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

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

September 29th, 2020 / 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—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Madam Speaker, we are here tonight talking about Bill C-4. I have the document in front of me; it is fairly thick. The government wants to ram it through after only four hours of debate. This is unfortunate because there is a lot there. I guess we are supposed to speak to it, so I will speak to it a bit.

A highlight for me is the repayment part of it, where it says:

If a person has income of more than $38,000 for 2020 or for 2021, the person must repay an amount equal to 50 cents for every dollar of income earned in that year above $38,000 of income....

That is a credit to the Conservatives, who really wanted to make sure that those repayment amounts were not just dollar for dollar, that people were not penalized for working more. To me, that is a credit to us as Conservatives.

A bigger conversation that my constituents are having is whether this is affordable. The Liberals are trying to make it sound like we do not want to help Canadians. Absolutely we want to help Canadians. We know there is help that is necessary in times of crisis, such as what we are in and what we saw in March. There is no question that we support that.

I will use a logging company as an example. My son works for a logging company as a heavy-duty mechanic. If those particular owners, Wayne and Marie Harder, and I just saw her on the plane on the way out here, are going to buy a bunch of trucks for their business, they need to make sure they have a business afterward to pay for those trucks.

Likewise, when we have such massive expenditures from the current government, unprecedented amounts of money with $400 billion this year alone in deficit spending, we have to ask what our ability to recoup that money for Canadian taxpayers is. It is all taxpayer money. Even our Parliamentary Budget Officer, Yves Giroux, speaking about the current Liberal government, said:

It's without a doubt that we cannot afford deficits of over $300 billion for more than just a few years.... So if the government has plans for additional spending, it will clearly have to make difficult choices and either raise taxes or reduce other areas of spending. Because it's clear that we cannot afford to have deficits of that magnitude for even the medium term.

Again, we support expenditures, but it is the Liberal government that wants to just hand people the fish and not help them to get fishing again. That is the great analogy. The Conservatives have compassion. We would do it in a different way, but ours is sustainable; theirs is not.

This is from John Ivison today. It is not just Conservatives who are saying that we need to have fiscal responsibility to taxpayers. He said, “This points out an inconsistency that is even more apparent - the [current] government's concern about the impact of climate change on future generations but indifference about the threat of massive debt.”

Again, this is what my constituents ask questions about. They see in their own lives that unsustainable deficits and debt are exactly that. They are unsustainable. Even the PBO said it can go on a couple of years, but if we keep doing this we are in big trouble.

I had hoped to see a signal in the Speech from the Throne that would speak to the revitalization and the million jobs, which was quoted by the other side, that they were going to re-establish and get those million jobs back.

Typically in the past, Canadians have had resource development to get revenue to pay for health care and all these other programs that we so value in Canada. Resource development has always been the anchor of our Canadian economy, but did we see any resource development in the Speech from the Throne?

This is all we got: “Canadians need good jobs they can rely on.” I agree with that. It is on page 11 of the Speech from the Throne. The speech continues, “To help make that happen, the Government will launch a campaign to create over one million jobs, restoring employment to previous levels.” That sounds great.

I will speak to this is a bit. Unemployment in my neck of the woods in northern B.C. is about 13.7%. It may be higher in certain sectors, obviously, but that is the average. Usually we are record-setting in my part of the province. We have been down to four per cent even. It is almost unseeable, the employment rate is so low. Everybody has a job. We are quite the opposite right now.

If the Liberals are talking about bringing employment back, how do we re-establish that? We have to do it through resource development. However, this is the Liberals' answer: “This will be done by using a range of tools, including direct investments in the social sector and infrastructure, immediate training to quickly skill up workers, and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers.”

There is nothing about resource development. It sounds good if we are training apprentices such as my son, who is a third-year apprentice, if that is what the initiative is. It is absolutely supportive, but there is nothing specific to resource development as being the answer to getting us out of this huge debt and deficit spending that we are in.

Then we see quite the opposite. On page 24 of the Speech from the Throne, rather than signalling this is a government that really wants to get that resource economy firing on all cylinders again, we hear, “This pandemic has reminded Canadians of the importance of nature. The Government will work with municipalities as part of a new commitment to expand urban parks, so that everyone has access to green space.”

I love it. I was fishing on the weekend and I do not get much time to do that, but I absolutely love the idea. It is a great idea, but then it continues, “This will be done while protecting a quarter of Canada’s land and a quarter of Canada’s oceans in five years”.

That is 25% of ocean closures and 25% of land closures within five years. Can the members guess where we are at right now? I am sure there are a few dozen Canadians watching us here tonight. Right now we are around 11%. We set the goal at 17% and we are only at 11% now. To get where the government wants to go, those protected lands and oceans would have to double.

What lands are the Liberals trying to protect? It is areas in northern B.C. like my own, and the caribou closures, where there is not really any scientific basis for making these closures, but they are closing out mines, closing out logging and so on. It is all done on the basis of hitting this target.

Now we are going to double that, so where they are going to get all this land from? All those areas where normally those from indigenous communities find jobs in the resource sector. I have many indigenous friends with indigenous companies. They are finding it hard to find work right now with some of the closures that are already being implemented—

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

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

A point of order from the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

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

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I know we are all concerned to get more time today to be able to speak to the legislation that is meant to replace CERB, and I am very curious to understand the Conservative position with respect to that replacement legislation. I know they have concerns about how to pay for it. I am wondering what they propose as a path forward. We are talking a lot about the Speech from the Throne and protected areas. I am wondering if we might be able to bring the debate back to the matter at hand.