House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Extension of Sitting Hours in JuneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Extension of Sitting Hours in JuneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the amendment to the amendment.

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

The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Extension of Sitting Hours in JuneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I request that it be adopted on division.

Extension of Sitting Hours in JuneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Extension of Sitting Hours in JuneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Extension of Sitting Hours in JuneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Monday, June 14, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-30, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19, 2021 and other measures, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

There are two motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-30.

Motion No. 1 will not be selected by the Chair as it could have been presented in committee when the committee examined clause 24 of the bill, as indicated in the note accompanying Standing Order 76.1(5).

The remaining motion has been examined, and the Chair is satisfied that it meets the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

Since the objective of the motion is to bring clause 158 of the bill back to the way it was before being negatived during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which is within the rules, Motion No. 2 will be debated and voted upon.

I will now put Motion No. 2 to the House.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalMinister of Finance

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-30 be amended by restoring Clause 158 as follows:

158 Subsection 14(1) of the Canadian Securities Regulation Regime Transition Office Act is replaced by the following:

14 (1) The Minister may make direct payments, in an aggregate amount not exceeding $119,500,000, or any greater amount that may be specified in an appropriation Act, to the Transition Office for its use.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Sean Fraser LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and to the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, as always, it is a pleasure to rise in debate, but in particular on the occasion as we approach what I hope is the expeditious adoption of Bill C-30, the budget implementation act, which will put in place a number of important measures designed to help continue the fight against COVID-19, ensure that our economy has the strength to bust out of the pandemic recession and create serious economic growth, but also ensure that the growth we expect to see occurs in a way that is both sustainable and inclusive.

Before I begin my assessment of Bill C-30, which I am obviously in support of, having spoken in support of the bill in this House previously, I want to address some of the proceedings that have taken place today.

We have seen, over the course of this pandemic, in some ways some very optimistic co-operation from various opposition parties. I remember back in the early days of the pandemic when it seemed there was a real team Canada spirit to get the supports to workers, businesses and families across Canada that were at severe risk as a result of the changes that COVID-19 foisted upon our communities. It seems, from the proceedings earlier today in the House, that this spirit of co-operation, at least on the part of the Conservative Party of Canada, has evaporated completely.

When we were seeking to move forward with Bill C-30, I was struck by the incredible inconsistency when I saw the Conservatives' House leader host a press conference declaring their appetite to continue to co-operate to get benefits where they are needed. At the same time, one of the Conservative members had moved a motion in the House of Commons to shut down debate for the day on the very bill that is going to extend the benefits they purport to support.

Over the course of the several hours that followed, we saw an adjournment motion seeking to have House members go home before noon rather than get to work to pass these important measures, and we saw speeches given on points of privilege that included texts drawn from the records of Hansard from 1891, which I do not think demanded the attention of the House so much as the emergency benefits that are destined for Canadian families and workers. My sincere hope is that, moving forward, we will be able to rebuild that sense of co-operation in order to get benefits where they are needed.

I will address the three chapters I outlined in my introductory sentences. The first focus of budget 2021 is to continue and finish the fight against COVID-19. That is going to require our focus to be drawn on the issue of vaccines. I am pleased to share that Canada, out of any G20 country, has had more of its citizens receive at least one dose of the vaccine than any other comparator economy in that group. Some people will point to the need to achieve two doses before full vaccination is complete, but from a population health point of view, from a procurement point of view and certainly from a signal that we are going to have a significant portion of our population that is willing to become fully vaccinated, this positions Canada as perhaps the leading economy in the world when it comes to the social responsibility our citizens have exhibited, putting their hands up and saying they want to do their part to help protect their communities, their families and themselves.

Bill C-30 ropes in certain supports that are going to help provincial governments expedite the administration of their vaccines, $1 billion, in fact, for this purpose, but we also know that from a public health point of view, there is more to the fight against COVID-19 than vaccinations. We know that public health care systems have seen serious delays, with appointments being cancelled and surgeries being pushed back months and months. I would hazard a guess that every member of this House has friends or family members who have been impacted by that. That is why this bill includes $4 billion to help address some of the short-term pressures on provincial health care systems that have flowed from this pandemic.

In addition, it is essential we recognize that no epidemiologist in the world was seriously arguing that vaccines alone were going to help us get through the various waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we have put roughly $20 billion toward the safe restart agreements, to help provinces make sure that workers could get their hands on personal protective equipment and help businesses erect the kind of infrastructure within their premises that would keep people safe.

There have been various investments in my own community through some of these funds that help protect the mental health of vulnerable members of the community. I am thinking in particular of some of the work that the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre has moved forward with as a result of some of the investments. I am thinking of some of the money that we have put toward facilities like the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish. I am thinking of some of the facilities in Pictou County, whether it is schools or long-term care facilities, or those on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia that are benefiting from things like improved ventilation.

These are good investments that were made in partnership with provincial governments to help combat some of the consequences that we have seen as a result of COVID-19.

Of course, there is more to the COVID-19 pandemic than a public health threat. This has been the greatest economic challenge we have seen at least since the Great Depression. What I have seen was remarkable. Our institutions have really proven their mettle as we were hit with a virus that had economic consequences that were beyond comprehension a year and a half ago. We have seen Parliament react quickly to help get programs like the Canada emergency wage subsidy to help keep workers on payroll. We have seen the Canada emergency rent subsidy to help businesses literally keep their doors open. We have seen programs like the Canada recovery benefit, which has helped workers keep food on the table.

I am pleased to see that these measures, along with relaxed criteria for employment insurance for affected workers, have been extended in Bill C-30 to provide additional relief for businesses as we transition from the public health emergency to the economic recovery. These benefits are staggered so that, as time goes on, although some of these emergency benefits will diminish, new benefits will come onboard to inspire businesses to hire more workers to help kick-start that recovery in an effective way.

When we talk about the recovery, it is important that we do not simply view it as the need to stabilize existing businesses, which has been one of the top priorities over the past year and a half. We have to look forward to the policies we can adopt that are actually going to kick-start economic growth, because growth is how we are going to help offset some of the immense costs that COVID-19 foisted upon our communities.

When I look at some of the policies that are included in Bill C-30, and indeed in budget 2021, I think of the announcement around Canada's first national child care and early learning strategy. There is over $30 billion dedicated toward this important social and economic policy. Of course, there is a social imperative with the need to level the playing field, particularly for young women who might be starting a family, who are disproportionately affected when they bring a new child into the household.

A policy like this is not just the right thing to do to create that economic equality across Canada. It is also one of the best things we can do to grow our economy, by having more workers who are willing and able to take part in the workforce because they can afford accessible child care. Within five years, it will be at $10 a day, and by next year at half the price it is offered at today. I expect we are going to see a serious boost to our GDP. The forecasts tied to this specific policy are beyond what almost every other policy that is in the playbook globally could offer in terms of the impact it will have on jobs and growth for Canada.

However, this is not a one-trick pony. This budget includes new programs for small business financing. I mentioned the hiring incentive, which will cover half of the increased costs of payroll for businesses that are trying to get out of this pandemic and put people to work who are looking for jobs today. There are major investments in infrastructure, including a renewal of the national trade corridors fund, which has helped advance important projects in my own community, like the twinning of Highway 104 between Pictou County and Antigonish, or the expansion of the Air Cargo Logistics Park at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. These are important investments. We have more investments in our economic infrastructure through the small craft harbours program, which is going to see an additional $300 million poured into rural communities to help grow the fishery.

It is essential that we do not just focus on growth, but we focus on growth that is equitable, sustainable and inclusive. When I look at some of the investments we made to kick-start the green economic recovery, I look to the additional $5 billion put toward the net-zero accelerator that is included in budget 2021. I look to the recently expanded home energy retrofit program, which would provide up to $5,000 grants for homeowners who conduct a home energy audit, which is going to have the dual benefit of creating jobs in the community and fighting climate change, and of course I should add the tertiary benefit of saving homeowners money. There are benefits here for students, with one of the largest packages globally to support young people in our economy. There are benefits here to expand long-term care facilities so our seniors can retire with dignity.

I will conclude by saying that as we seek to emerge from this pandemic, we cannot forget the people and businesses that continue to hurt and we must extend support to them. We need to adopt these policies that are going to help kick-start our economic growth to punch out of this recession, and we need to ensure that we extend benefits to the vulnerable and benefits that will help kick-start a green economic recovery.

I am thankful for my time. I am so happy to take any questions, and I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of this important motion.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a quick question for my colleague.

He spoke about the most vulnerable. The crisis made a lot of people vulnerable. It created a lot of homelessness, a lot of vulnerable people without housing. In the budget statement, the government announced a program called reaching home to fund emergency resources that were set up during the pandemic. In my riding, there is a reaching home community called Halte du coin, which is accessible 24‑7. Many similar organizations have been set up across Quebec.

Unfortunately, the Réseau SOLIDARITÉ itinérance du Québec is still waiting for a response from the government. The money is supposed to be renewed after July 1 to maintain funding for these extremely important resources, but the government has not said anything.

The government says it will happen, but it is not giving updates. People are very worried, and vulnerable, at-risk individuals need a place to live in the coming months. They are still waiting for an answer.

Could my colleague answer that question?

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, without full knowledge of the background, aside from what was just provided in that question, I would suggest to the hon. member that organizations of various types do in fact qualify for some of the emergency benefits, whether it is the rent subsidy or the wage subsidy.

When it comes to ensuring that people have a safe and dignified place to call home, I would point him to the national housing strategy and the first-time home buyers' incentive. When it comes to support for non-profits, I would point him not only to the emergency community support fund that was rolled out over the course of the pandemic, but also to new investments in excess of $400 million to support non-profits.

If the hon. member would like to follow up with more specific detail around the organizations he is referring to, I would be pleased to make time for him and plug him into officials within the Department of Finance if necessary.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

June 10th, 2021 / 4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, speaking of vulnerable people, during the pandemic, and because of the impacts of COVID, people with serious illnesses such as cancer or other long-term illnesses need extended EI sickness benefits more than ever.

Of course, the government has limited the expansion of EI sickness benefits to only 26 weeks, instead of the 50 weeks the NDP is calling for. Can the member explain why the government is denying sick people the weeks of benefits they need and why they must wait until 2022 to receive them? Many of my constituents have written to me to saying they need those extended benefits now and that 26 weeks is not enough.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, with great respect for the hon. member, I wholeheartedly reject the notion that we are extending to “only” 26 weeks. The 26 weeks of EI sickness benefits will help thousands of vulnerable Canadians. We based that number, in part, on the recommendation of the Canadian Cancer Society, which requested in its pre-budget submission that we extend EI sickness benefits to at least 26 weeks.

While I have the floor, I want to draw attention to a constituent of mine named Kathy McNaughton. She introduced herself to me back in 2016 and told me about her husband David, who died at age 50 of esophageal cancer. David was as hard-working a man as one can imagine, and in his final days, he was laying laminate flooring to help provide income for his family when he should have been taking care of himself and spending time with his loved ones.

Kathy has made it her mission to change this policy and testified before the finance committee in support of the motion to extend this to 26 weeks. I would like to thank Kathy for her advocacy. This measure is going to be billions of dollars that will help vulnerable—

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

We have time for a quick question.

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the leader in the House of Commons.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I have a very quick question. The member expressed some disappointment at the beginning of his speech regarding the tactics used by the Conservative Party. I want to get his thoughts on the fact that we have lost many hours.

For every hour of lost time, we lose the potential for 12 members to address the legislation. For example, we would have been able to debate the bill that the members talked about today. We have lost a number of hours today. What are the member's thoughts?

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, this is very important. The hon. member has drawn attention to the fact that certain speakers may not be able to advocate on behalf of their constituents whatever their position on the bill may be in Parliament, but there is another effect that is really important to draw attention to. In the limited time window we have before the House is set to rise for the summer, there is other urgent work that we must address.

I point to Bill C-6, which would ban conversion therapy. The House needs to address this because it is urgent that people are not subjected to conversion therapy. I point to Bill C-12, which would provide climate accountability. These measures will not get addressed if the Conservative Party continues to launch procedural tricks to avoid debate on what matters to Canadians. They should put their country ahead of the interests of their party.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-30 on behalf of my constituents in Kelowna—Lake Country. Like so many things with the Liberal government, this omnibus budget is unfocused, leaving many of the most affected by the economic crisis behind.

The budget outlines bold new ideas to build back better with new debt of $354.2 billion last year and $154.7 billion this year. This is a plan where every person in Canada would owe over $13,000, or over $52,000 for a family of four, in new debt in just two years. Not to mention the years of needless deficits leading up to this, which the Conservatives have been warning about since the government took office in 2015. However, I believe Canadians are smart enough to realize that the budget is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by the Liberals to buy their votes on the backs of their own borrowed money.

It was in this House, when the budget was first tabled, that a Liberal member alluded that this budget has something for everyone. This is not true if someone had just opened a new business. For a year now, the Conservatives have been bringing forth the issue that new businesses, which do not have any sales track record, are not eligible for many programs, and the Liberals have ignored this.

This is an election budget, not a budget focused on economic recovery. It is clear that what the Liberals claim is stimulus is more about their own partisan priorities, rather than about maintaining jobs, creating jobs, helping businesses the most affected by the pandemic, or growing the economy.

Despite billions in new spending, this budget still leaves people and small businesses behind. The budget lists the establishment of a $500-million tourism relief fund as well as $100 million for Destination Canada to market Canada. This amount is a drop in the bucket of a $157.4-billion budget and is an insult to the tourism industry. Tourism was the first affected, and it will be one of the last to recover, yet tourism only garnered one and a half pages in a 750-page omnibus budget document. In my riding, tourism small businesses are a backbone of our community.

Lou is owner of Cheers Okanagan Tours in Kelowna—Lake Country, a tour and shuttle company offering winery tours, ski shuttles, airport transportation and other tour options. They are ambassadors for our local attractions. It has seven vehicles it has had to continue to store and pay for. Lou told me that once her business is back to pre-pandemic levels, it will take three years for her to recover her small business.

Terri, owner of Vacanza Destinations in Kelowna—Lake Country, a boutique travel tourism company, has had no revenue in over a year. She has gone substantially into personal debt. In order to keep her business ready to turn back on, she has to retain all her licensing, liability insurance and many other expenses, costing thousands each month. Terri told me that once business is back to pre-pandemic levels, it will take up to five years for her to recover.

Terri and Lou are two women who have built up their small businesses with hard work. The Liberals say there is money in the budget for people to upgrade their transferable skills in order to work in different industries. Maybe some people, like Terri and Lou, like their jobs, the careers they have built and the relationships they built. It is not up to the Liberals to pick what jobs they like and which ones will survive the pandemic. Tourism is not a priority for the government, nor is it reflected in the budget.

The budget details how arts, entertainment and recreation are the largest affected sector for people losing work in February 2020 compared to 2021, yet there is just slightly over one page out of the 750-page budget referencing these sectors, which are sectors important to Kelowna—Lake Country. The budget outlines approximately $450 million in funding, but much is spread over three years. Musicians, and those involved performing arts, festivals, arts, culture and sports, are some of the hardest hit. This budget is a disappointment.

As I mentioned earlier, the Liberals say there is money in the budget for people to upgrade their transferable skills in order to work in different industries, but why should people not use their talents? Why should they be forced to not work in their field?

I will say it again, it is not up to the Liberals to pick what jobs they like and which ones survive the pandemic. The spending in this budget is unfocused and does not address the hardest hit industries, such as arts, culture and recreation, as priorities.

Aerospace is another major employer in my community of Kelowna—Lake Country. The budget states, “In 2019, aerospace contributed more than $28 billion to Canada's GDP, directly and indirectly supporting 234,500 jobs”. The budget also correctly notes, “Highly dependent on purchases from airlines hit hard by the pandemic, the sector is facing reduced demand and a longer path to recovery, relative to other sectors of the economy”.

The government seems to think an appropriate level of support for an industry it states has been hit hard by the pandemic is $250 million over three years across the entire country. Realizing how meagre this truly was, the Minister of Finance tried to spin this underwhelming investment by stating, “This is in addition to the $1.75 billion in the Strategic Innovation Fund”. However, that fund is over seven years. This is another example of an unfocused $154.7-billion omnibus budget.

There are a number of measures in this budget that I could support. However, in the 750-page omnibus budget of debt and election-style spending on the backs of future generations, it is not the real plan that Canada desperately needs. Extending the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy are both welcome ideas. This, in addition to a number of measures to continue helping individual Canadians and industries, I can absolutely get behind. However, this budget leaves out important sectors that have been the most hurt.

In this budget, the Prime Minister would add more to our national debt than all other previous prime ministers combined. The biggest source of federal funds this last year was not tax revenue or lenders, but central bank money printing. The $303.5 billion of new printed money in 2020 is not free. Devaluing the dollar risks increasing inflation, meaning everyone pays more for things such as housing, food and transportation.

Statistics Canada announced the cost of living went up 3.4% in April 2021 alone. This has been especially apparent in our housing market. Canadians faced a nationwide housing affordability crisis, and the budget completely ignores first-time homebuyers and the housing needs of young Canadians.

On May 26, the finance minister would not answer a simple question of how many units the rapid housing initiative has built. The housing problem is compounded by the recent government announcement of new mortgage qualification rules. Experts are saying this puts home ownership further away for many.

My colleague, the Conservative shadow minister of housing from Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, led an opposition day motion yesterday which had many common-sense solutions to address the growing housing and affordability crisis. Instead of embracing these ideas, which have been suggested by experts, the Liberals voted it down, doubling down on their failed strategies.

The budget also fails to meaningfully address the parts of our economy that allow for growth without the need for hands-on government intervention and billions of dollars in borrowed money. Our economic engines of natural resources and trade can create jobs and help pay off our massive debt. Canadian exports are responsible for one in five jobs and nearly a third of our GDP, yet trade is barely sprinkled around the budget.

For the Conservatives, not only does trade represent a guarantee of economic security for millions of workers, but it is also an important aspect of food security and, especially, our best way to combat debt.

The Liberal government is mismanaging the trade file, and the problems keep getting worse.

It is clear that the government has no real plan to secure our future through an economic recovery where all sectors and all regions are firing on all cylinders. I simply cannot support a budget that is unfocused, fails so many who have been the most affected, and burdens future generations with billions of dollars in crippling debt.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, the Liberals received $850,000 from the wage subsidy, the Conservatives received $716,000 and the NDP received $265,000. The current amendment will require that they stop dipping into the cookie jar by the end of August.

If this can continue until August, why not make it retroactive, since we are saying that, starting in August, this is no longer allowed? That is what I do not understand. What are my colleague's thoughts on that?

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, our leader has made comments on this already. When we originally approved a lot of the programs last year to help businesses, the major focus was to help small businesses and get the money out the door. We have now seen that a lot of those programs have not worked for a lot of small businesses, and our focus has absolutely been on making recommendations to the government on a number of those programs and amending them.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, given today's behaviour from the Conservative Party in trying to prevent debate from taking place on this particular bill, can the member give any indication as to how long she thinks the Conservative Party will continue to delay the passage of it, or when she believes the Conservatives will stop playing their partisan political games so that we can start dealing with legislation and getting it passed for the benefit of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast?

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, that is a very rich question considering that it took two years for the budget to come forth.

Last year we had a COVID committee, which was not really Parliament. We were not able to debate legislation, nor debate at all, and there was no opportunity for opposition day motions. Then we had the prorogation of Parliament, and many committees were not sitting for a big part of last year. It is clearly the government that has delayed any legislation and work in the House.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for talking about small businesses, because we know they have struggled throughout the pandemic and have had difficult times getting the support they need.

One thing we have heard the government make promises for is capping merchant fees. We pay five times the merchant fees that Europe does and have some of the highest interchange fees in the world. We have not heard how the Conservatives feel about capping merchant fees.

The government has made a commitment that it is going to do something to tackle merchant fees. However, we heard this commitment five years ago from the same government. We know how unfair it is that Canadian merchants and small businesses are paying these outrageous fees, and the banks are having record profits.

I would like to hear if the Conservatives will join the NDP in calling on the Liberals to take action on this, not just talking about it, but actually legislating a cap on merchant fees so that we are in line with the European Union.

Motions in amendmentBudget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, we know that small business is the background of our economy in Canada. As a former small business owner, I am very aware of working in retail and where some of those fees are.

The government really does not understand small business, and we see that in a lot of its policies. We even see that in how it talks about legislation. It is small business owners who are putting themselves on the line every day. They are working seven days a week and taking risks, and the government really does not understand how small businesses operate and the needs of small business. There are a lot of different ways that we need to look at supporting small businesses.

Alleged Breaches of Privilege Presented in the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege.

With at least one hour's notice, I did file with your office information noting that I would be raising this question of privilege at this time.

First, I would like to turn to the misleading or prevaricating evidence given by the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth to committees, evidence that she gave to the Standing Committee on Finance on July 16, 2020, and to the ethics committee on August 11, 2020, the latter being under a solemn affirmation recorded in the minutes of proceedings and at page 17 of the evidence.

As a preliminary comment, I should acknowledge that the evidence the committee relies upon in its report spans the prorogation of Parliament last summer. I would also point out that the ethics committee, on November 16, adopted a motion that provided, among other things:

this committee undertake a study into issues of conflict of interest and the Lobbying Act in relation to pandemic spending;

that this study continue our work relating to the Canada Student Service Grant, including this committee’s work to review the safeguards to prevent conflicts of interest in federal government expenditures; government spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant; and the administration of the Canada Student Service Grant and WE Charity;

The language of that motion clearly indicates that it would be a continuation of the committee's work begun during the first session of this Parliament, building upon the evidence received then. This is reiterated at paragraph 3 of the second report of the committee tabled in the House this morning:

Committee members agreed that this study would represent a continuation of the August 2020 study. As such, testimony heard in early August 2020 is included in this report. Where necessary for context, this report also includes references to public testimony or documents from other committees of the House of Commons that have conducted studies relating to the [contribution agreement granted to WE Charity].

The background to this matter of privilege can be found at paragraphs 76 to 81 of the second report under the heading “Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth’s Relationship with WE Charity”. For the benefit of the Speaker and of the House, let me read key excerpts:

Her second interaction with WE Charity was during a call with Mr. Craig Kielburger and Ms. [Sofia] Marquez on 17 April 2020; both later stated that they discussed WE Charity’s proposal for a youth social entrepreneurship program. When asked whether anything other than the Kielburgers’ social entrepreneurship proposal was discussed, [the minister] stated that she asked how the youth WE Charity was working...during the pandemic.

Mr. Craig Kielburger later stated that during the 17 April 2020 call, [she] had suggested adding a volunteer stream to WE Charity’s initial proposal regarding youth entrepreneurship. Ms. Marquez stated that she did not recall [the minister] mentioning the CSSG at that time. Rather,...

Here the committee quotes Ms. Marquez at length:

within the mandate of [the minister's] office she was tasked with overseeing [...] the Canada Service Corps program, which has nothing to do with the [CSSG]... That program was something we were deeply interested in better understanding and supporting the federal government in scaling... I can't recall word for word what [the minister] said regarding the service piece, but I do remember it was focused mainly on the social entrepreneurship proposal that we had at hand.

I will now get back to the committee's words:

In addition, Ms. Marquez said she could not recall [the minister] “saying word for word that there was a specific service stream that we should have been building.” It was, rather, her and Mr. Craig Kielburger’s—