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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Liberal MP for Malpeque (P.E.I.)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19 September 29th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very legitimate concern about broadband Internet across the country. One thing we have learned from the pandemic with people working from home, etc., is that they need good Internet access. The minister, in response to a question in question period today, answered some of what the member just asked about.

There has been greater funding put into obtaining better broadband across the country, which is starting to roll out. I will admit it may be a little too slow, but at least the government has taken the initiative to get it out there so that Canada can be more connected and rural Canadians can have the same service as urban Canadians across this country.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19 September 29th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, the government has shown us throughout this that it was willing to listen to members. Look at how some of the original programs were designed and how they have changed.

The member opposite said that with CERB there needs to be employment incentives, and there are. There is the encouragement to go back to work. There is other programming that is not directly related to COVID–19. We can look at how the government expanded the funding for the regional development agencies across the country to be able to assist businesses to create jobs. It used the RRRF in place of the CEBA for those businesses in the rural areas that were not really dealing with the big chartered banks. The government has shown that—

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19 September 29th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I certainly have enjoyed working with the member for Edmonton Centre on the finance committee as well. In fact, between early April and probably early June the committee heard between 300 and 400 witnesses provide their views on COVID–19.

We are in an urgent situation at the moment. The pandemic continues to evolve. We are in the second wave. We know the CERB is running out. We have an obligation as a government to move as rapidly as we can and have a fairly reasonable debate in the House. It is always better to take more time, but we just do not have the time. The need is there at the moment. The government is showing it is willing to change and adapt programs, and I am sure it would be willing to do the same with this one as we go down the road and the needs arise.

Proceedings on the bill entitled An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19 September 29th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, indeed, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19.

Although I did start out to speak to Bill C-2, which has the same name, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4. I certainly agree with the ruling the Speaker just made. It is an improved bill and better addresses the needs of citizens affected by COVID-19 either directly or indirectly.

The bill, or at least some of the issues and policy flowing out of the bill, shows that this place, the Parliament of Canada, can work well for Canadians through discussions, compromise and a willingness to accept the fact that not any one party has a lock on good ideas or good policy approaches.

While this bill looks forward, I do believe it is important to take a moment to recognize how far we have come since this place basically closed down in March, when we were sent home to try to operate Parliament in a different way. A lot of programs have come out to help people and businesses weather as best they can the financial and health difficulties caused by the pandemic.

Regardless of political stripe, I believe we have to say the government acted quickly. It introduced programs that made a huge difference for the economy, for families and for businesses. It did so quickly. In terms of CERB. I do not think we would have thought it possible that the public service and the government could actually come up with a program that could handle 10,000 applications a minute. That is a pretty phenomenal feat, and I think we should be proud of that.

I went through them today and by my count there are slightly over 100 programs that have been introduced. Liquidity has been provided to the lending institutions, coordinated planning has been established with the provinces and territories, and programs have been flowing out of the Government of Canada based on discussions with the premiers, and in fact with all parties in this House. Roughly $19 of every $20 have come from the federal coffers. Some of my colleagues on the former finance committee will talk a lot about the deficit. However, it is a fact that the federal government is better positioned to carry some of that debt rather than transferring it to individuals, businesses or indeed the provinces, because our rates are preferred, and we certainly hope they stay that way.

Programs were introduced, subject to change, which is unusual. They were not introduced with a hard line that they were going to be the bottom line come hell or high water. They were introduced subject to change, recognizing there were going to be problems and changes that needed to be made. They were improved with the input of members from all parties. I doubt the public knows, but all of us in this House know that members had the opportunity to participate in daily conference calls with senior members from several departments across the Government of Canada.

Through those calls, we had the opportunity to question and discuss, and programs were improved with input accepted from all members. Members could give their input based on how they saw the programs working on the ground, whether it was CERB or any other program. They could give that input from whatever region of the country they reside in.

We must acknowledge members of the public service for participating in program development, in working long hours and participating in those conference calls night after night after night. They would explain programs and answer questions. They would sometimes take criticism. They would accept changes and make recommendations to the various ministries as a result.

We were not always successful in the issues we put forward. I know both the member for Edmonton Centre and I put forward in those nightly calls that CEBA needed to be changed to allow personal bank accounts to be considered. That still has not changed. I am still demanding that the government change that so the people with personal bank accounts and not business accounts can qualify for the CEBA or the RRRF. That needs to be done.

Members from all parties have raised that point. It should not be a program where the banks get the benefit. It has to be a program where people get the benefit. I am disappointed in how I see the banks living up to their obligations in the pandemic at the moment, because they have been provided billions of dollars of liquidity. Many of us in this House agree that change needs to be made.

I sincerely want to thank all members of the public service for their efforts under trying circumstances. They are under the pressure of a health crisis, working from home and working under completely different circumstances than they are used to.

All the programs made a difference. I can certainly say in my riding and across the country the big ones were CERB, the wage subsidies and CEBA. However, now it is time for future extensions and future improvements. That is what we have in Bill C-4. As my colleague before me mentioned, there are three main areas in this bill, three new benefits.

The first is the Canada recovery benefit, which will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for workers who meet the eligible criteria. In other words, they do not qualify for employment insurance, are not employed or have a reduction of at least 50% in employment or self-employment earnings and are available and looking for work. That is important. I do not mind admitting that one of the concerns I have with CERB is I hear from too many businesses that they cannot find workers. There has to be balance here. We need to be there for people who cannot find work, but people also have to be willing to work if work is available. The changes made under employment insurance make it necessary for people to be going out there and striving to gain work.

The second major area in this bill is the Canada recovery sickness benefit. That will provide the same amount of money I mentioned in the first program. This is for workers who are unable to work at least 50% of their normal work because they contracted COVID-19, have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatment or have contracted another sickness that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

The third area is the Canada recovery caregiving benefit which will also provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for eligible workers who are unable to work at least 50% of their normal work and need to take unpaid leave to care for a child under the age of 12 due to school or day care closure, or a family member who requires supervised care and is unable to attend a day program.

There are changes. What I tried to outline is that a lot has happened since the COVID-19 pandemic hit this country. All parties can take some credit for those programs.

The government moved rapidly and with this bill today we see how we are recognizing some of the lessons learned from the programs we have put out there and that there needs to be other changes made. I do not have time to go into the employment insurance changes, but they are good as well. We need to debate them further and continue on improving them until we see the end of this pandemic.

Peschisolido Report September 29th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I think Canadians are very proud of what this government has done in terms of the pandemic. I think they are very proud of how quickly we acted. There were 10,000 applications a minute going through in order to get the CERB, which kept food on the table and gave people the confidence to stay home and help fight the pandemic. I talked to a lot of my constituents, a lot of Canadians, and I think that they are really proud of how the government acted with the pandemic. What the member is talking about are other side issues, which are not the issue of the moment.

Peschisolido Report September 29th, 2020

Madam Speaker, the member's main argument was that it would be good to have more time to debate the bills before us. The motion right now is absolutely taking away from that time. As I said in my remarks, why today, why now? That is political gamesmanship and I do not believe the people in the member's riding think this is the issue that we should be dealing with in this House.

Time is important in this House and we need to take time to get all the ideas from everyone, because there are good ideas. I saw that at the finance committee. There are good ideas from all parties. That is what we need to be doing: getting those good ideas to strengthen our economy and look after individuals and businesses. That is what we ought be doing.

Peschisolido Report September 29th, 2020

Madam Speaker, there is really no difference in the member then and the member now. I have made it clear that I am not in favour of prorogation, I stand by that, but I do believe that the prorogation then was a little worse than it is now in that it was to prevent a vote that could have brought down the government, and it was a much longer prorogation. I underline this clearly. If a government is going to prorogue to open another session, it should be for a very short number of days. I am not one who is in favour of prorogation.

Peschisolido Report September 29th, 2020

The member said that I just did. Yes, I guess I did, but I could go through a heck of a lot more issues that the previous government did that really are not helpful to us today but will not bother doing that because I really believe we need to find a way to work together, especially in the short term.

Let me sum up my thoughts, which will be hard to do in the 25 seconds I have left.

When we all stand in this place in this kind of debate, what do Canadians think of their Parliament and do they think we are doing what they see as a priority? This motion is not what I believe they see as a priority. Let us get on with putting in place the programs and then we can have these kinds of debates in the House, at committee, wherever.

Peschisolido Report September 29th, 2020

Madam Speaker, I was a little late getting to the House this morning and have now reviewed the motion. Why now? Why today?

I remember making a speech in the session just past, the one that was prorogued. I know there is opposition to that and that is fine. That can happen in a democracy. However, I remember saying that Canadians had put in place a minority Parliament and we should take the opportunity as parliamentarians to show we could make this Parliament work. Errors happen, and I am not saying the government is errorless because it is not. However, if Canadians are watching Parliament right now, are they proud of us? I do not think they are.

I have had the opportunity, as the Canada-U.S. chair, to go to the U.S. many times. I have seen how partisan the situation is there. The Democrats are here, the Republicans are there and never shall the two meet. I have always said that I am so proud of us as Canadians that we have not let that happen. However, this motion tells me that it is happening. Yes, this issue needs to be debated. There is nothing wrong with the motion, but today is not the day. Canadians are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses are concerned about where they sit.

I spent a half an hour this morning on the phone with one of the food processors in the country. It believes the government is still continuing to move ahead with new regulations. I personally would oppose on front of pack labelling. Now is not the time for that either. Companies have suggested that other countries have brought in some tax measures that make them non-competitive here. That is one of our main industries. We should be debating issues like that, not this one today. There will be a time and place. That is why we have separate committees. These issues should be at least before a committee first, the ethics committee or some other. There is limited time to have debate on Bill C-2/Bill C-4. We have seen a slice of where this Parliament can work.

The government side came together with the leader of the NDP and made changes to improve the assistance to individuals and for improved sick leave. That is fine. We should debate that issue. Several people in the House were on the finance committee, during which we held hearings in late May, after Parliament shut down due to COVID-19. We heard some 300 witnesses who had a lot of concerns, such as where they would be as went go through this pandemic? We should be talking about those issues.

I am suggesting that for the next couple of months we concentrate on the issues about which Canadians are concerned. This is political theatre in terms of this motion. I have been in opposition and I played these kind of games. I admit that. However, we are in a pandemic and we need to deal with the issue that is before us.

My request is that we deal with the issue Canadians want us to deal with, specifically for the next six weeks or so. Let us let our committees deal with some of the other issues such as the WE scandal, which needs more work on. We have had hearings at the finance committee. We went through the documents. I know issues will continue to come up, but today in the House is not the place for that to occur.

The tourism industry in my area is gravely concerned about where it finds itself. The airline and transportation industries are gravely concerned about where they find themselves. The airports in my region are down 94% in business. What are we, as parliamentarians, going to propose to those industries so they can survive until next season? Hospitality and tourism industry members are telling me now that while they figured 2021 would be the rebound year, they are now looking at it as the transition year and that hopefully 2022 will be the rebound year. We need to look at what we can do to strengthen the economy.

The debate on Bill C-2 and Bill C-4 is going to be about assistance to individuals, and yes that assistance has to be there, but what are we going to do beyond that to strengthen businesses so they can be there and be the backbone of our economy in the future? Those are some of the things we need to be talking about.

The other thing I heard, more over the summer and not so much at the finance committee, is about whether the chartered banks are pulling their weight. Right now, the bank deferrals are starting to come due. I have been talking to some in the business industry who are saying that they are having a rough ride with the banks in rolling over their operating capital and loans.

The government and Canadian taxpayers have basically backed the big banks such as the Business Development Corporation, the Export Development Corporation and Farm Credit Canada with additional liquidity to basically give them a guarantee as they provide monies during this pandemic. I do not believe this place and the banks are pulling their full weight in getting us out of this pandemic. Those are some of the issues we need to be talking about.

Over the summer, we heard a lot of talk from a lot of people on a guaranteed annual income. That is an issue we should be discussing. Personally, I do not think we can go holus-bolus, but I would not mind seeing a few pilot projects across the country to see how it goes. Would those be able to replace some of the other programs we had to quickly bring in as a result of the pandemic? We need to be discussing those issues.

I want to turn to where I come from, the farm community. I am hearing a lot of concern from members of the farm community about the safety nets in place for them at the moment. I strongly believe the business risk management program must be improved. I could go through a litany of things and blame the previous government on that because it cut back the business risk management from 85% to 70%, but let us get it back up there again and work together to do that.

The Environment September 24th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, a year ago at this time I walked through the P.E.I. National Park in the Cavendish area to witness the damage from post-tropical storm Dorian that happened on September 7 and 8. The damage was shocking. There was 14 feet of erosion along the Cavendish Beach shoreline, and in Cavendish campground 80% of the trees were destroyed and the campsites themselves were annihilated.

What is the government doing to rehabilitate that campground and the P.E.I. National Park; and when is it going to get to it?