Bill to Provide Further Support in Response to COVID-19

Third Reading

December 16, 2021


The Hon. the Speaker
[19:01]

Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

Hon. Peter M. Boehm
[19:02]

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
[19:02]

Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Hon. Marty Deacon
[19:02]

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)
[19:06]

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
[19:07]

Senator Deacon, will you take a question?

Senator M. Deacon
[19:07]

Yes, I will.

[19:07]

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
[19:08]

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?

[19:09]

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.

Hon. Leo Housakos (Acting Leader of the Opposition)
[19:10]

Honourable senators, I rise to speak at third reading of Bill C-2 — of course, we’re moving very quickly — Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19.

It seems to me these days that nothing is as certain as death, taxes and acts to provide further support in response to COVID-19. This is, I believe, the seventh such act by this government. If at first you can’t get it right, try, try again, and again and again, and so on and so on. It’s déjà vu all over again. And just as familiar, I think we can all acknowledge, is the government’s refrain that we need to do this post-haste.

This is from the same government that unnecessarily dissolved Parliament to call an unnecessary election just two years after the last one — costing Canadians upwards of $600 million — to end up with an almost identical minority Parliament situation that we had prior to the election.

Then after that urgent election, which the Prime Minister tried to pin on Canadians by saying they demanded it, he then waited another leisurely two months — Tofino was calling, of course — before reconvening Parliament so he could introduce this urgently needed legislation that we have to rush through just a few minutes to midnight before Christmas.

I am reminded of one of my favourite expressions: Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Remember that the bill arrived in the House on November 24. It arrived in committee in the House on December 6. They were expected to go clause-by-clause on the bill on December 10: a mere four hearings later and only a few hours after hearing from the minister. That, of course, changed when the opposition members of the committee in the other place insisted on more time to scrutinize the legislation, as is their right and, colleagues, their duty.

It arrived here a few minutes ago — not very long ago. Now we’re being told we have to get it done in record time. Have we heard that before, colleagues, from this government? There are many good reasons for it.

Colleagues, I have been a member of the Senate for quite a while now; it will be 13 years next month. Every December and every June, we are pressured to pass legislation before we go on break for the holidays.

Usually, when a bill includes $7 billion in spending over seven months, we have enough time to go over it with a fine-tooth comb before we amend it or pass it as is. We would have had plenty of time to deal with the bill before us today, even factoring in the time wasted due to this summer’s unnecessary election. However, as I said, Justin Trudeau’s government decided not to recall Parliament for eight weeks, even though it knew all along that it would have issues to deal with, such as this bill.

To quote columnist Don Martin:

. . . tardiness in . . . inaction, has achieved an Omicron-level contagion inside this government, which framed the fall election as a cry for action only to hit the ground running at a sloth-in-slow-motion speed.

Martin opines, “Trudeau has elevated foot-dragging to a dark political art.”

And, as in almost everything else with this Prime Minister, what is good for him is not appropriate for the rest of us. So while there was foot-dragging in reopening Parliament, he tells us we must rush this legislation through Parliament when he finally does open it — legislation that looks suspiciously like that which was introduced in the last Parliament.

He told us the reason for the election was to give Canadians their say on government decisions that will last, not just for the coming months, but for the coming decades. What do we have before us, colleagues? We have a $7 billion spending bill that will only last for the coming months. Meet the new boss; the same old boss.

It is an orchestrated effort to avoid scrutiny. It is calculated. It is premeditated. It is now standard operating procedure for this government to conduct business in the shadows when they can get away with it, of course. Colleagues, they have been getting away with it now for a very long time.

In this place, how many times have we heard over the last 18 months, “We need to do it, colleagues, because of the urgency of the situation, but it should never happen again”?

Independent, Trudeau-appointed senators have been rising in this house over dozens of billions of dollars over the last 18 months, and on each occasion they rise and they say, “We’ll get it done this time, but let this not become a habit.” Colleagues, this is beyond a habit. This has become an addiction for this government.

A government that ran in 2015 on being open and transparent by default has established a pattern of being anything but. This effort to avoid scrutiny is only the latest, as I said. It began barely six months into the Trudeau “transparent by default” government.

Many of you will recall Motion No. 6 introduced in the spring of 2016 — let’s not forget, since it wasn’t that long ago — rightfully drawing outrage from the opposition, as it would have eliminated many of the procedural tools at its disposal to hold the majority Trudeau government to account.

We’ve heard many times, in their attempts at modernization, about their desire to change rules and procedures because Parliament is archaic. Yes, it’s archaic all right: It expects government to be accountable. It gives impetus to the minority voices in this country to hold their government to account.

These procedural tools, which were also available to the Government Representative in the Senate at the time, exist to protect the majority. It’s a crucial aspect of our parliamentary system. Motion No. 6, which Maclean’s magazine described as a draconian measure, was met with such outrage from the opposition that the government was eventually forced to withdraw it.

Far from admitting defeat, the Liberals made another attempt in the spring of 2017 to evade the scrutiny of the House by proposing to eliminate Friday sittings and set aside one day a week to put questions to the Prime Minister, meaning that Mr. Trudeau would not be required to be present in the House of Commons on the other sitting days during the week to answer questions.

All of this and other measures in the name of what the government called efficiency. But as the Victoria Times-Colonist put it, the changes proposed:

. . . seem to be less about efficiency than with reducing the opposition to and scrutiny of the government’s agenda.

So many think it uncharitable to suggest that, when the pandemic hit, the government took advantage of it to further avoid scrutiny. Colleagues, these types of proposals by any government might be good political strategy, but it’s bad government. It’s not transparency. It’s not respect of Parliament.

But having established a pattern of “doing things they would have excoriated Stephen Harper for,” as one columnist put it, it is hard to avoid coming to that conclusion; even harder when coming out of the gate in March 2020, the same month the World Health Organization, or WHO, declared a pandemic, the Trudeau government tabled emergency legislation intended to grant itself the unilateral power to tax and spend for nearly two years without any scrutiny from Parliament — taxation without representation, which is contrary to the core of the Westminster system of Parliament. Colleagues, this was just a while ago they attempted to do this in the dark of night.

Even the Liberal-friendly Toronto Star was shocked. “The extraordinary measures . . . went far beyond what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Finance Minister Bill Morneau have publicly discussed,” they wrote.

Again, they were forced to back down amidst a great hue and cry, but not for lack of trying, colleagues. The pattern continued, and continues today.

The House committee investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal was stifled by the PMO, as was that of the Ethics Commissioner who, despite being denied access to certain witnesses, as he bemoaned in his report, found the Prime Minister guilty of breaking the ethics laws.

Similarly, the House committee’s investigation into the WE Charity scandal was obstructed by the Liberals at every turn until the Prime Minister went so far as to prorogue Parliament — something he promised Canadians he would never do. It’s his constitutional right, but he promised, if you remember, in black and white, in the 2015 Liberal election platform, the same platform that promised an independent, transparent and more effective upper chamber.

What is more galling than the lack of transparency, however, and the seemingly inexhaustible efforts of the Trudeau government to avoid accountability, is their blatant cynicism, their contempt for Canadians and for the work of Parliament, including in this place, to hold them to account on behalf of Canadian taxpayers. That, too, is in black and white in the form of a tweet from Liberal MP and former house leader Bardish Chagger last Friday after the Conservatives in the house proposed that the committee studying Bill C-2 there split the bill so that the hospitality and tourism industries could get their much-needed support before Parliament rises, while the committee did its job and studied the rest of the bill.

In response to this prudent proposal, Ms. Chagger pleaded:

I’m in the House today — it’s sad to see that rather than advance much-needed supports for [Canadian] businesses, workers, tourism industry, and others, the Conservatives are slowing the passage of Bill C-2 — which would provide this assistance — by using delay tactics in the [House of Commons].

I’m glad to hear, colleagues, that Ms. Chagger was in the house that day, but there were any number of days over the previous two months when all MPs could have been in the house to ensure smooth passage of this suddenly much needed support, but they chose not to be. The Prime Minister chose to go on vacation. And the Conservatives, by acting like responsible parliamentarians doing the job they were elected to do, get accused of delay tactics.

Now we have a new $7-billion spending bill before us. The Senate, the chamber of sober second thought, is expected to pass it with barely a glance. How many of you have scrutinized that bill before it got here just a few minutes ago? Is it too much to ask that we not be treated with such contempt by the government of the day? Is it too much to ask that Canadians not be condescended to in this manner?

Colleagues, as I said, we have stood up in this chamber time and time again. We have told the other side and told this government — particularly over the last few months, but other governments as well — that this chamber shouldn’t tolerate this, that this chamber is an important institution in holding the government to account.

So it seems we talked a big game of making this place more relevant, more independent, less partisan, holding the government to account, but it always seems to be the same small group of senators in the chamber who are always asking the difficult questions.

This government, only this week, tabled the public accounts regarding the $600 billion it spent last year. The public accounts provide a detailed breakdown of how public funds are spent. We’ve heard Senator Marshall go at the government leader in this chamber. It’s been months she’s been asking for them. Again, I haven’t heard many more, except for this small, little caucus on this side of the chamber, who have been adamant about this on behalf of taxpayers.

That means that more than eight months after the 2020-21 fiscal year ended, and while Bill C-2 asking for $7 billion of new spending was being reviewed at committee in the house, we still have had no details of how the money allocated for last year was spent.

Colleagues, we get paid a lot of money to be here. Yeah, we’re not elected, and it’s becoming harder and harder for this institution to be accountable because many of the groups in here have cut their links to the accountable house. But we should look in the mirror and ask ourselves what were we brought here on behalf of taxpayers to do. If we’re going to be a rubber stamp, one can question, of course, the legitimacy of this place going forward. And it’s going to come. If we continue to be an echo chamber, Canadians are going to start saying, “What are we getting for our $130 million a year?” Actually, that’s not only where it ends.

Let me point this out. China Mobile and other Chinese state-owned companies received some of the pandemic wage supports that were intended for hard hit Canadian companies. We’ve been asking questions of the government leader in this chamber. Again, these are only the questions that have been coming from a small, select group of partisan senators who want to go back to the old ways in this place, which is holding the government to account. But yet we still haven’t received from the government a clear answer.

China Mobile, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, had earnings of a paltry $152 billion in 2020. It has also been sanctioned in the United States for collaborating with the People’s Liberation Army. We know it has partnered with Huawei, and we know it operated in Canada from 2015 until this year without a security review having been conducted, which is required by the Investment Canada Act.

The findings of that eventual security review were that China Mobile’s presence in Canada could result in Canadian companies being leveraged for non-commercial purposes. It was ordered to close its businesses in Canada, but not before operating for six years unbeknownst to this government and not before receiving pandemic wage support that was put in place to help Canadian businesses. It gets better — or worse depending on whether you were one of the fraudulent recipients of pandemic support or if you’re a Canadian taxpayer.

We know, as I mentioned in a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a few weeks back, that organized crime defrauded the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB, program by filling multiple applications using stolen identities. Yet this government is unable or unwilling to tell us how much CERB money organized crime received.

We know all this because of a recent decision by a Quebec Superior Court judge, who found that a Montreal street gang fraudulently claimed over $100,000 from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program and used it to finance illegal weapons smuggling operations. According to an article in La Presse, another street gang exploited a loophole in the CERB provisions to collect tens of thousands of dollars that it no doubt used to buy weapons on the black market. This all coincides with a dramatic increase in gun crimes in Montreal, as Pierre Paul-Hus, my colleague in the other place, wrote in a letter to the minister.

It is in this context that the Trudeau government has made their poor planning — and let’s be clear, it was intentionally poor planning of our emergency — so that a bill allowing for $7 billion to be shovelled out the door was introduced in Parliament while the last fiscal year’s $600 billion in spending had yet to be accounted for, colleagues. This should be outraging to every single senator in this place, regardless of your partisan leanings or your political colours or whatever. Everybody should, as a taxpayer, be outraged.

Of course, the Trudeau government will categorize my complaints. “Again, there is that partisan opposition party in the Senate harping and complaining.” But even Kevin Page — is he partisan, too? — the former parliamentary budget officer under Stephen Harper, who was many times the bane of Mr. Harper’s existence, has been equally critical of this government’s failure to table the public accounts until this week.

The Globe and Mail, prior to their release, cited Mr. Page as saying:

. . . he doesn’t see a reason why the government appears to be waiting to release key information, such as the public accounts and a fall fiscal update.

In a direct quote, Mr. Page said:

“They should be at the front end [of the current four-week sitting] . . . . That is the standard practice and a good practice and I’m not really sure there’s any reason not to have that. I’m sure that the work is done on the public accounts and there’s no reason not to table it. Finance [Canada] has had plenty of time.”

Mr. Page said knowing how money was spent last year can help inform debate over the government’s request for more funds. “It’s all information that can be used to shape the debate and hold the government to account,” he said.

Tabling them on Tuesday is too late, too late for our deliberations. That’s what Mr. Page said. He also added that “. . . committees should also be sitting to review spending requests.”

Sober second thought, honourable senators, is practically our mantra. It is something that we should all be interested in. We should be asking these questions, demanding answers and we have the constitutional right because this chamber is modelled, of course, after the House of Commons in Westminster.

As I said many times, we might have the burden of not being an elected body, but we have the responsibility to add value for taxpayers in this country. So if there’s one thing we should engage in, it is accountability of the public accounts. That’s not a partisan exercise. That’s an administrative exercise if I ever saw one. That is making sure that our administration across this government is using taxpayers’ funds in the most efficient manner and being able to report back to the House of Commons on indiscretions or inefficiencies. That is really part and parcel of one of our main mandates this year. Unfortunately, colleagues, over the last few years, we’ve been negligent in that mandate.

While in the first days of the pandemic the government could be excused for rushing out these much-needed supports, we’re now in month 20 and that is no longer the case. We were very patient, as an institution, over the first dozen months. We came on demand; we shovelled out billions on demand. But we have also seen the abuses that have taken place, and we should be given the time to do our jobs to make sure that those abuses stop.

A request to give $7 billion in spending for a bill of this nature should be scrutinized by senators who were appointed for this purpose. There should be no hesitation on our part. A procedural attempt to delay the much-needed support for our businesses, especially those hit hard like the tourism and hospitality industry — we should be addressing them.

But there is another more ominous context in which this bill has been tabled. It is something The Economist magazine recently characterized as a “danger ahead.” That is inflation. It’s a word we’ve been hearing in this place over the last few weeks. I will assure you, because of a lack of action by the government, we will be hearing a lot about it for many years to come.

The Economist didn’t mention the Trudeau government’s freewheeling spending habits, but it did mention that Joe Biden’s similarly excessive fiscal stimulus overheated the economy causing consumer prices in the United States to rise by 6%.

Our own government’s runaway spending has contributed to a 4.7% inflation rate, the highest rate in 18 years.

We had the minister before us a few minutes ago. Her rationale and justification is that there are three other countries in the G7 that have worse inflation than we have, so we should be happy. Wow, that’s the standard. So, believe it or not, we’re happy and our Minister of Finance is happy because there are three other countries with worse inflation rates than Canada.

To be honest with you, that doesn’t jibe. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t jibe at all and it’s completely irresponsible. I’m old enough to remember one of the most existential economic crises we went through in the mid-1980s that ended up saddling Canada with debt that took us three decades to deal with. It took successive governments, Liberal and Conservative alike — Mr. Jean Chrétien, Mr. Paul Martin, Mr. Brian Mulroney and Mr. Stephen Harper — all to deal with what they were left with by another Trudeau in 1984, which again was a massive debt.

I remember in the early 1980s the same argument and the same justification: Well, inflation is an international phenomenon. I heard our honourable colleague here in the house make that statement earlier in his speech in favour of the bill. Well, you know what? I don’t think it’s entirely an international phenomenon because at the end of the day, Senator Boehm, a nation like Canada has the capacity through its monetary policy, through our spending habits, through our taxing habits and, more importantly, through our efficiencies, which currently are lacking.

When you’re starting to send out programs that are being capitalized on by organized crime and fraud, and this Parliament is not taking the time to do its due diligence, obviously it’s going to create inflation. It is going to create a whole other host of problems.

Honourable senators, we’re all aware, thanks to his own clear admission during the recent unnecessary election, that the last thing on Justin Trudeau’s mind is monetary policy. He said that. I couldn’t believe it. He said that was not what he was preoccupied with.

Justin Trudeau’s lack of interest in fiscal policy was confirmed as recently as the beginning of this week in an article in The Globe and Mail that said that not only is Mr. Trudeau not particularly interested in the Department of Finance, but neither is his Deputy Prime Minister. According to an article from The Globe and Mail, Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland rarely takes departmental briefings and hasn’t spoken to some ministers for months.

In my responsible line of questioning today, I asked Ms. Freeland how many briefings she has had on inflation from her deputy ministers, and she went on to tell me that she speaks many, many, times by telephone to the deputy minister. Well, the associate deputy ministers have roles to play in the Department of Finance. The truth of the matter is that there has been an unprecedented, record-high turnover in that department. And all I received from the Minister of Finance is talking points.

Chrystia Freeland is not a minister like any other, where they show up to our committees and they’re used to giving us political talking points of the day. She is the Minister of Finance and has big shoes to fill. The ministers of finance that I’m used to are people like Joe Oliver, Paul Martin and Jim Flaherty, who took responsibility for the economic figures we were presented with and the challenges of the day. Making excuses and saying there are three countries with worse inflation rates than us and just passing the buck won’t cut it. We need a concrete plan. We need recognition. We need a fiscal anchor. This is what we need when it comes to our financial house.

The Prime Minister’s lack of interest and that of the minister in charge has resulted in his star Deputy Minister of Finance Michael Sabia being unable to rein in public spending, which was one of the reasons he accepted the job in the first place. Mr. Sabia is a very competent, capable man. He needs to be able to do his job.

Scott Clark, a deputy minister under Paul Martin, was considered one of the ablest Liberal finance ministers. I think all of us have respect for Paul Martin and the service he provided to our country. I will quote his deputy minister at the time:

You have a Prime Minister who is not really interested in the Department of Finance. If the Prime Minister is not interested, if your Minister of Finance is not interested, it doesn’t matter who you bring in. You are not going to be successful.

According to The Globe and Mail, Chris Ragan, Director of McGill’s Max Bell School of Public Policy, said he “. . . doesn’t hear Ms. Freeland talking enough about limits to government spending.” Mr. Ragan added that, “It looks like they just don’t think there is any reason to worry. And that is what worries me.”

Canadians too are worrying. This runaway government spending is ballooning the cost of living with no end in sight.

How many of us have gone to a gas pump lately? How many of us have gone to a grocery store to buy a quart of milk, toast or clothing? Inflation hurts most middle-class and poor Canadians. Inflation is only good for wealthy Canadians. So we can’t have a government saying they’re so concerned about the middle class and the poor in this country but don’t worry about inflation. It’s just some kind of international phenomenon that will take care of itself. Don’t worry about it.

The Financial Post recently predicted that Canadians would feel the bite even more in 2022. The price of everyday essential goods is skyrocketing. The twelfth edition of Canada’s Food Price Report published by Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan estimated that food prices would jump by $1,000 this year. I’ve said this over and over again — $1,000 for many families in this country is a lot of money.

The cost of shelter is up 4.8%. The cost of energy is up a whopping 25.5%. We live in a cold country. It costs Canadians a lot of money to heat. The price of gasoline is up an astronomical 41.7%.

Of course, the Minister of Finance is happy. Her revenues are up. But her revenues are up when these things happen at the expense of poor middle-class Canadians who can’t afford it.

It is simple, honourable senators: More dollars chasing few goods means higher prices — Economics 101. I’m not an economist, but it’s common sense. Half a trillion dollars of deficit is competing for scarce goods and driving up costs.

The much-revered U.S. economist Thomas Sowell once wrote an article that outlined how various taxes affect others far beyond those who write the cheque to pay the government. Taxes on business can get passed on to consumers. Payroll taxes or government-mandated employee benefits may be paid by the employer but reduce the value of any employee to the employer. It was so well written.

The idea that you can single out one segment of society to be taxed or mandated, for the benefit of the rest of society, is reminiscent of a San Francisco automobile dealer’s sign: “We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you.”

Thomas Sowell continued:

The economy is not a zero-sum game where someone gains what others lose. The whole economy can lose when ill-considered policies gain political popularity and stifle economic growth.

Sowell argued that one of the biggest taxes is one that is not even called a tax. It is called inflation. To my point, colleagues, inflation makes poor Canadians suffer, it makes middle-class Canadians poor and has the rich laughing all the way to the bank.

When the government spends money it created, it is transferring part of the value of all our money to themselves. It is quiet taxation but very often taxation falling on everyone no matter how low their income might be.

Honourable senators, this government has stifled the man who thought he was hired to rein in public spending and create economic growth, and that is Deputy Minister of Finance Michael Sabia. As The Globe and Mail pointed out, the Trudeau government’s preference is to tax corporations and wealthy Canadians to fund new public spending. The whole economy and all Canadians are losing because of these ill-considered policies. The ones who benefit are the rich. The losers are the poor.

Let me make it clear: Since the beginning of the pandemic, Conservatives have supported help for Canadians who couldn’t work due to government restrictions. Today we support the tourism and hospitality workers hit by travel restrictions. That’s why Conservatives introduced their motion to split the bill so those who need it can get that much-needed support more quickly.

What we don’t support is runaway spending, overkill, out-of-control inflation, benefits going to organized crime and to Chinese state-controlled enterprises when that country is committing genocide, not to mention holding two Canadian hostages as prisoners at that time. What we don’t support, colleagues, is a lack of control, checks and balances, oversight, scrutiny.

In that regard I will conclude by referencing the testimony of the Auditor General this past Monday to the House of Commons Finance Committee, where they were studying the bill. She was talking about the office’s efforts to audit the CERB, which was designed with a heavy emphasis on delivering payments quickly and relying on post-payment verification processes to ensure those payments got to whom they were supposed to go to. But even that doesn’t seem to have taken place. The Auditor General testified:

Based on our audit work on the original design of the programs, both will need to rely heavily on post payment verification, which will be time consuming and costly.

She went on to say:

The post-payment work on these 2 programs was expected to be the subject of an audit from my office to begin in early 2022. However, we have been informed by the agency that it has deferred or delayed its work and that it is highly unlikely that a significant amount of post-payment work will be completed by 2023. Given that there will be little for us to audit, we have postponed our work.

In other words, as our critic on the bill in the House made clear, in spite of the fact that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, or FINTRAC, found that people not living in Canada received the CERB; that some people received two or three CERB deposits in less than a week; and a legitimate courtroom in the province of Quebec has confirmed criminal organizations received CERB payments, still the CRA has not gone back and verified whether people who got the CERB were eligible to receive it, and they are unlikely to do so for a significant portion of those people even by 2023.

Honourable senators, again, it has nothing to do with partisan politics. It has to do with the reason we all got summoned to this place — to represent our regions, our people, our taxpayers, who expect their government to operate in an efficient and effective way.

Honourable senators, given all these issues I have outlined, we should be giving this bill a thorough vetting, committee study, debate, cross-examination, witnesses, to make sure there are adequate safeguards to prevent fraud, to protect taxpayers and to ensure the return of economic prudence to this country. Being asked to serve as a rubber stamp is really an affront once again to this place, and every senator in here, regardless of political stripe or group, should be outraged.

I would point out to my colleagues that have come to this place recently that this is not new; receiving a bill on the last day of a sitting and having a government in the House of Commons on the other side say to us, “We have to get this out, because if we don’t, it’s going to hurt more people than it will benefit.” At the end of the day, it’s called law building or legislation building with a gun to your head, not prudent sober second thought. It’s being cajoled, arm twisted, as we very often are. That’s partisan politics. That’s what they do on the other side. Public pressure, cajoling, threatening and so on. We pride ourselves on being the sober second thought, on taking a step back. We’ve really been priding ourselves the last few years on being independent.

Do colleagues know where our independence comes from? I say it all the time. It comes due to the fact that you have tenure here, which is a huge privilege we have. It doesn’t matter who appointed you, if it’s a Liberal or Conservative prime minister. It doesn’t matter which side or group you choose to sit with. I will say this in closing. We’re putting out the door with this bill and this vote tonight — and it will pass. We know that. We are passing it because of the pressures we are facing, and we’re not going to give consideration to legitimate amendments that deserve to be given legitimate consideration.

Senator White and others who have legitimate concerns to make the bill better or more efficient, they’re under the pressure of, “Well, we can’t bring the House of Commons back if we amend it. We can’t do this. We can’t do that.” At the end of the day, colleagues, we’re putting out $7 billion, like it’s Formula 1 style, without giving it the due diligence it deserves. When I buy something in my home, when I change the air conditioning system or when we buy a new stove or fridge, we actually do more shopping around, more due diligence, more procurement interest — my wife is very good at shopping around — and give more consideration, as all of you in this place would, than we are giving consideration today for what we’re buying for $7 billion. We have now done this $400 billion of times, and that is one reason inefficiencies take place, because we have not done our due diligence, and it has led to inflation, and it’s just the beginning.

Honourable colleagues, like I said, we say all the time that it should never happen again, and it keeps happening. I call upon everyone to eventually find the political will to correct this. The Canadian people need it. If we want this institution to remain relevant going forward and to become more relevant, it’s not about being partisan or independent or following one political agenda in the House or another. It’s about us exercising our constitutional duty to hold the other place and the government to account in an appropriate fashion.

Thank you, colleagues.

The Hon. the Speaker
[19:46]

Are honourable senators ready for the question?

The Hon. the Speaker
[19:46]

It was moved by the Honourable Senator Boehm, seconded by the Honourable Senator LaBoucane-Benson that the bill be read a third time.

If you are opposed to the motion, please say “no.”

The Hon. the Speaker
[19:46]

I hear a no. All those in the chamber who are in favour of the motion will please say “yea.”

The Hon. the Speaker
[19:46]

All those in the chamber who are opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

The Hon. the Speaker
[19:46]

In my opinion the “yeas” have it. I see two senators rising.

The Hon. the Speaker
[19:46]

Do we have an agreement on the bell?

The Hon. the Speaker
[19:46]

The vote will take place at 8:01. Call in the senators.