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Bill to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19

Excerpt from Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

Bill to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19

Consideration of Subject Matter in Committee of the Whole

On the Order:

The Senate in Committee of the Whole in order to receive the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, accompanied by no more than four officials to consider the subject matter of Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19.

(The sitting of the Senate was suspended and put into Committee of the Whole, the Honourable Pierrette Ringuette in the chair.)

Third Reading

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

Hon. Peter M. Boehm: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(b), I move that the bill be read the third time now.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Hon. Marty Deacon: Thank you very much.

Honourable senators, this evening I rise to speak to Bill C-2, and I won’t be long.

Over the past 21 months, we have become very familiar with the various emergency COVID relief bills and the essential importance they play for Canadians. Bill C-2 recognizes the continued support as we navigate life with an unpredictable and highly contagious virus.

Through the bill and the Committee of the Whole presentation by Minister Freeland this evening, we are reminded of a suite of programs this bill introduces or builds on such as an extension of the Canada Recovery Hiring Program, targeted support to particularly hard-hit industries like hospitality and tourism, and the establishment of the Canada worker lockdown benefit.

This evening, I would like to focus on another, perhaps unintended consequence of this bill, as it follows others over the past 21 months.

The pandemic has impacted businesses in a variety of ways, but tourism, hospitality and event industries have been hit the hardest and for the longest, and as we have seen in recent days, continue to face a future full of uncertainty.

Folks that represent these sectors are not the people who usually follow the day-to-day processes — surprise, surprise — or the content and decision making made in the Senate and the other place. They are not in the habit of tuning into parliamentary proceedings. A bill going to first, second or third reading or being sent to committee is not part of the procedural language and their daily business.

The pandemic, however, has changed this. Out of pure economic desperation, many sectors are following the minutia of Parliament to see exactly when they can be assured of continued financial support and what that support will look like.

To quote just one of the many inquiries about Bill C-2 I have received:

Senator Deacon, I am reaching out to you again to see if you have any information regarding the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program. We are trying to follow all the Bills; we think this is C-2. We learned today the bill was being “tabled.” Does that mean it is in the Senate already? We are trying to understand 1st, 2nd Readings, committees, tabling, it is all very confusing for myself and my staff, but we and our clients are trying to track this bill as it is urgent for us. Because of the gap between ending the wage and rent subsidy and this new program we are really struggling. We have adjusted, pivoted, regrouped so many times and want to continue in our local business. We are following this daily, but we would really appreciate to know when ultimately this bill will be done, when it goes through or when you may have more information. Thank you in advance, Robin and Bill.

Every senator hears this desperation I’m sure every day. It’s a reminder that we are being watched, listened to and scrutinized like never before. We need to leverage this opportunity to show Canadians who and what we are, and that we are learning from and listening to every Canadian.

We need to keep in mind that there is no playbook for what we’re facing as a country. People are looking for deadlines or limits to what we will spend as a country to support Canadians; all Canadians. But we need to be flexible and understand that all we can do is take this a day at a time and do what we can to help those affected the very most. I believe that’s what we have before us here in Bill C-2 and why I’m looking forward to its very quick passage. Thank you. Meegwetch.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Your Honour, Senator Housakos does intend to speak, and he is our critic. Perhaps I can ask a question of Senator Deacon at this time.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Deacon, will you take a question?

Senator M. Deacon: Yes, I will.

Senator Martin: Senator Deacon, I feel like my head is spinning. We have had a fluid situation all day. This is such an important bill, and yet we heard earlier, one of our experts in the chamber — a former auditor general, Senator Marshall — talking about the effort that she has to put in to gather information that senators should readily have. You just expressed your frustration; the challenge that you and your staff have had to prepare for this time.

I understand the importance of this bill for Canadians. Do you have anything to add in terms of some of the frustrations that you have encountered or what you wish you had before you? Is it just more time? I’d love to just get your insights on the process.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you, senator, for the question. Perhaps to clarify, two things I’m thinking about. Number one is how we can continue to make sure that we are representing and reflecting the interests of all Canadians and that the dial is turned up. The dial is turned up on their desire for more information, their desire to understand the process, policy, products, bills, legislation from what we almost call a consumer, from all Canadians, on that pathway to how we do work.

I can say to you candidly that I am in awe of Senator Marshall. I have sat with her on the Finance Committee, and we have continued and will continue, on or off the committee, to change and push for processes that make sense, and timelines that connect and dovetail, and bills around budget and finance and estimates that look a little more connected and seamless.

It’s a big job. It’s a big challenge, but I do recognize it because ultimately wouldn’t it be great that all senators have a good, clear understanding of all of this and we’re able to articulate it well to our users, Canadians?

Senator Martin: Yes. I absolutely agree. Thank you so much. Thank you and all of the senators who have served on the committee doing some of the heavy lifting.

In any event, thank you very much for your speech and to, of course, the sponsor and all senators who served on both committees, Social Affairs and as well as on Finance. I’m getting my bills mixed up. But in any event all the work that you have done.


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