House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

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The House resumed from November 6, 2020 consideration of the motion that Bill C-220, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We will now go to resuming debate. When the House last took up debate on the question, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader had four minutes remaining in his time, so we will go to him now.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 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, the essence of Bill C-220 is to extend compassionate care leave by up to three weeks after the death of a loved one. That is very admirable. I have had an opportunity to have some discussions on this and to think about the legislation, and there are a couple of things that come to mind right away.

One is that over the last number of years in statements by the Prime Minister or other members of the House, there has been a desire to see ways that we can improve our employment insurance program and how we might continue to assist workers.

Throughout the whole coronavirus pandemic, we have heard a lot about getting a better understanding of what works well. One of the things that came up is the idea that when we start getting toward the end of the pandemic and can see that light, we should look at ways we can build back better. That is something that Bill C-220 could contribute to. I like the idea.

If the bill were allowed to go to committee, I believe that we would see some other ideas generated as a result of Bill C-220. Therefore, I am hoping that colleagues on all sides of the House would see this bill as a way we can improve the system, recognizing that compassionate care and the need to have that leave is absolutely critical. More and more family members provide care at a person's end of life, when people will spend days, weeks, and often months on the additional care necessary for a family member or loved one.

That is what I like about the bill: It wants to address the employment issue, which is very difficult. We get different types of relationships. I have always argued that life is about relationships, and some of those relationships are intense, particularly between family members. When a person passes away and their brother, sister, daughter or son goes back to work the following day, it can be fairly traumatic, so providing this sort of compassionate care leave is long overdue.

As for looking at ways to extend it, yes, there are things in place today, but we can do better. That is why I started my comments the way I did. We have been making gains over the last number of years in recognizing the need for reforming employment insurance and looking at ways we can support employees. This is one of the ways to do just that, so I look forward to the bill going to committee.

As a last thought, the pandemic has had such a profound impact on funerals and the passing of people we know. As parliamentarians we get to know a lot of people in our communities, and it is always sad when they pass. We look forward to a time when we can start to see people participate in funerals, families in particular, in a more wholesome way and not have to rely on the internet.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I will speak to Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, and more specifically compassionate care leave.

As the Bloc Québécois critic for status of women and seniors, this is a subject that people come to me about on a regular basis. I will therefore talk about three aspects of it. First, I will talk about our party's position on this issue. Second, I will talk about the reason why seniors talk to me about this so much, and third, I will say a few words about the problems this creates for women.

I want to begin by saying that we agree with the principle of this bill. The Bloc Québécois has always felt it was important for workers to be able to maintain a healthy employment relationship and to not have to choose between two bad situations.

Taking care of a sick family member is already extremely hard. When that person dies, one can only imagine how the caregiver must have many mixed emotions, including guilt and sadness. Being forced to choose between one's job and providing end-of-life care for a loved one should never be an acceptable situation in Quebec, Canada or the provinces.

This bill, therefore, would give caregivers more leave before returning to work after the death of a loved one. This bill is actually very simple. It amends the Canada Labour Code such that people who take compassionate care leave can delay their return to work for a few days following the death of the loved one they were caring for. The bill is written to take into account the maximum number of weeks in the code for compassionate care leave, but it provides for additional days off based on the period between the beginning of the leave and the loved one's death.

Compassionate care leave enables people to take time off work and protect their jobs while caring for a loved one. The Canada Labour Code dictates how leave is granted and legal eligibility with respect to workers' rights. It is important to note that this leave is paid in accordance with the Employment Insurance Act.

That means an employer does not have to pay an employee who is not eligible for compassionate care leave special benefits but wants to take leave for that reason. In other words, there is no compassion.

Under subsection 206.3(2), “every employee is entitled to and shall be granted a leave of absence from employment of up to 28 weeks to provide care or support to a family member of the employee if a health care practitioner issues a certificate stating that the family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks” from the day the certificate is issued or the day the leave was commenced.

There is currently no provision in the code for paid compassionate care leave. In other words, someone who is not eligible for employment insurance may take 28 weeks of compassionate care leave, but at their own expense.

Let us talk about EI special benefits for compassionate care leave. Workers can take the 28 weeks of unpaid compassionate care leave under the Canada Labour Code, but the code also allows workers to take leave under the Employment Insurance Act. EI benefits have different criteria than EI regular benefits and refer to very specific situations, namely parental leave, maternity leave, sick leave, caregiver leave and compassionate care leave.

The difference between the EI caregiving benefit and the compassionate care leave benefit is that for the latter, the person being cared for has a medical certificate stating that he or she is likely to die within the next six months.

To get the employment insurance compassionate care benefit in 2020, a worker has to have 600 hours of work to receive benefits totally 55% of their average weekly salary for a maximum of $573 a week. A family member of someone who is seriously sick or injured, or a person at the end of life, sees their regular weekly salary reduced by more than 40% for a least a week because they have to be away from work to care for or support the person. A doctor or nurse practitioner has to attest that the person being cared for is seriously sick or injured or needs end-of-life care.

COVID-19 changes things. On August 20, 2020, the federal government decided to relax the criteria for the EI program, including special benefits for caregivers that include compassionate leave. For a one-year period, the government has reduced the number of hours workers need to 120, regardless of the employment insurance region or the employment insurance program where they apply. It is therefore providing a 480-hour credit to workers who wish to receive a special benefit. In this case it is for a compassionate leave. However, effective September 27, 2020, new EI claimants will need only 120 hours of insurable employment to receive at least $400 a week, if that amount is higher than their benefits. The benefits will vary between $400 and $573, but the Canada Labour Code allows workers to take these 28 weeks at their own expense.

Workers who are eligible for compassionate care benefits can receive them for a maximum of 26 weeks. If they have to be away for 28 weeks, they will receive benefits for only 26 weeks, and the other two weeks must be taken at their own expense.

The bill introduced by the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup increases the leave taken under the Canada Labour Code by only a few days and therefore does not increase the duration of the EI caregiving benefits. This is all very technical. The important thing to remember is that caregivers need additional time to grieve. It is a matter of dignity.

The bill is directed at family caregivers who provide end-of-life care for a loved one. The Bloc Québécois has always believed that family caregivers play a crucial and central role both in the lives of the people they support and for society as a whole.

Many groups are calling on the government to finally recognize the importance of their role. One of those groups is Quebec's Appui, which advocates for better access to resources and improved quality of life. The pandemic has taken a toll on caregivers' finances. In Quebec, more than a quarter of caregivers, 26%, work and are therefore especially vulnerable because they have to make sure they bring in at least some income while caring for their loved one.

According to a CIBC survey, Canadians who help care for a loved one spend an average of $430 per month to do so. Three-quarters say they have had to make financial sacrifices. According to other sources, such as the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec, an association of caregivers in Quebec, caregivers spend more like $7,600 per year per loved one, regardless of their initial income level. As a result, 20% of caregivers experience financial insecurity.

According to Appui's 2016 survey of caregivers for seniors in Quebec, 1.5 million people reported providing at least one hour of care a week, and 2.2 million people provided care or emotional support for a loved one or helped them go to appointments, shop for groceries or fill out paperwork.

One of the main problems is that about one-third of caregivers, around 500,000 adults, who provide at least one hour of care a week do not recognize themselves as caregivers. The same is true for the one-fifth of caregivers who provide more than 10 hours of care a week. According to that same survey, 65% of caregivers cited a lack of knowledge of existing resources as the main reason for not accessing services. According to the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec and Quebec's department of health and social services, 85% of senior care is provided by caregivers. For example, for someone who requires 22 hours of care, 16.5 of those hours are provided by a caregiver and just 45 minutes are provided by local community service centres.

Caregivers are faced with a lack of resources regarding home care, wait times for long-term care beds, wait times for specialized resources for children with disabilities, wait times for palliative care, and fragmented care.

In 2012, 26.6% of family caregivers provided care, most of them at least once a week, according to Quebec's statistics institute. It would cost between $4 billion and $10 billion and would require the hiring of 1.2 million full-time professionals to cover the hours worked by caregivers.

Caregivers are mostly women, as was confirmed by such groups as the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale and FADOQ. Last summer, these groups appeared before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for its study on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women.

In closing, I will say this. The Bloc Québécois no longer wants the tax credit to be fully non-refundable. In a previous life, I was a project manager responsible for raising awareness of elder abuse and bullying. I spoke with groups of caregivers, and I could sense their exhaustion. I was told that after giving so much time and energy to help a person, it was difficult to get over their death. Caregivers live through trying circumstances, and they need time off. A few additional days is not much, but it could make a difference to them. The question is not whether we will become caregivers, but when.

For all these reasons, we must take action. The bill is a small step, but it means a lot to caregivers. It is a matter of dignity.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour and privilege to rise on Bill C-220, sponsored by the member for Edmonton Riverbend, which would amend the Labour Code regarding compassionate care leave.

I want to thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for his long-standing fight for bereavement leave in his home province of Alberta. I have worked with him on issues relating to men's mental health, and it is nice to be able to get up on issues that can be non-partisan to look after those who have been struggling the most. I also want to thank my colleague for Banff—Airdrie, with whom I shared the stage at the first-ever grief convention this year.

The context of the bill before us is really important, and I am speaking in support of it. The legislation would amend the Canada Labour Code to extend the period of an employee's compassionate care leave.

Why is this legislation so important? It is because it would allow employees to take time following the death of a family member to grieve and to make funeral preparations and family arrangements. It is important that Canadians be able to take care of their loved ones. Family is most important to all of us, and people need to be able to grieve and take care of their family affairs as needed without having to worry about losing their jobs.

We know that women still perform a lot of care work at home within families, and this disproportionately affects them to a higher degree. We also know that women tend to have lower earnings than men. The difference is even more pronounced in the case of racialized women. They are the ones who are most likely to need this leave and the least likely to be able to afford it. Making parallel changes to EI is even more important when it comes to this legislation.

I am glad to see that the bill seeks to extend the length of compassionate care leave to include time after the passing of a loved one. Right now, when a loved one passes away, their caregivers' leave ends and they are expected to return to work immediately, within a couple of days. We support the bill, but it would be nice to see the good work that it would do to extend leave for all families experiencing the loss of a loved one. As members know, death can occur suddenly or over an extended period of time, and grief is experienced in different ways for everyone.

While supporting the extended leave provisions, New Democrats would like to take the time to point out that there is a blind spot in the bill that the Conservatives have left out, and we propose that it be closed. It is that people have to be able to afford to take this time off, but the bill would not change EI benefits to reflect the additional leave provisions that we would like to see.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities did a report on supporting a family after the sudden loss of a child, and I think that there are some important lessons we can learn there. They include following up on the recommendations in the report, including expanding job protection for parents on bereavement leave, creating a pan-Canadian resource centre to support grieving parents and individuals going through the loss of a loved one, and making sure that employees in the federal government help with things like EI applications for grieving parents with compassion and understanding. There is a lot of work that needs to surround this type of bill.

I want to take a few minutes to relate some information that was shared with me from Camp Kerry BC, which is one of the few not-for-profit organizations that provide bereavement services to hospices right across Canada. I think of the hospices in my riding in Comox Valley, Oceanside, Alberni Valley and the west coast of Vancouver Island. Their support is so important for families during their grieving period.

It is estimated that between five and seven people are impacted significantly for every death, and each person who is affected will likely experience some or all of the following lifelong symptoms as the effects of complicated and unresolved grief: anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and other disorders, suicide, homelessness, the loss of education, the loss of work and more.

Many people who are homeless and many who are incarcerated suffer from unresolved and complicated grief, yet most institutions and counsellors in Canada are just not equipped or trained to screen and to provide trauma-informed bereavement counselling. Unlike other developed nations, such as the U.K., the U.S., Ireland, New Zealand and many others, Canada still does not even have a national bereavement strategy

We also fail to acknowledge grief as a natural response to loss. We do not have any legislation that adequately addresses that. The limited time off for bereavement leave is only five days, three paid, unless a child has disappeared or died as a result of a probable crime. There is virtually no funding specifically designated toward bereavement care or toward organizations that provide bereavement services. We have been advocating for better supports for those groups. We would like to see organizations like Camp Kerry and hospices get more federal funding, especially now that we are in a pandemic, which has had an incredible impact on the experience of death and loneliness of people here in Canada.

The need for extending bereavement leave, and for our government to designate funding specifically toward these organizations that have a proven record of providing grief services, is long overdue. The average overall number of deaths in Canada was predicted to increase substantially as a result of the pandemic. It has not, but the mental health implications associated with the distancing restrictions and funerals is overwhelming Canadians, and this will likely increase during the pandemic's duration, as well as the number of symptomatic cases that bereavement and mental health services will see in the future.

We know that it is very important. The pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in isolation, anxiety and mental health challenges in Canada and around the world. We know these unfortunate circumstances are creating the perfect storm for long-term complicated grief.

I want to read a quote from the Camp Kerry Society:

For those in our community who lost a loved one just before or during the pandemic, the impacts of increased physical and social isolation are even more significant. Imagine facing the challenges of learning to be a single parent in the midst of home schooling, losing your job or perhaps working more hours in a now dangerous job? Or consider what it would feel like to grieve the loss of your child without the hugs, help and shared tears of your extended family? These are the emotional, social and financial challenges of the children and families we are trying to reach this year through our services.

It is heartbreaking. We also know the impact is even more complex in indigenous communities, stemming from the depths of the multi-generational legacy of colonialism, forced impoverishment, violence, residential school trauma, the sixties scoop of indigenous children and the legacy of previous pandemics. This history compounds grief and increases the risk for negative outcomes such as suicide, homelessness, addiction, crime and victimization. A large portion of first nations communities across Canada feel overwhelmed and triggered by the current pandemic. I see, with the Nuu-chah-nulth people in the territories where I live, how this has impacted them culturally, especially around the grieving process when they have lost a loved one. We have lost many people in our communities since the pandemic started, and there are not enough supports for them. Right now we can see that. The Canada Labour Code gives employees the right to request changes to their work hours and whatnot, but right now people need more than that.

Provisions in the Employment Insurance Act allow up to 15 weeks of paid benefits to eligible applicants with a note signed by a medical practitioner. It currently states that one must request a note from an approved family practitioner in order to access medical leave that is payable for up to 15 weeks, but the issue with this arrangement is that the laws do not acknowledge or define bereavement as a natural response to death. Groups like Camp Kerry believe that bereavement leave ought to reflect just that. In fact, the current laws require people to get a DSM-5 diagnosis that indicates they have a disorder. It forces practitioners to inappropriately diagnose their patients, simply so they can take time off of work.

A lot of work needs to be done on this. There needs to be more funding and support for local hospices, for local groups like Camp Kerry, and for education and training for professionals. We also want to see those extended supports, and not just for people in the public service, but well beyond that. We would like to see that legislated. We would like to see it go farther, and we need a national bereavement strategy: one that is supported by the federal government.

Again, I want to thank my good friend and colleague from Edmonton Riverbend for his important work, and all of the members in the House who will hopefully support this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today in support of the positive words and well-deserved comments made so far on Bill C-220. I congratulate my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend for his work on this and for garnering support. Hopefully, if we go by the optimism and tone tonight, we can get it to committee to get more feedback and work together on how we can support caregivers and people in their time of need.

I am proud to be one of the members to have seconded this bill. It was good to get bipartisan support for the idea it puts forth in the first hour of debate we had on this bill last fall.

We have had a pretty good week when it comes to votes on private members' bills. There was Bill C-208, a Conservative bill, on the transfer of family farms. It got good bipartisan support. It is a very good common-sense piece of legislation that is moving forward. There was also Bill C-204, which takes real action on environmental protections by banning the export of plastic waste. When we get back from the break week, if we have a vote on this, I hope we will have another Conservative private member's bill that is making good progress and helping people.

For those who are not as familiar with it, the bill before us deals with compassionate care leave. We have that in our country for up to to 28 weeks through the EI system to help those who need to provide care to loved ones in their final days. One of the challenges we have is as an NDP member said in the first hour of debate in noting that there is a bit of a rough edge when it comes to the end of compassionate care leave. When caregivers lose their loved ones, they are expected to go back to work quickly. We need to address that. This bill certainly makes progress in doing that.

I want to give context and clarification to my constituents in Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry who are watching this and Canadians who are interested in supporting this bill.

Due to a technicality in the private members' bills process, my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend cannot propose the spending of dollars without a royal recommendation and technical process. We cannot force the government to spend dollars through the regular EI program; that would have to be proposed by the government. I think getting this bill further, making that progress and passing this bill would build momentum to encourage the government to act on this.

What we are able to do as a Parliament through the private members' bills process is to amend the Canada Labour Code covering federally regulated workplaces, such as air transportation, banks, radio and television communications, railways, Crown corporations like Canada Post, and telecommunications. I think of our family trucking business, which would fall under this because of our cross-country work. Many trucking businesses would fall under this. Therefore, through this private member's bill we are able to address it in the Canada Labour Code.

The bill addresses a gap in compassionate care leave with respect to bereavement. The statistics show that about one in every four workers is a caregiver to someone in need. Currently, we have the EI process that has seen a lot of positive modernizations by governments. I am proud of our Conservative record when we were in government of expanding EI for maternity leave, looking at compassionate care leave, and making enhancements over the years. This is something that can build on that next layer, that next level of support that we need to do.

Here is why we need to do this. There are about three key points in this.

First, if the loved ones of family caregivers pass away, the family have to go back to work within a matter of a couple of days. We are lacking in that respect in our compassionate care policy in this country.

Second, there are a lot of things that family members need to attend to from a technical perspective, such as a funeral, insurance benefits and estate situations. In my constituency office we work with a lot of families on the CPP death benefit or other paperwork and things that need to be returned or closed on a file.

The third point is very relevant, but we have not talked about it as much during this whole debate, and that is the mental health of those caregivers as part of the bereavement process. It certainly has been tough during COVID-19, but that has always been the case when people have to return back to work quite quickly. I was proud to see many colleagues from all parties celebrate the amazing progress we have made with the Bell Let's Talk Day in raising awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health challenges.

This bill is a perfect example that we can go back to our constituents with and say that we are actually making things better, that we are doing things here in Ottawa that can help people in their time of need.

My colleague's bill, which I am proud to support, does that. It looks at where we are able to make these changes so that we can give up to three weeks of additional compassionate care leave in federally regulated workplaces to an employee to deal with grieving and bereavement after their loved one's life has ended.

What I like about this is our effort on this side of the aisle to show pragmatism and talk about a sliding scale, where someone could get up to three weeks of compassionate leave, depending on how much leave they had taken before their loved one's passing. I think it is pragmatic and reasonable, and it is exactly what we need to do to make a step in the right direction. If we can get this is in place we could also encourage the government and Canadians to support enhancements to EI in how we do this.

I want to note the overwhelming support from stakeholders who deal with caregivers, bereavement and illness across this country. There is a great cross-section of people on board in support of this bill: the Canadian Grief Alliance, the Canadian Cancer Society, the MS Society of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation—

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am fully guilty. I did have my phone nearby. I apologize to those who are watching virtually, and I appreciate that they are paying attention. It is great to hear they are listening to my words. I was just ensuring they were on their toes and attentive to my words on this legislation.

As I was saying, there is a great cross-section of support from a wide variety of stakeholders, particularly people who deal with bereavement and illness. I want to go back and mention some others: the ALS Society of Canada and the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association. The reason I want to ensure they are on the record is to show the universal support we are hearing from Canadians wanting to address this expansion of compassionate care leave.

One other angle I want to address on the legislation is the business community. My father, Ed, owns a trucking business. As I mentioned, my family falls under the Canadian Labour Code in our work. In having conversations with some business owners on this, my message and my pitch to them is that it is not only in the best interests of the employee to have this compassionate care leave program in place; it is in the best interests of businesses as well. If an employee goes back to work mere days after the loss of a loved one, that person is probably not back to work at 100%.

In my pitch for support, I would say to those business owners that when they allowed that up to three weeks of bereavement or compassionate care leave, they would get back a better employee. They would get back somebody who would be ready to go back to work, maybe having struggled with grief and bereavement, the paper work we talked about, all that process. It may be a couple more weeks until they come back, but it would be a win for that person's mental health, for that business, the employee and the workplace.

As mentioned, this is not the end of the process; this is the next step on compassionate care leave. Many colleagues from different parties, including ours, have said that we need to go further and look at this when it comes to employment insurance and making this more universal across the country when it comes to all Canadians who pay into EI.

The support we have heard today for the bill demonstrates we are making progress and building support. We are hearing from a cross-section of political parties and Canadians from all walks of life who are on board with the bill. It is a tangible thing that we could do for people's mental health. We need to give them the time they need to grieve, the time to wrap things up, the time to go back to work when they are ready.

I want to wrap up my comments by saying a big thanks to caregivers in our country for what they do, outside of COVID. It is an emotional, difficult balancing act that many of them face with their mental health, their financial perspective and a wide variety of factors. We owe them a great deal of gratitude.

My message today is that the Conservatives understand the importance of caregivers. We understand the strain bereavement has on mental health, not just during the final days, or weeks or maybe months with a love ones, but in the days and weeks after in giving them closure. It is a time to heal and reflect. This is a great bill that deserves wide support, not only in the chamber but across the country. I look forward to playing my role in seeing it cross the finish line.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Anthony Housefather LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to participate in today's debate on Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code for compassionate care leave. I want to thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for putting this bill forward to allow caregivers to take additional days off when a loved one dies.

During the course of this pandemic, we have become even more sensitized to the important role of caregivers, whether they are family members or close friends. I have personally watched my mother, Myrna, be a caregiver for my dad, David.

I have seen first-hand the emotional and physical toll on caregivers. I have seen it all over my riding in drop-in centres, where caregivers drop their loved ones off to gain respite, and at long-term care centres. The love, tenderness and caring that is shown by those who take time off to play this role is commendable.

I first became very aware of caregivers when I was the mayor of Côte Saint-Luc and our local regional health board decided to close a drop-in centre that provided respite for caregivers. Along with members of my council, groups of stakeholders and the Cummings Centre in our riding, we managed to work together to put a drop-in centre at our aquatic and community centre. Then, as a member of Parliament, I was able to achieve financing for that centre from the government. Even today, that centre is open, providing drop-in care for people with dementia and their caregivers.

As my friend from Edmonton Riverbend points out, we need to take care of the mental health of caregivers as well. Ensuring them additional leave after the death of a loved one is completely in line with the government's commitment to providing mental health supports. As such, I am very pleased to say that the government supports Bill C-220, with some amendments, and I look forward to working with my friend from Edmonton Riverbend, and all members of the HUMA committee from all sides of the House. This is a bill in which I am confident we can achieve consensus.

Before I dive into the details of Bill C-220 and the proposed amendments, I would like to talk about some of the steps our government is taking to protect and support Canadian businesses and workers during the crisis.

In March, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada took a number of extraordinary but necessary steps to help Canadians get through this incredibly difficult time. Nearly nine million Canadians received assistance through the Canada emergency response benefit, and more than 3.5 million jobs were funded through the Canada emergency wage subsidy.

These and many other measures were implemented to help workers affected by COVID-19 support themselves and their families, as well as to help businesses continue to pay their employees.

Additionally, the government introduced a new leave under the Canada Labour Code to ensure that employees in federally regulated workplaces would be able to take time off to deal with situations related to COVID-19. A number of other job-protected leaves are also available to employees covered under part III of the Canada Labour Code.

For example, the five-day personal leave can be used to address urgent matters concerning an employee or their family member, including treating an illness or injury. Another example is the compassionate care leave, which currently provides up to 28 weeks of job-protected leave for employees who need to provide care and support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death.

In addition, the leave related to critical illness provides employees with up to 37 weeks of job-protected leave to provide care or support to a critically ill child, and up to 17 weeks of leave to provide care or support to a critically ill adult.

The government knows how important it is to ensure that workers do not return to work if they have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms. The new Canada recovery sickness benefit, introduced through Bill C-4, helps workers who are sick or need to comply with public health measures. It provides $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the time they would have normally worked because they are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

The Canada recovery caregiving benefit provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for a worker who needs to take unpaid leave to care for their child under 12, or a family member who needs supervised care, who is unable to attend their school or regular care facility due to COVID-19.

Taken together, these benefits create a social safety net to help Canadians bridge the time between last spring's lockdown and the cautious reopening of our economy in future.

Bill C-4 also amended the Canada Labour Code so that federally regulated employees could continue to take leave with job protection if they were sick, had to self-isolate or care for someone due to COVID-19.

With these changes, federally regulated workers can access both the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit without fear of losing their jobs.

Let me get back to Bill C-220. Currently under federal labour standards, caregivers can take a total of 28 weeks off work within a year to provide care and support for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death. Through Bill C-220, the member for Edmonton Riverbend is seeking to amend the current federal compassionate care leave to allow extended time off following the death of a loved one.

Basically, the bill would provide employees on compassionate care leave with additional leave under the code in situations where the family member who is being cared for dies. The amount of additional leave would vary depending on how many weeks the employee has been on leave. An employee who has been away from work for a period of 27 weeks or more would not be provided with any additional weeks of leave.

I stated that the government supported Bill C-220 with amendments. I will now say a little bit more about this.

The goal of the amendments we would propose is to help ensure that all employees, including caregivers, who have suffered a loss have more time to grieve and focus on practical necessities such as funeral planning.

We currently have, in the Labour Code, five days of bereavement leave. We are proposing to extend that bereavement leave by an additional five days, to 10 days, to ensure that employees who are taking care of a non-immediate family member, such as an aunt or nephew, while on compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness are also covered. Not only would the existing people who are able to get bereavement leave because a close family member had died get the leave, but all of these caregivers would now be entitled to the 10 days of bereavement leave.

We believe that by doing this we would make Bill C-220 fairer and more consistent in how the government supports employees who experience the death of a family member. This would ensure that all federally regulated employees, including these caregivers, are provided with additional time off in the event they lose a loved one, regardless of what leave they are taking at the time or whether they are on leave at all.

We all agree that the death or possible death of a family member is one of the most difficult situations anyone can face. Our government believes that at such times Canadians should not have to choose between keeping their job or taking care of their family.

The Government of Canada is continuously improving policies, programs and services to meet the needs of Canadian workers and to better reflect the realities of the 21st century workplace. Our government agrees with the member for Edmonton Riverbend that we need to care for our caregivers. We made a commitment to improve the lives of caregivers and their families, and by joining with the member for Edmonton Riverbend in supporting Bill C-220 with these proposed amendments, we will be doing just that.

It is heartwarming to see that this is something we can all get behind, and I want to thank my friend from Edmonton Riverbend for putting the bill forward.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Manicouagan, I must inform her that she has approximately seven or eight minutes for her speech. Normally, she would have 10 minutes. However, I am going to have to interrupt her before she finishes her speech.

Resuming debate.

The member for Manicouagan.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today as a member of the Bloc Québécois and from Manicouagan, but also as my party's critic for families, children and social development.

Let me begin by thanking my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend, for his work on Bill C-220 and for introducing it. It is a simple bill, but it is a good example of how we are unable to dissociate our personal life from our public life and, in our case, the work that we do in the House. I remember hearing my colleague talk in the House about what was behind his bill and I heard him speak with dignity, compassion and conviction.

I must say that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle, or the very essence, of the bill. Ideological positions aside, at the end of the day, we are all connected as human beings. Our party supports the principle of the bill because it has always been important, and, for our political party, necessary, to allow workers to maintain a good employment relationship. This is so that workers do not fall prey to what I will refer to as the false dilemma of having to choose between a tragic situation, such as caring for a loved one at the end of their life, or losing their job. There is a need there and this bill addresses it.

This reminds me of another bill that illustrates the Bloc Québécois's position. This morning, my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît introduced Bill C-265, referred to as the Émilie Sansfaçon act, which would increase to 50 the number of weeks for which employment insurance may be paid in the event of a serious illness. This is about compassion and support for people who are ill, but it is also about supporting the caregivers and people who are supporting loved ones at the end of their lives. These values are important to the Bloc Québécois.

When we are going through a crisis in our life and we need to fight or to have all our strength, we do not want anything to undermine that strength or the help that we need. However, that could happen if the situation has made both us and the person who wants to help us vulnerable. At the risk of repeating myself, I think it is very important to say that this bill helps both those who are sick and their caregivers.

I will not get into the technical details of the bill because my colleagues, including the member for Shefford, did that earlier. Instead, I would like to come back to the very notion of caregiver. I was saying earlier that it is impossible to keep our public lives completely separate from our personal lives. I am the mother of three children, including a three-year-old boy who was born when I was here serving as an MP during the previous Parliament, although he was not born in the House. I am currently his caregiver.

Often we do not even realize that we are being caregivers. Most people do not know or believe that they are caregivers, even though they fit the description. They just think it is part of their role. As human beings, we take care of one another, but we do not realize at what point we go beyond what is considered “regular”, a word I do not really like, or “normal”, another word I do not like—in other words a kind of “average” of what we do and accomplish.

I will give a definition for caregiver, which is not my own but that of the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec. A caregiver is someone whose goal is to help a sick, injured or ageing person recover or to provide support at the end of life, if need be. The caregiver also seeks to maintain and improve the quality of life of the person under care whenever possible, and to help ensure a satisfactory end of life in accordance with the wishes of the person under care.

It is a very important role, and it covers so much. For example, when a person is at the end of life, we think about their physical needs, but they have other needs too. They have emotional needs. Caregivers support them. They provide health care, often in addition to what our health care systems do.

Caregivers support those who need care either occasionally or continuously, for varying periods of time, under changing circumstances they have no control over. Caregivers do not realize when it starts, and they do not know when it will end. They have a very important role to play. At home or in residences, caregivers are all around us; they are part of our families.

I think this kind of bill affects society as a whole. I shared my situation, and as I said, as parents, we are also caregivers to our own children.

I would like to share some statistics. I will go over them quickly, but it is important to mention them. These numbers are striking, and behind these numbers there are people. The Government of Canada's figures are not all up to date, but according to Quebec's statistics institute, in 2012, a quarter of the population over the age of 15 were caregivers. That is 25% of the population in 2012, and now it is 2021. In short, that is huge, and it is just the tip of the iceberg. As I said earlier, sometimes people do not even feel like they are a caregiver, so when they are responding to a survey, they might not even consider themselves part of this category. That means this would be just a glimpse of the proportion of the population of Quebec and Canada that are caregivers.

Mr. Speaker, do I have any time left?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

To correct the time, there are two minutes remaining.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I broke the momentum.

I will stop there.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am humbled by a lot of the comments made in the chamber today, but also during the first debate. I will get to my thanks in a minute, but I want to address what we have been hearing, which is an outpouring of support from people who are caregivers now, people who have been caregivers, people who think they will potentially be at the point of taking care of a loved one or people grieving after a loved one has passed away. I want to share two comments we received from two individuals in particular.

Before I get to that, I want to also recognize that today is World Cancer Day. I could not have done a lot of the work without the support of the Canadian Cancer Society. I remember the first meeting we had. Its representatives came on board and said that they could not wait to support my private member's bill. They have been there since day one. It is fitting on World Cancer Day to be able to finish the second hour of debate.

We spoke about some of those individuals who were taking care of their loved ones. Among the hundreds of emails we have received since first reading, I want to point out two.

One comes from Leslie Allen from Alberta. She took care of her husband Don, who battled colorectal cancer for six years. In June of 2018, he was told that he only had two to six months to live. Let us think about a spouse being told that he or she has only two to six months to live. Imagine the shock it must have been to Leslie.

A nurse advised Leslie to use compassionate leave. Leslie said that she had no idea compassionate leave existed. She said, "My greatest challenge with all of it was that I was emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally drained. Having resources to tap into the support, for me, was essential.”

The second email is from Elaine from western Canada. She took leave to care for her sick father who lived across the country in Ontario. After he passed away in November 2014, she called her workplace back in Alberta to notify her manager of the death. Elaine wrote, “My manager sat on the phone and counted out the days I was allowed to have off, five. Yes, you get five because he's out of province.”

Elaine went back to work less than two weeks after hearing the silence of her dad's heart. She kept reminding herself she had done the right thing, but she was mentally and physically exhausted. Elaine then wrote that she wanted all parliamentarians to know the need of having time to grieve after a loved one's death.

She finished her letter by saying,“I was grateful for a team and employer who understood, but returning to work so soon resulted in me taking more lost time later on due to the energy I put in caring for my dad. I would do it all over again and will probably seek a leave to provide the same care to my mom when it's her time, but my hope is I will have the benefit of bereavement period for compassionate care by the time that happens.”

For Elaine and Leslie who took time like hundreds of others did to email us, the conversation we have had here today and a few months back is a win. It is a win in itself to be able to talk about the need for bereavement leave, the need for compassionate leave.

I want to close by thanking the Canadian Grief Alliance, the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, the MS Society, the Alzheimer Society of Canada, ALS Society of Canada, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Parkinson Canada, Alberta Caregivers Association especially and the Canadian Lung Association.

In particular, I really want to thank the minister and her staff. She has been incredibly open and thoughtful throughout this process of drafting the legislation. I do not have enough kind things to say about the parliamentary secretary or else I would be here for another 10 minutes. He has certainly been nothing but available to me at any time. We spoke at lengths about possible amendments. I look forward to bringing forward those amendments along with the parliamentary secretary. The conversations we continue to have about bereavement and grief are important for not only this chamber but Canadians across the country. I look forward to doing that in due course and I look forward this becoming law within Canada.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request either a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them now to rise and indicate so to the Chair.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to request a recorded division.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, pursuant to an order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 17, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Before moving to adjournment debate, members will know that we have an extremely excellent and wonderfully competent team that staffs us in the House, everything from our pages, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the procedure and verification officers and all those who support us, including the clerks at the table. Members will know that they rotate from time to time. In the last few months, a new clerk, Danielle Labonté, has joined us in the House. For the first time this evening, she had the chance to read the orders of the day for Private Members' Business. I want to thank her. It is great to have her in the House.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is the only country in the world with a universal health care system that does not provide universal prescription drug coverage outside of hospitals. People in Canada pay among the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs due to our patchwork of 100 public and over 100,000 private drug plans. As a result, we lack purchasing power and many Canadians do not get access to drug coverage. The Liberals have promised universal pharmacare for Canadians decade after decade, and there is still no universal pharmacare.

The NDP tabled the Canada pharmacare act in February 2020. Immediately following the last election, the NDP began working to draft a legislative framework to enable the implementation of a universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare program. It is based on the recommendations of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, and modelled on the Canada Health Act. The proposed Canada pharmacare act specifies the conditions and criteria that the provincial and territorial prescription drug insurance programs must meet to receive federal funding. This includes the core principles of public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility. Universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s.

People across Canada are making impossible choices every day because they cannot afford their prescription medications. Millions of Canadians have inadequate prescription coverage or no coverage at all. Sixteen per cent of people in Canada have gone without medication for heart disease, cholesterol or hypertension because of the cost. Over the past year alone, one in four Canadians was forced to avoid filling or renewing a prescription drug due to its cost, or to take measures to extend a prescription because they could not afford to keep the recommended dosage schedule.

Even those with private coverage are seeing their employer-sponsored benefits shrink, a trend that has accelerated due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. In fact, Canadians are twice as likely to have lost prescription drug coverage as to have gained it over the past year. The amount of prescription drugs spending paid out of pocket in Canada in 2016 was $7.4 billion. Universal public pharmacare would extend prescription drug coverage to every single Canadian while saving us billions of dollars every year. The final report of the Hoskins advisory council found that once fully implemented, universal public pharmacare would reduce annual system-wide spending on prescription drugs by $5 billion. Businesses and employees would see a benefit to the tune of $16.6 billion annually for businesses, and families would see their out-of-pocket drug costs reduced by $6.4 billion per year, collectively.

I ask the members to support this bill. Over 13,000 academic experts in the health care and public policy community support this. It is time for us to act. It is time to put the needs of Canadians ahead of big pharma.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Dartmouth—Cole Harbour Nova Scotia

Liberal

Darren Fisher LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to thank the hon. member for the question. There are wonderful people on both sides of the House, and this is a member who, day in and day out, shows and proves how much she cares for Canadians and her constituents.

The government recognizes that Canadians should not have to choose between buying groceries and paying for medication. That is why the government is committed to implementing a national pharmacare program that will ensure that all Canadians have access to the prescription drugs they need.

As part of this commitment, budget 2019 proposed to invest up to $1 billion over two years, with up to $500 million per year ongoing, starting in 2022-23, to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs that they need.

We recognize that for many Canadians with rare diseases, the cost of these medications can be astronomically high. In collaboration with willing provinces, territories and other partners, we continue to work towards delivering a national strategy for high-cost drugs and rare diseases in 2022, starting with a comprehensive engagement process.

In December 2020, the Minister of Health and her provincial-territorial colleagues agreed to mandate senior officials to guide the development and implementation of the national strategy. A broad public and stakeholder engagement process was launched on January 21, 2021, and will run until March 26, 2021. Feedback gathered in this engagement will help inform the design of the national strategy.

Budget 2019 also announced $35 million over four years to establish a transition office. This office is being established to provide dedicated capacity and leadership to advance work on pharmacare-related priorities. These commitments are important steps towards a national pharmacare program.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us all of how critical it is that Canadians have access to the medicines that keep them healthy. This is particularly true of Canadians who have lost drug coverage or who are at risk of losing their coverage due to the pandemic.

In response, our government is ramping up efforts to implement a national pharmacare plan that gets Canadians the drug coverage they need. While we are now more committed than ever, it is important that we continue with our measured and considered approach to implementation. We need to get this right. We need a thoughtful conversation with provinces and territories and stakeholders about how best to meet this challenge together.

In partnership with the provinces and territories, the government is already taking key steps to improve the accessibility and affordability of prescription drugs. Most recently, the government modernized the way patented drug prices are regulated in Canada by amending the patented medicines regulations. These amendments will provide the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board with the tools and information it needs to protect Canadians from excessive prices for patented medicines.

To keep national pharmacare sustainable, we will also continue to look for opportunities to improve pharmaceutical management in partnership with provinces and territories. While we accelerate the implementation of national pharmacare, we must do so in a way that respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction and leverages their expertise.

Together we can build a more effective, efficient and equitable system for all Canadians.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has been decades, and it is still all talk and no action.

The Prime Minister criticized Harper's health care cuts to the provinces, but then kept the cuts to the funding. No wonder the provinces do not trust that the federal government will keep any commitment on pharmacare.

The Liberals are running out of time and out of excuses. Later this month, every single MP will have an opportunity to vote on the NDP’s Bill C-213, the Canada Pharmacare Act. They can either tell their constituents that they stand with everyday Canadians or they stand with big pharma. They can help realize savings of roughly $4.2 billion annually, as indicated by the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report. They can break the trend of the Liberals' broken promises to Canadians and support meaningful action to realize universal pharmacare once and for all.

The choice is theirs. I call on all members to support the NDP's Bill C-213.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I vehemently disagree with the member's comment of “all talk and no action”. In the 2020 Speech from the Throne and the fall economic statement, our government reaffirmed its commitment to accelerating steps to achieve national pharmacare, including developing a high-cost drugs for rare diseases strategy and establishing a national formulary.

Canadians are counting on us to get this right. It is important that we continue, as I said, with our measured and considered approach to its implementation and collaboration with provinces and territories and other key health system partners. In Canada, provinces and territories are responsible for their respective health care design and delivery. Our government respects the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments in this space.

We are committed to working closely with jurisdictions that are ready and willing to advance the implementation of national pharmacare. Now is the time to sit down with provinces and territories and commit to working together to provide all Canadians with access to affordable medications.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second wave of the pandemic has been brutal. We have now lost more than 20,000 Canadians to COVID-19. We have an obligation to those 20,000 Canadians who lost their lives and to the hundreds of thousands of others who survived COVID-19. We owe it to them to fix the problems in our country's biomedical research, development and manufacturing system. We cannot let this happen again.

I want to be clear here: This is not a science problem. This is a government problem. Scientists across the world, including here in Canada, responded to this global crisis with remarkable efficiency. Think how quickly they identified the virus, its mechanism and its genome, and how quickly they were able to create multiple vaccines to protect against COVID-19. I think we can all agree that scientists have done their job.

The breakdown and the reason so few Canadians have been vaccinated to this point is not because of the science. It is because successive Conservative and Liberal governments, including this one, decided that biomedical research, development and manufacturing was not a priority in Canada.

Now the government has finally made a splashy announcement that it is going to support COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing through a deal with Novavax, an American company. The catch is that those vaccines will not be ready until the fall, meaning they will not be ready until after the date the Prime Minister has promised that every Canadian will receive a vaccine. The deal will only help Canadians if the contracts the government signed last year with vaccine manufacturers come up short.

It is February. The time to make this announcement was last year. It is really too late and really too little. I can appreciate the complexity of this. The government had to negotiate contracts with multiple pharmaceutical and biological developers and manufacturers. We did not know which of these companies would lead the way, so we had to hedge our bets. I get that.

This is a global pandemic so the demand for vaccines outreaches the supply. We all understand that. The question here is why is Canada so far behind other countries? The answer is really quite simple: Our government failed us. We were world leaders 50 years ago in vaccine development and manufacturing, a direct result of our exceptional post-secondary institutions. We developed vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, polio and smallpox, and we worked with the World Health Organization on global vaccination campaigns.

Now our universities are struggling to remain world leaders in biomedical research and our vaccine manufacturing capacity is gone. What happened? We lost out to privatization. Without adequate support, university spinoffs could not compete with global pharma and Canada's gem, our leader in vaccine production, a company owned by Canadians, Connaught Laboratories, was sold off to foreign interests.

In the 35 years since we had Connaught Labs sold out from under us, we have had 10 governments with six prime ministers, and not one of those governments or one of those prime ministers made restoring our biomedical capacity a priority. COVID-19 is not going to be the last pandemic. We should be preparing for the next health crisis now.

In November, New Democrats called on the government to put Canada back where it belongs: in the vaccine manufacturing business. We need a public company, a Canadian Crown corporation, to manufacture vaccines and critical medicines so we will never again have to face a crisis like this without our own vaccines.

Will the government commit to increasing the capacity of Canadians to create Canadian vaccines?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Dartmouth—Cole Harbour Nova Scotia

Liberal

Darren Fisher LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has been singularly focused on the COVID-19 crisis this year and last, and its impacts on Canadians and their families. We will continue to take steps that address all aspects and impacts of this pandemic. We will do so working closely with partners in the provinces and territories, indigenous organizations, municipal governments and a range of stakeholders.

The Government of Canada's response to COVID-19 recognizes that provinces and territories have the primary role in the delivery of health care in Canada, and as the situation on the ground can vary significantly across Canada, they remain best placed to determine how to respond.

The Government of Canada does, however, continue to undertake a number of important roles including procuring, distributing and approving key medical supplies. We have already provided significant support to provinces and territories in their efforts to combat the virus and its effects, including emergency surge support for testing, tracing and isolation, as well as outbreak management. We stand ready to provide additional support if and when necessary.

The government has further invested more than $19 billion to support provinces and territories as they safely restart their economies, including funding to help ensure health care systems are ready for possible future waves of the virus. This includes support for vulnerable Canadians, such as those in long-term care who are at much greater risk from COVID-19.

It also supports provinces and territories in boosting their testing, contact tracing and data management capacity so that they can better detect and manage the spread of COVID-19.

We are also finding innovative ways to take pressure off of health care infrastructure through supporting virtual care services, for example. We continue to work hand in hand with provinces and territories to ensure that the distribution of rapid tests is responsive to jurisdictional needs and realities, and is equitable and timely.

The Government of Canada has signed agreements to purchase rapid tests from a number of providers. Rapid tests have been shipped to provinces and territories. Health Canada has also developed the COVID alert app, implemented by many provinces and territories, that serves to notify app users if they have been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Our government is continuously working to secure critical personal protective equipment as well as medical equipment and supplies. We have expedited the delivery of this equipment to our front-line health care workers. Canada is receiving a steady supply of PPE, with shipments arriving daily, and we rapidly allocate the inventory to the provinces and territories.

Finally, the Government of Canada has also established a COVID-19 federal rapid surge capacity initiative. This supports the needs of provinces and territories when they have exceeded their own capacity to respond to the virus. It can strengthen existing services in areas where needs are most pressing, including outbreak management testing and contact tracing.

The Government of Canada has also brought on additional capacity to aid in test processing in federal laboratories. It is important to bear in mind, however, that this capacity is finite and must be used strategically. It is not a replacement for necessary provincial and territorial action. While respecting the provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the Government of Canada will continue to support their efforts and to support Canadians impacted by COVID-19.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the production of vaccines is the jurisdiction of the Liberal government, and we have seen Liberal and Conservative governments fail on vaccine production.

Canadians have been waiting nearly 60 years to get prescription medications included in our health care system. It was 23 years ago that the Liberals first promised a Canadian national pharmacare program, and they have been repeating that promise ever since.

Earlier tonight, we heard the parliamentary secretary speak about the promise made in the 2020 throne speech. I would like to see, when we bring forward our private member's bill on pharmacare, that the Liberal government supports that and does the work to get pharmacare out to Canadians.

Will the parliamentary secretary be supporting our private member's bill calling for pharmacare?