House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's speech on the interest of the people of our nation in taking care of the people of Quebec. As he said, the NDP agrees with allowing Quebec to opt out of new federal programs with financial compensation.

The problem with his bill is that he also wants to exempt Quebec from its obligation to honour the five principles of medicare.

Does my colleague realize that his bill opens the door to privatizing our health care system?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, QC

Madam Speaker, that is not how I see it. My bill simply says that the federal government will transfer the funds.

It will still be perfectly possible to uphold the principles in the Canada Health Act, since they are quite general. This does not open the door to privatizing health care.

Since this is a provincial jurisdiction, it is possible that a democratically elected government may decide that one part will go to the private sector, but let us be honest: Even though there is a Canadian law, private sector involvement in health care is widespread throughout Canada.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, as I indicated, this is a piece of legislation that I could never support in any sort of circumstance. I guess it is because, offhand, I believe that the constituents of Winnipeg North understand, appreciate and want the federal government to play a strong leadership role on health care in Canada.

I suspect there are reasons why the Bloc, which is a separatist party, wants to see Canada get away with health care, just as there are even separatists who exist outside of the province of Quebec. For me personally, and on behalf of a vast majority of the residents I represent in Winnipeg, I can say that Canadians love our health care system.

The Canada Health Act is one of the things that enables us to have a high sense of pride in who we are as a nation. It is often referred to as one of the things that makes us different from the United States and many other countries around the world. Because we are a caring society, we understand and appreciate the value of the health care system that we have today. Whether in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Atlantic Canada or in Northwest Territories, there is a basic understanding that health care services are going to be there for people.

My family, like millions of other families in Canada, is not just in one province. We live in other provinces. The heritage of my own family goes back to the province of Quebec itself. I believe that it is not unique to Winnipeg North, but that Canadians in every region of our country understand and appreciate the true value of a national health care system. Yes, it is administered by provinces. I know that. I used to be the health critic in the Province of Manitoba.

When the member says that all provinces want more money and they all agree, I have news for that member: They have been wanting more money every year for the past 30 years. Ottawa is more than just an ATM: Ottawa has a responsibility to Canadians to ensure that provinces and territories respect the Canada Health Act.

There are things that we can learn from the pandemic that I believe Canadians want us to look at. One of those issues is long-term care. We saw, during the pandemic, different provinces having different levels of difficulty. In some of those provinces, we had to call in the military. In other provinces, we used the Red Cross. In my own province, in fact in Winnipeg North, we can look at the Maples Long Term Care Home facility. Canadian politicians on all sides of the House, maybe not the Bloc but all other sides of the House, recognized that there were some serious issues in long-term care. I can say that Liberal members of Parliament understand what Canadians expect of their members of Parliament. Dealing with long-term care is one of those. That is why we see a very strong advocacy for standards in long-term care. It is because we care about what is happening with our seniors in care facilities.

We also care about mental health. If we do not do anything on mental health, some provinces will fall far behind. Some provinces might move a bit ahead. I would argue, again, that the national government has a very strong and important role to play on mental health.

We saw in this budget, with the support of my New Democratic friends, talk about expanding into dental care. We will see how that ultimately evolves.

I have talked for years now about the issue of pharmacare and the cost of pharmaceuticals. If we think about an individual who goes to the hospital, while people are in the hospital, they get free medication, but when they leave the hospital, they have to pay for it. Often what happens is that they cannot afford the medication, so they end up back in the hospital.

The idea of looking at best practices in different provinces and territories and trying to encourage and promote them in a national standard, I see as a good thing. Trying to marginalize the role of the national government does a disservice to who we are as a nation. I would recommend to those who would advocate that Ottawa should not play a role in health care to talk to some Canadians about it; I have. If they ask them what makes them feel good about being a Canadian, one of the most common responses members will get is “health care”. They will talk about the importance of health care, and justifiably so.

I am concerned about the backlog of surgeries coming out of the pandemic. Because of all the focus that was put on COVID-19 and the impact it was having on intensive care units and other facilities, a lot of surgeries were delayed or put off. We can imagine a person needing a hip replacement who already had to wait a considerable amount of time, or a person who had been diagnosed with cancer. These are very important issues for our constituents.

However, Bloc members are saying, “Who cares? It is not about Ottawa. All Ottawa does is pony up the cash and let the provinces take responsibility”, believing that all provinces will do that. I say shame on the members of the Bloc for believing that. Canadians, even some of their own constituents, recognize the value of Ottawa and the leadership role it can play in the delivery of health care services, even in the province of Quebec.

There are different provinces with different governments at different times, but I think Canadians want a health care system that will be there for them no matter where they live in Canada. Many people have moved to the province of Quebec from Manitoba, and I suspect vice versa. I believe that when we take a look at the needs that are there for health care, the federal government should not be sidelined. The federal government should be encouraged to continue to play that leadership role and look at different provinces.

When we want to talk about accountability on health care and the Canada Health Act, I will go back to the Romanow report of many years ago. There was the idea that as part of the five fundamental principles, we should add an additional one about financial accountability. I think we do need to see more financial accountability. I am glad that Ottawa looks at it from the perspective of saying, “Look, if we want to enhance mental health, one of the ways we could encourage that is to tag dollars to the provinces to facilitate and ensure that there is more investment in mental health.” Again, that is a good thing, contrary to what some of the separatists, whether from Quebec or other jurisdictions, want to see happen.

Like the vast majority of Canadians, I believe in the importance of health care and national programs. I am glad that we have seen under this administration record-high amounts of dollars being delivered to provinces in order to provide health care. We are talking about a record amount of dollars. Historically, never has a government invested more dollars in health care than this current government. We have health care agreements with all of the provinces, which is something that has not been there for a number of years.

This is a government that is committed to Canada's health care system, and I am very proud to be a part of that.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Shelby Kramp-Neuman Conservative Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am extremely pleased to be here today to rise and speak to the private member's bill of my hon. colleague for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our dean of the House for his service to our nation. It is a great honour to be able to address the hon. member. I was six years old when he was elected to this place and, I will note, as a Progressive Conservative.

I would like to say to him that his constituents, Quebec and Canada thank him for his years of dedicated, effective and thoughtful service.

That being said, he has 337 members gunning for his job, myself included.

If I ever do have the pleasure of serving as long as my hon. colleague, that would put me at a very young 80 years of age in this place. It is perhaps divine providence that I am the official opposition shadow minister for seniors.

To get to the point at hand, transfer payments are an essential component of Canadian federalism.

As such, I can certainly appreciate any member's efforts to increase payments for their constituency. It is a massive part of what we are all sent here to do.

My hon. colleague has had the honour and privilege of serving in this chamber for over 37 years straight, so he knows the rules of this place and he has surely had the opportunity to introduce and speak to many bills.

My concern today is not with the approach taken by our hon. dean of the House, who I think is only doing his very best to care for his constituents. My concern is with his method.

One rule in particular, as I am sure we are extremely aware, because the Speaker ruled on this recently, is that private members' bills cannot propose the expenditure of public funds or tax-raising initiatives unless they have a royal recommendation.

Standing Order 79(1) states:

This House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed.

I may be ignorant to the goings-on behind the scenes, but to my knowledge, this particular piece of legislation has not received the required royal recommendation.

My good friend from Winnipeg North, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, rose on a point of order to share his concerns about the content of this bill. In his opinion, this bill was actually a spending bill.

The Chair said the following in response to the point of order.

I reviewed the bill, and I have reached the following conclusions concerning the impact on the royal recommendations.

Section 1 of the bill provides that Quebec need not apply the conditions set out in paragraph 24(a) of the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act in order to obtain the amounts referred to in subsection 24.1(1) of that act. Section 3 of Bill C-237 provides that Quebec receives the full monetary contribution provided for in the Canada Health Act without being subject to the various grant conditions set out in that act. In other words, the result of the mechanism proposed by Bill C-237 would be to exempt Quebec from having to fulfill the conditions to which it is currently subjected in order to receive the Canada health transfer, which originate in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the Canada Health Act.


The member for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel argued that these changes have no financial effect in terms of either the amounts or their destination. However, these changes would amend the terms and conditions initially attached to the Canada health transfer, which were approved by Parliament.

On this, page 838 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states:

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered. Without a royal recommendation, a bill that either increases the amount of an appropriation or extends its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown’s financial initiative.

As the member for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel indicated in his intervention, the bill seeks to exempt Quebec from the application of the Canada Health Act. Thus, after analysis and in keeping with the precedents, including the rulings by Speaker Milliken on May 8, 2008, and by my predecessor on December 6, 2016, the Chair is of the opinion that the implementation of Bill C-237 would contravene the conditions initially provided for in the royal recommendation. Accordingly, the Chair is of the view that Bill C-237 must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

As it stands now, this bill does not have a royal recommendation. Unlike my hon. colleague from Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, I am new to the House. I may not be as aware of how things work in this place, but I think is it safe to assume that, if a royal recommendation has not yet been given at this stage then it will not be given later.

We all know how this will play out. As it stands now, this bill cannot and will not be put to a vote at third reading.

I want to use the closing portion of my speech to reiterate that my objection to this bill is rooted in the manner through which it was brought before the House. I want to reiterate that I know my hon. colleague from the Bloc is a tireless advocate for the people of Quebec, as is evidenced by his electoral record. I will go so far as to say that his constituents are lucky to have him. His knowledge, experience and record of service are quite literally uncomparable with those of any member of this place.

That being said, the rules of Parliament are the rules of Parliament. Our Standing Orders are our Standing Orders. They explicitly lay out the rules and regulations under which we operate, and based on the Speaker's decision, the future of this bill is crystal clear. It is a spending private member's bill that does not have a royal recommendation. As such, I will not be voting for it.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the bill sponsored by the hon. Bloc member for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, the dean of the House. I am a little older than my Conservative colleague who just spoke. I was 11 years old when my Bloc colleague was elected for the first time.

I agree with much of what was said earlier, and I will focus on three points.

We agree on the first point that successive cuts to provincial health transfers have seriously eroded the quality of services. We still see the impact of that today. These cuts began with the Harper Conservatives, but, as members will recall, they continued with the Liberal government in 2015. The provinces thus find it extremely difficult to provide good services. I believe that all of us in the House must agree that serious corrective action must be taken with regard to provincial transfers.

The second point is about the provinces' right to opt out of new federal programs they do not agree with and receive financial compensation. Obviously, we agree with the right to opt out, which I find extremely important. Ever since the Sherbrooke declaration, the NDP has always argued in favour of respecting the Quebec nation's right to make its own choices and of respecting an asymmetrical vision that would allow Quebec to opt out of new federal programs with financial compensation and then set up an equivalent program or some other program in line with the province's priorities. We recognize the power to opt out with financial compensation because Quebec is a nation.

However, I was very surprised that my Bloc Québécois colleague's bill gives that power to all the provinces. That is overly generous. I am a little concerned about the consequences this might have in the case of provinces that have traditionally or repeatedly elected Conservative governments, which could cut or opt out of a new social justice program or better universal health care services that would benefit people from all walks of life, including seniors, people with disabilities and people with special needs.

We support the right to opt out with financial compensation, which could apply, for example, to a project that the NDP really cares about: a universal public pharmacare plan.

Quebeckers strongly support the idea of creating such a plan. A recent CROP poll on this issue found that 73% of Quebeckers surveyed said they were in favour of such a plan. Among NDP voters, support rises to 85%. Among Liberal voters, 80% agree with the idea. Among Conservative voters, 79% agree. Even 66% of Bloc Québécois voters support this. The vast majority of voters, even in the Bloc, therefore agree with a universal public pharmacare plan.

I hope we can come up with a concrete solution, because people know that prescription drugs are too expensive. People cannot afford all the prescription drugs they need, and they sometimes even cut their pills in half to save money.

People know that the cost of prescription drugs imposes a heavy burden on their supplemental coverage when negotiating collective agreements. People know that better access to prescription drugs will improve everyone's health and reduce hospital costs because there will be fewer sick people.

If this type of plan is created as part of a new federal program, but Quebec is unable to reach an agreement with the federal government, it could opt out. The financial compensation it would receive would be put towards Quebec's current plan, which is decent but could be improved. It is a hybrid public-private program that is extremely expensive for companies, workers and the government because of the cost of the drugs that hospitals have to buy in order to provide care.

Up until that point, the bill is relatively good.

However, as progressives with a deep-rooted commitment to public health care, we have a big problem with the second part of the bill. This part of the bill amends the Canada Health Act “in order to exempt Quebec from the national criteria and conditions set out for the Canada Health Transfer”.

Let us go over those five conditions. Universality means that everyone is entitled to medicare. Comprehensiveness means that the necessary medical services are covered by the public plan. Accessibility means that the fees cannot be a barrier to accessing care. We do not want to go backward, to a time when people had to choose between paying rent or going to the doctor. People should be able to access care with their health card, not their credit card. Portability means that if we travel to another province, we are still entitled to receive care there through a comparable public plan. Finally, public administration means that the hospitals and the health plan have to be managed by a public non-profit organization.

Exempting Quebec from these five conditions, these five values that are essential for the men and women on the left, as well as for progressives, would open the door wide to privatizing health care, which would be an appalling step backward for the least fortunate people in Quebec, for the working class and for unionized workers.

I do not understand how the Bloc Québécois can move forward with such a idea without realizing the collateral damage and consequences that it may have. Being masters in our own house, that is fine. Making good decisions, that is fine. Removing the key requirement for maintaining a public health care system, however, is something I find extremely worrisome and dangerous.

I want to speak on behalf of all Quebeckers who value a public health care system: They can count on New Democrats and the NDP to defend their values, because we will absolutely not back down.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, we on this side of the House have enough faith in our nation that we do not need know-it-all Ottawa and its federal shield to guarantee that medicare remains public. We have faith that we can do it ourselves.

From what I understand, and the member for Winnipeg North did the best job explaining this from the government's perspective, the other parties see the relationship between the federal government and the provincial governments, in this case the Government of Quebec, as a boss-employee relationship. The boss demands accountability from the employee and sets conditions. A mere employee could decide to privatize the entire system but still needs the boss, in this case, paternalistic Ottawa. That is what I am seeing. We said that the NDP's position is centralist, and we have just seen proof once again.

When the member for Winnipeg North was talking, he was speaking on behalf of the government and he said that he was defending his nation, “our nation”. That is all well and good, but what about our own nation, the Quebec nation? Some time ago, the House recognized Quebec as a nation. What does that mean? How is the government walking the talk? How is it following through on its recognition?

In this Canada, is my nation only free to follow the rules and instructions set out by know-it-all Ottawa? That means a one-size-fits-all approach from coast to coast to coast, with the same criteria and the same methods. However, our nation is different and has its own special characteristics. Nevertheless, we were told no, that we have to fit into the mould. That is what we saw and what we are seeing more and more.

The government member pointed out that the separatists are the ones who want this. I would like to remind him that, yes, we are separatists, but then so is the rest of Quebec, because there is a consensus on this issue. Indeed, in the federation and federalism, there are powers and jurisdictions, and they must be respected. The various Liberal governments who have sat in Quebec City have asked for the same thing: Jean Charest, his minister Benoît Pelletier, Liberal finance minister Yves Séguin, as well as Coalition Avenir Québec, and of course, the Parti Québécois. Quebec's health care sector is no different. There is a unanimous consensus, and everyone knows it.

As my excellent colleague from Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel said when he introduced Bill C‑237, health care funding was originally split 50-50. In the 1990s, the government started cutting, and ever since then, health care systems everywhere have been ailing. This is a serious problem.

Ottawa is not contributing its fair share, and now that things are not going well, Ottawa is telling the provinces and Quebec that they should be doing things a certain way. Fundamentally, the problem is that Ottawa is not respecting provincial jurisdictions and is contributing less than it can to the system.

I thank my colleague for introducing Bill C‑237 in the House so that we can debate it. Can Quebec exist in Confederation, have a chance to do things its way, and have its freedom? The question is, is this a federation made up of several nations and will the Quebec nation be able to do things its way without Ottawa constantly bossing it around? That is really all this is about, and I thank my colleague for getting us to this point.

I think we need even more freedom than what is being asked for here, but this would be significant progress. I can see my colleague, the dean of the House, nodding in agreement.

What did the government say when we proposed that Quebec have a little more autonomy? It talked about standards for long-term care facilities, pharmacare managed by Ottawa, dental care managed by Ottawa. The government said it was Ottawa's responsibility to make sure it all worked. It said—

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

For dental care, it is about paying the bills, not giving—

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

An hon. member

There is no debate.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


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

I would remind hon. members that this is not a discussion and that the hon. member is giving his speech.

The hon. member for Joliette may continue.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would remind the House that even if the bills are paid, dental care is part of the health care system and therefore a provincial jurisdiction. This is therefore not the place for that debate.

We are all for people receiving dental care. It makes no sense that people cannot afford dental care or have to choose between oral health and food or rent because they do not have enough money. By the same token, we want seniors to be well cared for in long-term care facilities, and we want everyone to benefit from pharmacare. If we want to talk about that, I invite my hon. colleagues to step down and run for the National Assembly or their legislative assembly to talk about this legislative measure in the right place. The role of members of the House of Commons is to determine whether we will provide them adequate funding or not.

According to my notes, the government member said that, with this bill, all we are trying to do is reduce the central government's power.

He is talking about the national government, but for us, our national government is the National Assembly in Quebec City. He spoke about weakening the federal government's role, even though it continues to overstep and expand its reach. To do things in its own way, our national government in Quebec City tries to work within its areas of jurisdiction as established by the Constitution.

We now see Ottawa cutting its share of funding and increasing the number of standards. That is exactly what the government member told us. That was his direct response. What is then Ottawa's vision in the face of my nation's right to exist? The federal government will continue to suffocate us with standards and keep shoving them down our throat. This means my nation will not exist on its own, it will have to become part of the whole. As we saw in the budget, if we want to discuss funding, we must first discuss standards. It is about standardization. There is therefore less room for my nation in this federation.

The member was talking about hip surgeries. Is it up to Ottawa to be talking about hip surgeries when this falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces? It makes no sense. It is pretentious and paternalistic. As I was saying, this is a boss-employee relationship. This is not just coming from separatists. Quebec's entire health care community has rejected this.

I thank the members from the Conservative Party for their speeches and for showing up in such large numbers, considering that this an important evening of debate for their party. I do not think that a royal recommendation is required for Bill C‑237. I will not have the time to speak to this in great detail, but, essentially, we are not asking for new funding to be allocated. We are asking for the existing funding to be reallocated. This is not about allocating the money to another objective. When Quebec has a comparable program, the money is transferred and, presumably, it will be used to fund the same service. We are not adding anything or diverting the funding. Therefore, in my opinion, a royal recommendation is not needed in this case. I have good arguments in support of this.

First, I would like to point out that the bill presented by the dean of the House does not require any new spending. Second, it does not change the transfer amounts, nor does it change the names of the recipients or how the funding is allocated to them, and it does not change the purpose of the transfer. For example, the Canada health transfer will still be dedicated to paying for health care. The same is true for other transfers that are allocated to a province if it has a program whose objectives are comparable—that is the key word—to those of a federal program. It does not force the executive's hand, which retains the latitude and discretion required to transfer the funds. That prerogative remains in place. The executive will decide whether the province has a comparable program and will determine whether the province is complying with the conditions set out in the Canada Health Act.

Finally, precedents are on my side. I do not have time to go into detail, but there have been many bills that have changed the normative framework without having any financial implications per se. None of them required a royal recommendation.

In the end, the House recognized my nation, which speaks French. Now it must follow through on that recognition. The government is attempting to do so in a modest way, to follow through on this recognition in a modest way with a modest bill.

What we are hearing is that all the federalist parties are going to vote against it. That gives us a good idea of our options for our collective political future.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Shafqat Ali Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on this private member's bill, Bill C-237, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the Canada Health Act. As proposed, this bill would do two things. It would allow any province to withdraw from a federal program in provincial jurisdiction if comparable programs exist, and it would exempt Quebec from the criteria and conditions that must be met in order to receive a full cash contribution through the Canada health transfer.

Before I get into the concerns that the government has with these amendments, let me very quickly provide a little history of the Canada Health Act. The act was passed unanimously in the House of Commons in 1984 and represents a broad consensus among Canadians and their federal, provincial and territorial governments that access to insured health services should be based on medical need and not one's ability to pay.

Since then, the act has been considered the gold standard of federal spending power being used to set national objectives in an area of provincial jurisdiction. The act, in conjunction with the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, does so by establishing broad criteria and conditions that provinces and territories must fulfill to receive full cash contributions under the Canada health transfer. Provincial health insurance legislation and regulations, including those of Quebec, meet and in some cases go beyond the requirements of the Canada Health Act.

That leads me to the first concern our government has with this proposed legislation. By accepting this legislation and exempting Quebec from the Canada Health Act's conditions, we would weaken the foundation of Canada's universal health care system. The act establishes the objectives and values underlying universal health care. For provinces to receive full Canada health transfer payments, provincial health insurance programs must be in compliance with five broad principles: universality, portability, comprehensiveness, accessibility and public administration. Provinces have not requested that these conditions be repealed.

Moreover, I would like to remind the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois that since the creation of the Canada Health Act, Quebec has broadly complied with the act's principles. Indeed, the discretionary penalty provisions of the act, which give the government discretion to withhold the Canada health transfer contributions from provinces in contravention of the five principles, have never been used.

There have been some instances of non-compliance in Quebec and other provinces, with respect to extra billing and user charges, where mandatory deductions under the Canada Health Act have been applied.

It is also important to note that the principle of asymmetric federalism renders the proposed amendment to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act unnecessary for Quebec. As part of the 2004 Health Accord, the federal government and the government of Quebec signed a bilateral agreement on asymmetric federalism.

Under this agreement, Quebec supported the overall objectives and general principles set out by first ministers while respecting Quebec's desire to exercise its own responsibilities in planning, organizing and managing health services.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


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

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

Climate ChangeAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the chance to come back to my question for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change from a few weeks ago on Bay du Nord.

Let me start by sharing the reality of where we are. If we want at least a 50% chance of staying below 1.5°C, which scientists have shared is what is required for just a chance at a livable future, and if Canada were to do its fair share of what we know remains for the global carbon budget, 86% of Canada's proven fossil fuel reserves need to remain unextracted.

Fast forward to April 4, when the most recent climate report came out, and scientists made clear it was now or never if we wanted to limit warming to 1.5°C. It was called an “atlas of human suffering” and a “damning indictment of failed climate leadership”. The chair said half measures were no longer an option.

The UN Secretary-General described the report. These are his words. He said:

Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.

Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.

Some government and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.

Just a few days later, the government had its first big climate credibility test: whether to approve Bay du Nord. It is a deepwater oil drilling project 500 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1,200 metres below the surface. We expect that it has up to one billion barrels of oil. Combusting that oil is equivalent to 100 coal-fired power plants for a year, and production would not even start until 2028.

I was told by the minister in our previous conversation that there is this net-zero condition. It will be net-zero by 2050. What good is that if we have already burned all the oil by then? The added trick that is often not mentioned is that it is expected that much of this oil would be exported. Of course, this is a global carbon budget. When we do that, it may not show up in our domestic target, which even on its own is not sufficient to do our fair share, but it has the added illusion of not affecting our emissions, when in fact it is directly contributing to the global climate crisis that we are in.

No one is saying, myself included, that we need to shut down oil and gas industries tomorrow and turn off the taps, but what we do need is an immediate investment in the economy of the future: an investment in workers. Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, we know has some of the highest wind energy potential in North America, so why are we not investing in those workers today? Why are we not investing in their future and their retraining? We know that this new fossil fuel infrastructure that has been proposed is what has been described as moral and economic madness.

Let me remind the parliamentary secretary in closing that Canadians expect more. Last fall, a full 66% of Canadians polled shared that they expected more ambitious climate action.

My question tonight is this. Why is the government continuing to approve projects like Baie du Nord, knowing full well the majority of Canadians expect so much better?

Climate ChangeAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague and friend from Kitchener Centre for his eloquence, passion and commitment to the environment, which I share.

I would highlight to him that over the past six years the Government of Canada has invested over $100 billion and introduced over 100 measures in support of climate-related commitments.

Since 2016, the Government of Canada has been working with the provinces, territories, indigenous peoples, industry and civil society to implement the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This plan outlines over 50 concrete measures to reduce carbon pollution, help us adapt and become more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, spur clean technology solutions and create good jobs that contribute to a stronger economy.

In addition, the Government of Canada has made significant progress to implement the strengthened climate plan “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy”, which was released in December 2020. The plan builds on the pan-Canadian framework and includes a suite of new measures to reduce emissions, supported by an investment of $15 billion.

In June 2021, the Government of Canada adopted legislation to enshrine its commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 into law. The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act provides a durable framework of accountability and transparency to deliver on this commitment by establishing a transparent process to plan, assess and adjust the Government of Canada's efforts to achieve our national targets based on the best scientific information available.

On March 29, 2022, the Government of Canada introduced “2030 Emission Reduction Plan: Clean Air, Strong Economy.” This is the first emissions reduction plan released under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act and is supported by $9.1 billion in new investments. The plan reflects economy-wide and sector-by-sector measures and strategies to reduce emissions while creating jobs for workers and opportunities for businesses. The plan also reflects input from thousands of Canadians, businesses, indigenous peoples, communities and governments. These actions will enable Canada to achieve its enhanced nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement of 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and put us on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

We have made great progress in implementing federal climate actions and we will continue to ensure a healthy and prosperous net-zero future for all Canadians.

Our government recognizes the importance of the oil and gas industry in our energy mix while Canada moves toward a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. This is why we are committed to working with industry, provinces, indigenous partners and Canadians to define and implement the cap on oil and gas sector emissions. Following consultations, the cap will be designed to lower emissions at a pace and scale needed to achieve net zero by 2050.

Further, regulations to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40% to 45% by 2025 were completed in December of 2018. In 2021, Canada also joined the global methane pledge and was the first country to commit to reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas sector by at least 75% below 2012 levels by 2030.

I will finish up with—

Climate ChangeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


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

The hon. member for Kitchener Centre.

Climate ChangeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, while I respect the parliamentary secretary, if approving the Baie du Nord project is what accountability looks like in Canada's climate policy, then we have a problem. Yes, much of what he said is true, and he did not mention Baie du Nord in his response. There is $9.1 billion in the emissions reduction plan, and I am cheering that on, but at the same time, there is $7.1 billion between now and 2030 in a new fossil fuels subsidy, a tax credit for carbon capture and storage, which again only further locks us into going in the wrong direction.

When we talk about Baie du Nord, we see why this talk of a cap on emissions is insufficient. We can cap emissions all we want, but if we are not going to look at production, if we are not going to be honest about the reality of the need to leave some reserves in the ground for a livable planet for our children, nothing else really matters.

Climate ChangeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, the federal assessment of the Bay du Nord project has been led by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada since 2018 and is subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. The environmental assessment considered a wide range of impacts, including those on fish and fish habitat, marine mammals, sea turtles, migratory birds, species at risk, environmentally special areas, commercial fisheries, direct greenhouse gas emissions, current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, and the health and socio-economic conditions of indigenous people. In fact, the agency consulted 40 potentially impacted indigenous groups from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

May 5th, 2022 / 6:40 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, last week, I asked the Liberals when they would end their cruel travel ban on the Canadians the government has branded as unacceptable. In response, the Minister of Transport completed a Liberal hat trick, with three misleading statements in one answer, a feat only a Liberal could be proud of.

His first misleading statement was another attempt to play wedge politics with COVID shots. The Liberal Party desperately wants to import American politics into Canada. The Liberals have won fewer votes than the Conservatives in the last five out of six elections. They know they cannot beat our party, so they try to pretend they are running against a different party with different policies.

The minister knows that everyone in this chamber has had at least two COVID shots, and no one in this chamber has spoken against the shots. The minister should apologize for this but he will not. He has swallowed too much of his own hubris. When the Liberals decided to politicize COVID shots, they began to believe their own talking points. They forgot COVID shots are the means to an end, not the end itself.

The minister next misled Canadians when he claimed that the Liberals are doing whatever they can to protect Canadians. This is from a government that initially told people not to wear masks because it would increase the chance of eye injuries, and a government that called anyone racist for suggesting the border be closed.

Finally, for his third misleading hit, the minister claimed he is just following the science. This is perhaps the most grievous example of disinformation being pushed by the government. The government has been taking the name of science in vain for the last two years. The Liberals intentionally conflate the science behind developing and testing COVID shots with a political policy of banning people from boarding planes and trains. The challenge the government has is that it cannot even get its science right.

Prior to dropping most pre-arrival testing for fully inoculated Canadians, there was a requirement to show up with either a recent negative test or, and this is key, a positive test result from the previous 180 days. The Canada Border Services Agency seems to understand that proof of previous infection lowers the risk of transmission. Maybe somebody there could explain it to the Ministry of Transportation.

While the courts have found limiting the transmission of COVID allows for reasonable restrictions, the government still must follow the section one test laid out by the court. If the goal is to limit the spread, the government must prove this policy is related to the goal of limiting the spread and not a punitive measure for those who will not comply with the Prime Minister’s dictates, which goes to the heart of the question. Why is the Prime Minister’s test for acceptability whether or not someone has had two COVID shots and not immunity?

While COVID shots may be the safest way to achieve an immune response, they are not the only way. After firing people from their jobs, denying them social assistance, and calling them every name in the Liberal handbook, some Canadians still have not gotten the jab. Clearly, no amount of coercion or duress will work.

If the Liberals truly and honestly believe their own rhetoric about protecting Canadians, they would move to an immunity-based approach to risk management. That they still have not shifted based on the latest scientific evidence proves they care more about punishing a small minority than protecting the vast majority.

I challenge the parliamentary secretary to ignore his department-drafted talking points and honestly tell Canadians how this policy is still reasonable after all we have learned about the science of waning immunity.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Milton Ontario


Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Sport

Madam Speaker, it is a sincere privilege to be here in the House for a late show, and since I know that the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke has strong connections to the Dutch community in her riding, I would like to wish her a happy Dutch Liberation Day and also say hello to my dad, Joe, whose family arrived here on October 15, 1953. We are very proud of our Dutch heritage, and I know they are in Renfrew County as well.

While provinces and territories are easing public health measures, we know that COVID-19 continues to circulate in Canada. Throughout the pandemic, our government has taken clear and decisive actions to ensure the safety and security of Canada's transportation system, its employees and its users.

Federal vaccine mandates were implemented in the fall of 2021 for federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to pursue key objectives, including to ensure the safety and security of the transportation system, passengers, transportation employees and the public by delivering protection from infection and severity of illnesses in workplaces for all travellers; to increase uptake for better and broader societal protection; and to play a leadership role in protecting the health and safety of our workplaces, our communities and all Canadians.

Vaccination is one of the most effective tools we have for combatting the pandemic and protecting our transportation network.

It is important that Canadians stay up to date with their vaccinations and receive a booster when they are eligible. This will help them protect themselves and others against serious illness.

Vaccination is an important layer of protection. Although the vaccine does not provide complete immunity against infection, it prevents us from falling seriously ill. Vaccination can also reduce the need for potential hospitalization.

Data from recent weeks show that across the country unvaccinated individuals are still three times more likely to be hospitalized than individuals vaccinated with two doses, and they are six times more likely to be hospitalized than those who have received an additional booster dose.

The incentive for a vaccine is clear. It protects us from severe illness and it lessens the burden on our health care systems. We need to take into account several factors when considering vaccine mandates. These include the global and domestic epidemiological situation and the benefits and longer-term consequences of these measures. We continue to monitor the emerging evidence around vaccine effectiveness and the spread and impact of COVID-19 in Canada to inform our vaccination strategy.

In the mean time, we know that multiple layers of protection, including vaccination, protect against severe health outcomes from COVID-19. Getting as many Canadians vaccinated and boosted as possible and continuing to adhere to individual public health measures is expected to help us get through this phase of uncertainty and support Canada in managing COVID-19.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, sadly, the parliamentary secretary did not take me up on my offer to speak honestly and directly with Canadians. Instead, we received talking points, which clearly ignore the challenge the government has in justifying a cruel, inhumane, and blatantly unconstitutional travel ban on Canadians whom the Prime Minister has labelled as unacceptable.

The member even managed to make the same misleading claims as the minister. No, the member opposite is not following the science. He is engaged in politics.

This ban is clearly unconstitutional because there is a less restrictive policy available. Rather than discriminate on the basis of COVID shot status, the government could follow the science on the basis of immunity. I say “could”, because I doubt they will do something that politically unpopular. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to the government is protecting its electoral ambitions.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Madam Speaker, I decided not to stand up on a point of order when the member opposite accused me of being dishonest, but I think we all have a number of words at our disposal and good vocabularies in the House, and calling somebody dishonest across the floor is unparliamentary and uncalled for. We are all doing our jobs here, and I think we can appreciate that we all have a role to play.

The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to examine short- and long-term vaccination strategies, including opportunities to promote confidence in vaccines and address the barriers faced by individuals and communities across Canada.

Canada's COVID-19 vaccination efforts, which include vaccine education, outreach and accessible programs with provinces, territories and indigenous partners, have benefited Canadians significantly. Vaccines, including boosters, are key to managing emerging variants, preventing severe illness and death, supporting our health systems, and continuing the path to living with COVID-19. They will also be an important part of Canada's long-term recovery.

LabourAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Madam Speaker, this evening I am returning to a question I asked respecting the Correctional Service of Canada prison farms located at the Joyceville and Collins Bay institutions.

On April 8, I asked the following question of the Minister of Public Safety:

...even though no contract has yet been signed to use the milk from its proposed 2,200-goat prison farm, the government continues to build dairy facilities at the Joyceville and Collins Bay institutions. Given the absence of a contract, it is strange the government continues to act and to spend as if it still plans to use prison labour to produce goat milk for export.

The minister responded by saying the following inter alia:

...the Correctional Service of Canada has indeed awarded a contract in Joyceville.... Of course, we will make sure that this contract complies with all of Canada's international obligations.

Now, this response surprised me, as I doubt that it is possible in practice to have an industrial farm producing an export product with prison labour that successfully conforms to the strict requirements of international law. It is certainly impossible to do so while actually producing a positive revenue stream or profit from that facility.

With these thoughts in mind, on April 29, I asked in the House to see the contract. The parliamentary secretary helpfully provided me with that contract or, more correctly, with the offer for tender for the contract earlier this week, so I thank her. It is a $10-million contract for, according to the tender offer, “a large purpose built dairy cattle barn including office spaces, a manure holding tank, livestock holding areas, parlours, nurseries, refrigerated milk accommodate a milking herd of approximately seventy...cows.”

In her response in the House to my April 29 question, the parliamentary secretary also made the following refreshingly clear statement: “while Correctional Service was considering goat milk production, it is no longer under consideration. Correctional Service Canada does not intend to do any goat milk production.” Now, that is clear and definitive, and my human rights concerns would have been set at ease, were it not for the following fact.

Right after I was provided with that answer, one of my constituents asked Correctional Service Canada's media relations team to confirm the answer, and on May 3, my constituent received a response that currently they don't have any goats, that there are no plans under way and that, as previously mentioned, they will reassess the situation at a later date. Now, this is a good deal less definitive and it leaves the door open for CSC to return to a plan that it clearly does not want to abandon: to use prison labour in a commercial dairy operation.

I want to believe the parliamentary secretary, and I hope that her statement, the definitive one, will be CSC's policy moving forward, but I think what is needed is something additional: a clear policy statement from cabinet or in the form of an order from the minister that it is impermissible for Correctional Service Canada to reassess the situation, informing the agency that it is government policy that the industrial goat operation is officially and permanently dead.

Finally, and this is the question, given the parliamentary secretary's comment and the commitment that the goat operation is no longer under consideration, could she explain why the current construction of the cow dairy facility includes the roadway and utilities for the future goat farm that remains in the engineering plans and why the current construction includes a manure lagoon sized for 2,200 goats?

LabourAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Oakville North—Burlington Ontario


Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, I am delighted that my hon. colleague has a new-found interest in the penitentiary agriculture program, also known as “prison farms”. It is a shame he was not as vocal on this issue when the previous Conservative government implemented mean-spirited cuts to corrections that scrapped this effective and popular initiative.

I want to thank the constituents of Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston and surrounding ridings who were so vocal in their advocacy to reopen the farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay. I am proud of our government's decision to reinvest in correctional programming that we know leads to effective rehabilitation and a reduction in recidivism.

By investing in the penitentiary agriculture program, we are helping offenders gain and develop the appropriate skill sets to find meaningful employment. We have the statistics. Offenders who find jobs are three times less likely to return to custody for a new offence. Meaningful employment contributes to enhanced public safety through increased reintegration and the reduction of recidivism.

I had the privilege of visiting the dairy farm at Collins Bay in November. I met with the head of CORCAN, CSC employees and inmates who were participating in the dairy farm program. I have visited a number of prisons since being elected to this place. I can think of few experiences that were more meaningful than engaging with the offenders who were participating in this program. These men were naming baby calves and bottle-feeding them and were well on their way to transitioning to a life free from crime. One individual, who had a forthcoming parole hearing, had already secured employment at a farm nearby, outside of London, Ontario.

The Government of Canada will continue to support initiatives that have been proven to reduce crime and keep our communities safe.

I also wish to address the question that was raised by my colleague. I want to clarify that the Correctional Service of Canada currently does not have any goats within its program and does not have any agreements with third parties, either domestic or international, for the sale of goat milk. Simply put, there are no contracts because there are no goats.

The operations at Joyceville and Collins Bay are currently focused on the full implementation of dairy cow operations and enhancing other aspects of the program. The Correctional Service of Canada will continue to engage with community members and stakeholders, and proceed with other aspects of the program and its dairy cow operations. This includes the construction of a new barn at Joyceville Institution.

I want to assure the member opposite that all agricultural operations are being implemented in accordance with provincial and federal government legislation, and in accordance with industry standards. That includes the issue of inmate pay. As a founding and active member of the International Labour Organization, the Government of Canada takes its international obligations very seriously. We have ratified all of the ILO's fundamental standards that pertain to prison labour, and we continuously work to meet its strict conditions.

I would be delighted to return to Collins Bay with the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston so that he can see how powerful an effective correctional program is. I can promise him that he will meet not only a herd of friendly dairy cows, but the offenders who love them.

LabourAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Madam Speaker, I may very well take the parliamentary secretary up on that very kind offer, which she has also made to me privately.

I do want to say, however, that in her response she abandoned the clarity that she showed on April 29, and moved to the fuzzy language used by the Correctional Service of Canada, which I presume wrote those remarks for her, leaving open the opportunity to move to an industrial goat operation. All of the conditional language about having no plans right now, owning no goats right now and so on is unsatisfying. What would be satisfying is a clear policy statement that we will not have any goat operation in the future.

I hope the parliamentary secretary, and perhaps future minister, will be able to say definitively that this is the case and repeat the clarity she showed on April 29.