary, but will the government treat this as a wake-up call? York Factory and northern and indigenous communities need help now.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs Québec

Liberal

Marc Miller LiberalMinister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, we are deeply concerned by the recent cluster of cases in York Factory First Nation and are monitoring the situation closely.

Since the outset of COVID-19, we have in fact shipped five shipments of personal protective equipment to the community. Additional nurses have been deployed to the community, with two arriving just yesterday.

My department does remain in close communication with the community leadership, the first nations pandemic response and coordination team as well as all the health services that are available. We will continue monitoring the situation quite closely.

Government FundingOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for all students, but has particularly affected youth in vulnerable and low-income communities. That is why organizations like Pathways to Education are an important resource for thousands of students during this difficult time.

Pathways to Education has helped thousands of students living in low-income communities across Canada by providing a combination of supports that remove barriers to graduation and promote positive development.

Could the minister please update the House as to the work our government is doing to support this important organization and our efforts to assist students in vulnerable communities facing new challenges from COVID-19.

Government FundingOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Whitby for his continued advocacy on this issue. Students in vulnerable communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why I am proud to share that our government has invested $5 million in Pathways to Education Canada. This funding will ensure that young people in low-income communities will continue to have access to the critical supports they need and ensure they have access to safe and accessible online resources to remain engaged and support their education.

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Leona Alleslev Conservative Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the federal government refuses to fund the Yonge subway extension without a formal business case, yet York region today is the fastest-growing region in Canada, with over 52,000 businesses, 636,000 jobs and home to over 1.2 million people. Demanding a business case is just another excuse so the Liberals never have to actually deliver.

If infrastructure is so critical, why is the federal government against the Yonge subway extension?

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Catherine McKenna LiberalMinister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, we certainly support public transit in Ontario. We have a bilateral agreement with Ontario that will see the federal government invest over $11.8 billion in Ontario over the next decade, including $8.3 billion for public transit.

The reason that we need a business case is that we owe it to taxpayers to ensure that every dollar we invest gets outcomes. We are certainly willing to move ahead and we encourage the Government of Ontario to put forward a business case to our office so we can move forward and also to prioritize this project. I know people want that project to be built.

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Leona Alleslev Conservative Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Yonge subway business case has been obvious since it was built in 1954. It is even more obvious today.

The Yonge subway extension would create over 60,000 jobs and enable housing for over 88,000 residents. That is in addition to providing much-needed public transit for thousands of York region residents. The Ontario government has committed to the project, but the Liberals refuse.

When will the government stop hiding behind a smoke screen and fund the Yonge subway extension?

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Catherine McKenna LiberalMinister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly not hiding behind any smoke screen. We just expect that we have to be mindful of taxpayer dollars. I would have thought the Conservative Party would support that.

We have approved more than 1,000 projects across Canada in the last few months. We are moving forward. We are doing it because we need to create jobs. We need to reduce emissions. We need to ensure a more inclusive future.

The Yonge subway line is an example of that. We certainly encourage the Government of Ontario to move forward and hand a business case over to us.

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals failed to negotiate a new softwood lumber agreement with the United States or to negotiate softwood into CUSMA. Yesterday, the U.S. announced its decision to appeal the World Trade Organization's report on U.S. countervailing measures in softwood lumber.

The Liberals have once again let down forestry workers and families. Six thousand people lost their jobs in the second quarter this year alone, adding to the thousands from last year.

When will the minister stand up for forestry workers in regions like Skeena, the Okanagan and Vancouver Island?

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

St. John's South—Mount Pearl Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we are expanding and extending the wage subsidy program through until next summer. Our sector was already hit and facing significant challenges before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The wage subsidy is going to help more forestry companies in regions that have been hit hardest by these conditions. It keeps Canadians working. All levels of government are working together to ensure that Canadian workers and companies have the vital supports they need, when and where they need it.

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Martel Conservative Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the United States has appealed the World Trade Organization's decision in favour of Canada on Canadian softwood lumber. We are talking about $3 billion unfairly being held at the border. American protectionism is and will continue to be an issue, regardless of whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in charge.

When will the government implement policies that support the interests of forestry workers in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the Lower St. Lawrence, Mauricie, Abitibi and Baie-Comeau?

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Markham—Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Mary Ng LiberalMinister of Small Business

Mr. Speaker, Canada is disappointed that the United States decided to appeal the WTO report from last month. The WTO found that the countervailing measures that the United States had imposed on Canada were inconsistent with the United States' obligations. The American countervailing measures on Canadian softwood lumber were deemed to be unfair and unfounded, and they are undermining the economic recovery on both sides of the border.

We will continue to work—

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order. The hon. member for Montcalm.

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has let its deficit, the deficit of all taxpayers, balloon to more than $328 billion.

The pandemic is a public health crisis. The people we are relying on most are our nurses, orderlies and doctors. How much money did the federal government transfer to Quebec for health care? At the very beginning of March, Quebec received just $100 million of the $328 billion that has been spent. How can this government be so indifferent to the challenges our health care professionals are facing?

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we have been with Quebec since day one, both through even more regular discussions between the first ministers as part of bilateral collaborations between ministers and, most importantly, through direct assistance. As I said earlier, we allocated $675 million for additional testing, $270 million for health care in general, $112 million for mental health, and $675 million for new equipment to protect our guardian angels.

The Government of Canada has been with Quebec since day one, and we will continue to face this challenge with Quebec.

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the government says no to increasing health transfers, it is not saying no to the National Assembly, the Government of Quebec or provincial governments. It is not saying no to Quebec's Premier Legault or to the 81% of Quebeckers who are in favour of transfers. When it refuses to increase transfers, the Liberal government is saying no to exhausted nurses, orderlies and doctors. It is saying no to sick people waiting for care.

Why is this government saying no to increasing health transfers on a recurring basis?

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, when the government says no to the Bloc Québécois, it is not saying no to Quebeckers.

The problem is that the Bloc Québécois often gets a little confused. There is the Bloc Québécois and there are Quebeckers. We often disagree with the Bloc Québécois, but we will always stand alongside Quebeckers. We will always be there to support health care, our seniors, our families and our businesses, and we will always stand alongside Quebeckers.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are concerned about Service Canada's inability to respond quickly to the demand for services. The situation will only be exacerbated by the new terms and conditions of the EI program. Unfortunately, the Liberal government is always slow to act and likes to use band-aid solutions instead of fixing the problem.

What is the Liberal government's plan and when will it be implemented in order to deal with the huge flood of requests at Service Canada as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Families

Mr. Speaker, we have hired an additional 1,500 agents to monitor phone calls coming in through the dedicated phone lines that have been set up for Canadians to answer questions. We have also produced new avenues for citizens to access services.

We are working hard to make sure we support Canadians through this difficult period.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, can the government please confirm that it has a reliable plan to handle the forecasted increased service demands at all Service Canada offices once these new benefits pass in order to prevent the current multi-hour wait times? As well, will the government commit to making that plan public within the next couple of weeks to include exact dates on which Service Canada offices will open and when?

I will note that I first asked this question on April 11. I am still waiting for a response.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

3 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Families

Mr. Speaker, the first and foremost priority for us is the safety and health of the staff at Service Canada. However, we have been safely reopening a number of centres right across the country. We have redeployed over 3,000 additional staff to make sure that people have access to the benefits that they rely on. In addition to that, we have introduced online options, as well as options through the telephone. A 1,500-agent call centre has been set up to help people with the Canada emergency response benefit, which will now move to the employment insurance system.

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, many businesses rely heavily on skilled foreign workers who have already been recruited to keep them afloat.

My riding is on the U.S. border. The small businesses in my riding have said that, if they do not go out of business, they are going to transfer their operations to the United States.

When will this government realize that these workers are essential to the survival of these businesses? When does the minister plan to again accept these skilled workers into the country to help with our economic recovery?

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, we understand how important our foreign workers are and their contribution to our efforts to combat COVID-19.

Our businesses just cannot operate without our foreign workers. We have invested $60 million to keep them safe. We cannot maintain Canada's food security without them.

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, cities have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. In my riding, the City of Guelph's budget has been hit with unexpected extra costs and transit revenue losses. I am proud of our government's Safe Restart Agreement, which has provided $11 million in additional support to Guelph through this emergency funding.

Could the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs please share with this House the importance of the federal government directly supporting municipalities and our communities across Canada when they need it the most?

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalPresident of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think all members thank the member for Guelph for his very important question.

Municipalities, as we know, are facing increased costs due to COVID-19. Through the $19-billion Safe Restart Agreement, we are providing $4.4 billion to support municipalities in the delivery of key services, which are so important to Canadians. This means, for example, $2 billion for municipal COVID-19 response and $2.3 billion dedicated to support public transit.

Canadians expect us to work as all governments to protect them from COVID-19, and that is exactly what we are doing.

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Province of Ontario has announced $20 million to support northern Ontario businesses impacted by COVID-19, but FedNor is nowhere to be found. I have joined the calls of business owners in my riding, in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and across the north, who have been pleading for support for months.

With all of the programs created, all of the money spent and all of the Liberal MPs across the region, how has the government completely forgotten about northern Ontario?

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I would agree to disagree with my colleague, because we have been there for people in northern Ontario throughout the pandemic. That is why we nearly doubled the budget of FedNor, and that is why we have been there for tourism operators and for many small business owners. We will continue to be there. Northern Ontario is important to us and it always will be. That is why we will be moving ahead with new investments shortly.

TelecommunicationsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, for five years the Liberals have promised to accelerate Internet access for rural Canadians and last week in the throne speech we heard the same accelerated promises. Rural Canadians from Inverness to Ignace, Fort Nelson to Gaspé, and Magnetawan to Havelock know now more than ever that Internet access is not a luxury.

If an accelerated Liberal promise is worth more than a regular Liberal promise, for the thousands of Canadians still waiting, does an accelerated promise actually include action?

TelecommunicationsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Peterborough—Kawartha Ontario

Liberal

Maryam Monsef LiberalMinister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development

Mr. Speaker, these are definitely difficult times for every Canadian, but for rural communities without broadband, COVID has been particularly hard. We knew this before the pandemic. Over a million households are well under way to getting that access, and our work will continue. I want to take this opportunity to thank the essential workers who have been working and digging to put wires into the ground, even during COVID, to make sure this essential service continues to be provided to every Canadian.

There is more work to be done and I look forward to support from all my colleagues in the House to make that happen.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the owners, workers and customers of small businesses are our friends and neighbours. They are the backbone of the Canadian economy and the government has left many of them behind. The government has not fixed the problems with its existing programs, problems like accessing loans, rent relief and being denied the CEBA benefit because the applicant has the wrong kind of bank account.

For months Conservatives have been asking the government to fix these problems. When is it going to do it?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Markham—Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Mary Ng LiberalMinister of Small Business

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on being my new critic. I look forward to working with him.

I would disagree. Over 760,000 businesses have benefited from the small business loan. Businesses have benefited from getting fixed support to deal with their fixed costs, such as rent. We are listening to business owners and we will continue to listen to them. It is why we committed in our throne speech to ensure that the hardest-hit businesses will get support to deal with their fixed costs. We are going to continue to do whatever it takes to help businesses across this country weather this difficult time.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, in my urban community of Surrey Centre, we have seen the impacts of COVID-19 that have reached some of the most vulnerable Canadians, those living without a place to call home. Our government took quick action at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that cities and non-profits had the resources they needed to keep homeless Canadians safe during this challenging time. I have heard that more support is needed.

Could the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development please update the House on measures being taken to protect those living in homelessness from a potential second wave of COVID-19?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Families

Madam Speaker, l think the hon. member for Surrey Centre for his tireless advocacy on housing and homelessness issues. We recently announced an additional investment of $236.7 million going directly to front-line organizations that are serving Canadians experiencing homelessness. This is in addition to the $157.5 million that we announced early on in the pandemic. Canadians have told us that this funding has been critical to keeping the most vulnerable members of our communities safe.

Simply put, we will do everything we can to have the backs of Canadians who are vulnerable at this difficult time.

TelecommunicationsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, since this pandemic began, I have been hearing from people across Northwest B.C. who cannot go to school, cannot go to work remotely and cannot access services because they lack reliable Internet. People like Keiran, a veteran who cannot access the support services he needs because they are online, or Autumn, who could not complete her college exam because her Internet cut out. On Haida Gwaii, rural residents are about to lose their Internet altogether.

The government has promised high speed Internet for all people in Canada, but with so little progress to date, how can rural residents trust that it is serious?

TelecommunicationsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Peterborough—Kawartha Ontario

Liberal

Maryam Monsef LiberalMinister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development

Madam Speaker, the stories such as those shared by my colleague just now are top of mind for us as we work to connect every Canadian household to high speed Internet.

I will tell him though that one million households on their way to getting connected or already connected is progress. I look forward to his support and his party's support to make sure that we get that connection to every household across this great country.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, in Atlantic Canada, October 1 is Treaty Day. Celebrations this year will be centred around the Saulnierville wharf, where livelihood fishers have gathered as they exercise their collective inherent rights. The conflict that has ensued is a direct result of the failure of DFO and successive governments to articulate treaty rights to Canadians, rights that are enshrined in our Constitution and by the rulings of our highest court. The conflicts will continue as long as the government ignores its responsibilities.

Does the Minister of Fisheries agree that the path forward was unquestionably established 21 years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Marshall decision?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margarets Nova Scotia

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan LiberalMinister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, since day one, our government has been focused on the safety of people in that area who are right now facing extremely challenging times. We have been working collaboratively and respectfully with both the first nations community as well as industry. We know that the path forward is to make sure that we do everything we can to implement the rights that were granted to the Mi'kmaq under the Marshall decision.

Standing Order 69.1—Bill C-4Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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, I am rising to respond to a point of order raised yesterday respecting the splitting of Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19. My colleague has suggested that this is an omnibus bill with unrelated parts.

I suggest that my hon. colleague is unclear about what constitutes an omnibus bill. It is, in short, a bill with many constituent and unrelated parts. Nothing could be further from the truth with respect to Bill C-4.

Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19, contains related measures to address the health and economic consequences of the pandemic. It includes the three new recovery benefits that replace the Canadian emergency response benefit, as well as extending the funding for existing supports for businesses and Canadians that will expire tomorrow, September 30.

The scope and principle of the bill are measures to address the pandemic. There is nothing in the bill that is unrelated to supporting Canadians through the pandemic. It would be quite another situation if the bill included some COVID-related measures and measures to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act. It does not.

I therefore submit that these measures all fall within the common element or theme of supporting Canadians through this pandemic and should not be divided for the purposes of voting.

Standing Order 69.1—Bill C-4Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank the hon. member for his submission and I will take it under advisement.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 3:12, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner entitled “Peschisolido Report”.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The list of members voting by video conference has now been established for use by the table.

During the taking of the vote:

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Nelly Shin Conservative Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I lost my connection toward the end of QP and, unfortunately, I logged-in a little too late when the vote started happening. If it is all right for me to cast my vote, I would vote in favour, but if not, I will abstain.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Did you hear the question, Ms. Shin?

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Nelly Shin Conservative Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

No, I could not, because I was fully disconnected. I lost my connection.

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Thank you. I appreciate your honesty.

We will resume with the vote.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #3

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I declare the motion carried.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-7PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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, I am rising to respond to a question of privilege raised on Friday, September 25, respecting the premature disclosure of Bill C-7, on medical assistance in dying, from the previous session. As members well know, the bill in question died with prorogation, as did the reference of the question of privilege to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2017, states at page 145:

The matter of privilege to be raised in the House must have recently occurred and must call for the immediate action of the House. Therefore, the Member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation. When a Member has not fulfilled this important requirement, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is not a prima facie question of privilege.

I would also refer members to the footnote that is attached to the text that I just quoted. Footnote 369 states:

Any matter found to be prima facie and referred to committee in one session but not reported on would not survive a prorogation. However, if a Member wished to raise the question of privilege again in the following session, the Speaker could reconsider the matter provided that the rules of timeliness were respected.

The facts are clear. The former Bill C-7 died on the Order Paper with prorogation. The procedure and House affairs committee did not report to the House on the question of privilege. The member who raised the question of privilege on September 25 did not do so at the earliest opportunity.

I would draw to the attention of the House that the earliest opportunity to raise a question of privilege stemming from the previous session was Thursday, September 24. I would note that on Thursday, September 24, the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes raised two questions of privilege. That is a clear demonstration that this matter should have been raised on Thursday given that the House had adopted a motion on Wednesday, September 23, to allow all members to participate in the proceedings of the House whether in person or virtually. There is no excuse for not having raised this matter on Thursday.

I would conclude that since the matter was not raised at the first opportunity, the former Bill C-7 was discharged from the Order Paper with prorogation and there was no report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on this matter. This does not meet the well-established rule for raising a question of privilege.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-7PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank the hon. member for his submission. I will take it under advisement.

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

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

We are resuming questions and comments for the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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, the member has been a very strong advocate for her community. One of the things that is important for us to recognize is that a lot of hard work is done in our constituencies with an expectation that, especially during a pandemic, members of Parliament get the type of feedback that is important and they, as much as possible, bring that information back to the House, if not directly then indirectly through meetings and other discussions.

I just want to get my colleague and friend's thoughts. As a member of Parliament, I know she advocates for her constituents and continuously listens to what her constituents have to say. How important is it that the member is able to do that and share her thoughts, in particular with members of Parliament and ministers, so that she can convey some of the improvements that she thinks could be made through this pandemic?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is very important for us, as members of Parliament, to speak to the ministers about issues in our ridings and also to write emails about our concerns. The people voted for us for a reason, and it is our job to represent their concerns to the best of our ability. That is what I do as the member for Cumberland—Colchester. I also did that for 10 years as a member of the Legislative Assembly in Nova Scotia for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member, in particular, about the programming motion we are dealing with today and the undemocratic way in which the government is proceeding. What we have seen in the course of this pandemic is that the government has put forward programs that have had technical problems with them. The Liberals have announced one thing that has contradicted what is actually in the legislation, which speaks to the importance of effective parliamentary debate and legislative oversight.

We have a Prime Minister who prorogued Parliament and then a couple of days later announced a new program which, because of prorogation, could not be legislated on for six weeks. If he had not prorogued, we could have spent weeks debating these issues, studying them at committee and working out problems. Conservatives were prepared to work through the weekend on this, and now we are going to have less than five hours of debate.

Is this remotely reasonable, in the member's view, in terms of a way to proceed and ensure that legislation actually achieves the objectives it claims to achieve?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, we were on two committees during this past COVID time—

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order. The hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola has a point of order.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, the interpretation is not working.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It seems that the interpretation is not working.

Is it working now, in French and in English?

The hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I have noticed that when the member speaks in English, I can understand. It is very garbled, but if we go to the French channel, the translator is saying they cannot translate.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

They cannot translate. There is a breakup in the connection.

We are going to let the member try again.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

September 29th, 2020 / 4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, as I said before, I am so sorry about the audio quality. Something has happened just in the last half hour. I am having terrible trouble hearing people, and I guess being heard as well.

I was trying to say that throughout COVID-19, I was on two committees that did meet. The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan was on one of them, the Canada-China relations committee, and also the northern and indigenous affairs committee. We did a lot of work through the COVID-19 period. I think the government is doing an extremely good job of representing Canadians, looking after as many people as possible in a very dangerous and unprecedented time. I tip my hat to the cabinet members and to the Prime Minister.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I thank the member. I know there is still some issue with the sound. However, the time is up now. I would just ask that we double-check on the problems, because there seem to have been some with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. There was a little glitch there as well. I do not know if it is at our end or if it is at the other end, but I think that will have to be looked into further.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend and dear colleague, the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I want to start by wishing you well, Madam Speaker, as you return to the Bar of the House for a second parliamentary session that I hope will be filled with less uncertainty than the last one.

This Parliament will no doubt mark a special time in Quebec and Canada's shared history. In the coming months, you, Madam Speaker, will moderate debates that will guide us as legislators and citizens, if the government and the NDP will actually allow us to debate. I will come back to that a little later.

The choices we make here in the House about this pandemic, or rather, how to get through this pandemic, will shape our future, for better or for worse. My greatest wish, at the end of the day, is to serve my constituents and represent their aspirations to the best of my abilities with the sincere belief that there is no gain too small for Quebec.

Bill C-2 sets out some of these gains. That is why I was happy to see that the bill contains something that my party and my constituents have been calling for since the CERB was implemented, and that is employment incentives. It is also clear to me that the fact that the government is finally making changes to employment insurance is a good thing. Those are the two main points that I want to talk about today and obviously, as usual, I will not hold back in expressing my views.

At the height of the pandemic, parliamentarians approved a benefit that would help Quebeckers and Canadians get through the difficult but necessary lockdown. The Canada emergency response benefit was last-minute and imperfect, much like those who designed it.

Since we expected the economy to re-open in the short term, on the advice of business owners who help sustain the communities that elected us, the Bloc Québécois quickly called on the government to apply a similar, just as imperfect logic to the CERB as it does to employment insurance. More specifically, we asked the Liberals to introduce a concept that makes a good deal of sense, that of 50¢ per dollar earned rather than the $1,000 maximum.

The government's answer was quite surprising. We made that request in April and we were told that it was impossible. The former finance minister, who is no longer in the House, told us that it was impossible. All of my Bloc Québécois colleagues were told the same thing.

Make no mistake, I am glad it is in Bill C-2. I now know that no one will lose money going back to work, as a matter of principle, and that no one will refuse to work full time just because people can count. However, we have to acknowledge that the government is responsible for putting people in a tough spot and businesses in a precarious situation.

Will the Liberals take responsibility for that? I would tend to doubt it, now that they are implicitly admitting that our request was legitimate. I hope so, but beyond the Liberal's responsibility for the inefficient use of public funds—that is pretty well their trademark—I feel it is very important that we reassure Quebeckers and Canadians that the benefits are being properly administered. Many are wondering why that would work this time if it did not work in the past. That is important. We cannot fail under any circumstances. I am not going to predict failure. I think it will work well.

The government of the day and its Prime Minister were quick to declare that public servants are incapable of administering government programs. The WE Charity affair may have been forgotten because Parliament was shut down for six weeks, but that is in essence what the Prime Minister said about public servants. However, we do have a competent public service.

As we have seen throughout the crisis, every member of this illustrious House has been supported by public servants despite programs that are hard to explain and often hard to implement. I, for one, trust public servants. If any of them are listening to us now, I want them to know we will be here to support them in the months to come.

I think it will work well, but only if the government listens to opposition members, primarily Bloc Québécois members, and trusts them.

Ever since the beginning of this Parliament, we have never stopped suggesting legitimate changes to Canadian laws. We have never stopped advocating for common sense in Canadian politics. We have never stopped speaking up for Quebec, and the provinces too, as well as for the division of powers as set out in our precious Canadian Constitution.

When 32 separatists try to improve federal government programs, it is obviously not because they are trying to steal jobs from people across the aisle. It is because we want what is best for our people. Whenever the Liberals listen to the Bloc Québécois, things work. I have said this before in the House, and I will say it a third time with utter sincerity. Yes, we want a country for Quebeckers. We want the country of Quebec. However, in the meantime, we also want what is best for people who have lost their jobs. If there is one group of people the feds should listen to, it is the people we work for.

For decades, workers have been telling us that the EI system is no longer functional. In 1996, the Liberal government made so many cuts to the program that most workers who lose their jobs no longer have access to it. The proof is that an entire multi-billion dollar program had to be hastily created in two weeks because EI could not deliver. Worse yet, the Liberals, who pride themselves on being champions for the rights of youth and women, let the program create unacceptable disparities, which overwhelmingly affected youth and women. Leading statisticians have even calculated that two-thirds of women and youth under 30 who have lost their jobs are no longer eligible.

In addition, just for good measure, the Liberals and the Conservatives have dipped into the EI fund to balance the budget. Experts have even estimated that $59 billion has been taken from the EI fund. Some Canadians will say that $59 billion is not enough to cover the deficit accumulated by the Liberals, and they are right.

It is sad to put it like this, but Canada's tax policy is fundamentally based on oil and gas, cutting transfers to the provinces, and limiting eligibility for assistance programs. It is as simple as that. One of my fondest wishes for this bill is that it does not repeat past mistakes. It is imperative that the government reassure parliamentarians and workers that EI will be protected from political games. I would love to hear a minister confirm that the government will not do as it has in the past, that it will leave financial control in the hands of EI officials and ensure stable funding. Would anyone on the other side of the House have the guts to say that?

By hitting the reset button on democracy, the Liberal government evaded a multitude of scandals while waiting for the second wave to hit, and unfortunately, it is almost here. I will therefore keep co-operating to ensure that the response is appropriate and the focus is on this issue.

Now more than ever, opposition members come to Parliament knowing how important the federal government's response will be in the lives of those who are counting on their elected representatives to get us out of this. I would like to remind everyone that counting on their elected representative is not an absolute. In this chamber, we have been given a seat that comes with certain clear, limited powers. All members are intelligent people capable of forming their own opinion of how this crisis is being managed, but it is not up to us to supplant our provincial and municipal counterparts. Humility is very important to me, and it is a quality often lacking on the other side of the House. We need to have the humility to look after our own affairs and do it well. That is the only thing we were elected to do.

Yes, there needs to be generous, appropriate programs, but not if that means interfering in the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Millions of people expect us to do our utmost for them. They want us to do our job better than ever, and they do not expect us to give lessons to anyone. Doing our job means reforming EI to fix the flaws we have been criticizing for so long. Doing our job means encouraging people to go back to work while reassuring them about their financial future, giving seniors what they need to make ends meet, providing the promised aid to farmers, and giving Quebec and the provinces the health care money that is rightfully theirs. Doing our job means respecting the democracy that has brought us here and providing enough time to do our work.

There is no denying that the Bloc Québécois is against these types of procedures designed to circumvent democratic principles and limit the rights and privileges of parliamentarians. The government is using this bill to make itself look good to the public while putting the opposition parties under the gun. The Bloc Québécois has always been accommodating because the government's proposed measures provided help to Quebeckers and Canadians. Why does the government believe this motion is necessary? Because it is in a rush, since time is running out on the CERB and the pandemic is getting worse. There is no other reason.

Nevertheless, I want to thank them. I hope that the coming weeks will rekindle the spirit of co-operation that emerged at the start of the crisis, when partisanship and political manoeuvring were set aside.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I appreciate some of the comments the member across the way put on the record with regard to his wanting to assist and contribute to the debate.

One major issue we have seen over the last number of months is long-term care. People from across the country, including in the province of Quebec, have raised a concern about what should be happening in long-term care. Many have suggested that we need to see Ottawa play a stronger leadership role to ensure that there is some form of standards. It seems to me that it would be in our best interest for the federal government to have a role in that area, because that is what Canadians in all regions want to see.

I wonder if the member could provide his thoughts on the people who are in long-term care facilities. Would he not agree that from a national perspective, there is a role that goes beyond just giving money to a province?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I completely disagree with my hon. colleague.

This is a provincial jurisdiction, as stated in Canada's Constitution. A poll released today found that when it comes to health care, 81% of Quebeckers only want one thing from the federal government. They want the health transfer from the government.

The National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion calling for an increase in health transfers. The four parties in the National Assembly are calling for this. Moreover, all the premiers of the other provinces want an increase in health transfers.

The government made a mistake when it cut health transfers. The least it can do is admit that it made a mistake, apologize and fix the problem.

I realize that the government is very good at apologizing. Unfortunately, it always apologizes 50 or 100 years too late. The time to apologize and increase health transfers is now.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the time that all of us are taking to talk about the serious issues that really matter to the people in our ridings.

One thing I heard really clearly was the discussion around insufficient EI. When we came to the period of time with the COVID crisis, the first step the government proposed was to use EI. I think my colleague would agree with me that of course there is a huge gap in that. As a member who represents a rural and remote riding with a lot of tourism, I know it can be an ongoing struggle for people to get enough hours.

Looking through the lens of COVID and into the future of where EI should go, could the member share his ideas?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.

I agree that we must debate these kinds of things, but if we are to do so, members cannot go along with gag orders, which is unfortunately what the NDP did. The employment insurance system is in need of major reform. We have been wanting to address the EI spring gap for years.

As for the CERB, the Bloc Québécois brought up the need for incentives to work at the beginning of April, but we were told that this was impossible. Now, the government is saying it is possible. Our Liberal friends need to get their stories straight. EI cannot be reformed without debate and committee meetings. The government's plan to prorogue Parliament and issue a gag order was certainly not the way to get it done.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my colleague for his thoughts on the fact that the government's tracing app does not apply to certain provinces when it comes to entering a diagnosis. A person cannot enter a diagnosis in Alberta or Quebec.

It is interesting that he spoke about health care and jurisdiction. The federal government is talking about intruding into provincial jurisdiction, but it has failed to discharge its own responsibilities in its areas of jurisdiction, including by having a tracing app apply such that people can enter a diagnosis in any part of the country.

I would appreciate his thoughts on that.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be brief.

This government has no clue about the jurisdictional boundaries between the federal government, the provinces and Quebec. It is not complicated, but the government does not understand how it works. The Liberals should reread the Constitution and stop interfering in matters under our jurisdiction.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition on a point of order.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-7PrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to briefly respond to the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in response to the question of privilege I raised some time ago.

The parliamentary secretary argued that because the question of privilege was raised when the House opened on the second sitting day after the throne speech, the requirement to raise the question of privilege in a timely manner was not met.

One of the precedents I stated concerning past Speakers who reviewed findings of prima facie cases of privilege was the ruling given by Speaker Milliken on February 6, 2004, at page 243 of the Debates. That ruling was given in immediate response to a question of privilege raised that morning on the fourth sitting day following the opening of that session.

With all due respect to my colleague, if Speaker Milliken ruled that four days were enough, then we believe two days are also enough.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-7PrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I thank the hon. member for this additional information. The Chair will take it under advisement and make a decision later after reviewing everything that has been presented.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

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

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, for the past several months, we have been living through an unprecedented crisis, the likes of which we have never seen at any time in our history.

In the throne speech, the government announced the implementation of three new benefits to replace the Canada emergency response benefit or CERB. They are the Canada recovery benefit or CRB, the Canada recovery sickness benefit or CRSB and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit or CRCB. I am going to speak about these three benefits.

With the historic changes that have been made to make employment insurance more flexible, most of the people who until just recently were receiving the CERB will now be able to receive EI benefits. However, even with the more flexible criteria, some 900,000 people will be left without an income once the CERB comes to an end. The CRB is made for those people and that is good news.

This spring and summer, I toured my riding of Beauport—Limoilou. Organizations and businesses alike feared that the CERB would stop all of a sudden. I met with representatives of the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Québec, the Jeune chambre de commerce de Québec, the Regroupement des gens d'affaires de Beauport and the Société de développement commercial 3e Avenue de Limoilou.

Business people all lamented that the CERB and the benefit for students, the CESB, were not flexible from the outset, like EI. In their initial form, the CERB and the CESB put businesses—dozens, if not hundreds of them in my riding, and likely in most ridings—in the position of having to single-handedly prop themselves up by replacing employees who did not show up for work.

That was one negative impact we called out from the start. Those businesses are winded, exhausted and at their wits’ end. If they do not make it, our entire economic recovery is at stake. We do not talk about it enough, or say it loudly enough, often enough.

Two questions remain for these business people. Why was the CERB not flexible from the outset? Also, what was keeping the CERB from being flexible and having the same rules that have been applied to EI for years?

Despite these legitimate questions, both business people and organizations are pleased to see that the CERB will not end suddenly. Quebeckers are happy, too. Many of them came to me and asked what they would do if their sector did not resume and the CERB ended. How were they going to put food on the table? How were they going to keep a roof over their heads. They are relieved.

I would, however, give a word of warning to my constituents. In 2021, they will have to pay a lot of taxes, an arm and a leg. Not only is CERB taxable, but the taxman will charge them 50¢ for every dollar they earn over $38,000. As a result, they will have to plan ahead. They will have to do some calculations to ensure that they will be able to afford to pay what they owe the government when they file their income tax returns.

I do not know many people who can afford to wake up one morning and write the government a cheque for thousands of dollars. People need to plan ahead. In Quebec, a person earning the average wage and receiving the maximum amount allowed under the CERB will have to write a cheque for roughly $5,000 to $6,000 next April. People need to mark my words and plan ahead.

I often think out loud, so here are my reflections. I am not interested in nitpicking; I want solutions. Could claimants have declared their income every week, every two weeks or once a month, and could the infamous 50¢ over a certain amount be taken directly off their cheque, instead of pushing the deadline back to April of next year?

To what extent will today's assistance become tomorrow's economic and financial nightmare?

The Canada recovery sickness benefit will provide real relief to anyone who has to self-isolate for 14 days either as a preventive measure or if they test positive. This benefit responds to concerns I have heard from many people. People have asked me what would happen if they had to self-isolate again since they cannot afford to be without any income or lose their job. This benefit responds to their concerns, and it is a good measure.

I have another question. If people have to self-isolate twice over the next few months, can they receive this benefit twice or are they eligible only once? Are people eligible every time they have to self-isolate, or is it a one-time measure?

The third CERB replacement measure responds to the concerns of parents, whose child might be sent home from school at any time. I will speak for a mother I spoke with over the phone a couple of weeks ago. Her 15-year old daughter was suddenly sent home to self-isolate because the entire class was in isolation after someone tested positive. She told me that according to the government, she had to leave her sick daughters home alone for two weeks because they are teenagers. She added that this was not about a cold, and if one of her daughters' condition started quickly deteriorating while she was gone, the government would put her between a rock and a hard place because her daughters are over 11. She would have to choose between taking care of her sick daughters and working to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

That woman, that mother, is right to ask questions. Every child is different and every person reacts differently to the illness. It is not for the government to decide whether a child is able to stay home alone to take care of themselves. It is up to the parents. Let's expand the measure to youth 16 and under and give the parents the right to assume their responsibilities and make their own decisions.

To summarize, the amounts proposed will benefit many Quebeckers and Canadians. However, I would like to make two suggestions. First, we have to come up with measures that will not put people in a financial stranglehold come next April. I will give an example to explain my second recommendation.

Imagine a parent whose 14-year-old tests positive. In the morning, the parent goes out and leaves their child with some acetaminophen, a glass of water, some soup and an emergency phone number. Everything is there. At noon, the parent calls, no one picks up, and they decide to call later as their child might still be sleeping. When they calls again, there is still no answer. Concerned, the parent rushes home and finds that their child is in respiratory distress.

No one wants that to happen, but if parents cannot stay home with their teenager, this could happen. Let us extend the benefit to adolescents as well. That is the least we can do.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I have had the privilege of serving alongside the hon. member in government operations. I have known her to be a very caring and compassionate member of that committee.

In her speech, she outlined ways in which people, in the long term, continue to get left out of this particular bill. Would the hon. member not agree with extending supports to people who are currently left out? In the long term, not knowing the effects of COVID and the potential for long-term disabilities associated with it, does it not make sense to potentially look at deeper ways in which we can provide critical supports for people living with disabilities or disabled people?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

People with disabilities are, indeed, too often forgotten. We can help them, and temporary measures may not be enough. We will have to take time to think and dig into these questions so that we can meet these people's needs, instead of simply doing what we think is best.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member spoke about entrepreneurs and how they were tired. We could really hear the passion in her speech about that.

A family farm, a local flatbed truck operator and a mechanic in my riding of Essex do not qualify for the CEBA because they operate their businesses through a personal bank account. However, these same businesses, using these same accounts, pay their taxes and collect HST.

Would the member agree that proroguing government for six weeks was perhaps even more detrimental for these small businesses of which she so graciously spoke?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Was it a bad idea to prorogue Parliament during a crisis like the one we are experiencing? Indeed, it was. It was a bad idea not only for our farmers, who need our support, but also for the public and for democracy as a whole.

We have the right and the duty to speak on behalf of our constituents, not for ourselves or our party, but for everyone.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's wonderful speech, in which she spoke about all kinds of important amendments that should be made to the bill. In my opinion, these are worthwhile amendments.

However, we barely have enough time to study the bill. The government wants to rush it through, which means that we will not have time to examine these very important issues. What does my colleague think about the fact that we do not have time to make these amendments?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Earlier, I was saying that the prorogation was a bad idea for democracy. Closure is also a bad idea for democracy.

This is not about going on and on about a bill for 25, 30 or 40 weeks. It is simply a matter of making proposals so that the government and the opposition parties can come to a consensus.

I have been here for two days and for two days I have been hearing the government say that we should work together. We want to do that, but the Liberals are imposing a gag order. That is not democratic, period.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I would like to touch on a number of areas.

The first thing I will do is pick up on the last question and answer and on some of the comments made by the members, particularly the Conservatives, about prorogation. It is interesting that the last questioner said that we shut down the House for six weeks. On the surface, one might think that is a terrible thing to do. However, when we understand what really took place, most Canadians would support what the government has done.

When we talk about the prorogation, it meant that instead of coming back on the Monday, we came back on the Wednesday, so we lost those two days. We also lost one day in August. However, keep in mind that this is the first government in the last 30-plus years to have the House sit in July and August. We sat more days in July and August than we lost in the prorogation.

A member across the way has said that this is not true, but it is true.

Members have to stop listening to the Conservative spin and see the reality of what we face today. Instead of listening to their constituents, they are listening to the Conservative spin and that is a serious problem. It is one of the reasons we are doing what we are today.

I give credit to the NDP and the Green Party members, who can be pretty brutal with some of their comments on the floor of the House. They are not necessarily friendly in all matters toward the government of the day, but they recognize that this is important. They recognize what the motion is trying to accomplish. They understand it and they appreciate it. They might have some issues with it, but they are supporting it. Unlike the Conservatives and the Bloc, they believe it is in the best interest of all Canadians that we remain focused on their needs and ultimately see legislation pass. We should not look at it as a possible option; it is absolutely critical that it pass.

I take exception to many of the comments from members who are saying it is undemocratic. I was in opposition in the far corner for a number of years when Stephen Harper was the prime minister. If members want to talk about assaults on democracy, they just need to go back to the Harper era.

Let us look at what has taken place with the pandemic. Virtually from day one, the Prime Minister has been very clear. He wants the House to focus on the pandemic and do what we can to protect the interests, health and well-being of Canadians. From day one, that has been the issue with this government. In the last number of weeks, we have talked a great deal about the economy and restarting it.

When we talk about accountability, I challenge any one of the members of the Bloc or the Conservatives to stand in his or her place when it comes time to ask a question. I would like those members to tell me when was the last time they met on the floor of the chamber and were afforded the opportunity to ask not just hundreds, but probably thousands of questions of the government of the day.

Opposition members had a wonderful opportunity to convey their thoughts and ideas with respect to the pandemic, share their concerns with the government and press the government on those issues in the months of July and August, which, at least in my 30 years as a parliamentarian, I do not ever recall being provided to opposition members.

Going back to my days in opposition, we would get a question and might get a supplementary one. What was provided here for opposition members was they could go five minutes steady, have three quick questions, a long question, a preamble and then go back-and-forth and the minister was obligated to respond in that same time frame.

At the end of the day, opposition members were afforded the opportunity to hold the government accountable. I did not try to tell them that they should not ask questions about this or about that. We all know where they focused a lot of their attention. I do not think it was with respect to, at least not for the most part, the health and well-being of Canadians even though we were into a pandemic.

Now those members are upset, saying that they want more time to debate Bill C-4, which is why they oppose this. However, they had no reservations at all this morning to bring in a motion for concurrence on a report, which literally killed two hours of potential debate.

They have a great deal of experience and have no reservations at all in using what parliamentarians often refer to as a “filibuster”, and they are good at it. I give them full credit for that. In the last five years, I do not know how many times I have seen two members of the Conservative Party stand. After one speaks, the other one moves that another Conservative be heard to precipitate the bells to ring in order to waste more time. Another example is that they argue for debate and then move a motion to adjourn for the day.

It is not that they want to see more debate, the focus of the Conservatives is more on wanting to show Canadians that the House of Commons is dysfunctional and cannot work. It does not matter who sits in the prime minister's chair, unless it is a Conservative. The House of Commons cannot do its work. I have seen that time and time again over the last five years, with Conservatives as the official opposition.

There was a budget where one member consumed virtually 98% of the whole debate time allocated. I remember that well, and it was not me. It is not that I was jealous or anything of that nature, but having said that, again, those members have no reservations. When they stand now and say that they want more time to debate, based on what I have witnessed, that is just not true.

If the members had 10 hours, they would want 15 hours. If they had 15 hours, they would want 20 hours. They want to frustrate the government. The Conservatives consistently try to prevent the government from passing legislation or any other measures. I believe that is the reason, at least in part, why the NDP and the Green Party are having to support the type of motion we have before us. They realize that if we do not bring in motions of this nature, they would never pass. We cannot please the Conservatives.

It is not because Conservatives want more debate. I do not believe that for a moment. It seems that this is their sole purpose for existing, at least the Conservative leadership's. It is not meant as a reflection on any individual member of Parliament, but the Conservative driving force, the leadership team, if I can put it that way, its focus is not what is happening in terms of the pandemic. When I say “Conservatives”, I mean the Conservatives here in Ottawa. I believe their focus is to be as critical as they can about the Prime Minister and other ministers. They will zero in on any Liberal and point out every blemish they believe is there.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

There's a lot to point out.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind members who are virtual to make sure they keep their microphones off. Otherwise, we will have to look at other measures if they wish to continue heckling that way. It is not acceptable. I know it is an effort to do that, and it is being purposely done. I would ask that members refrain from doing that.

The hon. parliamentary secretary has a little over eight minutes and then there will be 10 minutes for questions and comments, so I would ask people to hold onto their thoughts.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I would love the opportunity to see members from within that leadership change their attitudes, especially at the time in which we find ourselves today. People are experiencing, in all regions of our country, a wide variety of different types of hardships stemming from the pandemic. At a time in which communities throughout our country want us to be focusing on how we can improve the conditions, the Conservatives continue to be focused on their original objectives after losing the election back in 2015. They often suggest I should move on and maybe not even mention Stephen Harper. I would suggest that they need to move on. They need to realize that it is the Conservative Party, in part, that needs to change the channel and start getting on with what is taking place in our communities. Those hardships are very real.

One member across the way heckled that we caused it. I think it is a stretch to try to tell the world it was the Government of Canada that caused the pandemic. It kind of shows the silliness of the Conservative Party. We, from virtually nothing, created programs that literally put hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in the pockets of Canadians at a time when they needed it.

Members can imagine, through the pandemic, finding oneself unemployed as a direct result of having to stay safe, as companies had to shut down or close doors temporarily and in some cases, unfortunately, permanently. The CERB program has assisted well over eight million, and I believe it is close to nine million, Canadians. The wage subsidy program has saved tens of thousands of jobs in all regions of our country. These are programs that have had a huge positive impact on our communities. Without them, our communities and our society would have been damaged in a more significant fashion, which would have ultimately caused our economy and our way of life to suffer a whole lot more.

The government needed to step up, and not only did the government step up but so did other governments. We came up with the safe restart agreement with the different provinces. Manitoba is one of those provinces. Its premier, Brian Pallister, has written a letter providing thoughts in regard to the restart program. I would like to quote a couple of items from the letter, because I think it emphasizes the important role that Ottawa and our provinces play, and we need to work together.

This is a direct quote from the Premier of Manitoba, making reference to the safe restart agreement: “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 goes on to say:

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.

Through the co-operation and the recognition of the seriousness of the pandemic, we have cities, provinces, our national government and so many others that have come to the table, recognizing how important it is that we collectively remain focused on this second wave. That is what the bill actually deals with: how we can carry forward the types of supports that are critical to Canadians. That is why a number of my colleagues got fairly upset today when the Conservatives tried unsuccessfully to change the debate this morning to something that had nothing to do with the second wave of COVID-19.

While the members across the way continue to talk about the process for dealing with the legislation to ultimately see it pass so that we can continue that support, I would encourage them to leave the Conservative spin to the side and focus on what they believe their constituents would want them to say in the House in terms of the programs that are absolutely critical in order to be able to get Canada as a nation through this second wave. We can accomplish so much more if we do what the Prime Minister is asking us to do, which is to work together at protecting the health and well-being of Canadians while, at the same time, supporting our economy where we can.

A lot more needs to be done. The message that I want to leave those who are following the debate or Canadians as a whole is that the Government of Canada will continue to be there for Canadians until we have permanently resolved the issue of this pandemic.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his lengthy speech. I recognize the member is very passionate about this, but so are we, and so are the NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc. We are all passionate, because we are all working for our constituents.

We all know that these programs that were announced needed to be announced, because September 30 was the deadline. When prorogation was set, the Liberals already knew there was going to be a problem.

I am wondering, and perhaps the member could share with me, whether prorogation was to cover the butts of the government, or did the government actually think it reset the agenda? If that was the case, I am confused as to why we are having to go through this debate today, pushing through this thing. If we had done this last week, we would have been in better care. I am also having to share with my constituents that with this time frame, they will already have to wait because the government prorogued.

I am wondering if the member thought that was a good idea or not. How were Canadians going to get their benefits if the government was not working?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it was important for the Government of Canada to prorogue the session, turn the page and put its sole focus on the recovery and the pandemic. That was an important thing to do.

The member asked if we were trying to cover something up. She is probably referencing WE, as an example. I am wondering how many times the premier of the province of Manitoba has been questioned, because the Manitoba government has contracts with WE, so I am wondering if there is some corruption over there. Is that what the member opposite might imply? I would suggest that the Government of Manitoba should continue to focus its attention, as it has been, on the recovery and the pandemic. Maybe at some point in time, and I could be wrong, the opposition in Manitoba might look at what took place in the province of Manitoba with respect to WE and the Progressive Conservative government.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech. I listened to it carefully. He said that help for Canadians was vital, that it was important to pass bills and that we should have done more.

I want to tell him that we could have done all of this earlier, well before the prorogation.

At the end of April, and in May and June, when we had a token version of Parliament where we could not move motions or debate or pass bills, other places in the world and even not too far away, in Quebec, were holding parliamentary committees where members could move motions and vote on bills. We could not do that here.

I do not understand why the government is now blaming the Bloc Québécois by saying that our party does not want to help Canadians quickly, when that could have been done in the spring.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, a number of members of Parliament were hoping that we could have some sort of voting mechanism in place that would have enabled the House to participate by following health experts' advice and providing that physical distancing and so forth, but because we could not get the Conservatives to agree to having virtual votes, it limited what we could do. The Bloc and the Conservatives have a lot of things in common; that is not one of them.

Maybe the Bloc members should be talking to some of their friends in the Conservative Party, for example, and looking at ways we can improve upon this. We have already passed through the summer, and it would have been nice had the Conservatives agreed to some mechanism that would have enabled MPs to be more empowered, but it was the Conservatives who chose not to do that.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the NDP has been very clear about our desire to get 10 paid days of sick leave for Canadians from coast to coast to coast on a permanent basis. We believe that the federal government could show leadership by providing those 10 paid sick days to workers in the federal jurisdiction, by amending the Canada Labour Code. The provisions we are debating today do not include those, because the government is adamantly opposed to granting those 10 days of paid sick leave within the federal jurisdiction. Why is it that the government does not believe Canadians should be entitled to 10 paid sick days on a permanent basis?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, first and foremost, I would just recognize that it is encouraging to see that at least there are some political entities, such as the New Democrats and the Greens, that have actually seen the value of the legislation and are supporting us as we go through. Obviously, in a minority situation we need to have the support of more than just the government. Therefore, I do appreciate that and want to extend my thanks in particular to the leader of the New Democratic Party.

When we talk about those 10 paid days, it is in fact incorporated, in good part. Lobbying occurs. It is important to recognize that a lot of the changes that we see today come from efforts of individuals from all political parties. Many of my caucus colleagues have been lobbying in their constituencies and in Ottawa, lobbying with ministers, in particular on this file, to try to effect some changes. I am glad to say that we have seen many changes as a direct result of the fine work of members of Parliament sharing their concerns.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my first time putting a question forward in this format.

I would agree with the member for Malpeque, in earlier debate today, that this was not a prorogation of the kind that challenges our constitutionality and our Westminster traditions, but it did not need to be weeks long.

I have asked the parliamentary secretary if it is not the case that stopping the work of committees is the key question that has offended us in the opposition ranks. It is not that we lost days of debates in July and August, when, I agree with him, they were not typical, but we did have all the work on committees stopped. How does he justify that?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the former leader of the Green Party seems to imply that she would have been okay with the prorogation if the committees had been able to continue. The tradition of the House of Commons is that when a prorogation takes place, committees stop. Maybe that is something that could be talked about going forward as we look at changing the rules.

At this point in time, I believe it was appropriate, given the nature of the pandemic, that we prorogue. It allowed us to bring in a new throne speech and to set a path for the next months, and possibly years. That was essential.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary raised a very interesting point a few minutes ago when he thanked the New Democratic Party for at least, in addressing him, asking an actual question of substance in respect to policy.

We have Bloc and Conservative members who, during what they are characterizing as extremely limited time to speak, are still continuing to talk about this apparent limited time that they have to speak. That is coupled with the fact that this morning a concurrence motion was brought in that had absolutely nothing to do with this agenda, let alone this session of Parliament. What are the parliamentary secretary's thoughts on the games that are being played within the House right now?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, I was not surprised. I somewhat anticipated that the Conservatives might try something of that nature, primarily because I do not believe, at my core, that they are really arguing for additional debate. Their ultimate goal is to make Parliament, the House of Commons, and the debate look as dysfunctional as possible.

I believe that is their real objective, even at a time when Canadians need the Conservative Party to be more responsible and to co-operate, as other political parties are doing, in order to deal with this pandemic and protect our economy. However, it is never too late. Maybe we will see some more encouraging signs from the Conservatives in the coming weeks and months.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, I very much enjoy the member for Winnipeg North's spin on how he thinks the proceedings in the House of Commons are going. He lives here quite often and does quite a lot of work. He carries a lot of water for the current Liberal government. I know he takes pride in that.

There are some things that I will probably take issue with, but I understand how much work the member does, and that he carries the water for the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Office, all while taking on some of the slings and arrows that no one else on that side of the bench wants. I remember another Liberal from western Canada who did that. That Liberal had been elected for 25 years, and he was Mr. Ralph Goodale.

The member across said that he had been elected for 20 years. There is only so long someone can carry the water for Ottawa before going back out to western Canada and western Canadians asking, “When are you going to start being a voice for us again?” Mr. Goodale went through that in the 2019 election. I would like to give some advice to my learned colleague across the way: There is only so much water a person can carry before that bucket spills over, leaving their constituents to think that they are not being supported any more.

This process to go through $57 billion of spending over the last four and a half hours is very interesting. The member stated that we as the opposition always want to create chaos to make it appear that the House is not functioning properly. I say that there is nothing further from the truth. I think we are working as team Canada. We want to contribute.

We contributed with the CEWS, the emergency wage subsidy, when the government first brought it in. We talked to our constituents across the country. They told us it was not going to work for businesses. We also went to members of the opposition. I believe that is one of the reasons why the benefit increased from 10% to 75%.

Members on this side have helped with the team Canada approach and have added some constructive criticism. That in turn has helped Canadian businesses to keep employees longer. It has helped people get through the pandemic, but more often than not, when we put ideas forward, there is a feeling that we are left without teammates.

When it comes to us working as part of team Canada, the Liberal member suggests that we be constructive and bring forward ideas. We continue to do that. I remember asking questions of the minister responsible for economic development and employment in July.

The member has said there was a full Parliament, but there was not. It was a COVID-19 committee. Once again the spin and the rhetoric does not match the words coming out of the member for Winnipeg North's mouth because there was no full Parliament. We know that. When he is says that, the member is trying to mislead Canadians.

He has also said that this has been the most open and transparent government in history, which could not be further from the truth. I remember during the start of the pandemic, when we were having our COVID-19 committee meetings, the Prime Minister was in his cottage hiding under his bed because he did not want to make a decision for Canadians. He would pop out every day like a cuckoo clock when the media was there to give his two-minute statement, take three softball questions and then go back into Rideau cottage. I do not think that was showing leadership when Canadians needed it the most.

The member of Parliament for Winnipeg North sits there and says that there has been great leadership and the government has shown Canadians that it has been there every step of the way. I know that constituents in Regina—Lewvan do not feel that way.

I know the hon. member also said, “When standing in this House you should say and speak of what your constituents would want you to say”. I am sorry to say, Madam Speaker, that if I did that you would ask me to leave because sometimes my constituents use colourful language to describe how they feel the Liberal government has left them behind time and time again.

The member said that we are talking too much about prorogation. I think that over the 10 or 15 years he was on these benches, in the corner, he talked about former prime minister Harper and his government proroguing Parliament. The opposition at that time could not scream it loud enough from the rooftops, but this is a different situation. This is a Liberal government. This is just another case of “Do as we say, not as we do. It is is respectful for us to prorogue Parliament because we are going to do a reset”.

The member keeps saying that we are going to turn the page, but he does not finish his sentence. What did the hon. member want to turn the page from? Why do we have to turn the page? The election was not very long ago. The government is only a year into its mandate. What does the page need to be turned from? There was a throne speech. Why did we have to have another one?

Both throne speeches are the same. The Liberals have the same recycled promises they will never follow through on. They have been promising child care and day care probably since I was in day care, so they have never really followed through on that one. The problem we see on this side is there will be 50 billion to 60 billion dollars' worth of spending, so forgive us if we do not think we should just write blank cheques to the Liberals.

I should have said this earlier, but this will be a shorter speech because I will be splitting my time with the member for Perth—Wellington.

Forgive us if we do not feel the Liberals deserve a blank cheque. I have another sports analogy about this and it concerns teammates. Lots of time on a sports team there are unforced errors. We feel it is the unforced errors of the Liberals that have caused the slow response to COVID-19. They all knew that on September 30 we were going to need new programming in place because CERB was ending.

However, we see unforced error after unforced error, including the WE scandal, the Prime Minister's chief of staff's husband getting a contract for $84 million, the Prime Minister's friends and family benefiting from the WE scandal, and Frank Baylis getting the contract for ventilators that were never certified. All these scandals backed up their agenda. They had to prorogue Parliament because, as the member for Winnipeg North said, we had to turn the page.

It is not the Conservatives' fault we are sitting here debating 50 billion to 60 billion dollars' worth of spending in four and a half hours because the Liberals did not have a plan for Canadians. They have continued to leave Canadians behind throughout the whole pandemic.

As the new shadow minister for economic development, I see the one thing missing from the throne speech, in which they said they are going to turn the page, is that the words “private enterprise” were only mentioned once, because the Liberals think private enterprise should help develop the COVID-19 app. There was no mention of releasing private enterprises' ability to spend money, to ensure they are able to hire more people and to help regain our economic advantage in the natural resources sector.

The member for Winnipeg should know that across western Canada there are 20 billion dollars' worth of private investment ready to go. The Liberals are building a pipeline that a private company was going to build. If the Liberals would have got out of the way, they would not have had to spend $4.5 billion on a pipeline and another $10 billion to help build it. The private sector would have done that, and we would not have had to waste public dollars.

The private sector gives money to help all these programs they want to run. When we have a throne speech that mentions private enterprise and private business once, that is not a plan for an economy of the future. That is not a plan for Canadians.

What Canadians wanted from the government in the throne speech during a pandemic was some hope and stability. They wanted to know, after COVID-19, what does Canada look like next? They did not want a bunch of ideologies. The problem right now with the Liberal government is there are no public servants on the front benches. There are a bunch of radical ideologues who want to change what Canada looks like to fit their picture of Canada.

That is not what Canadians want. Canadians want to go back to work. Canadians want to help their families get ahead. Canadians want to know that after we get through this COVID-19 pandemic together, there is a future for their children.

I have three young children. After I leave Ottawa and go home, they are going to ask me what I did at work. I want to say that we tried to make sure we had time to talk about our future, and that our future has hope and optimism for our children. I do not want our children to think that what they have seen over the last six months is what Canada is going to look like for the next six years. It is our job to ensure that the next generation has the same chance to succeed that we had.

As we go through this bill, we hear from the other side of the aisle that the Conservatives do not care, that Conservatives do not want to put forward ideas and that Conservatives do not want to make Canada better. It is all just untrue. It makes us feel pretty upset that the Liberals talk about wanting to have a team Canada approach, but our teammates continue to make unforced errors. They make sure they do not take advice from this side of the House that would make sure Canadians can get back to work and ensure we have success going forward.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Don Valley West Ontario

Liberal

Rob Oliphant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, my question relates very much to only part of the member's speech. I have been listening all day to people on all sides of the House criticizing the government for taking time to prorogue Parliament to write an appropriate throne speech for a crisis that we are facing.

I was here in 2008 when Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament. It was prorogued for months and months, not to change, not to reset, not to do anything different, but simply to save his own butt. That is what he was doing. I would like to know what this member did during prorogation to add to that. We held meetings, we held round tables and we held town halls to contribute. What did the hon. member do during that very brief prorogation?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, I was here too in 2008 during prorogation, as a staffer, and I know Prime Minister Harper actually spoke to the other leaders when he was talking about prorogation. I know finance minister Jim Flaherty talked to other members across the House to know what they would like to see in the budget to ensure they were going to work on behalf of Canadians. You guys should be half as good as those guys were in 2008.

When I was going around in my constituency talking to Canadians and my constituents, they said they wanted the private sector to get back to work. They wanted to know that there were jobs. They do not want a handout; they want a hand up. They want a government that would put Canadians first, instead of putting its friends, business people and wealthy lobbyists before everyone else across the country.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind the member that he is to address his questions and comments directly to the Speaker and not to individual members.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his speech. I picked up on his desire to explain to the government members that we are here to work constructively and that we want time to study bills. That is the reason we are here.

Yesterday evening, we voted on a Bloc Québécois motion calling for collaboration with the intent of helping everyone, a motion that was in keeping with the hon. opposition leader's statements. In front of the media, the opposition leader claims he wants to respect Quebec's jurisdiction and help people. Yesterday, we moved a motion calling for just that: respecting Quebec's jurisdiction, increasing health transfers because that is what the provinces and Quebec need, and helping seniors starting at age 65.

I must have missed something. Can you explain to me why the Conservative Party voted against that motion?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind hon. members to direct their comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Regina—Lewvan.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, there are times when we will be able to work together as parliamentarians across aisles and across party differences, and there will be times when we disagree. I think we should respectfully disagree when we have those opportunities, and when we can, we should work together to ensure that Canadians have a better future going forward.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am confounded by hearing Conservatives talk about workers and the working class. In fact, one of their hon. members talked about how, at the beginning of COVID, they did not believe in big fat government programs, so my question is this. The Conservatives have been very critical about the government's income support programs during the pandemic. Would Conservatives have offered an income support program to Canadians during the pandemic, and if so, how would it have differed from the program that was offered by the government?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, we have very similar ridings, so I think the best work program we could ever create is to unleash the private sector. The member has pipeline workers in his riding and I have pipeline workers in mine. We should get pipelines built. We should work together. We should release the private sector so we are able to make sure everyone is working together building pipes and everyone is working together to make sure we have jobs going forward for all Canadians, unionized and non-unionized alike.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the House of Commons. This time, for the first time this session, I am doing so virtually, from my home riding of Perth—Wellington.

Before I begin my remarks this afternoon, I do feel it is important to note a historic event that happened 35 years ago today. I was reminded of this event by Art Milnes of Kingston. It was on this date in 1985 that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed the first Black lieutenant governor of Ontario, the Hon. Lincoln Alexander.

Lincoln Alexander was certainly a Canadian who broke barriers at the time of his life as the first Black member of Parliament for the Conservatives and the first Black cabinet minister in Canada. Certainly his appointment 35 years ago today is equally of historic note.

We join the debate today on Motion No. 1. It is somewhat unfortunate that my first speech at length in this chamber during this session is one that is a motion of a guillotine. This motion provides exactly four hours and 30 minutes of debate on this matter, on Bill C-4. It provides for no committee study, no clause-by-clause consideration, no questions to ministers, and no opportunities for clarification on the implementation or the ramifications that this bill may have on Canadians. It provides for no witnesses, no comments from Canadians, from organizations and groups, from experts or from academics. In short, it provides for very little in terms of formal input from Canadians.

Of course, the government has noted, quite rightly, that many of the benefits that have been introduced for Canadians ended this week, but that does not excuse the opportunity that the Liberals wasted when they could have introduced legislation prior to this date. Certainly, before they prorogued on August 18, they could have tabled legislation on one of the Wednesday committee of the whole sittings that were scheduled for the weeks after they prorogued Parliament. They did not.

Even as recently as this past Friday, our new opposition House leader provided the government with the opportunity to have a Sunday sitting. We, as opposition parliamentarians, were ready, willing and able to be here on Sunday to debate this piece of legislation. We were ready to hear from the ministers and to question ministers on the implementation of this bill. We were ready, but the government was not. Rather, the government saw fit to introduce the guillotine motion and to cut off debate.

This brings me back to the importance of the opposition. My colleague from Regina—Lewvan talked about the team Canada approach. Certainly, early in this pandemic we often heard the Liberals talking about the team Canada approach, but for whatever reason, we do not hear them talking about team Canada anymore. Perhaps that is because half of team Canada is being left on the bench.

I would note that if it were not for the opposition and our pressure, there likely would not have been changes to the wage subsidy, which saw the government move it from 10% to 75%. It was good to see that the Liberals finally endorsed the back-to-work bonus that was introduced by our former leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, which actually provided an incentive for Canadians to transition back into the workforce.

Could one only have imagined if the government had implemented some of our ideas earlier in the pandemic, when we called for more strict quarantine measures for Canadians returning to Canada from international hot spots? We cannot improve legislation when we are being muted. It is unfortunate that the government has failed to see the important role the opposition plays in the governing of our country.

I am often reminded of a speech that was given in 1949 on the role of what was then His Majesty's Loyal Opposition. It was delivered by a then little-known member of Parliament from the riding of Lake Centre in Saskatchewan. This member, of course, went on to become better associated with the next riding he represented, that of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

John Diefenbaker said this in that important speech:

The critical question is often asked as to why the need of two sides in Parliament, one to propose and the other to oppose. The simple answer is that the experience of history has been that only a strong and fearless Opposition can assure preservation of our fundamental freedoms and of the rights of the individual against executive and bureaucratic invasions of those rights.

We are here to protect those rights of all Canadians and to speak up on their behalf.

There is no question that this pandemic has had an impact on Canadians across this country. I would dare say there is not a single Canadian who has not been affected in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it is families, farmers, small business owners or children.

One point that is important to highlight again and again is the fact that the government has failed on rapid testing and at-home testing. We see our international colleagues implementing these programs for quick testing so that they do not see the massive lineups or the wait times for single parents waiting with their children to get tested. The government has failed on this matter.

The government has also failed on reunifying families. I have raised the case in this House on a number of occasions, and so have my colleagues, of my constituent Sarah Campbell. Sarah has been separated from her British fiancé Jacob since February. It was bad enough for a young couple in love to have to cancel their June wedding, and I am sure many Canadians can associate with the disappointment that this would have caused, but what was truly heartbreaking was that within days of their scheduled wedding date, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and throughout her surgery and treatment, she has been separated from her fiancé.

Sarah has written over 100 letters to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, as well as to the Prime Minister, with very little response. In fact, only yesterday, Sarah's case was raised by my colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, and the Minister of Immigration did not even get my constituent's name right, despite it being in the question.

No one is calling for the borders to be reopened, but what we are calling for is some compassion, some compassion for committed long-term relationships and for adult children to be reunited. Unfortunately, Sarah and so many others like her continue to wait and are met with apathy from the Liberals across the way.

My riding, like many ridings across the country, is heavily agriculture-related, and the challenges that our farmers and farm families face are astronomical. I have talked to local farmers, farm businesses and agriculture processors about how this COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their businesses. I hear about the challenges they face in accessing programs such as CEBA loans in redressing COVID-19 through the existing business risk management programs. Farmers and families feel that they are not being heard by the Liberal government, and it is truly unfortunate. Now is the time that the government needs to come to the table with farmers and farm families and address the challenges that they have faced with the business risk management suite of programs.

As well, Perth—Wellington is home to many cultural and artistic attractions, including the Stratford Festival, Drayton Entertainment and Stratford Summer Music. These, in the tourism industry, have been hit the hardest. They are among the first to have been cancelled as a result of the pandemic and they will be among the last to emerge from the pandemic.

Arts and culture affect the whole tourism and hospitality sector as well. From speaking with local business owners who own restaurants, bed and breakfasts, motels and hotels, I know that businesses that have been around for sometimes multiple generations are now concerned about how they are going to get through not just the next six months but the next 18 months, and they are just not seeing the hope, the reassurance that we will come out of this pandemic better than they were before.

I want to end by saying how unfortunate it is that we are debating a guillotine motion here in the House rather than addressing the concerns of so many Canadians, like the restaurant owner in Stratford, the farmer just outside of Drayton, the family from Mount Forest that is not quite sure whether their job will still be there in a few weeks. Now is the time to really address the concerns of Canadians, but instead of having the opportunity to have a full discussion on the bill, a multi-billion-dollar spending bill, we are instead limited to four hours and 30 minutes.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also regret that we have to be put in this situation, but the reality is that the only thing the Conservatives seem to want to talk about is how they have been impacted by their inability to discuss and debate the motion we are going to be talking about shortly. They do not actually have anything to contribute to the debate.

My question to my colleague is very simple. Given his concern over the fact that we are debating this right now instead of Bill C-4, did the member share the same concern when it came to a motion of concurrence that was debated this morning? It had absolutely nothing to do with this session of Parliament. It may be a very worthy cause for the Conservative Party to take up, but the timing was absolutely ludicrous given that there was no relevance to the need to do it today. The member must share the same view when it comes to that motion.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can certainly see why the member for Kingston and the Islands would not want to talk about the ethical lapses that are all too apparent on the other side of the House. The 10 ethical lapses from the former Liberal member would be relevant to holding the government to account. We have a Prime Minister, a Liberal Party leader, who has been found on four separate occasions, and likely will be again, to have broken the ethics rules of the House of Commons. I can see why the member would be leery to talk about these things.

However, the fact remains that this concurrence motion had to be moved within the next few sitting days. This does not take away the fact that the Liberal government has still provided only four hours and 30 minutes for discussion on Bill C-4. The fact that the opposition had a concurrence motion does not change the fact that the Liberals have left four hours and 30 minutes for Bill C-4.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech.

I am going to repeat the question I asked the previous member, because I did not get an answer. In the speech, I can clearly see the intention to work to improve conditions, and so on.

Yesterday, we voted on a Bloc Québécois motion calling for respect for the jurisdictions of the provinces and Quebec, which is what the new Conservative Party leader claims to want to do. This motion also called for an increase in health transfers, which would truly meet the needs of the provinces and Quebec, respect their jurisdiction and ensure that we keep moving in the same direction. Lastly, this motion also called for help for seniors starting at age 65.

I would like to understand why members are making speeches today saying that we are going to work together and improve the lot of Canadians, when last night they voted against such a motion.

I must be missing something.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for his question.

Our leader, the hon. member for Durham, said very clearly that he wanted to work with the provinces and that he would respect provincial jurisdictions.

Our opposition party, the Conservative Party, also made it very clear after the throne speech that we would like to see increased funds allocated to the provinces for health. We recognize that health care is a provincial responsibility, and everyone in our party would like to work with the premier—

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We have time for one more short question.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very familiar with my hon. colleague's riding. It is close to mine. It certainly has a great impact on mine because of incredible things, such as what he spoke about regarding the Stratford Festival. A lot of jobs go into my riding because of his community and I am quite grateful for that.

The member talked about small businesses and restaurants. So many of them rely upon those incredible arts communities. I am sure the member has heard from many small business owners about the failures of the government's CECRA plan for commercial rent. The Liberals were supposed to provide $3 billion and have only provided about half that.

Could the member comment on that and how that has impacted the incredible small businesses in places like Stratford and St. Marys?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to economic recovery in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right about the challenges for local businesses in Stratford, St. Marys, Mitchell, Listowel, Mount Forest, Arthur and Drayton. They have all experienced challenges with the commercial rent program. The uptake just was not there. The fact that we see so much of that $3 billion left on the table has been a real failure for small businesses in my riding, in the member's riding of London—Fanshawe and across this country. It has been a real failure on the part of the government.

Standing Order 69.1—Bill C-4—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we continue, I am prepared to rule on the point of order raised on September 28, 2020, by the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie concerning the applicability of Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19. I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this question, as well as the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Government House leader for his intervention.

The hon. member for Banff—Airdrie asked that the Chair use the authority granted under Standing Order 69.1 to divide the question on the motions for second and, if necessary, third reading of Bill C-4. He argued that the bill is an omnibus bill that contains an element that should be voted on separately. In particular, the member asked that part 3 of the bill, dealing with the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act, be the subject of a separate vote, as he contends that it is a distinct initiative unrelated to the rest of the bill.

The hon. parliamentary secretary argued that all elements of the bill are part of the government's response to the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and that this constitutes its unifying theme.

As members will recall, Standing Order 69.1 allows the Speaker to divide the question on a bill where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked. The critical question for the Chair, then, is to determine to what extend the various elements of a bill are indeed linked.

Bill C-4 does contain different initiatives. Part 1 enacts the Canada recovery benefits act to authorize the payment of the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit in response to COVID-19.

Part 2 amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things, amend leave provisions related to COVID-19.

Finally, Part 3 amends the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act to limit, as of October 1, 2020, the payments that may be made out of the consolidated revenue fund under that act to those in respect of specified measures related to COVID-19, up to specified amounts. It also postpones the repeal of that act until December 31, 2020.

One could make the case, as the parliamentary secretary did, that there is indeed a common thread between these various initiatives in that they are all related in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In presenting his argument, the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie referred to the two rulings by my predecessor on Bill C-69 and Bill C-59, where he decided that the standing order could be applied to a bill that dealt with the same policy field as long as the initiatives were sufficiently distinct as to warrant a separate question. Each of those bills contained changes in the fields of environmental protection and national security, respectively.

The Chair is not convinced, however, that Bill C-4 is of the same nature. While each part of the bill is a distinct initiative, all three measures are in response to a specific public health situation, namely the COVID-19 pandemic. A close examination of the bill also shows that each part is designed to replace, supplement or extend measures enacted early this year that are expiring.

As my predecessor stated in his very first ruling relating to this Standing Order, on November 7, 2017, found at page 15095 of the Debates, and I quote:

Members will know that many bills contain a number of initiatives on a number of policy areas, some of which members support and some of which they might oppose.

The amending process affords members an opportunity to propose changes, including the opportunity to remove portions of a bill to which they object. The question for the Chair, in applying Standing Order 69.1, is whether the matters are so unrelated as to warrant a separate vote at second and third reading.

In this particular case, there is a government motion before the House that would limit the opportunity to amend the bill. Though the amendment proposed by the opposition House leader would provide such opportunities, the Chair cannot prejudge what the House may decide in this regard. The Speaker's duty is to determine whether the criteria in Standing Order 69.1 have been met.

In my view, all of the measures contained in Bill C-4 relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this constitutes a common element linking them together. Accordingly, there will be only one vote at second reading for this bill.

I thank the hon. members for their attention.

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

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Anthony Housefather LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to address the House for the first time from my riding of Mount Royal. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Malpeque.

I am very pleased to speak today in support of the legislation before us, which would help Canadians and businesses as they face challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic has evolved, it has become clear that while everyone is affected by the crisis, not everyone is affected equally. While millions of Canadians have returned to work, we are aware that individuals in certain sectors continue to need the government's support because they do not have a job to go back to. While we know that Canada will make it through this crisis, we also know that the months ahead will continue to be challenging.

Simply put, this bill proposes to create three new temporary recovery benefits to help Canadians who are still unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. It also proposes to change the Canada Labour Code to ensure that workers can access these benefits. As our government outlined in the throne speech, our plan is to follow a steady course and continue to support Canadians through this pandemic for so long as it is necessary.

I would like to use my time today to outline what the Government of Canada has been doing to support Canadians during this unprecedented situation and how that has led us to the legislation that is before us today.

Last March, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada took a number of extraordinary but necessary measures to protect and support Canadian workers and businesses during the crisis. To help them get through this extremely difficult period, the government created the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency wage subsidy.

These measures, among many others, were introduced to help workers who were impacted by COVID-19 to provide for themselves and their families, as well as to help businesses keep their employees on the payroll. Additionally, they made sure that employees in federally regulated workplaces would be able to take time off work to deal with situations related to COVID-19, such as school closures and the need to self-isolate.

The government introduced a new leave under the Canada Labour Code. The leave, related to COVID-19, came into effect in March and was designed to complement the CERB. The CERB provided income support and the leave provided federally regulated employees with access to job-protected time away from work.

We also took steps to make it easier to access certain existing types of leave by waiving medical certificate requirements, easing the burden on health care systems and helping to ensure that every employee who was sick or needed to provide care for a loved one was able to stay home. Also, we took action to protect the jobs of employees in the federally regulated private sector. We provided employers with more time to recall employees who had been temporarily laid off due to the pandemic. These measures have helped protect the jobs of employees who would have otherwise been automatically terminated due to the length of the layoff.

We also temporarily extended the eligible wages period of the wage earner protection program by up to six months. This extension will ensure that any delays in insolvency proceedings as a result of the pandemic do not negatively impact workers' eligibility for the program.

As our Prime Minister has said, this government will continue to take a whole-of-government approach to respond to COVID-19. In other words, it is a team Canada effort. To protect the health and safety of Canadians, and to support workers and businesses, communication with the provinces, territories and our stakeholders has been essential.

Throughout this pandemic, we have heard from union representatives and employers in many sectors, including aviation, trucking, rail transportation, banking, telecommunications, broadcasting and courier services, to name just a few. These representatives collectively represent almost one million federally regulated workers and thousands of other employers across the country.

We also met many times with our provincial and territorial counterparts to share information, best practices and available resources with them. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Quebec's minister of labour, employment and social solidarity, as I had the pleasure of speaking with him several times in March.

One thing is certain: We all have a common objective, and that is to ensure that workplaces are safe, that workers are protected and that businesses and the Canadian economy are as strong as they can be.

As Canada's economy continues to adapt to the COVID-19 era, the health and safety of workers remains our government's top priority. That is why we are implementing measures to ensure that employers and employees have the resources they need to return to work safely and responsibly.

All employees in Canada have the same three fundamental rights: the right to know about the hazards present in their workplaces, the right to participate in decisions regarding their health and safety at work, and the right to refuse work that they have a reasonable cause to believe is dangerous to themselves. These rights, the responsibilities of employers and the structures created to support them, such as workplace health and safety committees, form the basis of internal responsibility systems in workplaces.

Today, I would like to reiterate the importance of employers taking the necessary steps to ensure that their health and safety committees or representatives are actively developing plans for a safe return to the workplace, and that these plans are widely shared with employees. Employers are also responsible for providing any training that may be required to ensure a safe return to the workplace. Strong and clear communication is crucial to ensuring that all employees have the information they need to work safely.

During the pandemic, we worked with stakeholders. We reminded them that an adaptable plan for preventing risk, ensuring full participation of health and safety committees or representatives in all decisions relating to health and safety, and using technology to communicate effectively with employees is crucial.

For federally regulated workplaces, these rights and requirements are set out in part II of the Canada Labour Code and its regulations.

We understand how important it is to ensure workplaces have the support and guidance they need during this challenging time. That is why I was so pleased that our Minister of Labour announced the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, or CCOHS, would receive $2.5 million over two years to continue its extraordinary work. This funding is part of a coordinated effort by federal, provincial and territorial governments, public health authorities and the CCOHS to make sure businesses have all the necessary tools and resources to protect their employees.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have put Canadians first. We provided the support they needed to make ends meet while staying safe and healthy, and that is exactly what we are going to keep on doing through the next phase of the recovery. The CERB was an important and necessary temporary response to support Canadians who had to stop working due to the pandemic.

To safely restart the economy, Canada must continue to ensure that workers do not return to work if they have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms. That is why, to encourage workers to comply with public health measures when they are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, our government is proposing the Canada recovery sickness benefit.

With this bill, Canadians would continue to get the support they need through a proposed suite of three new benefits: the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. The legislation also proposes amendments to the Canada Labour Code so that federally regulated employees can access both the CRSB and the CRCB without fear of losing their jobs.

The proposed changes to the code would modify the existing leave related to COVID-19 to extend its availability beyond the previously set repeal date of October 1, 2020 and align it with the two new benefits. These temporary measures would help Canadians overcome the many challenges they are facing while encouraging people to safely return to work.

We are not out of the woods yet. We need to be ready. We need to make sure Canadians are protected for as long as this pandemic lasts. We also have to protect our economy and keep it strong. A strong economy depends on the safety and security of our workers.

In my view, in the same way as the CEWS, the CERB and programs like CECRA released during the beginning of the pandemic helped to protect so many businesses and people in my riding, the legislation before us will help us all get through the next phase of the crisis while we protect the economy. That is why I encourage all hon. members to support this legislation.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, simply put, the CERB, the Canada emergency response benefit, offered $500 per week claimed. That was money paid without source deductions, so it was $500 in full with the expectation that it would be paid back in the following year's taxes. The Canada recovery benefit is the opposite: Deductions would be taken off at the source.

Does the member believe it is better to give people less money right now, and does he support the government's move to do that?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on his new critic appointments. At the beginning of the pandemic, people were quite desperate. People were losing jobs and were not used to all that was going on, and the importance was getting out a benefit that put as much money as possible into people's pockets. It meant it would be taxed at the end of the fiscal year, in 2021.

At this point, the overview of this new benefit is that it would be taxable at the source. That is reasonable under the circumstances, where we are now further on into the pandemic. It is not to say that people do not have a need, but it is now a reasonable proposal to tax the benefit at source.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is my first time speaking virtually to the House. It is a bit strange.

I thank my hon. colleague from Quebec for his speech. The 125 members of the Quebec National Assembly have unanimously called on the federal government to transfer funding for health care to Quebec. Federal transfers currently cover 20% of health spending in the provinces, and the Premier of Quebec is calling for that amount to be increased to 35%.

What does my colleague think about the fact that all members of the Quebec National Assembly are calling on the federal government to transfer money to Quebec for health care, when it is a provincial jurisdiction?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague. It is always a pleasure to speak with him.

I am proud to say that 84% of the money given to support Quebec taxpayers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic came from the federal government. During the pandemic, we worked hard with our counterparts in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Now is the time for working together. It is not the time to incite squabbles between the federal and provincial governments.

I hope to be able to work with my colleague and the Bloc Québécois team to find better ways to support Quebeckers and Canadians during this pandemic.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is important to place the context of this debate under the looming end of the Canada emergency response benefit. We are having this debate, and its urgency can be linked to the fact that the Liberals prorogued Parliament on August 18. We could have used the six weeks between that time and the scheduled return of Parliament to deal with this.

Would the member agree with me that the Liberals' action of proroguing Parliament on August 18 left many Canadian families with a deep sense of uncertainty and, as a result, we are now having to do all of this at the eleventh hour in an incredibly rushed fashion?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to work with my hon. colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I have to disagree with him. I think the government has been outstanding in its response to the pandemic thus far. Over the last several weeks, the government has planned a new agenda from the Speech from the Throne. We worked together as best we could with opposition parties to craft the modalities that are in Bill C-4. I know that we share the same objective, which is that Canadians who are out of work at this time or who need to stay home because of COVID–19 get these benefits and are protected within federally regulated workforces. I very much hope my hon. colleague will be supporting this bill.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, indeed, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19.

Although I did start out to speak to Bill C-2, which has the same name, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4. I certainly agree with the ruling the Speaker just made. It is an improved bill and better addresses the needs of citizens affected by COVID-19 either directly or indirectly.

The bill, or at least some of the issues and policy flowing out of the bill, shows that this place, the Parliament of Canada, can work well for Canadians through discussions, compromise and a willingness to accept the fact that not any one party has a lock on good ideas or good policy approaches.

While this bill looks forward, I do believe it is important to take a moment to recognize how far we have come since this place basically closed down in March, when we were sent home to try to operate Parliament in a different way. A lot of programs have come out to help people and businesses weather as best they can the financial and health difficulties caused by the pandemic.

Regardless of political stripe, I believe we have to say the government acted quickly. It introduced programs that made a huge difference for the economy, for families and for businesses. It did so quickly. In terms of CERB. I do not think we would have thought it possible that the public service and the government could actually come up with a program that could handle 10,000 applications a minute. That is a pretty phenomenal feat, and I think we should be proud of that.

I went through them today and by my count there are slightly over 100 programs that have been introduced. Liquidity has been provided to the lending institutions, coordinated planning has been established with the provinces and territories, and programs have been flowing out of the Government of Canada based on discussions with the premiers, and in fact with all parties in this House. Roughly $19 of every $20 have come from the federal coffers. Some of my colleagues on the former finance committee will talk a lot about the deficit. However, it is a fact that the federal government is better positioned to carry some of that debt rather than transferring it to individuals, businesses or indeed the provinces, because our rates are preferred, and we certainly hope they stay that way.

Programs were introduced, subject to change, which is unusual. They were not introduced with a hard line that they were going to be the bottom line come hell or high water. They were introduced subject to change, recognizing there were going to be problems and changes that needed to be made. They were improved with the input of members from all parties. I doubt the public knows, but all of us in this House know that members had the opportunity to participate in daily conference calls with senior members from several departments across the Government of Canada.

Through those calls, we had the opportunity to question and discuss, and programs were improved with input accepted from all members. Members could give their input based on how they saw the programs working on the ground, whether it was CERB or any other program. They could give that input from whatever region of the country they reside in.

We must acknowledge members of the public service for participating in program development, in working long hours and participating in those conference calls night after night after night. They would explain programs and answer questions. They would sometimes take criticism. They would accept changes and make recommendations to the various ministries as a result.

We were not always successful in the issues we put forward. I know both the member for Edmonton Centre and I put forward in those nightly calls that CEBA needed to be changed to allow personal bank accounts to be considered. That still has not changed. I am still demanding that the government change that so the people with personal bank accounts and not business accounts can qualify for the CEBA or the RRRF. That needs to be done.

Members from all parties have raised that point. It should not be a program where the banks get the benefit. It has to be a program where people get the benefit. I am disappointed in how I see the banks living up to their obligations in the pandemic at the moment, because they have been provided billions of dollars of liquidity. Many of us in this House agree that change needs to be made.

I sincerely want to thank all members of the public service for their efforts under trying circumstances. They are under the pressure of a health crisis, working from home and working under completely different circumstances than they are used to.

All the programs made a difference. I can certainly say in my riding and across the country the big ones were CERB, the wage subsidies and CEBA. However, now it is time for future extensions and future improvements. That is what we have in Bill C-4. As my colleague before me mentioned, there are three main areas in this bill, three new benefits.

The first is the Canada recovery benefit, which will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for workers who meet the eligible criteria. In other words, they do not qualify for employment insurance, are not employed or have a reduction of at least 50% in employment or self-employment earnings and are available and looking for work. That is important. I do not mind admitting that one of the concerns I have with CERB is I hear from too many businesses that they cannot find workers. There has to be balance here. We need to be there for people who cannot find work, but people also have to be willing to work if work is available. The changes made under employment insurance make it necessary for people to be going out there and striving to gain work.

The second major area in this bill is the Canada recovery sickness benefit. That will provide the same amount of money I mentioned in the first program. This is for workers who are unable to work at least 50% of their normal work because they contracted COVID-19, have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatment or have contracted another sickness that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

The third area is the Canada recovery caregiving benefit which will also provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for eligible workers who are unable to work at least 50% of their normal work and need to take unpaid leave to care for a child under the age of 12 due to school or day care closure, or a family member who requires supervised care and is unable to attend a day program.

There are changes. What I tried to outline is that a lot has happened since the COVID-19 pandemic hit this country. All parties can take some credit for those programs.

The government moved rapidly and with this bill today we see how we are recognizing some of the lessons learned from the programs we have put out there and that there needs to be other changes made. I do not have time to go into the employment insurance changes, but they are good as well. We need to debate them further and continue on improving them until we see the end of this pandemic.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for the hard work he did on chairing the finance committee.

In that committee, we did a lot of good work. It is a real disappointment that work got shut down when Parliament was prorogued. One of the great things we did at committee was we would study. We would study the effectiveness of programs, government programs and some of the packages that were put out.

We now have a new bill in front of us in which, given what we have seen before, we have the highest spending per capita in the G7 and the highest unemployment. The two do not coincide very well. We now are going to approve another bill in effectively two days. Is the member not concerned that we are not doing further analysis on what is within this bill like we would normally do at committee?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I certainly have enjoyed working with the member for Edmonton Centre on the finance committee as well. In fact, between early April and probably early June the committee heard between 300 and 400 witnesses provide their views on COVID–19.

We are in an urgent situation at the moment. The pandemic continues to evolve. We are in the second wave. We know the CERB is running out. We have an obligation as a government to move as rapidly as we can and have a fairly reasonable debate in the House. It is always better to take more time, but we just do not have the time. The need is there at the moment. The government is showing it is willing to change and adapt programs, and I am sure it would be willing to do the same with this one as we go down the road and the needs arise.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech. I found it interesting, especially when he said that his government had learned some lessons from what happened in the spring.

If we remember what happened in the spring, we had a government that was pushing all kinds of measures and programs through quickly, saying time was of the essence. Often we would give it the benefit of the doubt and let things slide. Then we would ask for corrections, but the government would refuse them. For example, the work incentives that we proposed implementing in CERB would not have prevented people from receiving the benefit; they would have simply resulted in a better economic recovery.

A new bill is under consideration, and we barely had time to read it. It is going to have to be passed when it could have as many flaws, if not more, than the existing programs. I am trying to understand what they learned from the spring, because I feel like we are going through exactly the same thing.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the government has shown us throughout this that it was willing to listen to members. Look at how some of the original programs were designed and how they have changed.

The member opposite said that with CERB there needs to be employment incentives, and there are. There is the encouragement to go back to work. There is other programming that is not directly related to COVID–19. We can look at how the government expanded the funding for the regional development agencies across the country to be able to assist businesses to create jobs. It used the RRRF in place of the CEBA for those businesses in the rural areas that were not really dealing with the big chartered banks. The government has shown that—

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We are going to try to get in one more short question.

The hon. member for North Island—Powell River.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that has always been a concern in my riding, which is one of the many rural and remote ridings in this country, is Internet access. If anything has been very clear during this time it has been what that means when everybody has had to move to a more virtual reality. I think of all the small businesses in my riding that are trying to be innovative, but the lack of accessible Internet is the biggest concern.

That is something I do not think the government has taken into consideration in a way that means action. I wonder if the member could talk about his government and the lack of action it has taken.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very legitimate concern about broadband Internet across the country. One thing we have learned from the pandemic with people working from home, etc., is that they need good Internet access. The minister, in response to a question in question period today, answered some of what the member just asked about.

There has been greater funding put into obtaining better broadband across the country, which is starting to roll out. I will admit it may be a little too slow, but at least the government has taken the initiative to get it out there so that Canada can be more connected and rural Canadians can have the same service as urban Canadians across this country.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say right at the beginning that I am sharing my time with the really effective and remarkably hard-working member of Parliament for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

There is no secret that we will be supporting the bill because of the NDP amendments. Historically, for the first time since Confederation, we now have provisions for most Canadian workers to have sick leave. The NDP amendments also force the government back on what it was trying to do, which was to cut back on the amount of money that will go to families who are desperately trying to keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads.

For those reasons we will be supportive, but we deplore how the government took it to the precipice, the very edge of the cliff. At a time when so many Canadian families are struggling, they left over a million Canadian families not knowing on Sunday night, as the emergency benefits expired, whether they would actually have the wherewithal to feed their families. That is what I deplore, that the government did not think about what the impacts of its actions and its lack of action would be for the many, many families across the country impacted by its decisions over the last few weeks. The Prime Minister wanted to avoid the controversy of the many scandals that we have seen erupt around COVID funding, but the government did not think about the impact on regular Canadian families. We deplore that.

I would like to devote most of my brief few minutes today to another deplorable fact, which is the government's treatment of people with disabilities.

We will recall that, as the pandemic hit, the government took about four days to put in place an aid package, not for people with disabilities or seniors, or anyone else, but for Canada's big banks. It was for $750 billion, an unbelievable amount. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars in liquidity supports was provided to Canada's immensely profitable banking sector. There were no conditions attached to that. It was just a massive handout of largesse and support for the banking sector. Since then, of course, we have seen banks in Canada racking up, during a pandemic when people are struggling and businesses closing, over $50 billion in profits so far. That is just in the last six months.

We see how the government can act with alacrity when it wants to. When banking lobbyists come, there are no holds barred. It just provides the hundreds of billions of dollars in liquidity supports that the banking sector asks for. We have seen the massive increase in inequality across the length and breadth of this country because of that alacrity to always respond to the rich and the well-connected.

There are 20 billionaires in Canada who have increased their wealth over the course of this pandemic in the last six months. While so many families are struggling and so many small businesses in my riding and ridings across the country are struggling to avoid that tragic moment when they close the door, turn the key for the last time and walk away from what is often a lifetime's investment, 20 billionaires have increased their wealth by $37 billion.

Let us contrast that with the situation of people with disabilities in this country. As colleagues may be aware, I worked with people with disabilities in British Columbia. I helped to found the disability employment network. What we found was that there are so many obstacles put into place for Canadians with disabilities across this country. If we could prioritize accessibility in this country, we would be seeing a country that is vastly different from what it is now.

Right now, half of the people who have to go to food banks to make ends meet are people with disabilities. More than half of the homeless, the people who are sleeping in street corners and parks across this country, are people with disabilities. That should be a source of shame to every single one of us in the House and every single Canadian across this country.

We believed that things needed to change, so we moved immediately. In April, as colleagues will recall, we brought forward a motion. The motion was for the government to proceed without delay to provide emergency supports to people with disabilities. It passed on April 29, unanimously. Every single member of Parliament in the House said it had to be a priority.

Then nothing happened for weeks and weeks, as the pandemic increased, as people struggled, as people with disabilities who were seeing increased expenses were trying to figure how they could make ends meet for another month. The government sat for about a month and a half before it endeavoured to bring forward legislation that missed the vast majority of people with disabilities. We said this is not good enough, and in July the member for Elmwood—Transcona provided very important guidance to the minister and to the government on how to set up a system.

We achieved, in July, a bill that provided supports to most people with disabilities. To our chagrin, we found out that a vast number of people with disabilities are not even coded into the federal system. One would think that would mean cabinet and the government would act immediately. If we are missing a third of people with disabilities, let us code them into the system so that we can provide supports for all, but no, that never happened.

We still passed the legislation through the House in July. The member for Elmwood—Transcona said, if we code it now, at least the people who are registered in the federal system will get their supports at the end of August. That was good direction. That was good advice and we put the legislation through. This is phase two now. We have been waiting since April and now we are one day away from the month of October. The banking sector received $750 billion in liquidity supports in four days, and Canadians with disabilities struggling just to keep a roof over their heads, struggling to put food on their tables, have not received one cent.

This is not something that is partisan. Every single one of us in here, every single one of the members of Parliament who are listening right now on Zoom, should be ashamed of what the results have been. The most disadvantaged people in our country have not received one cent of support in the greatest pandemic that we have seen in over a century. That should shock all of us. That should make all of us ashamed, yet nothing has happened. We raised this issue continuously. We have negotiated three agreements now where the government has agreed to provide the supports. Parliament as a whole said in April, without delay, let us get this support out to people with disabilities across the country, yet nothing has happened.

I am ashamed and members of the NDP caucus are ready right now to go across the street, to go to the CRA, and start licking stamps. If there are not enough stamps on the cheques, we will send them out. If the cheques have not been printed, we will help any way we can. We want to make sure that money gets in the hands of people with disabilities immediately. There can be no excuse for any further delay. This has been the biggest shame of the pandemic: The government for six months has done nothing to support the ones who are most in need.

I will say that I am optimistic for the long term. I see disability activists stepping forward and speaking out with powerful voices like never before. I am thinking of people like Penelope, Maddie, Nunya, Mondee, Patrick and Sarah. These are disability activists who are making people, through social media, aware of what their daily lives and struggles are like. I am optimistic, despite what is a source of national shame, that eventually we will get to the point where people with disabilities will have the same rights in Canada that they have in other countries, the same accessibility. We will end the practice of ramps that end with two stairs, or deaf events with American sign language interpreters but nobody from the deaf community invited, or big signs in Braille at the entrance of colleges and universities but inside no accessibility.

We will build the kind of inclusive society where Canadians with disabilities can fully contribute, as they want to do and as they can if we eliminate the obstacles, to the growth and the betterment of our country. However, it starts with providing those supports now. The government has no excuse for delay. Let us get that support into the hands of people with disabilities immediately, so that they have the wherewithal to get through the next period of this pandemic.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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, I think in July or it might have been in August, the minister brought forward legislation dealing with the issue of disabilities. I was quite inspired by her comments in regard to the lack of infrastructure in terms of identification, which limited the ability to be able to make payments. My friend from the New Democrats has made reference to that indirectly if not, quite frankly, directly.

All of us would like to see the payments go out. I believe back then, the commitment was to building the infrastructure and getting payments out hopefully in early fall. I would have loved to see it earlier, and it is still a work in progress, but I wonder if my friend could provide some comment in regard to the many different organizations that are out there that indirectly support Canadians with disabilities. Many of those organizations have received some support. Again, it does not go anywhere near far enough, but we would not want to give the impression that there has been no support. Whether it is directly or indirectly, I believe there has been some, but obviously, there could have been a lot more.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened by the member's comments. I feel, as many members in the NDP caucus do, the incredible frustration of people with disabilities who have not received one cent.

Instead of the government standing up and saying, “We are sorry. We screwed up”, which we understand has already happened, it would be good for the government to say to Canadians with disabilities that “We screwed up and we will fix it”. That would be the only appropriate response to what has happened here. That is the only way that the government can respond.

Yes, some money went to disability organizations. What difference does that make for somebody who is going to lose their one room because they no longer have the wherewithal, due to the increase in expenses because of the pandemic, to keep that roof over their head? What does that mean to somebody on the streets? What does that mean to somebody who has to go to a food bank because that is the only way they are going to be able to feed themselves and feed their family?

The fact that some disability organizations got some money is insignificant to what they are living through now. The government must respond to what they are living through now, and those cheques have to go out now.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby who is very outspoken about how disappointed he is in the Liberal government because the money still has not been transferred since the spring.

The thing that bothers the Bloc Québécois is that every MP from Quebec is calling for an increase in health transfers. We are in a pandemic. That is a health issue, is it not?

We have needs. Testing facilities are open, hospital staff are working overtime, a lot of money is being spent and this federal government has yet to commit to meeting this demand.

The government has enjoyed special powers since the spring. What have they done? They made sure to help their friends in the WE movement, they forced investigations—four committees were looking into this issue—they prorogued Parliament to turn our attention away from it, and when we tell them we want money for health they say no.

My question for my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby is this: Is there no one in New Westminster—Burnaby who needs money for health services?

I think this is an extremely urgent matter and I would like to see this indignation manifested in the vote on the throne speech. For the time being, the NDP are venting their anger, but they have announced that they will vote with the Liberals on the throne speech.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

This is the problem. For years, before the Bloc came or returned to the House, the NDP always defended health budgets. Conservatives made cuts and we attacked the government of the day for making those cuts.

The Liberals came to power saying they would make changes. They did nothing. The NDP will continue to champion and advance health management issues.

The issue raised by the member is very important. It is about the importance of having adequate funding for health care. We will not stop there. We have always been consistent on this issue and we will continue to push for a health care system that is adequately funded.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I want to acknowledge my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby and the passion he brought to the House on behalf of the disabled community. For my constituents in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, I will repeat those basic points.

The fact is that the House came together and made a commitment so many months ago for persons with disabilities, but we still have yet to see any money flow, and here we are almost in October. We have essentially left the most disadvantaged and marginalized members of our society to the very last. I agree with my colleague that it is very shameful, and I want to thank him sincerely for the passion he brought to the House to illustrate that point.

I have been listening to this debate throughout the day and it has been very interesting to hear various members of Parliament from all parties relate the stories from their ridings. That has served to establish a kind of bond among us. Yes, we have our political differences, but the stories from our individual ridings are largely the same. There have been the same struggles and uncertainty and I want to convey that in the House. For the people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, it has been a very rough number of months. The very least we can do as parliamentarians is recognize the acute phase of the crisis and the tremendous amount of uncertainty. We owe it to our constituents to rise to the occasion, to meet the needs out there with programs and services that will ensure Canadians know we have their backs.

I have to also outline my incredible disappointment in the way today's debate is happening. Yes, of course, I am going to be supporting the legislation. After all, it is a result of a compromise, where the NDP proposed some very important measures. Those measures being incorporated in the legislation are going to make things fundamentally better for Canadians. However, I have to decry the fact that this debate now has to be rushed at the eleventh hour. I believe my colleague used the word “precipice”. We are now at the precipice, because this debate is happening under the looming end of the Canada emergency response benefit, and this was totally unnecessary.

We had an agreement with the government to have several sittings over the summer months. We demonstrated an ability among oppositions members and the government to bring back the full House of Commons when emergencies warranted it. We were expecting business to go along as usual under that same rubric. Unfortunately, when August 18 rolled around, many of us learned, with extreme shock and surprise, that the Prime Minister had taken it upon himself to prorogue Parliament until Wednesday last week. It thereby shut down all the work that was being done at committee. It shut down any ability of the House to come back and deal with emergency legislation. It forced us into the situation we find ourselves today, where, because of the constraints of time, we are having to rush this legislation through.

I am very sympathetic to the concerns of my Conservative colleagues. I was here in the last Parliament and know what it is like to face so-called guillotine motions and operate under the constraints of time allocation. In the previous Parliament, that was employed many times. However, I find myself having to go along because of the simple constraints. So many Canadians families operated through August and into early September with that uncertainty, uncertainty of what would happen when the emergency response benefit ran out, because during that time there was no follow-up program.

Yes, there was some vague announcement from the Government of Canada about using the employment insurance system and so on, but we as parliamentarians, on the opposition benches at least, knew there would need to be a legislative change to implement that. A press release is one thing, but bringing back the House to go through the legislation to ensure it will do what it purports to do is another.

I have to decry the fact that prorogation was employed in such a way. The going narrative was that it was for a parliamentary reset. Give me a break. The throne speech we witnessed last week was not a reset; it was a rehash. It was a trip down memory lane of failed Liberal promises. There was nothing new or inspiring in it. We have promises that go all the way back to 1997 that are still ongoing. I am sorry, I do not buy the argument that it was a parliamentary reset.

I also have to express some disappointment in my Conservative colleagues. I am sympathetic to their arguments of wanting to have more time, but what did I witness this morning? I witnessed a concurrence motion being brought forward on the floor of the House of Commons to discuss the conduct of a Liberal MP who is no longer a member in the House.

We wasted an entire morning debating a completely useless motion, in my view. None of my constituents care about a former Liberal MP and his ethics violations. We can do that any other time, but to do it at the eleventh hour when so many Canadian families are living under this uncertainty is unforgivable. We wasted an entire morning when we could have had more members of Parliament expressing their views on this.

That being said, we have an opportunity here to finally under these constraints come together and bring forward some program changes that will make lives better. They are going to give that certainty finally.

I came to Ottawa to make Parliament work. That has always been my goal during the five years I have had the honour and privilege of serving as a member of Parliament. This Parliament is certainly a lot more different than the previous one. We were operating under a majority government at that time. This time, the Canadian people sent us a message in 2019 that they wanted to see us work together. By and large, I have been pretty proud with how that has worked out during the time of the pandemic, today notwithstanding, and the circumstances we operate under.

When we look at this legislation, as New Democrats, and we are a small but mighty caucus, we were able to use our leverage. We are not here to prop up the Liberals. We are here to do our jobs. At times over the last number of weeks, I have seen both the Liberals and the Conservatives unhappy with us. Any time New Democrats make the Liberals and Conservatives uncomfortable, it tells me we are doing our job properly.

The very fact that we managed to bump up the benefit from the Liberals' proposed $1,600 a month to $2,000 is a significant thing, and we should be proud of that. Four hundred dollars in a month's time is a lot of money. It is the difference between getting groceries or being able to fill up one's car. We felt, because we are now about to enter a second wave, that we needed to give people financial certainty, especially those people who have not yet been able to see their businesses reopen or do not have jobs yet to go back to. We needed to give them the certainty the government was still there to provide that important backstop.

As well, there is paid sick leave. This is a huge victory. It does not go as far as we would like, but at least it is an acknowledgement that it is important to have. We do not want to have a system where workers are having to make that choice between their health and their source of income. We do not want workers who are sick or think they may feel they have COVID going to work, potentially shutting that business down and spreading it around to the population. This is a time when we have to remain vigilant and be on our guard against that.

I wish I had more time to talk about this. My final message for the good people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford is that this is a demonstration of us coming together. Yes, it is under the eleventh hour, but we have come together and we have secured some benefits that are going to measurably make their lives better and hopefully give them a little peace of mind in the weeks and months ahead.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague opposite and I have done some great work together on the agriculture committee. I always enjoy his interventions.

I have never been to the community he represents, but I understand it is blessed with a lot of tourism. I would be curious as to what the member opposite has been hearing in his community and if there are tourism-related jobs in his riding for which these types of benefits would be extremely important, given the fact that tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries. What is his perspective and what are his constituents saying about how important this legislation is to support them in the days ahead?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do like to brag quite a bit about how beautiful Vancouver Island is, and I thank the member for giving me this opportunity to do so again.

It has been tough. We are used to having visitors from all around the world come to our beautiful island. Where I live, it is Canada's only Mediterranean-style climate. We are blessed with incredible scenery, the beauty of British Columbia, the beautiful mountains coming down to the ocean. The best salmon fishing in the world happens in my riding, although my other Vancouver Island colleagues might dispute that.

The fact is that tourism has been hit hard. Efforts are under way where we are trying to ensure that locals are rediscovering their region. We are hopeful, through those strategies and the benefits that are on offer, that we can make some success come back to our hard-hit region.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the things the member mentioned in his speech was the lack of time we had to debate these things. I want to ask him about the fact that the House of Commons was prorogued over six weeks ago. What does he think about that and the amount of time that was wasted because of the prorogation?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, here is the thing. Prorogation can be used as a tool with a legitimate use, but if done properly. Every now and then a government may find itself in need of a reset. I argue, though, with the timing of when this tool was used. This prorogation tactic could have been used, with great legitimacy, the week before our scheduled return, not as far back as August 18.

As to my friend's question about the timing, the fact that it happened the day after there was a dump of 5,000 pages of documents with a standing committee shows me that the Liberals were quite worried about what was in those documents and wanted to shut down the committees so they could not investigate the content.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

The NDP is not being clear, and I would like my colleague to enlighten me. Yesterday, the Bloc Québécois moved a motion that called for health transfers, among other things. Some members voted in favour of the motion, while others voted against.

What is the NDP's position on the billions of dollars in health transfers Quebec is calling for?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry I am not from Quebec. It is a beautiful province and it is a very valued member of the Canadian confederation. I can only speak from British Columbia's experience.

I acknowledge, of course, that the provinces have jurisdiction over health care, but I will always argue that there is a strong role for strong federal leadership in ensuring a Canadian, no matter what province he or she lives in, has the same rights and access of any other Canadian no matter what province or territory people reside in.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too am extremely disappointed in the lack of funds going out to people with disabilities. In my community, in the block behind my office, I have a homeless camp and some people there are living with disabilities.

Has the hon. member seen the same situation in his riding, where vulnerable people are living on the streets and should not be there?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member's riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith is my northern neighbour. We have very much the same problems in the Cowichan Valley. We are also buckling under the weight of an opioids crisis, which has not gotten enough recognition from the federal government. Our communities need help. We need help with the homelessness issue. We need help with the rampant drug abuse that is going on and the incredible number of people we are losing to this epidemic.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great opportunity to participate. I just want to start by thanking all of the incredible people who work in the House, the administrative and technical staff, for making this possible. I have to be at home right now, but the fact that I can still participate virtually is a great service, not just for me, but for the people I represent. I am extremely grateful for the ability to do this.

Last night, the world passed a milestone. I do not know if a lot of people heard about it, were paying attention to it or are aware of it. Last night somewhere around 4 a.m., we passed the one-million mark for number of people throughout the world who have died from COVID-19. This means that within the last eight months or so, this virus has spread so quickly throughout the world and infected so many people, that we are now at the number of one million deaths throughout the world.

In Canada, we are extremely fortunate. We should always strive to have absolutely no deaths in a pandemic like this, even though that reality is very unlikely to happen. Nonetheless, Canada has only had just slightly over 9,000 deaths. Like I said, it is still a lot, but compared to some of the other countries, in particular those in the G7, it is a relatively low death rate.

I bring this up because I think it is extremely germane to the discussion we are having. This discussion is about timing and about how important it is to deal with something with great haste to ensure Canadians get the supports they need. They need to have that security to continue to support themselves and pay their bills during a time when they are also experiencing a great deal of anxiety.

Over the last number of months, we have made those programs better through work with all parties in the House, and I have no problem giving credit to the NDP and Conservative parties where it is due.

I heard comments earlier today from the Conservatives. One member in his 10-minute speech said the Liberal government does not want to work with the Conservatives, but then about two minutes later he went on to talk about how the Conservatives would like to take all the credit for changes to the employee benefit because of their hard work. I have no problem giving credit where credit is due. The Conservatives did play a very important role in helping to shape that policy. That is what this has been about from the beginning.

It has also been about moving very quickly. I mentioned this many times in the House, but I am going to say it again. What we saw at the beginning of this pandemic was politicians working together to get the CERB out the door, which would have taken about 18 months by any normal standard. We put it together five days. We have an incredible public service that took this program and pushed it out the door to get money into the bank accounts of millions of Canadians in such short order. We are talking about one month and four days to get money into the bank accounts of 5.4 million Canadians from the day COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the WHO.

I truly believe that it is because of that speedy work and the reiterations on the fly and the willingness for the Conservatives, at times, to push for what they thought was right. Through the Speech from the Throne and what we are experiencing now through this piece of legislation, the NDP were pushing forward to focus on people who inadvertently were not given the full attention they should have received. That is what a minority Parliament is supposed to work like.

When I hear Conservatives say things to the effect that Liberals are not working with them, it is just completely untrue. By their own admission, they will take credit for the fact that they had a lot to do with increasing that wage subsidy early on in the pandemic. As we start to debate this bill, we want to move it forward as quickly as possible.

It is about extending and moving into the second phase of these various different supports for Canadians, whether that is a support to help people stay at home with their children or loved ones; whether it is for sick benefits, and again I thank the New Democrats for being champions of that; or whether it is about creating a benefit for people who will not fall under the reformulated employment insurance program. We need to make sure that these Canadians are taken care of.

I think that when we look at the timelines, what is so incredibly important is to look at another set of data. I opened my speech by talking about a million deaths throughout the world, and how just over 9,000 of those were in Canada. I have heard the member for Carleton, on a number of occasions, talk about the amount that has been spent in terms of stimulus funding in Canada, and he compares it to other G7 countries. The reality is that, as of the most recent data, Canada has spent 15% of our GDP on COVID stimulus packages. Compare us, for example, to our closest neighbour, the United States, which spent 13.2% of its GDP on stimulus packages. So, we have spent 1.8% more in our stimulus packages. We have moved quickly and we have supported Canadians in great haste, and as a result our death rate is one-third of what it is in the United States. In the United States, as we all know, things are unravelling extremely quickly and their governments cannot seem to get a grasp or a handle on what they need to do in order to control this.

We as parliamentarians, and I use the collective we, worked together early on, sometimes through negotiations, sometimes through compromise and sometimes by yelling at each other across the floor of the House of Commons. We were able to get this package out the door as soon as possible, and now, as we move toward the second wave and we know that more struggles are going to come by Canadians as a result of what is ahead, we need to make sure that they are taken care of again. That is why this is so incredibly important to deal with right now.

I am sure I will get a question on this from a Conservative, so I may as well pre-empt it now. I know the question is going to come up about prorogation, and that we wasted five or six weeks during prorogation. Let us recap for a second. One special COVID committee sitting day was lost as a result of that prorogation, and two regular sitting days of the House were lost: the Monday and the Tuesday before the Speech from the Throne. That is the entire amount of possible debate that was lost. There was no other arrangement with House leaders and certainly nothing that had come to the floor of the House to support some kind of deal that we would sit and debate things in the middle of August. I know we also talk about committees that were doing work. Those committees are being re-established now. They are bringing back the issues again.

I can tell members that I sat on the PROC committee. We did a lot of work with respect to finding a way to vote virtually as we move forward. If we want to talk about wasting time, we are stuck now taking about 50 to 55 minutes to have a single vote happen in the House, when this is the exact model that the Conservatives were advocating from day one in the procedural affairs committee. They wanted to vote the exact way that we are doing it on Zoom, whereas the rest of the committee members suggested we follow what Britain has been doing since the spring and actually have an app-based solution that could confirm all the biometrics and that required less bandwidth to use, as another and more effective way of voting. I have become cynical, and a number of my questions have been about the amount of time that has been wasted by Her Majesty's loyal opposition, because I am left with the thought that this is the only explanation that can be there.

I know I am running out of time. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today. I want to encourage my colleagues to move with the same amount of speed that we did in March, because it was extremely important at the time, so that we could get the assistance that Canadians need in order to get through this pandemic and in order to be taken care of. That is what they really care about right now.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do enjoy listening to my colleague from across the way. He has a different aspect and a different take on some things than I do. I learn a lot when he delivers his presentations either virtually or in the House.

The member talked about working together, and that the government moved fast to make sure we had the CERB and benefits get out the door when COVID-19 started. Did his government not know that the benefits were coming to an end September 30? Was there not a conversation when proroguing government to make sure that we did not talk about the WE scandal in committee? Were they not having conversations about needing to have something planned after September 30, because that is when these programs run out? The thing that really frustrates us on this side of the House and most other opposition members is why the Liberals did not have a plan in place. They knew this was coming. Now they have to rush through $50 billion to $60 billion in spending in four and a half hours, because they had no plan in place.

Could the member please answer those questions?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reason the Prime Minister chose to prorogue Parliament was because these programs were coming to an end. Look at the amount of money that has been spent over the last number of months. It is incredible. When the original Speech from the Throne happened just shy of a year ago, there was no possible concept that we would be spending this amount of money and that we would be discussing these matters today. Nobody knew about it.

Now we have the opportunity to reset Parliament and make a decision. That is what the Speech from the Throne is about: decide if, yes, this government is going down the right road and its projection into the future is the right way; or no, we want to go to an election and see what the people think.

Ultimately, that is how we ended up where are, and I absolutely support that. This gives every parliamentarian—

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We will go now to questions and comments with the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Kingston and the Islands for his speech.

My question is very simple. I heard my colleague talk about the priority and needs of the people in his riding and all of Ontario.

On September 18, the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, and the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, very clearly set out the provinces' health care needs. They called for an increase in federal government support, from $42 billion to $70 billion next year and for the money to be recurring. In practical terms, health care support from the federal government would increase from 22% to 35%.

We understand that the government is opposed to increasing health transfers, but, in the midst of a historic pandemic, what could be more important than ensuring that people have access to health care? For that to happen, the provinces need money.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will just point out that it is much easier to see you cut me off virtually than it is when I am in the House.

To answer my colleague's question, I am not going to weigh in on the Quebec part as I am an Ontario MP, but the member asked me about Mr. Ford, and what is more important.

I think the most important thing is for a provincial government to want to be a working partner and player with the federal government in this. I can tell my colleague that 97% of COVID relief money spent in Ontario has come from the federal government, and a lot of that was not attached or dictated as to how it would be spent. A lot of it is at the discretion of the provinces.

We need partners who want to actually work together to find solutions and not to play political games at this time.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for acknowledging the NDP's work in getting paid sick days, but we are not done. We are disappointed that this is not permanent.

We are hearing that many people are falling through the cracks. There are people with disabilities who are still waiting for the $600 payment, which the government has not sent out, and seniors who are living in chronic poverty.

Does the member not believe that the time is now to implement a guaranteed livable basic income so that people are not falling through the cracks in our social safety net, which, clearly, as we are seeing in this pandemic, has huge issues and problems? This is also something that was in the calls for justice from the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry. Does he support moving towards a guaranteed livable basic income for all?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member already knows the answer to that and it is rhetorical, but I am happy to answer.

I will start off by saying yes. There is lots more work to be done, and I am really interested in working with NDP members, in particular, to get to places. Today, I have heard NDP members talk to policy quite a bit, which I find very reassuring.

I am definitely in favour of moving toward a basic income guarantee. I would like to see some real results and some real study and data so that we can look for a made-in-Canada solution. I think there is great opportunity there. I would love to work with the member on that, moving forward. I think there is a lot of potential behind the basic income guarantee.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have heard time and again in the House that no Canadian will be left behind. That sounds great, but how is it that we have the arrogance to think that our bureaucracy trickles down enough support to the average Canadian in ways that make this statement true, that somehow these words make everything okay, that an overused phrase can add money to the debit card of a stressed out individual whose card is declined at the grocery checkout? How can we have the hubris to believe that by creating a website we can stop someone from taking their life when depression refuses to loosen its grip, or the audacity to believe that words can find an appropriate, safe, affordable child care spot so mom can go back to work?

I sit here and listen to the same speeches being delivered by different members of the Liberal Party, who proudly repeat the details of a new suite of programs, a new headache for public servants and the CRA, a new batch of confusion for our constituents who will be calling us to clarify and to answer questions, including how they will pay their rent or Internet costs during the waiting period for these new benefits to come into effect.

As a member of Parliament, I have the honour of helping people navigate various government programs. Unfortunately, I am not always able to answer the many questions I get asked.

One of the questions I get asked the most is when the disability payment will be released. I voted to support Bill C-2 to ensure immediate relief for persons with disabilities through a one-time payment, although inadequate, because they had been waiting long enough and needed it so urgently. That was in July.

Not only do we expect persons with disabilities to live far below the poverty line, with much less than we have deemed livable according to the CERB, but we also expect them to keep waiting. All we have been told is to expect it in the fall. Well, it is fall, so I look to the government to finally deliver. Only then could I be happier with what is on the table now.

Having said that, I will be supporting this bill, as we do not have much of a choice since previous relief efforts have ended and Parliament was prorogued in the middle of a pandemic, as the second wave is hitting and as we send our children to school. I listened to the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader address this issue. He suggested that proroguing Parliament was no big deal, that it was only five weeks and that after sitting three short times in the summer, we should be happy with the level of engagement offered to us as opposition members.

If members recall, I had been supportive of efforts of the government to involve us, until this move to shut us out. I reject the premise that this is not a serious issue, because we were needed here in Parliament. We would not have allowed benefits to lapse, preventing us from being backed into a corner and rushing through this legislation.

As for the priorities of the bill, I am pleased to see changes to the EI criteria to allow Canadians to apply for benefits where they would not have previously been eligible. The 120-hour base is a welcome sight for the countless moms and pregnant women across this country who feared they would not meet maternity benefit eligibility. However, once again this comes far too late, after hearing their calls for help these past seven months. This would also help those in the gig economy, artists, musicians and so many others, those who we have also left hanging by a thread as we negotiate this bill.

My Green Party colleagues and my NDP colleagues have been pushing for a guaranteed livable income to help these same people. A GLI would eliminate the hoops and the burden of extra administration, as well as the associated costs. The most vulnerable, the perpetually left behind, would be financially okay. However, here we are, with a revamped EI program instead.

At least it provides answers to some questions in these uncertain times. I sincerely hope that we will continue to have discussions aimed at ending poverty in this country once and for all.

I am also concerned about the threshold included in the caretaker benefit and for paid sick leave. This has been promoted to Canadians as though they will receive 10 extra sick days to use as they wish. Well, this is not the case. For partners trying to share the caregiver burden, we are removing options from them by insisting that only one of them takes enough days off to qualify for the benefit. I can already predict the calls my office will receive from parents in crisis, with a sick child at home and an ultimatum from an employer. Students are also entirely left out of these new benefits.

My Conservative colleagues were bringing forward the idea that our children will have to bear the brunt of our national debt and our relief spending. Considering these children will first need to survive and live long enough for that to happen, it is clear to me that we must support survival above all else in these times. We need kids to have a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, clothes on their backs, appropriate health services, a safe and healthy environment, and hope for the future.

I want all Canadians to have everything they need to survive and thrive.

A consistent piece missing in this puzzle is targeted efforts for mental health supports, and I must sound like a broken record at this point.

Canadians need tools to get through this next stage and what is likely to be a difficult winter.

We need increased funding for provinces to tackle this head-on, with counselling services, individual training and skill building to help others in our communities and to help ourselves. Money is not everything. Today, we need money in the hands of Canadians, especially the most vulnerable, but we also need compassion and an honest commitment to truly not leave anyone behind.

I think about the thousands of Canadians who are still separated from their loved ones: their lifelong committed partners, their new loves in a foreign land, their adult children. They need us to listen to them and to act. It is time to reunite. These Canadians have been left behind, and I fear for their mental health as their hearts break with each passing day and the silence from government leaves them more and more hopeless.

While we discuss proposed changes to the Labour Code and the veterans benefits code, we cannot forget the human side of relief efforts. We support those who have the luxury of work and the luxury of a roof over their head, but this still leaves people out.

This bill does not solve all the problems that all Canadians are facing.

It is a start, but I look forward to a bill that addresses the toll being taken on the resiliency and well-being of Canadians since the beginning of this pandemic, one that addresses the deep divisions in our country, the social inequalities, the rampant poverty, the racism. We can make the changes we need in Canada, during COVID and beyond, but we must do it together. No more games, no more platitudes: We need transparency and we need collaboration. We need our government to demonstrate that through its leadership, and I am waiting for that day.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's thoughtful speech. I have a lot of respect for the member for Fredericton.

She talked in her speech about the hope people had. People had a lot of hope during this COVID pandemic that the government would come out with a completely different response, one that would create a new normal and a better future for everyone.

She talked about how it has played out for people in her riding and the mental health issues. She and I sit on the all-party mental health caucus, advocating for people who are struggling with mental health issues. She also cited a guaranteed livable basic income and why they are tied together. Maybe the member can speak about the importance of that in supporting people who are struggling: what happens to people's mental health when they cannot make ends meet and how important it is that we, as leaders, pull together and put programs together so that people do not fall through the cracks. I would ask the member to speak to that.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am very passionate about a GLI, for multiple reasons; it is mostly because of the conversations I have with constituents day in and day out. Oftentimes we get to a point in that conversation where I have no way to help them through our regular channels. I can only hope that our government will move on something like a GLI, because it catches so many people. It really is a social safety net. It is the next step for Canada. It is something that we could really be proud of, that we could champion.

The member is right; this was the time. This is a missed opportunity to totally reinvent Canada, to really provide that hope for Canadians to have a bright outlook for the workforce, for the economy, for the environment. We had that opportunity, and it was squandered.

I am usually far more positive in this House, and I do not want to give Canadians the idea that I am not still optimistic. I am just a little disappointed with how we have gotten to this point. I believe in a minority Parliament and I believe in what we can do, but we need to listen to each other. So many of us are saying that a guaranteed livable income would very much help our constituents right now and for days to come, for years to come. I am very encouraged to hear even members of our sitting government suggest that they are on board with this. I hear there are conversations around the cabinet table, so I look forward to that coming to fruition.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy listening to my colleague from Fredericton, whose speeches are always so touching and so true. I too am getting a bit tired of hearing the Liberal members stick up for their government's positions over and over, even though their constituents have the same concerns as opposition members' constituents.

My colleague talked about social inequity and hope for the future. I know her party shares a number of concerns with the Bloc Québécois, such as the environment and a green recovery. One of our proposals is for the government to stop investing in dirty oil and dirty energy and start investing in the energy transition.

Does her party agree with that idea?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, obviously that is a huge piece of this opportunity that I was talking about. It seems that we try not to follow the trends and the good business advice that is being offered by experts that this is absolutely the direction we need to go in: focus more on renewables. We still need oil and gas in this country, but we know we need to ramp down our demand and invest in renewables. They go hand in hand. I do not think we need to choose one or the other at this point. We know that the skills are transferable for workers in the oil fields. I want to bring New Brunswickers home from Alberta because I want renewable energy options on the east coast as well.

I am very passionate about seeing those things come to fruition, and I am tired of hearing those words in speeches without actions that make sense, talking about climate crisis one minute and then buying a pipeline the next, when instead we should be ramping down the demand I am talking about. It is confusing, and I have said that before about the messages that the Liberals are giving to Canadians. It is very confusing when it comes to the idea of the environment and the climate crisis.

I am looking for clarity, and that is why I spoke in my speech about transparency and collaboration, because it sounds like we want the same things, but when we come to this House to vote on bills, it is not what we fought for, and I need to see more of that.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to speak in the House for the first time since March, however disappointed I am with the circumstance, namely that the debate is on Motion No. 1, which has been accurately characterized as a “guillotine” motion. The motion would provide a mere four and a half hours of debate in respect of a comprehensive, complex piece of legislation, one that not only has many moving parts, but that also comes with a very large price tag. When one looks at the three new temporary COVID benefits, the cost is somewhere in the range of $40 billion. In addition to that, there is myriad additional spending amounting to approximately $17 billion. What we have is four and a half hours of debate in respect of legislation that has a price tag of nearly $60 billion. Let me repeat that: $60 billion.

To put that in some context, one needs only to go back five years, to 2015. In 2015, total federal spending amounted to approximately $250 billion. Now, within the span of four and a half hours, the government seeks to ram through a piece of legislation that equals approximately a quarter of the total federal government spending a mere five years ago. One would think that, in the face of such a consequential piece of legislation, the government would welcome input and provide an opportunity for vigorous and thorough debate in this place.

In order to carry on today, I should note that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies.

One would think that would have been the case. Instead, what we have is a motion that shuts down debate, shuts down scrutiny, shuts down the ability of all members of Parliament collectively to do our jobs and turns Parliament into nothing more than a rubber stamp.

Members of the government opposite have said they had no choice. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were governing, as the Prime Minister so famously said, “from the heart outwards.” They were governing with the best of intentions, and they had to do this $60 billion of spending in four and a half hours because they had to get the money out the door into the pockets of Canadians.

In response to that, I say how cynical and disingenuous it is on the part of those Liberals. It need not have been so. The Prime Minister knew full well the CERB and other benefits would expire, as they did two days ago. Indeed, he set the expiration date. He knew there was a need to fill the void arising from the expiration of CERB and other programs, and he knew that would have to be legislated upon.

What did the Prime Minister do in the face of that? Did the Prime Minister consult the opposition parties? No. Did the Prime Minister engage with parliamentarians? No. Instead, the Prime Minister shut down Parliament. Why in the world would the Prime Minister shut down Parliament when all of these substantive matters needed to be addressed that had a profound impact on the livelihoods of millions of Canadians?

The answer to that is very simple and deeply troubling. The Prime Minister was caught in a summer of scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars that went out the door to the Prime Minister's friends in the WE organization. It was an organization that had personally enriched his family, that had let the former finance minister and his family travel around the world and that had financially benefited the former finance minister.

The government was rocked by hearings in which it became increasingly clear that the Prime Minister had acted corruptly. Just by coincidence, on the eve of 5,000 pages of documents being disclosed in relation to WE, the Prime Minister saw fit to shut Parliament down. This shut down three committees, including the committee I sat on, the finance committee, which was undertaking extensive hearings and had a lot of questions arising from the 5,000 pages of documents and testimony that it had heard, but obviously the Prime Minister wanted to change the channel.

Here we are. He shut down Parliament to cover up his own corruption, rushed legislation immediately after the Speech from the Throne and now says it is a fait accompli. If Canadians are going to get the benefits they need in this time of unprecedented crisis, we are going to have to ram it through in four and a half hours.

We on this side of the House have made every effort to try to work with the government. Even despite the Prime Minister's attempts to shut us down, we tried, when Bill C-2 was introduced, to work over the weekend, but the government rejected our efforts. The government rejected all efforts to provide an opportunity to call witnesses, to ask questions of ministers, to go through a clause-by-clause process. All of that is gone.

I have to say it would be troubling if it was just this one instance, but what we have seen is a troubling pattern on the part of the Prime Minister in terms of shutting down opportunities for accountability and oversight. This is a Prime Minister who brought forward time allocations 63 times in the last Parliament, despite saying in 2015 that his government would never, ever think to bring forward time allocation. This is a Prime Minister who shut down the justice committee that I served on in the last Parliament when it was getting to the bottom of the government's corruption with SNC Lavalin.

This is a Prime Minister who, at a time when the government has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars, has seen fit to shut down Parliament through most of the spring and summer. If ever there was a need for Parliament to sit, it surely would be at the time of this current health and economic crisis.

I have to say it is ironic that, as the government continues to pour out hundreds of billions of dollars with very little oversight and very little accountability, it has seen fit to stop the Auditor General from following the money and has refused to provide the Auditor General with $11 million. There are hundreds of billions of dollars going out the door, but not $11 million—

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

We are quite over time.

Question and comments, the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I have been listening very carefully to the member opposite, and I only wish I would be graced with as much time as would be required in order to refute many of the comments my friend has put on the record.

Having said that, I am interested in the member's thoughts with regard to this morning. The member and others were saying that they wanted more time to talk about this very important issue, yet this morning, what did they do? They moved concurrence on a report to talk about a former MP.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

It was not a Conservative, it was a Liberal, but I know what you mean. However, the point is the Conservative loyal opposition felt it was more important to talk about something outside of the pandemic completely.

How can members opposite justify having that sort of debate this morning and now say that they want more time to talk about this? They had time this morning.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, what the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader was saying was unbelievable, but understandable at the same time.

I can appreciate that the government is embarrassed by another Liberal who was found to be in contravention of the Conflict of Interest Act, just as the Prime Minister himself has been found guilty, not once but twice. He is the first prime minister in Canadian history to be found guilty of breaching the Conflict of Interest Act, and the previous finance minister had multiple contraventions of the Conflict of Interest Act. This government is a walking scandal. It has had scandal after scandal after scandal. I know that the member does not like to talk about that, but the real issue is six wasted weeks and now four and a half hours to debate $60 billion in spending. That is unacceptable.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I certainly agree with all of the criticism from the member towards the Liberal government. The NDP has been on the record as saying that it was deplorable how the government handled the last few weeks.

However, I must say, given the member's words and what he is zeroing in on, that I almost think it is a complete repudiation of the previous Conservative government. He was quite right to criticize the Liberals for imposing closure 63 times, imposing time allocation, except that we remember the Harper government doing the same thing over 100 times. Mr. Harper taught the Prime Minister how to disrespect Parliament.

The member also raised the point of the $60 billion, except that the Harper government hid $114 billion in bank bailouts and liquidity supports and never brought those to Parliament.

Is this asking for forgiveness for everything the Conservatives did when they were in government?

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I would be proud to stand on the side of a Harper government and its successful record of balanced budgets, economic growth and strong and ethical government compared with this government's record of failure and record of hypocrisy.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton for his speech.

I would also like to ask him if he thinks deciding to prorogue Parliament for several weeks, when 24 hours might have done the trick, goes against what our constituents expect of us.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I would absolutely agree that the voters did not send us here to be prorogued, to be shut down, and then in the middle of the night, indeed in the early morning hours when most Canadians are asleep, pass a $60 billion bill with virtually no debate.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peac