House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vaccines.


Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would ask the member to make sure his microphone is connected, because there seems to be a problem.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Is it working, Madam Speaker?

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It is not any better.

We will move on to the member for New Westminster—Burnaby and come back to the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert afterward.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague, whom I much admire and whom I work with on the Standing Committee on Finance, mentioned the whole issue of tax havens, the lack of a tax on wealth that other countries have put in place and the fact that there is no tax on pandemic-related profits, even though billionaires saw their wealth grow by $78 billion during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, we are seeing contradictions. The government made cuts to emergency programs. Students are being forced to pay back their loans during the pandemic, and of course there is nothing in the budget for people with disabilities, who will have to wait three years for bogus consultations.

I would like to ask my colleague whether he sees a contradiction in this situation, where the ultra-rich are not paying anything and ordinary Canadians are being forced to bear the entire burden of this pandemic.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, the admiration is mutual. I appreciate how productively we work together at the Standing Committee on Finance.

He raised some super-important issues. As I was saying to a colleague who spoke earlier, this inequity has been around for decades. It is actually getting worse. The gap between rich and poor is widening.

My question is, given the economic and social costs of the pandemic, can society still afford to hand out gifts to the very rich?

I think the answer is clear. The answer is no, and this has to change now.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I know my colleague is well acquainted with the housing crisis happening in Quebec right now. I think the housing crisis comes up pretty much every day.

There was an announcement today about $100 million for renovations in Montreal, but the Fédération des locataires d'habitations à loyer modique du Québec, which advocates for affordable housing, said that what the system needs is more like $400 million.

The rapid housing initiative, or RHI, which my colleague is familiar with, was launched in the fall. The government just injected $1.5 billion, but the Federation of Canadian Municipalities asked it to put $7 billion into the program. Ottawa clearly does not understand the gravity of the housing situation. All we ever see is a piecemeal approach.

Does my colleague agree that we need game-changing investments to deal with Quebec's current housing crisis?

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:45 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague and send him my regards.

I congratulate him on the work he is doing for social housing and affordable housing. He is out there on the ground with people and doing an excellent job. I am proud to be part of his team, no doubt about it.

If social housing is in such bad shape, it is because Ottawa withdrew from the file in the 1990s, essentially abandoning it. Quebec did take it over but had limited means, which resulted in a senseless step backward in social housing. There is a huge amount of catching up to do.

In the last year we have had a minority government, which has helped. The government came up with some money, but neither the approach nor the amount were really enough to address the root of the problem that, I remind the House, Ottawa itself created.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Resuming debate, the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby will be able to start his debate. However, I will have to interrupt him. He will be able to continue the next time this matter is before the House.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby.

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to mention that I am speaking today from the traditional unceded territory of the Qayqayt First Nation and of the Coast Salish peoples.

I would like to underscore today, sadly. As members know, every day in Parliament I wear the Moose Hide square to commemorate the stolen sisters, missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and two-spirit people. Today is Red Dress Day, when we commemorate their lives and we recommit to fight for accountability, dignity and justice and to say that there will be, one day, no more stolen sisters.

I have only a few minutes to start the debate today, but I would like to set the table talking about a tale of two countries during this pandemic.

During this pandemic, we have seen one country, a country of very ultrawealthy Canadians, billionaires who have seen their wealth increase by $78 billion during this pandemic, an astounding amount. At the same time, we have seen unprecedented supports showered on the banking sector to maintain bank profits, $750 billion in liquidity supports, which has led to, so far in the pandemic and we will have the latest figures in the next few weeks, over $40 billion in profits.

This flies in the face of every other crisis we have come through, where there has been a sense that we are all in this together and that the ultrarich have to pay their fair share. Notably, in the Second World War, an excess profits tax ensured that we had the wherewithal to fight Nazism and fascism and to rebuild, most vigorously, our economy, putting in place record investments in health care, education, housing and transportation in the postwar period. Sadly, that is not the case through this pandemic with the current government, which has allowed the ultrarich to benefit, to profit and to profiteer in an unprecedented way and refuses even to ask them to pay their fair share of taxes.

There is another country in this tale of two countries, and that is regular Canadians who have been struggling through this pandemic. We have seen Canadians losing their jobs. We have seen Canadians who have invested in their family-owned community businesses for years having to take that sad step of closing the door and turning the key for the very last time. We have seen students struggling to pay for their student loan during the course of this pandemic, as if paying back a Canada student loan should be their priority, rather than putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their heads. We have seen people with disabilities who have struggled and, through this entire pandemic, in about a third of cases with people with disabilities, they have received a $600 one-time stipend.

I contrast that with the land of the billionaires and the banks, with $750 billion in liquidity supports, $78 billion in increased wealth and $42 billion in profits. Throughout this pandemic, we have seen our inequalities exacerbated. We have seen more and more that difference between the ultrawealthy and all the privilege they get from the government, and the struggles that regular Canadian families are having to go through.

I must shout out to our frontline workers, the health care workers and the emergency responders, all of whom have been struggling with all of the financial challenges of this pandemic, often with no supports at all, and at the same time are showing, with great courage, their ability to continue to fight and contribute, fight for people's lives and support Canadians in the health care system, as first responders or as frontline workers. This is the contrast—

Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will have 15 minutes and 10 seconds left to raise this matter before the House the next time the bill is brought forward.

It being 5:55 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from April 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of small business or family farm or fishing corporation), be read the third time and passed.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Malpeque had nine minutes left when the debate resumed last time.

The hon. member for Malpeque.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to get the opportunity to speak a little further on Bill C-208, an act to amend the Income Tax Act regarding transfer of a small business, a family farm or a fishing corporation, which is sponsored by the member for Brandon—Souris.

As members know, Bill C-208 is now at third reading stage. How did it get here? Simply put, Bill C-208 has had considerable debate in the House and was referred to the finance committee, which I chair. I will make a few comments on what witnesses had to say before committee in a moment. The finance committee referred the bill back to the House without amendment.

Bill C-208 has a long history, and it criss-crosses the political landscape. It was first introduced by the current member of Parliament for Bourassa, a Liberal, two parliaments ago. In the last Parliament, the same bill was brought forward by Guy Caron, an NDP member. Now, in this current Parliament, it is sponsored by the member for Brandon—Souris, a Conservative member.

This long history, across all major political parties in the House, certainly shows that there is a need to bring fairness and equity from a taxation perspective to the transfer of family farm corporations, fisheries enterprises and small family businesses. Quite honestly, it is long past time that this problem was fixed.

During an earlier discussion at third reading, it was suggested by the government spokesman that just maybe the bill could provide opportunities for tax avoidance. I would agree that tax avoidance is a legitimate concern. However, I must point out that at the finance committee we heard from 17 witnesses, and every opportunity was given to address the concern of tax avoidance. We called on the public and Finance Canada to provide witnesses and propose amendments, to anybody who had those kinds of concerns.

I certainly appreciate that the assistant deputy minister of the tax policy branch and the senior director of the tax legislation division in the tax policy branch appeared and answered questions, and their comments appear in the transcript for the finance committee for anybody who wants to see it. To be fair, they did outline some concerns, especially as it relates to what is called “surplus stripping” for the purpose of tax avoidance.

Where does that leave us? On the one hand, we have concerns being expressed by officials, and I do take their concerns seriously. On the other hand, we have a broad section of witnesses who expressed a serious and immediate need for a way to transfer a small business, farming corporation or fishing enterprise without facing unfair taxation when transferring to a family member. We do not see amendments to the bill that would fix this alleged problem.

I would even agree with those who might say that private members' bills are not the best vehicle to change tax policy. They are not. However, we simply cannot allow this inequity disadvantaging intergenerational transfers to family members to continue. It is time to accept the only change that is on the table to fix the problem, and that happens to be Bill C-208.

The sponsor of the bill, the member for Brandon—Souris, gave about the most concise and clear example of this inequity in the tax system. He said:

The second example was a father wanting to sell his farm to his son to fund his retirement. If the father were to sell his farm to a stranger, he could use his capital gains exemption on the sale, resulting in an effective tax rate of 13.39%. However, if the farmer sold his farm to his son, that sale would be recorded as a dividend rather than a capital gain, and the farmer would pay 47.4% in tax. That is a huge difference, and I think we can all agree that it is completely unfair.

The second quote is from Ms. Robyn Young, president-elect of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada.

She said this:

In closing, this is an issue of equity and fairness. Business owners should not be penalized for selling their business to a family member. Tax implications should never be a consideration when making the decision to sell a business to a family member.

There were many other good witnesses I could quote and make the point on this serious inequity, including the UPA, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, other farming and fishing organizations, the tax manager at Deloitte, underwriting companies and more, but I think members get my point.

The backbone of many communities are small businesses, farmers and fishermen. Those who can pass a business down from generation to generation create the history and the character of many of our communities in the country. We need to give every opportunity for those families to make that transfer.

It is absolutely true that during this pandemic the federal government has been there in every way possible to support Canadians, businesses, farmers and fishermen. Tax policy, however, should not cause a disincentive to transfer to the next generation. Tax fairness should be the cornerstone on which to encourage intergenerational transfers. This bill would move tax policy in that direction.

Finance Canada, and the government for that matter, always have the option to put forward corrections in a ways and means motion if concerns expressed before committee do arise in reality. That, in itself, is a safeguard. They have the ability to do that fairly quickly through a ways and means motion. However, farmers, fishermen and small business owners, with respect to the unfairness of this taxation system, have been waiting for this change for years.

We have to put the shoe on the other foot. Instead of having those families that want intergenerational transfers sitting in the wings waiting for something to happen, we have to pass this bill and put the shoe on the other foot. If there is a problem, then government has the ability to fix that problem. I am encouraging others to recognize this problem.

I, for sure, will be supporting Bill C-208, and I hope others can do the same.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


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

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his speech, which was interesting. My speech will be along the same lines as his, as it was all very sensible.

In his speech, my colleague said that Bill C-208, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, is not partisan. The bill does not belong to the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the NDP or the Bloc Québécois.

In fact, since there were no questions and comments following the remarks by the previous speaker, I would like to point out an oversight. I believe it was an oversight. Perhaps not, but I hope it was.

He mentioned some of the previous versions of this bill intended to facilitate the transfer of family businesses. Yes, the hon. member for Bourassa did in fact introduce legislation to facilitate the transfer of family businesses when he was in opposition a few years ago. Yes, it is also true that the former member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Guy Caron, had also introduced legislation to facilitate the transfer of family businesses.

However, my colleague may have forgotten that the member speaking right now, in other words me, also had the opportunity to introduce Bill C-275, which sought to facilitate the transfer of family businesses. I introduced it at roughly the same time as my former colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. In fact, as we were announcing the introduction of this bill, my former colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques thought it was such a good idea that he quickly introduced his bill as well.

There was a bit of a friendly competition about doing the right thing. We wanted parents who want to hand down their business to their children to stop being penalized. This only makes sense, because it is good to see a family's achievement carry on.

Now it is the Conservatives' turn to introduce a similar bill. At the time, when they were in government, the Conservatives were against it, but now they support the cause. Of course we are very pleased to see that, but we are still disappointed to see that the current Liberal government does not seem to want to support the bill. It is hard to understand. How is it that when the Liberal and Conservative parties are in the opposition they want to do the right thing, but when they are in power they do not? That is quite disappointing, to say the least.

When this type of bill is introduced, many people pay attention to the ongoing debates. When the bill was introduced, and then when we began debating it, I immediately alerted certain businesses in my riding as well as some people I went to school with who also wanted to take over their family businesses. After seeing so many bills fail, they were all excited and hoped that this one would come to fruition.

In the meantime, after so many bills failed to pass in previous parliaments, the Quebec government decided to act. Quebec changed its tax legislation to allow the transfer of family businesses. It would seem that the federal government is frozen and incapable of moving forward. When either the Liberals or the Conservatives come to power, everything suddenly stops and fails to move forward.

I am making a heartfelt plea, which I believe echoes the pleas of the people who have been contacting me. They want to know what progress has been made on this bill and whether it will pass. Sometimes I tell them that even if my bill does not pass, some measures might well be included in a budget. In several economic updates and even in some budgets, the government stated that it would work to facilitate the transfer of family businesses and that it would examine the legislation to make certain improvements.

Once again, the government is giving people hope. People are thinking that maybe the government is finally going to do something. It is disappointing, because year after year there is always a holdup. Is it an administrative problem or does the bill run counter to some kind of interest? I do not know who would have an interest in preventing families from passing their business from one family member to another.

Passing a business on to the next generation is not easy. It is rare. People often say that it is difficult to transfer a business and to encourage their children to take over the family business. When their children do want to take over, why are we stopping them from doing so? Why would we financially penalize those who pass their business on to family members but not penalize those who do not? Why is it more profitable to sell one's business to anyone other than one's own children?

For example, I could sell my business to a stranger and make more money. There are many parents who have to think about that option. Obviously, all parents want what is best for their children, but when they see that passing their business on to their children could, in some cases, cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars, many of them have to stop and think about whether doing so is financially viable for them. Not all business owners have millions of dollars put away. Often these business owners invested in their business thinking that they would use it for their retirement. They therefore want to be able to benefit from it.

This is creating quite the dilemma for people. If they pass their business on to their children, then they may have to forgo their retirement. It is really disappointing to see that this situation has not yet been resolved. That is why I wanted to speak today, to bring to light this issue, this problem.

We also have to look further ahead. What happens when there is no one in a family to take over the business? The owner has to seek out someone else, approaching businesses or people who are already well established, such as a competitor, a bigger company. That is what poses a problem.

Family farms can disappear when they are taken over by larger farms. I have nothing against large farms, by why not let small businesses exist and prosper, run by people who are working for themselves and being their own boss? I think that would be nice. However, we are faced with a bill that hinders that possibility.

If we let farms disappear, if we let small businesses disappear because there is nobody to take them over, we are making other people think it is not easy to start a business or start a farm. Ultimately, if we want to allow those transfers, if we want to avoid seeing mega-businesses and mega-farms that are held by shareholders and operated by absentee executives and managers who live who knows where or are very far away from the customer, the consumer, we have to be flexible and attentive to this concern.

I studied accounting. Business owners and I are not the only ones saying we are frustrated. We are also hearing that from accountants, accounting students and professors, who have been saying for ages that the government is not interested in listening or understanding. We were hearing it back in the early 2000s, when I was in university. Professors did not understand why the government was not doing something about this issue. All the students were appalled to learn that, by law, this kind of capital gain was considered a dividend, which meant at least twice as much tax had to be paid on that gain. Financially, that hurts. Like it or not, money influences these decisions and affects the young people who would like to take over.

As I see that my time is almost up and I do not want you to interrupt, Madam Speaker, I will conclude with a heartfelt plea. I implore the government to finally listen to the wishes of the business world, small businesses, members of the House and members of the Standing Committee on Finance and to do the right thing by supporting and passing this much-needed bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to be standing virtually in the House and speaking to Bill C-208. I would like to thank the member for Brandon—Souris for being the sponsor of this bill. He is the latest in a fairly long line of MPs who have been trying to achieve this legislative proposal.

I was present in the 42nd Parliament when my former colleague, Guy Caron, brought in Bill C-274, and I remember his passionate speech in the House of Commons during its second reading. He was trying to illustrate the reasons why that legislation was so important. It was great to witness that speech, but ultimately it was very disappointing to see the vote results when the Liberal government at the time used its majority to prevent the bill from going any further.

I am glad to see this time it has been different, by virtue of the fact that we are in a minority Parliament and the opposition used its combined numbers to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Finance where it had a good airing. We got to hear from many witnesses, and ultimately the committee decided to send the bill back to us for our final consideration. It is my sincere hope that this bill will be sent off to the other place and that we can look forward to royal assent, hopefully in the near future.

When Bill C-274 was being considered in the previous Parliament, I had a meeting with the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce. I was given a 10-minute speaking spot during their AGM, and when I talked about Bill C-274 at that time and about what we were hoping to do, I got unanimous positive feedback from the members of that chamber. For those who do not know, Port Renfrew is on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. Many people there depend on fishing for their livelihoods. They are either commercial fishermen or are in sport fishing, so they have small fishing corporations. To have the ability put forward to transfer their businesses to family members really meant a lot to them. There was overwhelmingly positive feedback. I ultimately had to give them bad news, but here we are with a real opportunity to try to bring about some positive change.

This bill is pretty much tailor-made for the types of small businesses that exist in the riding I represent, Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. Like so many members before me, I want to acknowledge the pain and suffering that small businesses have gone through over the last year. I think it is incumbent upon us not only to have support programs to help them through the pandemic, but also to bring about long-term systemic change to important statutes such as the Income Tax Act, so that we can make their business operations and their succession planning that much easier.

My riding is dominated by farming as well. Here in the Cowichan Valley we have a beautiful climate. It is, I think, Canada's only Mediterranean climate and we have a very long and storied agricultural history. We have generational family farms here. Some have the fifth generation of a family farming the same plot of land. If we can bring about legislative change that makes succession easier and gives them peace of mind, I think we are doing a good thing.

I also want to give a shout-out to the five chambers of commerce in my riding: Chemainus, Cowichan Lake District, Duncan Cowichan, Port Renfrew and WestShore. They have all been incredible advocates for their members. I have been staying in touch with them quite consistently over the last year and their feedback during this pandemic has been invaluable in helping me, as a member, advocate on their behalf in Ottawa to make sure that the federal government's policies and programs are reflecting their needs.

I will concentrate mostly on family farms, given the nature of my riding and the fact that I am the NDP's critic for agriculture and agrifood. When we look at family farms, we are looking at $50 billion in farm assets that are set to change hands over the next 10 years. History has shown us that roughly 8,000 family farms have disappeared over the last decade.

The National Farmers Union has done an incredible report on the status of Canada's farms, called “Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis”. It not only looks at agriculture in the context of climate change, but also the financial footing that many farms are on and how shaky it is. According to the NFU, Canadian farm debt has doubled since the year 2000. That is in 21 short years. It was listed at $106 billion in 2019.

Many farms have to chase income from off-farm work, taxpayer support programs and other farm sources. That is just a reality for so many small farms. What is really concerning is that we have lost two-thirds of our young farmers since 1991. The family farm is pretty much being systematically destroyed in Canada, and we need to put measures in place that are going to help.

Why is Bill C-208 so important? The owners of small businesses, family farms and fishing operations who want to retire want to be able to sell to their children because it is often their children who have been brought up in the family business and on the family farm. From a young age they have learned the culture of the business and what it does, and they often have a lot invested in that business continuing to succeed. The next generation often has very important ideas about where to take that business.

When parents decide to sell their business to their children, the difference between the sale price and the price originally paid is currently considered a dividend, but if they sell their business to an unrelated individual or corporation it is considered a capital gain. Unlike capital gains, a divided does not include the right to a lifetime exemption and is taxed more heavily. We can make a measurable improvement in allowing families to pass on businesses that might have been part of a family for generations to their children, making it easier for that work to get done.

I want to recognize the work done at the Standing Committee on Finance. I appreciate the witnesses who appeared. Many of them also appeared at the agriculture committee. We heard important testimony from the CFIB, the Grain Growers of Canada, L'Union des producteurs agricoles and, of course, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which has been such an incredibly important voice for farmers from coast to coast to coast.

They noted at committee that the average age of Canadian farmers is now above 55, and the opportunities these businesses face will carry into the next generation. It is a sector in which the vast majority of businesses remain family owned, and maintaining the financial health of those businesses across generations is critical. At committee, the CFA very clearly said that it supported Bill C-208 because it would ensure that real family farm transfers could access the same capital gains treatment as businesses selling to unrelated parties, rather than treating the difference as a dividend that was taxed at a higher rate and not being able to access the lifetime capital gains exemption.

We have an important opportunity before us. During the vote at second reading, I was sad to see that 145 Liberal MPs voted against this bill. Two Liberal MPs supported it. It is my sincere hope that when this bill comes to a final vote to be sent to the Senate, Liberals can finally see this as an important opportunity and can represent the interests of small businesses, family farms and fishing corporations by making this much-needed change to the Income Tax Act and doing right by their constituents.

I, for one, will be proud to vote in favour of Bill C-208 and send it on its journey. I look forward to the day when we can finally see it receive royal assent.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, what a privilege and honour it is to speak to Bill C-208. Not often in the House do we find a private member's bill that has all-party support, and this is one of those unique situations.

For many small business owners, business succession is an important factor to consider when planning for the future. This is no surprise. When they spend so much of their time and energy pouring hour after hour into running their operation, what happens to the fruits of their labour when it is time for them to retire or move on matters to them.

However, surveys tell us that only about half of small businesses have a succession plan. I suspect that is because they are caught up in the day-to-day running of their businesses. However, whether they are thinking about succession early on or are confronting succession decisions near the time of transition, somewhere along the line these entrepreneurs face a frustrating reality: It is more expensive to sell an incorporated small business, or a family farm or fishing enterprise, to a family member than to a stranger.

What is behind this? When a business is sold to a family member, it is considered a dividend. When sold to a stranger, it is considered a capital gain and is eligible for capital gains exemption. In its simplest form, when selling to a family member the tax rate is higher for the seller than when selling to a stranger. That tax rate is significantly lower.

This is not right, and it is not fair. About half of small business owners are hoping to sell or transfer their operations to family members when it is time for them to move on. If members have spent even a little time around family-run businesses, the “why” becomes clear. Sometimes kids are raised in the business and learn the ropes at a young age. They come to know the ins and outs of the business better than anyone. They put in the time, they know the customers and they are established figures in their communities. When the time comes for succession, they are an obvious option for so many reasons.

This is where Bill C-208 comes in. It seeks to achieve tax fairness for business succession by amending the Income Tax Act to level the playing field. It would allow a small business owner the same tax rate when selling their operation to a family member as when selling to a third party. It would correct the injustice within the act that unfairly punishes individuals when they sell their qualifying small business, farm or fishing operation to their own family.

During the finance committee's study of the bill, Brian Janzen, a senior tax manager with Deloitte, gave an example to help members understand just how stark the financial difference currently is between selling to a family member and selling to a stranger. He said:

Right now, if you have a $1-million business and you sell your shares—in a restaurant, let's say—to your neighbour, you will walk away with after-tax proceeds from a $1-million sale of about $971,000. That's only $29,000 of leakage....

There are various ways to sell your shares to your kids under the current regime of section 84.1, but I'll just use the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that your kid sets up a holding company, or holdco, and buys your shares from you. In Manitoba, that will cost you $466,000 because of the deemed dividend. That's a difference, between the two scenarios, of $437,000. That's just crazy.

He is right. That is crazy, especially when we consider the value small business continuity can have in our communities. Small business owners have often built strong relationships with their customers over the long term. They have employees, whether a couple or a couple dozen, whom they care about and have invested in. They are plugged into their communities in multiple ways. Whether by supporting local food banks, sponsoring sports clubs or donating to construct a new community centre, small businesses are there.

Handing that over to a stranger, perhaps someone from out of town, may not be the best situation for the business owners or their communities. When they have built something and invested plenty of sweat equity in their operation, it is understandable to want to hand it off to someone who can carry on that legacy.

Robyn Young, president-elect of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, told the finance committee about her experience of purchasing the family business from her parents. She said:

When my parents decided to sell their business, they received an offer from a large direct writer. They ultimately chose to sell the business to me and my brother, because it was important to them to keep the business they had built within the family. They also wanted to ensure that their clients would continue to receive the same expert advice and personal touch they had come to expect.

She went on to say:

Family-run brokerages are the pillars of the community and the lifeblood of the economy. They serve and support their communities in good times and bad by creating employment and donating time, money and other resources.

These are the considerations for many small business owners looking at succession planning. There needs to be a level playing field that empowers owners to make the best choice for them and their communities.

The current inequity is a reality that impacts a variety of types of small businesses, but I want to take a moment to talk about farm families specifically.

Agriculture is incredibly capital intensive, and as Scott Ross of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture told the finance committee, “effective succession planning is critically important, particularly for a sector that will transfer tens of billions of dollars in assets to the next generation in this decade alone.” Uniquely, the agriculture sector continues to be one where the vast majority of farms, even though they are incorporated, still remain family owned. This has considerable advantages for all Canadians since, as Mr. Ross highlighted, “studies show that family farming encourages sustainable growth, environmental stewardship and increased spending within one’s local community, not to mention its contributions to the social fabric of rural Canada.”

I share several commonalities with the bill's sponsor, the member for Brandon—Souris. For one, we were both elected in the same 2012 by-election. More importantly for today's discussion, we both have “farmer” on our resumes. We are very familiar with the immense benefits that farming and agriculture provide to the communities we represent. By passing Bill C-208, the House can acknowledge the tremendous contributions that our farmers make and can help ensure tax fairness for farm succession.

Throughout debate on this bill, we have heard some members suggest that this change will just benefit the rich or create opportunities for tax avoidance. I want to address this head-on because that is a mischaracterization that finance committee testimony swiftly put to rest.

The bill includes tax-avoidance safeguards mandating that the family member who purchases the operation must maintain their shares for a minimum of five years to avoid penalization. As Deloitte senior tax manager Brian Janzen confirmed, “This bill is helping the lower end of the small business community. It is not helping the huge, rich companies, even if they're family owned.” He also told the finance committee that Bill C-208 has enough guardrails to prevent tax avoidance, even as he urged vigilance so that tweaks could be made if required.

Like all colleagues, I wanted to make sure that the bill did not providing an undue benefit to large corporations. I therefore asked Mr. Jansen very specifically about those concerns. He said it did not benefit large corporations, “partly because of the guardrails you have in this bill, but also because for the larger companies...section 84.1 and the capital gains exemption didn't even come into play. The numbers are big enough that this is just...not material to the larger private businesses. This is really helping the small private business.”

It is clear that this bill strikes the right balance between providing tax fairness and preventing abuse. I encourage any members who feel differently to review the testimony before the finance committee. They will see experts addressing these concerns and urging the bill's swift passage.

There were 145 Liberal members who voted against this common-sense bill at second reading. Meanwhile, members of all the opposition parties supported it, and so did two Liberal MPs. I sincerely appreciate the two Liberal members who voted in favour of this bill. They recognized the positive impact that it would have on their constituents. I hope that the testimony we have heard since that time will help other Liberal MPs better understand why they ought to lend their support to Bill C-208. Their constituents deserve tax fairness.

I want to wrap up by saying thanks to the member for Brandon—Souris for introducing this pertinent legislation. His efforts are going to make a real difference in the lives of many small business owners and farm families. We have seen iterations of this bill brought forward by multiple parties over the years, and this goes to show that there is cross-party support for this bill. It is time to get it over the finish line.

I invite all my colleagues to support small business and vote in favour of Bill C-208. Let us get it passed and get it to the Senate. Hopefully it will deal with it as expeditiously as the House has. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to speak to this bill at third reading stage.

At its annual general meeting, the Syndicat de la relève agricole d'Abitibi-Témiscamingue called on MPs from the Abitibi-Témiscamingue area to support Bill C-208 and to actively contribute to its passage before the next election. That is my role today in bringing debate to a close at third reading.

The resolution of the Syndicat de la relève agricole d'Abitibi-Témiscamingue speaks of fairness when transferring agricultural farms. At present, when an individual sells their shares in their small business or family farm corporation to a family member, the difference between the sale price and the initial purchase price is treated as a dividend. However, if the business or corporation is sold to someone other than a family member, this transaction is treated as a capital gain.

Bill C-208 would give small businesses, farming families and fishing families the same tax treatment whether they sell their business to a family member or a third party. The economic landscape of our region is made up of a growing number of incorporated farms and family fishing corporations, which is why the Syndicat de la relève agricole d'Abitibi-Témiscamingue adopted this resolution, and I am here to honour it.

I had the opportunity to take part in the debate on this bill in November 2020, and I remember that my presentation centred on the fact that, incredible as it may seem, a business owner is currently better off selling their business to outside shareholders than to members of their own family. As I said, under the existing legislation, the transfer of a business to a family member is treated as a dividend and not as a capital gain, unlike a sale to a third party. As a result, owners are not entitled to the lifetime capital gains exemption if they decide to sell the business to their children.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-208. For several years now, my party has been calling for measures to encourage and facilitate the transfer of family businesses, especially in the agriculture and fisheries sectors. I would also like to acknowledge the work of my colleague, the member for Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, who had the opportunity to speak before me and who introduced Bill C-275 back in the day.

The Bloc Québécois has been calling for measures to encourage and facilitate the transfer of family businesses for over 15 years. For Quebeckers, the Bloc Québécois and myself, business succession is important. It is also important for our SMEs in general, but especially for family farms in the regions, like the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region. Perhaps we will soon have the opportunity to speak of Bill C-208 and its consequences in the past tense, a thought that fills me with excitement.

The existing legislation makes no sense at all. What is prompting the Liberal Party to vote against Bill C-208? They are raising the possibility of tax abuse and tax fraud, but we know that the Parliamentary Budget Officer questioned the amount of money that the Liberal government estimated would be lost, calculating that it would be tens or hundreds of millions instead of billions of dollars. Speaking of losses, I still do not understand why the government is not cracking down on tax havens.

I would like to share the comments of a farmer from my riding, a friend of mine named Simon Leblond, who was the president of the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec when I was working for the union. With regard to the transfer of family farms, he said that it is important to maintain a large enough pool of farmers to maintain services for farms and, more generally, to ensure the vitality of the industry, make it known to those outside the world of agriculture, and ensure interest.

Farmers face major challenges, and I think it is important to point that out. Some of the challenges faced by farmers in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and everywhere else include land grabbing, farmland financialization, the whole issue of income security, vet services for farm animals, crop insurance and agricultural drainage. These are major challenges, and improving access to land and quality of life for Quebec's young farmers is one way to ensure a future in agriculture for Quebec's youth.

The more people we have who are willing to take over farms, the more services we will be able to provide. It is a cycle, but unfortunately that cycle has been broken. I hope that we can get that cycle going again and that we will see more and more young people taking over farms. Land prices, quota prices and new forms of agricultural production are leading to higher costs every year, and the red tape is becoming increasingly cumbersome, making it harder and harder for farmers to access land and operate their business. As politicians, we have a responsibility in that regard. I repeat: It is not right that a business owner is better off selling the business to a third party than to their own family members.

The Government of Quebec included measures in its 2016 budget to facilitate the transfer of family businesses in the primary and manufacturing sectors. A change to Quebec's Taxation Act relaxed the rule that prohibited the seller from using the capital gains tax exemption. Quebec has addressed this issue, while the federal government still lags behind, or at least it was lagging until now. I remind members that the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessed the cost of these measures, and his figure was lower than what the federal government was claiming.

I want to get back to the speech my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé made about Bill C-208 at second reading. I want to make a little aside, though, and I want to acknowledge and commend our colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, for his leadership. I would like to congratulate the Conservative Party for its leadership in this debate, because Bill C-208 has been given priority on two occasions at third reading. That is why we are debating it today. I hope that we will be able to vote on this bill by next week so that it can be sent to the Senate and then get royal assent. That would be the blessing that so many have hoped for. I will give some examples soon, but I just wanted to mention that.

The member for Berthier—Maskinongé said:

...what we are really talking about are small and medium-sized businesses, which are the backbone of our economy. We need to keep these businesses alive and make sure they survive. We need to make sure that these small businesses can keep going and that they are not put at a disadvantage where they will end up being bought out by big corporations. The survival of these small businesses is directly connected to the survival of our regions. This is why I am appealing to all of my colleagues.

I second my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé's appeal because the Bloc Québécois stands for human-scale enterprises.

I also want to say that I got to be part of the debates that took place when Bill C-208 was sent to the Standing Committee on Finance. On March 9, Julie Bissonnette, a dairy farmer in L'Avenir and the president of the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec, and Philippe Pagé, the FRAQ's general director and mayor of Saint-Camille, had this to say:

Bill C-208 is significant for young farmers because we believe it will encourage the transfer of farms to family members and go a long way towards correcting tax unfairness, while supporting a strong farming community.

As an organization whose mission is to protect the interests of the next generation of farmers and improve conditions for those starting out, it has taken a clear position. The FRAQ representatives also wanted the committee to know that some young Canadians are seeing their dreams evaporate because of ill-conceived tax rules. They said:

The numbers speak for themselves. A business that is transferred to a family member is six times more likely to succeed than a business transferred to someone outside the family. What's more, 70% of all entrepreneurs in Quebec would prefer to keep their businesses in the family. Even today, selling a business to a related party is the preferred way to transfer a farm. Our tax system should support all young farmers, no matter their path to business ownership, something the system does not currently do.

Marcel Groleau, from the Union des producteurs agricoles, echoed these comments. During the same meeting, he mentioned the pride that comes from completing a successful transfer, saying:

Some 98% of the country's farms are family owned and operated. That business model is a source of pride for Canadians. Family farming promotes sustainable growth, environmental stewardship and reinvestment in local economies.

He added:

According to a 2017 study by the Business Development Bank of Canada, nearly 40% of small businesses will be transferred or sold by the end of 2022 as owners near retirement.

There is an urgent need for action. Obviously, the reference to subsection 84(1) of the Income Tax Act is one of the things that needs to be revised. The act has not evolved to reflect the context and the demographic pressure that applies to farms.

I also want to mention the support of Daniel Kelly, the president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, or CFIB, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and was quite happy to express CFIB's very favourable position on the bill. I should note that 17% of business owners are seriously considering shutting down, that Bill C-208 would facilitate business transfers and, most importantly, that it is time for a resolution and for significant action.

I will conclude by recalling two points raised by Mr. Groleau, who shared some data from the Commission de protection du territoire agricole, Quebec's farmland protection commission. He pointed out that everything is documented and that we are seeing an increasing number of transactions involving farmland being carried out by investors rather than by producers. The investors' interest lies in renting out the land while they wait to potentially do something else with it.

The devil is in the details, and it will be important to move on in order to meet the needs of the next generation of farmers.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Dan Mazier Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to a very important bill that would positively impact countless farmers and small business owners across Canada if passed.

I want to sincerely thank my colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, for introducing the bill to Parliament and making so much progress on this issue. I am fortunate to work with my Manitoba colleague, who gained my profound respect for representing his constituents in an exceptional manner throughout his tenure as a member of Parliament.

Bill C-208, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, would provide tax fairness for farmers and small business owners across our nation.

This may surprise most Canadians, but selling a farm or a small business to an unknown third party receives better tax treatment than selling that same business to a family member. The current structure of the Income Tax Act penalizes farm and small business owners from transferring their operations to a member of their own family. This discrepancy in tax treatment can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in more taxes if sold to family as opposed to a stranger.

For example, imagine a couple who has owned a local auto repair shop in Manitoba for decades and is ready to retire. These owners have worked hard to support their family and community and their business is now worth $1 million. The couple is approached by a multinational auto repair company that has no roots in the community but wants to buy the business. If owners were to sell their business to this unknown third party, they would incur $29,000 in taxes.

Their son is also interested in buying the local business as he looks to raise a family and make a living in the community in which he grew up. However, if their son were to purchase the same company at the same price, his parents could pay up to $466,000 in taxes, a tax difference of $437,000.

Now the couple who owns the auto repair shop must make a decision. Do the owners sell to the multinational company and maximize their retirement fund or do they sell to their son and keep the business in the family? Why should small business owners be placed in a position to choose between sacrificing their retirement fund or sacrificing the word family in their family business? The answer is obvious: they should not.

However, thousands of business owners spend their entire careers operating their businesses with the expectation of passing it to their children. They do not realize the staggering tax difference they will be indebted with until they part ways with their business. This puts retirement and business plans at risk.

The constituency of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa is built on the foundation of small business and agriculture. These sectors are the lifeblood to the vibrant rural communities of our region. I was raised and spent my entire life in rural Manitoba. I understand how these businesses support our communities and the families within.

Last year, I spent a year touring rural Manitoba to meet specifically with small businesses to hear their priorities and concerns. One of the most prominent things I heard was the concern of what the future would look like in rural populations as aging and younger generations moved to urban centres. Many rural communities rely on a single business to provide a good or service.

I think of the No. 5 Store in the rural town of Riding Mountain, located between the community of Neepawa and Ste. Rose. This family run business is the only supplier of essential goods and services to the Riding Mountain community. Locals rely on the No. 5 Store for their everyday essentials like groceries and mail.

Small businesses like these provide families with goods and services needed to successfully make a living in rural communities. If businesses like these close their doors, communities suffer.

Large multinational companies will never replace the locally owned family businesses that are the engines of rural Canada. Family owned small businesses are what give rural communities their identity. We must support them in transferring their businesses to future generations so they can endure. Without small businesses, rural Canada evaporates.

Agriculture is another pillar to our country and to the region I represent. Family farms contribute immensely to the social and cultural fabric of rural Canada. However, by 2025, one in four farmers will be 65 or older and over 110,000 farmers are expected to retire within the coming decade. This means thousands of farmers will be transferring their farm operations as they retire.

I should remind the members of the House that farmers are the people who have a strong connection to the land. They care deeply about keeping their farm in the family in the hopes of watching their children take the same care of the land in the manner they did.

There something to be said about the family farm. The family farm is not just a business, it is not just an operation; it is generational and sentimental. It is a way of life for hundreds of thousands of Canadians and their families. The family farm is an ideal and it is an ideal worth preserving. However, it is clear that agriculture is approaching a demographic revolution and as parliamentarians, it is our duty to support such a massive transition to ensure the future prosperity of Canadian agriculture.

Unfortunately, under the current tax regime, farmers are unable to transfer their family farm to the family without experiencing unfair tax treatment. As parliamentarians, we need to work creating more sustainable rural Canada through job creation and economic prosperity. Bill C-208 would do that.

Bill C-208 would keep the family in the family business. It would provide a future for the family farm. It would create fairness for countless Canadians as well as preserve the rural communities that are the bedrock to our nation.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleagues have outlined all the details at second reading, third reading and previous iterations of this bill, so I will not go into those right now.

Tonight, I want to begin by thanking all those who have helped get Bill C-208 to this point. Without my Conservative colleagues trading the speaking spots for their private members' bills, we would never have gotten to third reading before the summer recess. I am immensely thankful to them for that.

For my colleagues from Prince Albert, Saskatoon—Grasswood and Regina—Qu'Appelle, I am eternally grateful for their support and assistance. For that support, I want them to know we are on the cusp of passing the legislation and sending it to the Senate.

I have spoken to numerous MPs over the past year about the importance of correcting this massive injustice within the Income Tax Act. The purpose of this bill is straightforward. It will level the playing field by giving families the exact same tax treatment whether they transfer their businesses or operations to their children or to a stranger. It will result in more locally owned and operated businesses, as has been outlined by many of my colleagues who have spoken to the bill, the types of businesses that are involved in their communities and provide steady employment for countless individuals. It will help keep farms and fishing operations in the family as well as any other qualifying small business.

Bill C-208 would send a message of hope to young farmers who want to carry on what their families started. Most of all, it would bring tax fairness to the Income Tax Act. No longer will parents have given a false choice of having to choose between a larger retirement package by selling to a stranger or a massive tax bill because they have sold to a family member, their own son, daughter or grandchildren. Every single community in Canada will be positively impacted by the passage of the bill.

As I said in my speech two weeks ago, there is bipartisan support for the legislation. I want to recognize and thank not only my colleagues from Provencher and Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa for their kind words and informational speeches, but also the members of other parties for their speeches and support at second reading, third reading and at committee as well as all the witnesses who gave testimony.

In particular, I want to thank my colleague from Malpeque, who also happens to be the chair of the finance committee, who announced he would be voting in favour of Bill C-208. I thank him for his kind presentation in the House today as well.

While I know my Liberal colleague from Winnipeg North, and I know him very well, is well-intentioned, I found that during his speech a on the legislation a couple of week, his comments were quite off base. I know, had he taken the time to read the evidence and testimony provided at the finance committee, he would have known his speaking points and the concerns given to him by the finance department were all truly addressed.

For my Liberal colleagues, who, for the most part, all voted against the bill at second reading, I know the process. I know the party whips and the powers that be have likely told them to vote against the bill. However, I implore them to listen to their constituents who want this legislation passed, review what the tax experts have said and reach out to their businesses, farms or organizations in their ridings and ask them if they support the bill. I can assure all my colleagues that if they do reach out, they will find almost universal support for Bill C-208.

Once and for all, we can finally resolve this long-standing problem that countless families have had to endure when selling their businesses or operations to their immediate children or grandchildren.

I look forward to the final vote next week and kindly ask all my colleagues to support the bill, thus allowing for the debate in the other place and passage of it into law.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion.

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

The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I would ask for a recorded division.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to an order Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 12, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

[For continuation of proceedings, see part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

COVID-19 in AlbertaEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the COVID-19 situation in Alberta.

COVID-19 in AlbertaEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.


Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB


That this House do now adjourn.

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the Speaker for allowing us to have this debate today. It is an extremely important debate, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to stand and represent my constituents and represent all people in Alberta and across Canada who are deeply concerned about what is happening in my province.

We are here tonight because Alberta, my province, is in crisis and that crisis is threatening all of Canada. Once again, Alberta reported nearly 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 today. Alberta's per capita rate of infection is the highest in Canada, nearly double that of Ontario. It is the highest rate of infection in North America and one of the highest rates in the world. In some locations in Alberta, the rate of infection is higher than in India.

ICUs in Alberta are nearing capacity. There is no more room for acute COVID patients. There is no more capacity in the health care system to deal with this crisis. Alberta's acute care health care system is on the verge of collapse.

Late last week, Alberta Health Services instructed physicians to review a new protocol, the critical care triage framework. The framework is designed to guide physicians in case of “a dire situation” where “the demand for life-sustaining critical care support is greater than the available resources”. In other words, for the first time in history, Alberta's doctors have been given emergency instructions on how to determine which patients will receive life-saving treatment and which ones will not, instructions to determine who lives and who dies.

As I am sure everyone in Canada can appreciate, Alberta's physicians are not pleased that it has come to this. Edmonton doctor Noel Gibney, who co-chairs the Edmonton pandemic response committee, said that the implementation of the triage framework would be devastating for physicians, for nurses and for other front-line health care workers. He said:

It would put significant moral distress on ICU doctors and nurses because we would see patients who would typically, although very sick, with appropriate critical care treatment would normally survive but instead those individuals would be referred to palliative care.

On Monday, 50 critical care physicians, including Dr. Gibney, wrote an open letter to Premier Jason Kenney warning that there were not enough critical care health workers in Alberta to handle more cases, begging the premier to do something to stop the exponential growth in cases, and yet, last night, in a highly anticipated prime-time announcement, he refused to take questions from reporters. Jason Kenney failed once again to lead Alberta through this crisis.

If members want to know why it is so bad in Alberta, why other provinces have withstood the third wave better than my province, the answer is clear: It is Jason Kenney. From the very beginning of this global pandemic, he has failed Albertans. His Donald Trump-like approach to COVID-19 has put us where we are today: in a state of absolute crisis.

At the beginning of the global pandemic last year and through wave after wave of infection, Jason Kenney has bowed to the worst elements of his political base, downplaying the lethal threat that COVID-19 poses and instead belittling efforts to stop the transmission of the virus. He has referred to the coronavirus repeatedly as nothing more than a flu, even after medical experts alerted us that calling COVID a flu was misleading and damaging to public health efforts and even after we had seen the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on our seniors, especially those living in long-term care.

Just like Donald Trump, Premier Kenney promised that the flu would go away. Rather than shut down schools to prevent transmission, Jason Kenney claimed that there was no transmission in schools. When his own government data suggested otherwise, when we saw outbreaks in school after school, he shut down contact tracing of cases in schools because, of course, they cannot report on what they refuse to measure.

My children are in those schools. I send my children to school every day and it is terrifying. It is terrifying for my children, but it is also terrifying for those teachers who had to be on the front line, who were not prioritized for vaccinations. It is terrifying to know that every day they may be bringing COVID home. They may be bringing COVID to their neighbours, their families. It is devastating. My son's best friend has come down with COVID.

In August I brought forward the unanimous consent motion asking the Government of Canada to put $2 billion toward a safer restart, a safer reopening for schools and $262 million of that went to Alberta schools. We were depending on the federal government to step in. We could not count on our provincial government to do what it needed to do to protect teachers, to protect students, to protect our loved ones.

Rather than address infections in homeless populations, Jason Kenney claims that the homeless somehow have immunity to COVID-19, stating that they have “a very high level of immune resistance against an influenza of this nature”. Again, it is “an influenza”.

Our seniors were dying and the seriousness of COVID-19 was downplayed by comparing the average age of those dying at the time, which was 83, with the average life expectancy of age 82. It was so callous and cruel. Everybody else has been to blame for the failures that have happened in Alberta. There are stories of birthday parties and that was why there was transmission. There is the blaming of the South Asian community for high rates of transmission in Calgary.

Last week, I stood in the House because Jason Kenney blamed high rates of infection in Wood Buffalo on indigenous people, when he knows, when I know, when we all know, that the high rates in the area are from work camps serving the oil sands. Wood Buffalo is just one hotspot in Alberta, but it is an important one, because rising infections there could lead to the rapid spread throughout the rest of Canada.

In Alberta, oil and gas workers were deemed essential by Jason Kenney's United Conservative government. That means that dozens of oil sands workers have been flying in and out of the area from all over Canada since the beginning of the pandemic.

Perhaps the biggest failure has been the dance around COVID restrictions. I believe, honestly, this is the biggest lesson all of us need to take from this pandemic. The failure to acknowledge the reality of COVID-19 and to commit to ending its spread is devastating to our health, our lives, our economy. We have seen time and time again that half measures do not work.

Throughout this pandemic I have to say Jason Kenney has been the king of half measures. One day he is placing restrictions; the next day he is playing them down. He wants to rely on personal responsibility rather than government action, but that has left Albertans in a devastating position.

Last week in the face of overwhelming evidence from around the world that restrictions are highly effective at stopping the spread of infections and one of the only ways to fight COVID-19 other than vaccines, we were told it is “a false idea” that lockdowns stop the viral spread.

Now, thanks to Jason Kenney's lack of leadership, thanks to the provincial government telling police authorities not to enforce the few restrictions in place, thanks to the bumbling, stumbling joke that our provincial government has become, we have the single greatest public health crisis Alberta has ever seen. Despite all this, despite the highest rate of infection in North America, despite the crisis in our ICUs, I am still the only member of Parliament from Alberta to call out Jason Kenney and this nonsense.

With a positivity rate of 13% this week, infection hotspots like Wood Buffalo mean that Alberta's COVID crisis will soon become Canada's COVID crisis if nothing is done. We are in a race between vaccines and variants. This is true everywhere in Canada and it is true all around the world, but we are losing the race in Alberta. On Monday, Alberta Health Services stopped testing for variants of concern. The reason is that the variants have taken over.

Virtually every case of COVID in Alberta is a variant of concern now. If left unchecked, the COVID petri dish that is Alberta promises to create more variants. It is a matter of time.

The goal now must be to stop the exponential growth of infections in Alberta; to save lives; to not put doctors, nurses and other health care workers through the trauma of saying “no” to patients who desperately need help; and critically, for the sake of all of us to prevent a new variant that threatens every Canadian from emerging.

Alberta must not be left to deal with this crisis on its own. There is simply too much at stake, and I have to say that Jason Kenney is not alone in his failure of Albertans. The government bears part of the responsibility for this crisis as well. Throughout the pandemic, Jason Kenney has maintained that his policies are designed to protect livelihoods as well as lives, so there has been this focus on our economy, but we know now that countries and provinces that have focused on stopping COVID-19 are the ones that have succeeded in protecting their economies, and that they are integrally tied together. Alberta has failed in both.

We have the worst infection rates and we have had the greatest negative impact on our economy. Over and over again, the Prime Minister has stated that he has our backs and that every Canadian, and I would remind the Prime Minister that “every Canadian” means every Albertan will get the support they need to get through COVID-19. If this was actually true, if we actually were going to give the support that was necessary to Canadians, then premiers like Jason Kenney and Doug Ford could have imposed the strict regulations we needed to stop the spread of COVID and not have had to worry about the economy.

The truth of the matter is that Jason Kenney is not the only one guilty of half-measures. When the government promised us sick leave, they gave us a “sort of” sick leave program. When the government promised income support for workers, they gave us a program that did not work for at least a third of those workers who were impacted. When the government promised programs to help businesses, those programs left out countless small businesses, self-proprietors and the self-employed. When the government promised jobs for students, it designed a program that would not work with an organization that could not deliver, and those jobs were never created.

I stood in the House and got unanimous consent that we would protect recent graduates, and the government never followed through on that. When the government promised in the throne speech that it would extend the moratorium on student loan repayments, when it promised support for people living with disabilities, when it asserted that workers threatened by COVID-19 transmission in their place of work could rely on it for support and it would protect workers' rights to refuse unsafe work, every time the government has failed.

We have not even been able to get the government to move on one of the most basic things we should be looking at right now during a global health pandemic. We have not been able to get the government to move beyond the study of pharmacare. It voted against a pharmacare program in the middle of a global health pandemic. We should be expanding our health care system. We should be making sure we have a pharmacare system now, more than ever, and the government has failed us there.

Jason Kenney has been an unmitigated disaster for Alberta, but his terrible job is happening on the Prime Minister's terrible foundation. The federal government needed to do a better job preparing us for this pandemic, ensuring we had paid sick days, implementing a pharmacare program and making sure indigenous communities were better supported. The Prime Minister saw this coming. He has watched this happening in Alberta, and he has done nothing, because he would rather watch Alberta burn than help Jason Kenney. Both the premier and the Prime Minister are playing political games, and Albertans are dying. People in Alberta are dying because of inaction and because of the finger pointing between the federal and provincial governments.

While these governments are trying to decide who is to blame, families are losing loved ones. Not one family I have spoken to is worried about jurisdiction. Not one family is saying that they do not want help from either government to save their loved ones. No one is saying that the feds should not act because it is up to the province. They want us, their elected representatives, to throw everything we have so that their loved ones can come home at the end of the day. It is our job to do everything we can to help people survive this.

The federal government needs to listen to the NDP, and it needs to do more. We need to help get more vaccines to Alberta, especially to the hot spots that we have identified. We need to get vaccines into the hot zones right now. That needs to happen, and it needs to be a priority. We need to get fixes to paid sick leave so that workers can actually use the program. We need to fix our long-term care systems. We need to make sure that seniors are protected. We need to make sure that we are protecting everybody so that when this is over, and we know that we are facing future pandemics, we will have learned our lessons and be better prepared for the next time around.

It seems to me that Jason Kenney and the Prime Minister are putting all their hopes into vaccines and the coming warmer weather, and I understand that. Vaccines are the ultimate answer to come out of COVID-19 and be able to get our families back. However, there is a problem with that. We do not have a guarantee that this will work when, right now in Alberta, there are 1,500, 1,700, 2,000, 4,000, who knows, who are becoming infected right now, today. We simply do not have time to wait. Every second counts in this race, and this is the most important wave that we will deal with.

We know that we need to act, and we need to act fast. Alberta needs the federal government to step up to the plate. Alberta and all of Canada needs this government to live up to its obligations and support us through the third wave.

Albertans are incredible people. Most Albertans are following COVID-19 protocols. Most Albertans want to solve this crisis, but we need help. We need this government to work directly with indigenous communities in Alberta municipalities to deliver the support they need to get through the third wave. We need money for social services. We need federal support for rapid vaccination programs in the hardest-hit areas. We need this government to live up to the promises that it has made to Albertans.