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

Peschisolido ReportRoutine Proceedings

September 29th, 2020 / 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

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.