House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebeckers.


Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia for her question.

The cryptic reasons why the Minister of Official Languages has decided to have her bill take precedence over the Charter of the French Language are only known to her. However, I could make an educated guess.

I believe that she just does not want to let Quebec decide what is best for Quebec. It comes down to the speech that we heard earlier and what we will see tomorrow when there will be a vote on our bill. We hope it will pass because it better protects not Quebeckers' right to work in French, but everyone's duty to work in French.

The same goes for the motion we moved today. We are going much further than the minister. We are saying once more that Quebec must decide. I simply believe that the minister does not want Quebec to decide.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, in her speech, earlier, my colleague spoke about the opposition across the aisle. Today, the government introduced its long-awaited official languages bill. We have wanted to reform the Official Languages Act for such a long time. The bill was introduced at the very end of the parliamentary session, on the eve of an election campaign.

Does my colleague believe this to be a coincidence or a very clumsy political stunt on the part of her opposition, which just happens to be the government?

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable. Indeed, officially, we have the same opposition.

I hope that it is not a stunt. If it is, in my opinion, it was not in the least bit subtle, because we saw it coming a mile away.

This sounds like some kind of sluggish declaration on the eve of an election. They are trying to prove that they did something and that they were really serious. Earlier, during Oral Questions, the minister said that her government had been working on it for six years.

I am always amazed to see that someone could wait six years before introducing a bill that they had worked hard on and in which they believe, and to see them introduce it at the last moment, just under the bell. In my opinion, it is very clumsy, and I agree with my colleague.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I am a very proud Canadian, and part of that is recognizing that we are a bilingual nation with a very high sense of pride. French is a common language in the province of Quebec, and outside of Quebec many communities strive to become more bilingual so that French is spoken more and more. It is such a beautiful language.

Given that the government has already recognized that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada, and given that we have already been provided assurances from Quebec that it will continue to respect its constitutional obligations to the English-speaking minority population in Quebec, why would the Bloc not support the amendment that was proposed for the purpose of clarity by the member for Mount Royal?

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have nothing against the fact that the member for Winnipeg North is proud to be Canadian. I am also proud to be a Quebecker. Of course that will never go far enough for me. It cannot go far enough since I am a separatist MP. What I want is to decide for myself, decide with Quebec and for Quebec.

If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House had listened earlier to what my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia was saying, he would have seen that she was quoting the Premier of Quebec, François Legault. He himself said that the legislation was inadequate. I am not the only one to say so. All of Quebec is saying so through its premier.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Saint‑Laurent is rising on a question of privilege.

Government's Alleged Non-compliance with an Order of the HousePrivilegeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2021 / 5 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, I am rising on a question of privilege.

I would like to briefly respond to yesterday's intervention by the member for Kingston and the Islands. His intervention was in response to the question of privilege I raised in the House on June 7, which made reference to the fact that the Public Health Agency of Canada did not comply with the order of the House of June 2 to turn over critical documents in a case that every Canadian is interested in, that of the laboratory in Winnipeg.

We have a number of important elements to address. First, the member cited page 986 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, concerning the three options that a committee has when a person or organization does not turn over documents.

The comments by the member for Kingston and the Islands were interesting. The problem is that he read the first and second option, but not the third.

Let me complete the citation by adding the third option. “The third option is to reject the reasons given for denying access to the record and uphold the order to produce the entire record.”

Second, the member claimed that security safeguards are “nowhere to be found” in my proposed privilege motion. This is simply not true. He based his argument on the motion that I offered to the House last week and not on the draft motion.

As you know, page 145 of Bosc and Gagnon states that a member raising a question of privilege should provide, as part of the written notice to you, the text of the motion that is proposed to be moved. The draft motion, which was attached to the notice I provided to you last week, refers in part to the health minister “delivering up the documents ordered by this House on June 2, 2021, so that they may be deposited with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel under the terms of that order.”

In any event, whether the House may demand redacted or unredacted documents, with or without security precautions, is something for the House to determine and is not a procedural prerequisite. Regardless, this is obviously a red herring from the Liberals because they have shown no interest to date, in response to three different orders with security safeguards, in producing these documents.

Finally, the member has called upon you to exercise your authority under page 150 of Bosc and Gagnon in such a way to allow me to put forward one of two motions: either hold the government in contempt or refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee. Of course, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands overlooks, for example, the 1891 case of Michael Connolly, recounted at page 121 of Bosc and Gagnon, which I discussed with you last week. In brief, the House ordered Mr. Connolly to the bar of the House when he had refused to turn over documents that the committee required.

Reading between the lines, it appears quite clearly that the Liberal government is trying to say that the House simply does not have the authority to consider a motion that could enable it to obtain information that it ordered the government to produce, when the government is refusing to do so.

In fact, if we accept this view of things, as the member for Kingston and the Islands had proposed, that logic invariably leads to this situation. The government declares that it has a veto on the tabling and publication of all documents.

Under the member's proposed arrangement, he could choose to comply to have yet another committee discuss their intransigence or to be found in contempt. Nowhere among the options that the government contemplates would the House actually get the documents it ordered.

To allow that would be to allow the government to frustrate the objectives of the House in securing the information it requires to discharge its constitutional responsibility of holding the government to account. To allow the government's claim to succeed would not, in my respectful opinion, be consistent with your duties as the guardian of the House's rights and privileges.

Government's Alleged Non-compliance with an Order of the HousePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for his additional comments on this question of privilege. For the moment, there is still a 10-minute period left.

The hon. member for Louis‑Saint‑Laurent.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, without getting into the finer details, I will say that I preferred to use up my time rather than that of other parliamentarians.

Indeed, the debate we were invited to take part in today on the motion moved by the Bloc Québécois deserves to be appreciated in all its splendour and all its legitimacy. That is why, as a Quebec member and as a Canadian member in the House of Commons, I am proud to participate in this debate and to support this proposal.

What does this proposal, which contains three elements, say?

First, it says that Quebec and all the provinces can, if they so desire, amend their constitutions, which are enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. Second, it recognizes that Quebec is a nation. Third, it recognizes that French is the official language of Quebec.

I may not go as far as to say that it is a truism, but it is almost one. In fact, the three elements raised in this motion are facts that, constitutionally, historically and factually, are indisputable. Let us examine them one by one.

Let us start with the French fact in Quebec. If, after travelling across North America, a person comes to Quebec, they will obviously notice a difference right away: the French fact. That has been the reality in that part of the world since 1534, when Jacques Cartier was the first European colonist to set foot in what is now known as Quebec. A more permanent settlement was then built under the leadership of Champlain in 1608. After founding Quebec on July 3, 1608, Champlain ensured that it was the first permanent, fixed settlement of European conquerors on this land, which had been occupied by the first nations since the beginning of time.

That brings me to this: the French language has been the official language of Quebec since 1974. Quebec has had French as its only official language for nearly 50 years. Attempts were made before that.

French was always at the heart of Premier Maurice Duplessis's proud, enthusiastic and very hands-on defence of French, but there was no question of enshrining in law the fact that French was the language of Quebec at that time. It took Bill 63, which was introduced by Minister Jean‑Guy Cardinal in 1963, under Premier Jean‑Jacques Bertrand's Union Nationale government, for that to happen. That bill gave people the choice between receiving an education in French or in English. In a way, one could say that Bill 63 made French and English the languages of Quebec. It took many social events to get Robert Bourassa's government to pass what is referred to as Bill 22 in 1974.

It always makes me laugh because some historians and people who lived through that era often talk about Bill 22, Bill 63 and Bill 101, using the English world “bill” when talking about protecting the French language. It always makes me smile when I hear the impassioned speeches of people like Pierre Bourgault where they talk about “Bill” 22 and “Bill” 63. I would like to remind all proud separatists that “bill” is an English word and that it would be better to use the French term “loi” or “projet de loi”.

Bill 22, passed by the very federalist and very Liberal Robert Bourassa, has cemented French as the official language of Quebec for almost 50 years now. Then, in 1977, Bill 101 was passed by René Lévesque's PQ government. Naturally, this legislation went a lot further. It had quite an impact, in fact, even back then. Historians all agree on this. Premier Lévesque believed, and all the biographies can confirm this, that Bill 101 went way too far in certain regards. The fact remains, however, that history tells us that French has been the official language since 1974.

The motion states that French is the official language of Quebec, and that has been the case since 1974. We are not saying anything new.

The motion also states that Quebec forms a notion. I have the pleasure and the great privilege of bringing back fond memories for the House. On November 22, 2006, the House passed a motion stating that Quebec formed a nation within a united Canada.

Who first got the idea of Quebec being a nation? It was the Right Hon. Stephen Harper, head of the Canadian government, leader of the Conservative Party. We, Conservatives, are the ones who recognized Quebec as a nation. I did not have the privilege, honour and dignity of sitting here at the time, as I was still a journalist, just like some of my other colleagues in fact. I do not dare name them since they are in the House as I speak and I can never manage to remember the name of their ridings.

The member for Thornhill had a very respectful career as a journalist.

When I was a journalist back in 2006, I remember meeting former prime minister Harper when he was at the Quebec National Assembly in May 2006. I asked him whether Quebec formed a nation and he gave me a vague answer. Not long after, on June 23, he hosted a cabinet meeting in Quebec City and I asked him the same question. Once again, he gave a vague answer. However, on November 22, 2006, he gave a clear answer right here in the House: Quebec forms a nation. It was Stephen Harper's Conservative government that recognized Quebec as a nation. This is nothing new.

Since the facts are undeniable and the whole story is worthy of being told, I also want to remind members that on October 30, 2003, the Quebec National Assembly, led by Liberal premier and proud federalist Jean Charest, adopted a motion stating that Quebec formed a nation.

The third part of the motion has to do with the provinces having the ability to amend their constitutions. This has been true since 1867. When four provinces joined together to create Canada, this provision was included in the British North America Act. It gave the four founding provinces and the provinces that later joined the right to amend their constitutions, within the Canadian constitution, on matters that affect them directly.

This provision was reaffirmed in the Constitution Act, 1982. All of the provinces, including Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Manitoba and so on, who wished to do so had the right to amend their constitutions. Almost all provinces have made use of this provision, Alberta being the most recent case.

The Bloc Québécois's motion contains three parts that are factually indisputable.

This is why I strongly support this motion. First of all, it provides that each province has the right to amend its own constitution: all provinces, not only Quebec, but Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Each and every province of this country has the ability to amend its own constitution.

Quebec has been a French province since 1974. It is not brand new. It is the truth and the reality. It has been a historic fact for almost half a century, so there is nothing new there.

Quebec is a nation in the House of Commons. Under the former Conservative government of the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, we recognized here in the House of Commons, with a strong majority vote, that Quebec is a nation. For sure, there are some people who have some concerns with that but who would think that Stephen Harper was not also a proud Canadian? It is because we are such proud Canadians that we shall respect each and every province and we shall respect the will of the provinces as long as they address their own jurisdictions, which is exactly the case in that statement.

The law in the Constitution has provided that Quebec's official language should be French for almost half a century. Also, Quebec as a nation was recognized 15 years ago by a Conservative government. That is why I will proudly support this motion.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion.

As usual, 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 Saint‑Jean.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I doubt anyone will be shocked to learn that we intend to request a recorded division.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 16, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:30 so that we can start Private Members' Business.

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it agreed?

Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion—Amendment to Section 45 of the Constitution and Quebec, a French-speaking NationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

[For continuation of proceedings, see part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

The House resumed from May 4 consideration of the motion.

Federal Dental Care PlanPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When the House last took up debate on the question, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands had eight minutes and 20 seconds remaining in his time for his comments on the motion, and we will go to him now.

The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Federal Dental Care PlanPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank all members in the House for allowing us to see the clock forward. It is quite fascinating that one of the things we can agree so well on is moving time into the future.

Nonetheless, I am honoured to rise today, again, to continue my discussion on Motion No. 62, the motion for a federal dental care plan. I certainly admire the initiative that has been brought forward by the member for St. John's East. We need to have these discussions about dental care and how it will be introduced if that is what Canadians want to see. I personally believe Canadians do want to see their pharmacare, medicines as well as dental care included under our general health care system.

The motion is very simple. It calls on the federal government, with a single passing, to somehow, with very little consideration as to how it would be done, develop this plan for any household that has an average income of $90,000 or less per year to automatically start getting dental care. The challenging part with this is that, for starters, our health care system and, by extension, dental care, is one of these areas of our Constitution where we have to work with provincial counterparts. We have to come to some sort of joint compromise as to how that system would work.

Albeit I was not there at the time when Tommy Douglas from the NDP fought so hard for the health care system, but during a minority Parliament, health care was brought into Canada. I imagine that it happened through a lot more than a motion with one or two sentences directing the government to do it. Discussions have to take place. Compromises have to be made. Considerations have to be made.

For starters, what kind of money is already being spent through insurance companies? What is already covered by various different departments in different levels of government? How will we treat other insurance programs?

That is why I think it is important to also mention that when look at all of this, we need a proper study to assess where the country is among all the various different parts that play a role in dental care, some at the expense of the individuals receiving the care through insurance programs, but also some through federal programs, federal employees, military, inmates and, on the provincial side, through Ontario Works. How are all these things happening? In Ontario, it is through Ontario Works, but then there are all the different systems within the different provinces throughout the country.

That is why we need a full study into this, to look at the details of it before we make a recommendation back to the government on what it needs to do exactly when it comes to developing the system. I was happy to see that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, back in February 2020, agreed to do a study on dental care specifically.

In October 2020, about eight months ago, the Parliamentary Budget Officer published a cost estimate report for federal dental care for uninsured Canadians who fell below that $90,000 a year family income threshold. Some numbers that have been put together by the Parliamentary Budget Office, which are important, are that the program would cost roughly $11 billion over five years, with an additional $3 billion to set up the program, plus ongoing programming costs of around $1.5 billion annually through to 2024- 25. The program is estimated to benefit close to 6.5 million Canadians in the first year and then decrease to 6.3 million in 2025 due to changes in population and labour market conditions, etc.

My point is that there is a lot to be considered such as how a program of this nature will impact Canadians and what the costs will be. I do not want to diminish the quality of the work, but the limited research that the Parliamentary Budget Officer did on this topic indicates that there are some pretty significant numbers here. When we start to talk about variables in programs, when these are large programs, any one of these variables could start to skew things very quickly.

Quite frankly, I do not think it is the kind of thing we want to mess up. It is not the kind of thing that we just want to give it a shot, see how it goes and if it does not work, then we will start to make changes. Quite frankly, the cynical side of me thinks that those who would be opposed to a system like this would use those failures as an opportunity to say that it does not work and the program needs to be scrapped.

This reminds me of pharmacare and the work that has been done to advance that throughout the country, having discussions about it or even basic income. These programs are great but they really need to have the studies done on them, to have the data collected, to have pilot projects run, so we can make well-informed decisions when advancing these objectives.

I had indicated some of the places where the federal government already did provide funding for dental care. I mentioned the Canadian Armed Forces, inmates, some veterans, certain refugee claimants who are approved for dental care, first nations and Inuit who receive dental coverage when they do not get it through other programs, and federal public servants.

More important, the Canada health transfer currently is $41.9 billion a year to the provinces and territories, at least it was in 2020-21. Some provinces might use some of that money toward dental care. Ontario will use it through Ontario Works and other provinces will do different things with it. Any program we might establish might significantly impact how those provinces are running their programs already.

At the end of the day, I admire this concept. I admire the NDP members for pushing hard for pharmacare and dental care. I appreciate the work they are doing to move the needle forward, but before saying “develop a plan to be ready to be implemented”, we need to have the proper research and study done, which is exactly what the Standing Committee on Health has committed to undertaking. I look forward to seeing that information come back from the committee, so we can have a better, more holistic sense as to what the requirements and needs are based on data.

Federal Dental Care PlanPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Motion No 62, the proposal for national dental care.

All Canadians need dental care. The statistics today show that one in three Canadians lack dental insurance, so if we look at things positively, that means two thirds of Canadians have a plan. However, for that one third of Canadians who do not have a plan, this is a serious health concern. Also, one in five do not go to the dentist when they need to for financial reasons. People, even if they do have coverage, may not have full coverage for the work they need to have done on their teeth.

Definitely, when we look at dental health, we have to consider how that relates to the overall health of people. Many conditions can result from poor dental care and cause other health care issues. For example, people can have gum disease, which is a common thing if they do not have their regular cleaning and keep up on their oral hygiene. This can lead to many conditions, including cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, all kinds of very costly and aggravating conditions. Gingivitis is another one that is a byproduct of poor dental hygiene. People have also linked poor dental hygiene to conditions like Alzheimer's. When we think about that and about the impacts, we know we need to find a way to ensure Canadians can have good dental care.

The member who spoke before me talked about the costs of this program, and that is definitely a consideration. There has been a number of estimates by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. A number of other people have looked at this as well and have put the cost somewhere just less than $1 billion or up to $3 billion a year, depending on what is covered. How will we pay for that? We already have a huge debt, $1.3 trillion, and the government is looking at raising the ceiling on that to $1.8 trillion. This means every individual in the country will have to pay $250 every month for the next 10 years to pay for that. Let us think about that. Spouses, kids, everybody would owe $250 a month.

Interestingly enough, if we think about dental care, I used to be a contractor and worked for a company with which I did not have a plan. For $100 a month, I could get a plan that had dental care, pharmacare, health coverage, all that kind of stuff. If we were not racking up such debt in the country, which will cost the equivalent of $250 a month per person, people could afford to get their own plans and choose what they want.

The concern I have with these national plans when they come forward is that, first, Quebec will always say that it has its own plan, that it is a provincial jurisdiction and that it does not want to participate. Therefore, we really never have a national plan. Then we have situations where some provinces already have some types of coverage. I mentioned that the two thirds of people actually have a plan. Then we come to the part of it that is the federal jurisdiction, which is the indigenous people. Therefore, we would end up with a patchwork at the end of the day. That really is not a nationwide program.

When we look at some of the services the government provides, such as the CRA and immigration, the level of service is not pleasing to Canadians. They are having to wait hours and hours, calling in multiple times, to speak to people who are not always polite to them and at the end of the day, they wait years and years for results. When it comes to dental care, we certainly would not want to that. Therefore, in addition to feeling that the jurisdiction of this whole situation is provincial, the execution of these kinds of things is also not the expertise of the federal government.

The affordability issue for Canadians is really what is keeping many people from having good dental care. Wages are not going up the way the cost of everything else is going up. We have a lot of inflation. The cost of housing is huge. We have a crisis in the country where even in my riding, which is a smaller urban-rural mix, the cheapest house that one can get is $1,000 a month. It becoming unaffordable. If we think about Toronto, Vancouver and the big cities, people's dream of buying a house is gone. They cannot afford to pay the price.

We think about this pandemic and the costs that have escalated through the pandemic, like the cost of groceries and gasoline. The government has had two carbon tax increases in the middle of a pandemic, and a CPP increase at the same time. All of these things are taking money out of people's pockets.

If we talk about the $100 people would need to buy a plan that would get them pharmacare, dental care or health care, we see the amount of burden that the government is putting on them by these taxes. As I mentioned, that is part of the problem of affordability.

I hate to do a rabbit trail here on the Line 5 issue, but this is where issues like Line 5 become very important. People do not always make the link with why that is important to them. A lot of people have called my office on this issue and have asked why they should care about that. It is a pipeline and they want to shut it down.

I ask them if they live in Ontario or Quebec and if they buy gasoline for their car. If they do, the cost of that will go up significantly if Line 5 goes down. Do they have a barbecue? Does it have a propane tank? That is where propane comes from for that propane tank. Do they heat their house with fossil fuels? These are all considerations where people will see increased costs.

Do they buy food? All the farmers heat their barns. They have their greenhouses heated. They are often running their farm equipment with all these kinds of fuels. Those costs will escalate again, and then it is back to unaffordability, where people cannot get the coverage they need for the health care they really want to have.

When I was on the health committee, we did get a few different updates. I heard the member before me speak about how there is a proposal to have another study, and I think that is a good idea. It is always worthwhile to find out where the gaps are in Canada and to see if there is something the federal government can do to address that.

I also remember sitting through a report and update from the Auditor General on the state of the nation on indigenous reserves in this country, where people do not have good dental care and where it is causing health issues that cost more. The gaps have been there for a long time and have not been addressed. We should be doing the things that are in our purview, the things we could do right now.

Instead, we have situations where, and I do not know if members recall from a couple of years ago, indigenous people were being taken to court by the government over their dental bills, which makes no sense at all. The government spent more money litigating than it would have if it had just paid for the dental work, which would have reduced the overall cost in the health care system because of the health impacts that poor dental care will have.

At the end of the day, when I look at Motion No. 62, I know it is well intentioned. There is a need that exists in the country for that one-third of Canadians who do not have dental care and the one in five who are not going to get the dental care they need because they cannot afford it. I do not think this is the right way to go about fixing that. I think the right way to go about fixing that is to get government spending under control, quit raising taxes on people, quit reaching into their pocket at every opportunity, and return that money to them so they can have the option to get a plan that works for them.

With that in mind, I think we also have to be very careful about provincial jurisdiction. The province is supposed to execute all of the health care services. That is its purview. The federal government can help. I know the provinces need our money in health transfers. We can work together and co-operate, but it is really not for the federal government to tell the provinces how to execute. That is their jurisdiction. That is why when we hear about these national programs, we constantly see resistance, especially from Quebec, which is very particular about its jurisdiction in the area.

In summary, I am a fan of dental care. I am a fan of finding solutions to get there, but I do not think this is it. I think the answer lies in reducing the amount of money that we are taking out of taxpayers' pockets, addressing the housing crisis in this country so that housing becomes more affordable, and making sure that people have good wages and well-paying jobs. That is where I would like to see the focus.

Federal Dental Care PlanPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin this speech by paying tribute to a former mayor of Rouyn‑Noranda, Pierre Grandmaître. He passed away a few days ago, and his funeral will be held on June 20. Although he was mayor almost 25 years ago, we owe to Mr. Grandmaître what are possibly the best things that even today do Rouyn‑Noranda proud and make it such a great place to live. There is the arrival of the Rouyn‑Noranda Huskies, who are still the defending champions of the Memorial Cup for a third year in a row, thanks to COVID. There is also the great bike trail around Lake Osisko, in Rouyn‑Noranda.

I have a little story to share about Mr. Grandmaître. When I was 18, my dream was to run in the municipal election, so my dad suggested I go see his friend, Pierre Grandmaître, to talk about his experience and get some advice. Mr. Grandmaître listened to me and also asked me to join Jean-Claude Beauchemin's team and participate in all the strategic election committees. He was really a major influence on me, and he is the reason I am in the House today. Mr. Grandmaître offered me so much support and guidance. The last time I saw him was during the 2019 election. Pierre Grandmaître was also a former Conservative candidate, but he gave me his support on his way out of the polling station. I was touched, and I will cherish that memory and the memory of his smile for a long time.

Now let us turn to the motion before us.

Once again, Quebec has to defend itself, and once again, the Bloc Québécois has to defend Quebec. The Liberal government's latest budget revealed another example of federal interference in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, especially over health, even though that falls exclusively within Quebec's jurisdiction.

Today's Motion No. 62 is yet another attempt in the House to establish a federal dental care plan. It must be understood that the Bloc Québécois is not opposed to the idea of establishing such a plan, which would improve the quality of life of many people, including the most vulnerable. What we are opposed to is any form of interference implied in that motion.

The House of Commons should acknowledge the need to respect the democratically expressed will of Quebec and reject the federal government's unfortunate tendency to interfere in the jurisdictions of the Government of Quebec.

Today, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Bloc Québécois, and it is particularly odd that this motion should be proposed today, especially after the debate we had earlier.

How many times must we repeat that health care is a provincial jurisdiction? Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, very clearly define the division of powers between the federal government and provinces. Health is an exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec, with the exception of indigenous health, military hospitals, drug approval, which is the responsibility of Health Canada, and quarantine management.

If the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly ever decide that such a dental care plan is a priority and ask the federal government for funding with no strings attached in order to pay for the plan, the Bloc Québécois would support Quebec in that undertaking.

There would be one dental plan in Quebec and another for the rest of Canada. Why? Simply because Quebec knows what is good for Quebec, and our experience shows that universal programs do not work. It is like child care, where the federal government has proudly held us up as an example, just as it did with pharmacare.

What Quebec wants right now is not a federal dental plan or any other interference. It wants an increase in federal health transfers, with no strings attached. That is what Quebeckers want. For 30 years now, the Bloc Québécois has respected the democratic will of Quebeckers, and we invite the NDP and the entire House to do the same.

Let us take another look at the federal government's last budget. This budget has interference written all over it. Using a highly dubious scheme and all kinds of feel-good theatrics, the budget proposes that the federal government develop criteria and standards for health care. Quebec notes that, in this budget, the federal government wants to establish national standards for the care of seniors in long-term care facilities, national standards for mental health care, national standards for home care, national standards for women's health care and national standards for reproductive health.

Canada needs to realize that Quebec does not want these criteria and standards. It wants the wherewithal to serve its population properly. The federal government has no business telling Quebeckers how to standardize health care. Let the Quebec Ministry of Health and Quebec health experts standardize health care in Quebec.

Furthermore, the federal government's arrogant attitude towards Quebec is nothing new. The federal government has been highly critical of Quebec, especially with respect to the situation in long-term care homes back in March and April 2020. This criticism was misplaced but very indicative of the Prime Minister's intentions to centralize health care powers in Ottawa.

If the Liberal government wants to help Quebec improve the unfortunate situation in long-term care homes, it should step up and fulfill its responsibility to Quebeckers by restoring health transfers to 50% of spending, as set out in the initial agreements signed more than 50 years ago. At the very least, the federal government must restore health transfers to 35%, as the Bloc Québécois, the Quebec National Assembly and all of the provinces have called for.

I remind members that the last time Ottawa stepped up on health care matters and complied with the federal-provincial agreement by covering half of health care expenditures was more than 30 years ago. Now, it is using the unprecedented COVID‑19 pandemic, a critical and unfortunate situation, as an opportunity to push its centralist policy.

At present, Ottawa is covering no more than 20% of health care costs when it should be covering 50% as set out in the initial agreements. Things are not great at Quebec hospitals, and that is also the case for the rest of Canada. That is largely the fault of the federal government, which is playing politics at the expense of the physical and mental health of Quebeckers and Canadians.

Furthermore, we cannot ignore one of the federal government's most blatant centralizing moves in recent years, its attempt to bring the financial sector under federal control by making it responsible for insurance, securities and the distribution of financial goods and services, among other things.

For many years now, the federal government's objective has been to shift regulatory operations from Quebec to Ontario. Having a single Canada-wide securities regulator is a bad idea that should not see the light of day. This is not just a jurisdictional dispute or a squabble between the federal and provincial governments, it is a battle between Bay Street and Quebec. The objective of this Canada-wide securities regulator is another example of the centralization of financial markets by the federal government. It wants Toronto to become a single Canada-wide regulator, which would be contrary to the independent economic development of all the other provinces. I remind members that the Bloc Québécois and Quebec are strongly opposed to the idea.

Four times now, the National Assembly of Quebec has unanimously called on the federal government to give it up. Everyone in Quebec is against it. Every political party, the business community, the financial sector and labour-sponsored funds oppose this plan. The federal government wants to create a financial markets authority like the one that already exists and that is getting good results in Quebec. We have rarely seen the business community in Quebec come together with a single voice to oppose this very bad idea by the federal government, which just wants to cater to Bay Street.

Let the federal government and Bay Street take note: the Bloc Québécois will always stand in the way of creating a single Canada-wide securities regulator. We will always say no, because a strong Quebec securities regulator means a strong talent pool to regulate the finance sector, which is essential for the sector's development.

Montreal is the 13th-largest financial centre in the world. It accounts for 150,000 jobs in Quebec and contributes $20 billion to the GDP, or 6.3%. The Bloc Québécois will always fight to keep the regulation of the finance sector in Quebec. A strong financial hub is vital to the functioning of our head offices and the preservation of our businesses. Keeping the sector's regulator in Quebec ensures that decision-makers are nearby, which in turn enables access to capital markets for businesses, which is essential to support business investment and growth across Quebec.

Creating a single Canada-wide securities regulator is nothing short of an attack on our ability to keep our head offices and preserve the distinct pillars of our economy. The 578 head offices in Quebec represent 50,000 jobs with a salary that is twice as high as the Quebec average, in addition to 20,000 other jobs at specialized service providers such as accounting, legal, financial or computer services.

There are so many examples of the federal government overstepping its jurisdictions that Quebec can claim that its greatest political and economic enemy is within its own borders. I am talking about examples like implementing a universal pharmacare plan like the one in Quebec and creating a child care network like the one in Quebec. Also, Quebec's educational sector is not immune to federal interference, considering the millennium scholarship granted by Jean Chrétien's Liberal government, which was similar to scholarships that already existed in Quebec. The federal government also created an international education strategy to recruit foreign students to Canadian universities that competes with the strategy that already exists in Quebec.

Why duplicate the structures and the efforts? Why not simply encourage the efforts already under way by funding them directly? Why duplicate the administrative burden and red tape to the detriment of Quebeckers? This is also the case in research, where it is more subtle and insidious, given that research reflects the innovation and development of our societies from a practical standpoint.

Basic research has been put aside, is underappreciated and is being neglected. Going forward, the government must focus on society, not on the private interests of companies.

In closing [Technical difficulty—Editor] Motion No. 62, because health care is a provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. Ottawa has no right to dictate what they should do and impose a tax burden—

Federal Dental Care PlanPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


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

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Vancouver East.

Federal Dental Care PlanPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very delighted to enter this debate.

I would first like to thank the member for St. John's East for bringing his private member's motion forward, Motion No. 62.

Before I turn to the substance of the motion, I would like to take a moment to say how much I enjoy working with the member for St. John's East. I enjoy debating, discussing and collaborating with him on many issues. He is, in my view, one of the hardest-working members of Parliament in this House, holding major critic portfolios and sitting on at least two committees.

Some of the areas he is the critic for also crossover with my own, as foreign affairs and border measures inevitably impact immigration and those seeking asylum in Canada. I truly appreciate his wealth of knowledge, experience and thoughtful comments. We can always count on the member for a thorough analysis of complex issues, so I would just like to take a moment to give my thanks to him for his service and dedication.

Turning to the motion before us, it is with great pride that I support the motion for a federal dental care plan presented by the member. The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a federal dental care plan as soon as possible for Canadian families earning less than $90,000 per year who are not covered by a dental care plan, as an interim measure toward the inclusion of full dental care in Canada’s healthcare system.

More than one in five Canadians avoid visiting a dentist each year because of the cost. In fact, some 33% of Canadians, or 12 million Canadians, have no dental insurance, and nearly seven million Canadians avoid going to the dentist every year because of the cost. It should not surprise anyone that Canada's most vulnerable have the highest rates of dental decay and disease. They also have the worst access to oral health services. Indigenous peoples have nearly twice as much dental disease as non-indigenous Canadians.

From a gender perspective, as expected, income-related inequalities in oral health are greater in women than men. None of this should be acceptable to anyone in this House. That is why the NDP is calling for a federal dental care plan.

As a down payment to kick start universal public dental care, we are calling for households with incomes below $90,000 to get access to dental coverage. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that this program would provide immediate support to 6.5 million people in Canada. This is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do.

The calls to emergency rooms in this country related to dental pain is estimated to cost taxpayers $150 million per year. That is savings that could be reinvested into other essential services. Now, of course, that does not cover all of the costs to deliver a federal public dental care plan to every Canadian, but it is a start.

There are places that we can look to for funding for this critical program. Let me list a few examples. If we have the courage we could cancel the subsidies for fossil fuel industries and redirect a fraction of those dollars to a universal dental care program. Cancelling the subsidies to big oil would also, of course, steer Canada in the right direction in the fight against climate change and becoming a climate leader. Canada should, indeed, end subsidies to big oil. There is no question.

We could also apply a 1% wealth tax for those with fortunes of over $20 million. If we did that, we would be able to find funding for the NDP's dental care program. There is no question.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the wealth tax would raise almost $70 billion over 10 years. In the first year, let us say 2021, it would generate $5.6 billion, and that would grow to $9.5 billion by 2028-2029. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that ongoing program costs for the NDP dental plan would average about $1.5 billion per year. This is a choice New Democrats are happy to make. We just need the other parties to join us.

Of course, there are many other options, but the point is that the resources are there and can be there. It is not a question of whether we can afford a dental plan, but a question of priorities. For example, there is something really wrong when the big banks made approximately $10 billion in profits during the pandemic while receiving $750 billion in support from the government. Meanwhile, seniors are getting sick because they do not have dental support.

Did members know that poor oral health is a risk factor for aspiration pneumonia, dehydration and infirmity? Despite this, many retirement homes and long-term care facility residents do not have adequate oral health due to cost. Poor dental health also affects pregnant women, leading to low birth weight and premature births. Also, did members know that the most common surgery performed on preschool children at most pediatric hospitals in Canada is for the treatment of dental decay?

The status quo is not acceptable. Our proposal to introduce a national dental care program for everyday families would cover 6.5 million people. Just imagine 6.5 million people who would be able to access dental services to avert dental diseases. I have had seniors tell me that they have to blend up their food because they cannot chew the food with their bad teeth. This is not acceptable. This cannot be okay for any of us, and we can do something about it.

For the members of Parliament who want to argue that we cannot provide universal dental care because it is a jurisdictional issue and that health care is all in the provincial jurisdiction, well, I have news for them. Health care has been defined by the Supreme Court of Canada as a shared jurisdiction. After all, that is why we have the Canada Health Act.

If members had believed in that argument, it would mean that we would not have universal health care. Can members imagine what our lives would be like if we did not have universal health care? We do not have to look far. We can look across the border to the United States and the situation there.

If we had let the jurisdictional arguments win the day, none of us could have fathomed that we would now have access to universal health care, thanks to Tommy Douglas. It is because of his dream and his vision that people can access the health care services that they need.

Of course, when universal health care was brought about, it was always part of that vision to include pharmacare and dental care. The Liberals and Conservatives voted against the NDP's bill on universal pharmacare, and that is a shame. They tried to argue that it is a jurisdictional issue. Of course, they fooled no one but themselves with that flimsy excuse.

Also, universal public dental care was first recommended in Canada by the Royal Commission on Health Services back in the 1960s. The only reason it was not incorporated into the universal health care system was because there was a shortage of dentists at the time. We do not have that problem now. We have ample dentists who can provide the service. It is time for Canada to take the actions to support everyday Canadians.

In closing, I would like to share this story with members.

I still remember when BladeRunners, a provincially funded employment training program for youth at risk, was brought about. It partnered with GM Place, now Rogers Arena, on a hiring scheme people in the Downtown Eastside, not just for the renovation work but also for hospitality work. Through that work, with a survey in the community in the Downtown Eastside, we learned that many people were concerned about the lack of dental care. They felt that not having good teeth was inhibitive for them to get employment in the hospitality industry. As part of the program, the government included dental support for trainees in partnership with UBC's dental program, and that was a game changer. People started to smile more and felt better about themselves. They had the confidence to take on the world, and yes, they became self-sufficient.

Dental service is a necessity for our physical health, for our mental health, for our economy and for our well-being. I ask all members to support this motion.

Federal Dental Care PlanPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Hochelaga Québec


Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, quite a few Canadians have dental insurance through private health insurance plans, while many others are supported by provincial, territorial and federal government programs. Our provincial and territorial partners fund and manage dental services within their areas of responsibility and provide some dental coverage to residents for services provided outside hospitals. These dental care programs vary considerably from one community to the next and are often limited to certain groups such as children, people with disabilities and low-income households.

Our government supports provincial and territorial health care programs, including those that offer dental coverage, through the Canada health transfer or CHT. In 2021-22, the CHT will provide $43.1 billion to the provinces and territories. This amount will continue to increase every year based on the economic growth rate, with a minimum increase of 3% per year.

Over the next five years, funding to the provinces and the territories through the CHT should exceed $236 billion. The federal government also helps Canadians with their out-of-pocket dental expenses through the medical expenses tax credit. Taxpayers can claim this non-refundable tax credit for eligible medical expenses if these expenses are in excess of the lesser of 3% of net income or $2,397 for the tax year that just passed, or 2020.

We know that 40% of dental care costs are paid directly by Canadians. However, even with these programs that are intended to complement private insurance plans, it has been shown that many Canadians still find the cost of care prohibitive.

We also know that income is not the only barrier preventing Canadians from accessing dental care. Roughly 96% of Canadians have been affected by preventable tooth decay. This has an impact on the more vulnerable populations, especially those in rural communities or within certain age groups, people with disabilities and racialized individuals, including indigenous people.

In the 2019 throne speech and in the 2019 mandate letter of the Minister of Health, our government committed to working with Parliament to study and analyze the possibility of establishing a national dental care plan. Although we had evidence that there were access problems, that data is limited and we do not have enough current and complete data on unmet dental care needs across the country, without which many crucial factors remain unknown.

There is no consensus on the best way to address the gaps in access to dental care. In addition, the most efficient models for providing care and the way to respond to unmet dental care needs are still hotly debated among dental professionals.

What is more, it is unclear whether there is a need or an opportunity for a federal role in this area, which is largely under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. These are things a parliamentary study could clarify.

I would also like to thank the Standing Committee on Health, which decided to undertake such a study during the last parliamentary session. We are impatiently awaiting the results of this study, because we believe it should be completed before any decision is made on the most appropriate federal role to support access to dental care in the future.

I believe it would be premature for the government to commit to a broad federal program such as the one proposed in Motion No. 62 without consulting stakeholders such as health organizations, health professionals, those fighting poverty and indigenous stakeholders. These consultations are essential to identifying any approach that would improve access to dental care

The government must also engage with provincial and territorial partners and private insurers before agreeing to any federal action that could have a considerable impact on their current services. In particular, the Parliamentary Budget Officer's estimates released last October did not take into account the impact of such a program on existing provincial and territorial dental programs or on the existing EI plan, either of which could reasonably be expected to modify their coverage in response to a new federal program.

Motion No. 62 would have Parliament approve a federal dental care plan with specific income thresholds as an interim measure toward the inclusion of full dental care in Canada's health care system without first carrying out the proposed parliamentary study.

The government recognizes that there are systemic gaps that leave some Canadians without access to dental care.

However, committing to a particular federal program design without more information, committing to providing care in a particular way without knowing whether that approach will be the most effective, and doing so without engaging with the provinces and territories, which are generally responsible for dental care, is not the right way to go about this.

Accordingly, while the government is prepared to support a parliamentary study on the best way forward, I must ask our members and all members of the House to vote against Motion No. 62. Meanwhile, the government will continue to offer the existing programs that address the dental care needs I mentioned earlier.

Thanks to Statistics Canada, we are improving our understanding of this issue by including an oral health component for the next Canadian health measures survey. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, this research will be conducted in collaboration with leading researchers from all 10 of Canada's university faculties of dentistry and experts from the United States and the United Kingdom.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to recognize that dental care is just one aspect of the overall health care needs of Canadians. The government has a vested interest in improving the health care system so that it can meet the current and future needs of all Canadians. The government continues to play an active leadership role and collaborate with the provinces and territories to help them strengthen health care in Canada, especially during these difficult times.

The COVID‑19 pandemic put considerable pressure on Canada's health care system and the government intensified its financial support for the provincial and territorial health care systems. Throughout this pandemic, our government provided a lot of support to the provincial and territorial partners. We made considerable investments in the recent federal budget, in the 2020 fall economic statement and, last year, in a series of COVID‑19-related investments, including more than $19 billion through the safe restart agreement and more recently, $5 billion to help the provinces and territories deal with the backlogs in the health care system because of COVID‑19 and for rolling out the vaccine.