The House resumed from October 5 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.
Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in support of the Speech from the Throne. The Speech from the Throne lays the foundation of our government's direction and goals, and how we will work to achieve them.
Before I begin, I want to recognize the hard work the front-line workers in my riding of Richmond Hill have continued to provide throughout the pandemic. Grocery store clerks, health care workers, law enforcement officers, first responders and small business owners are some of the many who have been the backbone of our community at this time. I want to thank them for their services.
In this time of need, members of our community have also been coming together to ensure they are not alone in the fight to flatten the curve. I have seen communities in Richmond Hill organize food drives, create handmade masks for local centres or donate their time and money to local organizations that serve our most vulnerable. It is my honour to represent the people of Richmond Hill and to continue to advocate for them.
This speech was created with everyday Canadians like the residents of Richmond Hill, in mind: Canadians who are working to support their families, who have local businesses, who give back to the community and who rely on the government to provide them with public services that empower them and their families.
Through the four major pillars of our speech, we told Canadians that their voices and advocacy had been heard, and that their opinions, indeed, matter. The four pillars are fighting the pandemic, supporting Canadian businesses, addressing the gaps in our social systems and standing up for who we are as Canadians. These will guide our government to best support the people of Canada and create a stronger, more resilient country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that when people are suffering, the onus is on the government to ensure that they remain stable and are equipped to fight this virus. From the outset of COVID-19, our government has had a plan to tackle the challenges brought on by the crisis.
Our first step was to ensure that Canadians and Canadian businesses were protected. This was why we introduced the Canada emergency response benefit. Our response ensured Canadians did not have to worry about putting food on the table or paying bills by providing direct support to them. The CERB was a temporary program that helped close to nine million Canadians through a very difficult time.
We ensured that businesses could keep their employees on the payroll by introducing the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The wage subsidy protected over 3.5 million jobs and preserved our nation's small businesses.
We also took further action by creating the made in Canada initiative, which invested in domestic PPE manufacturers and provided support to Canadian scientists researching and developing a vaccine. By investing in Canadians, we will fight the virus. As the throne speech highlighted, that support will continue. The Canada emergency wage subsidy will be extended until next summer so that businesses like Benson Lock in Richmond Hill can continue to keep workers employed.
Many Canadians in Richmond Hill benefited from the CERB, and the improved employment insurance program will continue to support them during this time. For those who do not qualify for EI, the Canada recovery benefit will help get them back on their feet.
To recover our economy, we must invest in our vulnerable industries. I have heard first-hand from those in the travel and hospitality industries, which have been hit the hardest. By expanding the Canada emergency business account to help businesses with fixed costs, and improving the business credit availability program, we are providing direct support to most vulnerable industries.
We are also investing in communities. The safe start agreement allocated $19 billion to municipalities to start their economies. Richmond Hill received $4 million to address associated start-up costs and protect the community. This funding for my riding ensured that safety measures were in place and public services could be maintained. It also enabled the municipal government to prepare for what is now the second wave of the virus.
As we prepare our municipalities, it is also imperative that we consider the long-term impact of the initiative and how it affects our environment. Climate action is a key component of our government's mandate. After consulting with climate activists and organizations in my riding, including Neighbours for the Planet, BlueDot and Drawdown, I understand the urgency of a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. The government will create millions of jobs for Canadians by retrofitting homes to save energy costs for families and by supporting investment in renewable energy and clean technology solutions.
We will also invest in our cities to deliver on fast public transit. As the representative of a thriving suburban community, my constituents rely on convenient and affordable transit options to go to work. We will transform the way we power our communities through the clean power fund and become a world leader in clean technology.
As we work to protect our planet, we must also do the same to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. That is why addressing the gaps in our social security system is a key priority for this government. Our nation's seniors have worked hard to build this country, and we owe it to them to provide the best long-term care. By working with the provinces and territories to create a new national standard for long-term care, we will allow our seniors to receive the best support possible.
We will also increase old age security once a senior turns 75, and boost the Canada pension plan survivor benefit.
These initiatives will benefit many seniors' organizations and long-term care centres in my riding. Seniors program organizations in Richmond Hill, such as Community and Home Assistance to Seniors, CHATS, and The Mariann Home are able to provide quality support and care to Richmond Hill seniors.
Next I would like to acknowledge another aspect of the speech that resonated with my riding and me. I have had the chance to work with organizations within Richmond Hill that address homelessness in our community, and the commitment to eliminate chronic homelessness in Canada is of great importance. The government's historic national housing strategy will increase investments in rapid housing in the short term, and will partner with not-for-profits and co-ops to find the best solution. The government will work with organizations like 360° Kids in my riding, which provides support to homeless youth in the York region.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. On the subject of mental health, our government understands that the mental health crisis in our country has reached a tipping point and it is urgent that we invest in community programs. As the chair of the parliamentary mental health caucus, I have worked with various stakeholders to advocate for more investments and resources in mental health research and support for those struggling. We will invest in people like Kathy Mochnacki from Home on the Hill Supportive Housing, whose organization provides resources for individuals with mental illness.
I am so glad to see a commitment to increasing intersectional wellness resources so more people can receive the support they need. I believe that supporting and recognizing the diversity of those in our community is crucial to uniting us as Canadians.
The last point I would like to mention is our government's plan to combat racism. The pandemic has exaggerated and highlighted what many of us already know: there is still much work to be done in the fight against systemic racism. I represent a riding that is incredibly diverse. Of the population of Richmond Hill, 60% identify as a visible minority and 57.4% are immigrants. The need for a comprehensive strategy to address racism is long overdue, and this government has proved that it will do that by continuing to fight hatred and discrimination, as well as by economically empowering disadvantaged communities so we can all succeed. The recently announced Black entrepreneurship loan fund, as well as initiatives aimed at strengthening indigenous communities, show that this government is committed to addressing systemic discrimination and empowering all Canadians.
As members can tell, this plan is ambitious, but it is necessary to protect and support Canadians. The benefits outweigh the costs, and keeping Canadians on their feet is the most important goal of our government. To quote the speech:
It is no small task to build a stronger, more resilient country. It will take hard work.
The hard work is what this government is prepared to do. I hope we can gain the support of all members on this goal and work together to build back our great country.
Madam Speaker, the and the Liberal government have framed the Speech from the Throne as a necessary and updated vision for the country. Before I address the speech directly, it is important for Canadians to remember that we are debating a new Speech from the Throne because the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament for six weeks to avoid accountability. All of the committees that are investing his WE scandal were shut down, and that was the point.
With a new session of Parliament, the is hoping that all 7,000 of his fluffy but empty words in the throne speech will distract Canadians from his corruption and the WE scandal. I believe that Canadians are a lot smarter than the Liberals give them credit for. This necessary reset, as the government prefers to frame it, was supposedly required to respond to new realities exposed by the pandemic. In actuality, Parliament was perfectly capable of responding to the pandemic prior to prorogation and the Liberals only wasted valuable time.
The Conservatives will continue to hold the and the government accountable, and we will keep fighting for the answers that Canadians deserve.
To respond to the details of the throne speech, I note the government has tried to sell the throne speech as a bold and ambitious vision for Canada. However, the speech has completely missed the mark and is only more proof of the government's reckless economic policy and poor grasp of Canada's economic strengths.
The government has signalled that it will be taking on more debt but has yet to provide a fiscal framework. We have no idea of how the Liberals plan to pay it all back. The government does not seem to understand that debt incurred by the government is debt incurred by everyday taxpaying Canadians. These are people like our grocery store clerks, our nurses, our teachers and so on. Without a fiscal framework, how can we be assured that our children and the future generations of Canadians are not going to be overwhelmed by the government's debt?
The throne speech claims that the government is “guided by values of sustainability and [fiscal] prudence”, but the absence of a fiscal framework thus far proves otherwise. We have a government spending recklessly without a fiscal plan as Canadians navigate the challenges of a global pandemic. The Liberals are racking up a credit card without telling Canadians how or when it will all be paid back.
At the same time, the throne speech reveals a flawed plan for economic recovery. Canada is at a major crossroads in its development. There are some very clear choices that confront us right now. These choices are even more important in light of the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 shutdown. The government has chosen to effectively shut down our economy by restricting resource development and exports, with economic policies like carbon taxes, Bill , which restricts new pipelines from being built, and Bill , which is preventing exports of crude off the west coast, and generally discouraging investment in Canada's resources.
Exports are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. In 2018, 56% of Canada's exported goods were directly from our resource industries. The government seems to think that it can replace these core industries with pixie dust. Despite expressing a commitment to economic recovery, the government has continued to neglect and even hinder resource development in this country during a time when we need these resources the most.
It has been akin to a hockey team benching its all-star players while trying to come back from being down six goals. These industries drive our economy, provide the jobs that Canadians depend on and provide the government revenues that keep our health care and education systems alive. These industries have made Canada the great nation that it is today, yet there was zero mention of supporting struggling resource workers. There was just a continued promise to sacrifice their lives by killing their industries with more taxes and regulations, an added double carbon tax hiding as the Canadian fuel standard and more. Do members knows what the worst part is? It is that the government is taking the tax dollars paid by hard-working Alberta oil and gas workers and giving those dollars away to subsidized competitive industries that aim to end their existence. That sounds fair, does it not?
There was also a very large issue that the completely skipped in the Liberals' reset: western alienation. These Liberals stand up in the House day after day and completely deny that anyone in western Canada, in particular anyone in Alberta, feels alienated from Ottawa and the central government. I am here to say, as many of my colleagues have previously, that it is real and it is growing. The Liberals stand to say they are giving more money to Alberta than former prime minister Harper did. They accuse us of making up this crisis. We could not create this even if we tried. The alienation of Alberta is caused by the current government's antienergy, antiwest, anti-Alberta far-left policies that are causing this divide.
Albertans have never wanted a handout or to be bought. They just want the government to get out of the way. We want to be allowed to get back to work doing what we do best: extracting minerals and other resources from the ground, adding incredible value to them and selling them to the world. We have amazing resources and opportunities in this country, but the government wants to ignore them until they go away, because resource development does not fit into its ideological framework.
So many people have said this before me, but let me add my voice. Canada's oil and gas producers, miners, farmers and, in fact, everyone who participates in this economy care about the environment. Canada is leading the world when it comes to environmental sustainability. The investment in innovation and clean technology is incredible. I am fortunate enough to live among those who are leading this incredible innovation, which is taking place not just in the oil sands but in all of our extractive industries.
The likes to talk about balance, but he has achieved none of it. When hundreds of thousands are out of work and suicides are skyrocketing, that is an indication that the Liberals do not care about the economy side of this equation. We do not need to pit one region of this beautiful country against the others when we share common goals. A strong economy and environmental protection can go hand in hand, and we have already seen this happening in Canada. I wish that the government would stop listening to the far-left voices that are opposed to all resource development and seek that balance, even though these voices are also at the government's own cabinet table.
We are so blessed to live in a region flush with resources that Canada and the world require to maintain our high standard of living. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in resource development. These same industries employ a significant number of first nations Canadians, as high as 6% of the oil and gas workforce. More and more first nations are taking ownership positions in large projects. All Canadians have a mutual desire to see these succeed.
Unfortunately, all we have heard from the government is its desire to ban single-use plastics. Where would we be during this pandemic without plastics? In literally every room in a hospital they are crucial. Masks are single-use, as are the gloves that so many people are wearing when they go out.
If the Liberals are truly interested in a team Canada approach in responding to the global pandemic, the government must provide a fiscal plan that ensures fiscal stability for future generations and an economic recovery that does not ignore our country's core strength of resource development. However, it seems the is only interested in racking up the credit card—
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to enter into the debate on the throne speech and to express some very serious concerns I have with it.
The throne speech, at least in English, was nearly 7,000 words, with many catchphrases and talking points but very little substance.
I would like to address two themes. The first is why the government felt that it was even necessary to have a throne speech. Second, I would like to point out some specific challenges I have with the throne speech itself.
Regarding the prorogation of Parliament, I find it incredibly disturbing that the government felt it should shut down Parliament, and not just with the prorogation. The last eight months were bad enough, but in the middle of several concurrent investigations into the conduct, Parliament was shut down. It shut down committees, members of Parliament and Canadians, truly. There is one place in the country that allows all the voices of Canadians to be heard, and that is within the hallowed walls of this chamber. The Prime Minister, in an extraordinary abuse of executive authority, used a legitimate parliamentary mechanism to shut down investigations into his own conduct, and that is shameful.
Unfortunately, but not surprising, after several months of denial and flip-flopping, when the government finally figured out, I think on March 13, that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was actually serious and it changed course and we saw the first bill for some emergency relief measures brought forward, even though members of my party had brought up concerns about why there were no increased measures at airports or other actions being taken to ensure Canada would be better prepared to deal with the threat of this global pandemic. However, instead of it being simply about emergency relief, it was about an incredible abuse of executive power. We saw an attempted power grab, unlike anything I have seen in the country's history. The government wanted unlimited spending authority for more than a year and a half. In what democracy would that ever be deemed acceptable to even propose let alone justify it in the midst of a global pandemic? When Canadians deserved and needed help, the government looked out for nothing other than its own power. It is unbelievable.
For members opposite who are curious about some of the aspects of parliamentary procedure and who say we need this to be a legislative reset, I asked a question of one of the members from the Liberal Party here just a few minutes ago. He somehow suggested that the six weeks was necessary to ensure the Liberals could consult with Canadians on the throne speech. It is interesting that he mentioned a few examples about how he did town halls and whatnot. He also suggested other members were not talking to their constituents, which is insulting. I was asked to respond, but since I did not have a chance during the questions and comments I will respond now.
It is unbelievable and speaks to the Liberal elitist mentality to suggest that somehow their prorogation allowed them to have an inside track on influencing the future of the country in a minority Parliament. They should well know that it is this place that allows all voices to be heard, not simply Liberal Party voices. The Conservatives received more votes in the last election than the Liberals. The Liberals had a significantly reduced mandate after the last election, yet it seems they have refused to accept the will of the Canadian people when it comes to their place in Parliament and the fact that Parliament is truly an essential service.
My last point on the concerns around why we have a throne speech today is that the government seems to play quick and fast with all aspects of how it does business, such as manufacturing urgency with the passing of Bill .
We could have been debating this for weeks. It could have been passed weeks ahead of the deadline, yet the government waited until the eleventh hour and showed up at a press conference. Then the Liberal tweeted out that this was a confidence motion, that it must be passed or we could go to an election and Canadians would suffer as a result. It was circumstances manufactured by the government. That is typical Liberal elitism.
I digress in that regard and will move on to some of the serious concerns I have with the throne speech. I summed it up simply to my constituents when they asked me to describe in a sentence or two my feelings on it. I said that it was vague, expensive and Ottawa knows best.
On the vague aspect of it, there were few concrete measures. The Liberals talked about their four pillars of a recovery. They have a lot of catchphrases and slogans. If there was an award for catchphrases and slogans, the government would get it. It seems to be copying from various campaigns, even other election campaigns from other democracies around the world. It throws in these catchphrases and hopes that people will somehow believe they will get the job done. On this side of the House, we know that is not the case.
It is unfortunate that most of the aspects of the throne speech are simply recycled Liberal promises. I point to one example, which is its promise to plant two billion trees. It promised this in the last election, yet in the year that has passed, it has planted zero trees. However, we have an oil sands company that has planted millions. This speaks to the bigger context of the throne speech. Many promises were recycled. The Liberals seem to think that making these grand promises and having no plan for delivery somehow serves the best interests of Canadians, and that is simply not the case.
That is one of many examples. What could have been an opportunity to see many specific concrete paths forward for our country, we saw very few. This is unfortunate. It was a huge missed opportunity.
Further, it seemed to be a vanity project for the . He prorogued Parliament for six weeks and had the Governor General read a throne speech, a significant aspect of our parliamentary tradition that takes the focus off the politics of the country and allows our head of state to outline an agenda. However, that was not good enough for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had to have his face on television to continue his sorry trend of cottage chronicles, to have a televised address that simply repeated things.
I have much more to say, some of which I have addressed in other speeches, like the unity crisis. The fact is that we are six months into a fiscal year. I know many people who work in the Jim Flaherty building down the street, named after the former Conservative finance minister. There are incredibly intelligent and capable finance people in the department, yet the said yesterday that it would not be prudent to estimate what the deficit would be. I know many of the people in the Finance Department have a good idea. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Liberals are scared of what Canadians will think when they find out the cost and lack of accounting associated with their spending. At a time when all Canadians know we need to support those who need it, doing so without a plan is very unfortunate.
My last point is this. The Ottawa knows best mentality is best represented on page 18 of the throne speech. In talking about a national pharmacare strategy, the Liberals use a word when they talk about working with provinces to develop a pharmacare plan, of which there is no detail. They say that they will only work with “willing” provinces and territories.
When it comes to the government, it is clear that it is only willing to work with those who are willing to fall in line with its narrow ideology and perspective on what the future of our country should look like. That is driving in wedges across our country that are harming the capacity and capability of Canadians—
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to reply to the Speech from the Throne. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Today I speak in support of the throne speech, but not without reservations. Speaking frankly, my initial instinct and intention was to vote against the throne speech, given the ethical challenges of the government.
However, I cannot vote against it. This is because I have not heard from one constituent in my riding who says they want an election during a pandemic. I have heard this from not one constituent, regardless of political affiliation.
Despite a growing dissatisfaction with the government's approach to governance and its respect for our institutions, there is a level of support at this time for continuity and non-partisanship in governments as we work together to take all necessary steps to confront the pandemic and its impact on our way of life. Fighting COVID-19 must be non-partisan.
There has been some higher degrees of co-operation and general agreement on programs that have been created to support the fight, and importantly, to support Canadians. We all know that at the appropriate and responsible time there will be an election. For now, let us lead as an effective and impactful minority Parliament.
An election will happen, I presume, sometime after the second wave of COVID, and hopefully only after a vaccine has been widely administered. For now, Canadians want us all, and I mean us all, to remain focused on the job at hand, on public health and immediate economic needs, and to do so without mindless partisanship and unnecessary conflict.
We all need to remain vigilant. Governments can only do so much. Individually, we need to be responsible and we must continue to follow all public health advice. There is little room for error. As are all members, I am guided by the people in my riding. Our constituency office has sought and received feedback on the issues that are most important to people during the pandemic.
The top issue people shared is, not surprisingly, dealing with the immediate impact of COVID. Second are issues around finance and the economy, followed by the environment and housing. One message from my constituents, and in reply to the first part of the Speech from the Throne, is about addressing the immediate needs ahead of us. We must all ensure the programs we have put in place with such haste are in fact working, that the law and policy were right and, where these programs continue, they are sustainable.
This is not a question about austerity. It is a matter of good governance. As well, we need new metrics. If we are not just using debt-to-GDP, we need other fiscal anchors. Some specific issues raised by my constituents include a meaningful discussion and move toward a universal basic income, as well as investing in seniors, child care and pharmacare.
As to the balance of the Speech from the Throne, it was a shopping list of progressive policies and many long repeated and long outstanding promises. In the past, I was part of a government that had many of these same items on its shopping list. Often, as Canadians unfortunately have become used to, actions did not match the words when, ultimately, political expediency got in the way of progress.
Importantly, there are many people in groups talking about what our post-pandemic recovery should or should not look like. There is talk of a green recovery and a just recovery. These are important conversations we all must listen to. For any meaningful recovery to work, especially if it is to be transformative in addressing the broader challenges of our time, we need Parliament and all our institutions of government to be more effective and to work better. This is something the Speech from the Throne does not address.
As we have worked together in the face of the common threat of COVID-19, we have adapted. Parliament has adapted. As we move forward, and if we truly want to build back better, as the throne speech opines, then we need to think about the tools we have to build the nation we want and how our government works. If we can work together and change the way this place operates on the fly because of COVID-19, then surely we can make the deeper changes needed to make this place more effective, more accountable and a place where the voices of members of Parliament matter.
We also know from dealing with the pandemic that there are still deep-seated issues with the provinces concerning division of power, including, as has long been the case, health supports.
In our young country, we have an evolving system of co-operative federalism. There is a role for the government and a role for the provinces and territories. If we truly want to build back better when the immediate threat is over, we must ensure that we have the right foundation to build on, one that includes indigenous nations and governments that are recognized and constituted as indigenous peoples determine. We should, at the very least, be open to a conversation about governance reform, including constitutional reform, the Senate, Quebec, indigenous peoples, the environment and making the federation better.
In addition to parliamentary reform, there is a need for electoral reform. There is also much work to do to address true reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Simply adopting UNDRIP and making some program enhancements, although they are important steps, are not enough. With strong governance, we will be better equipped to tackle the big issues of our day, the issues that will still be with us after COVID-19, such as climate change, the breakdown of the international rules-based order, or wealth and equality.
As we come out of this pandemic, we should start with our institutions and make building them better a priority. This will be tough, but Canadians have always been strong and resilient, and able to show governments the way forward. Collectively, we are only as strong and resilient as the institutions that support us, beyond party and politics. I was raised to always seek balance and where everyone in the community had a role to play. Rooted in these teachings is the importance of our interconnectedness, our responsibility to one another and to our environment.
Our collective way of being, indeed, our humanity, is being tested as we respond to COVID-19. We are in a learning moment. There is a reason some groups are being hit harder than others during the pandemic. It is because they are the vulnerable and the marginalized. The disproportionate impacts upon them are, in part, a reflection of endured injustices, and of a legacy of colonialism and systemic racism, which manifest themselves throughout society and our institutions.
More and more, I have been thinking about what it would be like if we had a society in which we truly recognized and supported one another, our fundamental unity and our diversity. This is not a new idea. If we are able to recognize it and do something about it during a pandemic, then why not permanently? If we can see it, but do not act on it now, then when will we?
Moving forward, we need more than a shopping list of policy ideas. We need a vision and we need to establish clear priorities. We need political will and we need resolute action.
We also need a better way to measure our social well-being and our collective health. Today, we typically use GDP to make assumptions about social well-being and our standards of living. The assumption is that the higher per capita amount, the better the standards are. However, as an economic tool, GDP can only make assumptions about the basic standards of living, which can be different across the socio-economic spectrum of a nation.
COVID has highlighted how standards of living are different across communities. Moreover, our welfare is affected by other factors, such as mental well-being, cultural resilience and very importantly, environmental health, which are all things GDP does not consider.
What we need are better and more inclusive socio-economic factors. We need indicators that would help us to develop budgets that aim to increase the social well-being of Canadians, not just the economic bottom line. We need to plan based on what we truly value. When all human potential is maximized, our society will be truly transformed.
This is the core of my teachings, the teachings of my people, the Kwakwala, who have survived for millennia. This is the road to recovery. This is building back better. Gilakas'la.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today on the territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people to represent constituents in Nanaimo—Ladysmith, and Greens across Canada.
There are a number of things in the Speech from the Throne that I am pleased to hear. In fact, there are some sections that sound a lot like the Green Party platform I ran on in 2015 and 2019. There are also sections that echo the Green Party's road map to economic recovery from the pandemic, “Reimagining Our Future”. What the throne speech is missing are plans for the bold actions in those documents. To quote our new Green Party leader Annamie Paul, platitudes are not a plan.
We are facing two unprecedented crises: a global pandemic and a climate emergency. Both of these crises require that we listen to the scientists and the experts. Both of these crises require bold actions. The Speech from the Throne does not reflect the urgency of this moment.
We keep hearing that we are all in this together, but this pandemic has laid bare the inequality in Canada. Those who have been affected by the pandemic are seniors, women, people of colour, indigenous people, people with disabilities and low-wage workers. At the same time, the wealthiest Canadians have been making money, hand over fist. The 20 richest people in Canada have increased their wealth by $37 billion during the six months of this pandemic. It is time for a wealth tax in this country. It is time for the wealthy to pay their fair share for the public services their businesses and employees rely on. It is time that the Internet giants and multinational corporations that do business in Canada pay their fair share of taxes as well.
Small and medium-sized Canadian enterprises are suffering from the economic fallout of the pandemic. In particular, the travel, tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors need additional help so that these businesses can survive. The non-profit sector provides vital services to Canadians, especially right now. This sector needs additional targeted support as well. Small and medium-sized businesses are the engine of the Canadian economy and employ almost 90% of the private sector workers in this country. These businesses need support to get through the second wave of this pandemic.
We need to do a better job of taking care of each other. We are the only country in the world with universal health care but no universal pharmacare. It is mentioned in the throne speech, but we have heard it before and we have not seen a plan. Universal pharmacare would save billions in unnecessary health care costs by ensuring people have the medicines they need. We need a universal dental program to complete our universal health care system. This too would save billions in unnecessary health care costs. A $90 filling today can save $10,000 in a heart operation down the road.
Our recovery must focus on supporting women and families. Canada urgently needs a universal child care program to enable more women to return to the workplace.
Thousands of people across this country are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is more important than ever that the federal government invest in affordable housing, in particular community-owned co-operative housing. The announcements on housing programs sound good, but the funding needs to flow right away.
We have an opioid crisis in this country. Thousands of people have died from drug poisonings. Addiction is a health and social issue. Our public health officers are telling us to follow evidence-based solutions to this crisis. We need to listen.
We need a national mental health strategy.
The Green Party has long been calling for a national strategy for seniors, including national standards for long-term care and additional supports for home care so that people can age in place. Seniors deserve a top-up of OAS and GIS to help make ends meet.
Many people with disabilities have been waiting for long periods of time for the benefits and protections that they need. The COVID-19 one-time support payment for people with disabilities was announced three months into the pandemic. It is now almost four months later and nobody has received a cheque. I understand those cheques are supposed to be sent at the end of this month. People with disabilities are sick of waiting and sick of being left behind.
Veterans Affairs Canada had a backlog of almost 50,000 disability benefit applications as of March 2020. It will take three years to clear that backlog with the current resource levels. Veterans deserve better.
Young people and students are not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. The Green Party has been advocating for the elimination of tuition fees so that we can create an educated workforce without burdening our young people with unsustainable debt. Northern European countries all have free tuition. It is a matter of priorities. Let us prioritize our young people.
The Canada student service grant was a very bad idea from the beginning, and we know how that turned out. Those funds should have gone into the Canada summer jobs program to help youth and non-profits get through the pandemic. Canada summer jobs was underfunded. In my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith alone, there was 500,000 dollars' worth of unfunded applications. We need to bring our social programs in line with the northern European countries, where citizens have a real social safety net from cradle to grave.
The biggest opportunity that the government has missed in the Speech from the Throne is a guaranteed livable income. Our current patchwork of social programs allows too many people to fall through the cracks. A guaranteed livable income would create an income floor, under which no Canadian would fall. It would eliminate extreme poverty in this country.
I can hear the objections now. How are we going to pay for all of this? Let us go back to where I began. Canada needs a wealth tax. We need to close tax loopholes that allow people and corporations to avoid taxes in Canada and offshore their wealth. It is worth emphasizing that the costs of social inequality are far greater than the costs of taking care of people to start with.
Let us use this resource wealth we have to create maximum employment and benefits for Canadians, starting with first nations and indigenous peoples, who are the rightful owners of those resources. We need to implement all of the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It is time to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We also need electoral reform. It was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, and that is no surprise.
There are good things in the speech, and there are a lot of things missing or things that need to be improved on, but the bottom line is that there is no real plan to do our part to stop our own destructive practices that are wiping out the biodiversity on this planet, destroying our climate and threatening the future of our children and grandchildren. We still have the climate targets set by Stephen Harper's Conservative government, pathetic and inadequate targets, and there is no plan to even reach those pathetic and inadequate targets. Since the first climate conference in Geneva in 1979, successive Canadian governments have been well aware of climate change. Only one government actually bothered to establish a plan to meet the targets that they agreed to. That was the Paul Martin government, which was brought down by the Conservatives and the NDP before those plans could be implemented.
Britain has set a carbon budget in law. It set plans and holds to those carbon budget targets, independent of the toxic partisan politics that dominate our electoral system. The U.K. has reduced its emissions by 42% below 1990 levels, while Canada has increased emissions by 21% since 1990. Canada is a climate do-nothing. I will not vote for a Speech from the Throne that does not include the targets that science demands and a real plan of action to meet those targets and address the crisis we are facing.
My work here is not to ensure that I get re-elected. My work here is not to boost the fortunes of the Green Party. My work here is not to play a game of partisan politics. My work and role here is to push the government as hard as I can to do the right thing, to improve the lives of Canadians and take real action on climate change. We owe our children and grandchildren nothing less than the full defence of their future on this planet.
There are other members of other parties who know this to be true. I want them to know that their work here is to fight for the existence of humanity. Their party bosses and big donors may be interested in making the last chunk of money from fracking, but they need to question what their purpose is on this planet at this time, in this place. Members should think about those moments in their childhood when they saw a world full of wonder and possibility. We in the House have the power to make decisions that count, decisions that matter.
This is our time to meet the challenge of our time. The Speech from the Throne does not meet the challenge. It is time to do better. I will be voting “no”.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today, in virtual Parliament, to the throne speech. A year ago, I never really thought I would be in my home office in Mary's Harbour in rural northern Canada, in the wonderful riding of Labrador, or in any other community, logging in to the House of Commons to participate in parliamentary debates and votes. From that perspective, I think we have done well as a Parliament to ensure that parliamentarians' voices are being heard and that there is full participation.
In spite of COVID-19 and its horrible impact on people's lives, with the wake of tragedy and devastation that it has left for so many families, it has prompted a renewed defence in protecting our health, communities and country. We have all been forced to become more self-sufficient and resilient in the fight against COVID-19. It has also brought many of us together as Canadians and allowed us to comfort each other while modernizing the future for all Canadians.
The Speech from the Throne is being debated today in the House of Commons. There are many, on certain sides of the House, who really believe that the Government of Canada is not going far enough in our programs and support for Canadians. There are others who feel we have gone way too far.
I believe we have been fair and responsible in looking after Canadians at a time when they have needed it most. I really believe that our government has set out priorities that not only will assist Canadians today as we make our way through this pandemic, but will allow us to assist Canadians into the future and allow Canadians to move forward. In these uncertain and unprecedented times, there is no blueprint for what we are dealing with today in this country. There is no blueprint to show us a direction for the future.
Our government has listened to Canadians. We have been attentive and focused, and we have been listening to what our constituents are telling us. We know we must have a strong defence to protect our health and help Canadians, not just in weathering the pandemic, but also in weathering that which lays ahead in the future.
We are doing that by providing for the supports they need now and by laying down a concrete plan to build back better after this is over. We know that we must bridge the social and economic gaps that this pandemic has shown us. For many marginal groups, such as women, northerners, indigenous and rural Canadians, to name just a few, we know that those economic gaps have been glaring. We know that more is required if we are to build back better and address those particular gaps in society.
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government, the , cabinet and all MPs have been out there supporting Canadians who needed it most. This was done through the Canada emergency response benefit, for example. Because of it, over nine million Canadians were able to weather the financial hardship that was brought on by this pandemic. Many of my own constituents would not have come through these last number of months, some with even a roof over their heads, without the Canada emergency response benefit, so I know personally and first-hand from my own constituents how much this program benefited them.
We increased funding to the new horizons for seniors program, which helped deliver essential services and goods to the elderly in isolation and helped them improve their community supports. We did this so there would be better outreach to seniors and so that individuals would stay connected with their loved ones in their communities.
I know that through the emergency community support fund, there were so many community organizations, like the Labrador West Food Bank, Libra House, a crisis shelter for women and children in Goose Bay, the Transition House in Nain, in Nunatsiavut, and so many others across my riding, that were able to access funding so they could provide vital resources and social programs amidst all of these challenges and what was happening during the pandemic.
In fact, we have invested in every women's shelter and food bank across Labrador, in both indigenous and non-indigenous communities, and we did that because we knew the demand was there. We knew there was a gap and it was evident that support from the federal government was going to assist those who were most vulnerable. We knew it was imperative for our government to act and, therefore, we acted.
When we look at communities like Nain and Hopedale, first nations communities like Natuashish and Sheshatshiu or communities in the south of Labrador like Cartwright to West St. Modeste and all communities surrounding it, we saw programs and investments in all of these communities that were able to help residents through these last seven months.
Since March, our government has listened to the advice of Canada's top health and science professionals and we knew it was important that we follow direction from the experts among us. We needed to ensure that our heroic front-line workers were provided with the necessary equipment they needed to do their jobs and provide all Canadians with the most up-to-date information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and support residents during this difficult time.
We have made tremendous progress as a country already. We are already more resilient in our personal protective equipment and the manufacturing that goes with it. We are more effective in our distribution. All of these things have drastically improved since 2019. This pandemic brought out the resilience in both individuals and businesses to fight this pandemic together.
As a government, we implemented historic economic and social programs to financially support individual Canadians and businesses across the country. We know that, in many ridings, Canadians would have lost their homes or businesses. There are still some who may lose those important assets that are essential to their lives, along with losing their jobs. However, we know that without the federal government stepping up with the supports that it has, it could have been a lot more drastic. It will be more drastic if the government does not continue to do so.
The connected with Canadians individually and responded to their needs. Whether it was the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, the Canada emergency business account, student programs, additional top-ups to GST, disability benefits for those who needed it, additional benefits under the child tax benefit program, they have all helped offset what has been a very difficult and challenging time financially, socially and economically for citizens in this country and many across my riding who I know very well.
Not only that, our government worked hard. We worked with provinces and territories to fund wage top-ups for front-line workers. I think about all of the workers out there today who kept their doors open while we stayed home to stop the spread of this virus. They continued to work hard every day in the midst of a pandemic to ensure that there was first response, there were essential health care services and there was food security for those who needed it. Many caregivers worked on the front lines and in seniors homes. We will be forever grateful for the work they do and that they braved this pandemic to provide the services that so many Canadians were dependent upon. In my own riding, I have seen it, community to community. I have seen the determination and willpower of workers on the front lines.
I have seen so many people make tremendous sacrifices so they could be there to serve other Canadians and others in our communities at a time when they needed it most. For those people, I will always be grateful. They will always have my undivided thanks and gratitude.
We talk about our seniors and how they have braved their way through this. I want to do a shout-out to them. I know it has not been easy, but with the support of loving and caring families, very caring and kind communities, and so many service providers, we are all working together to get through this.
In this pandemic, we also recognized the disparity that exists in food security and medical care in northern, Inuit, indigenous, first nations and Métis communities across Canada. We invested millions of dollars in the distinctions-based indigenous community support fund. We know that, without it, indigenous communities across Canada would have been left very ill-prepared to fight this pandemic.
We invested in first-time subsidies to help with heating costs, preparing emergency shelters and medical preparedness plans in case of an outbreak in indigenous communities in northern regions. We were there to step up and assist them every step of the way, and we are still there today. We are not going anywhere.
We will see Canadians through this pandemic, and we may have to do it with kicking and screaming from some of our colleagues in the House of Commons. Canadians will not be left behind. They will have the supports and the services that they need to fight this.
For example, we looked at specific sectors, like the oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, where we have just invested over $380 million to help support the industry and to create and maintain thousands of jobs in the oil sector in the province. We invested in Canada's fishing sector. We worked with those in the industry who were impacted from a financial perspective. We—
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise virtually in the House of Commons this morning on behalf of my constituents here on Treaty 1 territory, the homeland of the Métis nation, to highlight the many commitments our government has made to support Canadians as we continue to fight against COVID-19.
Our government knew that we needed to provide immediate support to Canadians as our country grappled with the most serious public health crisis and economic crisis of our lifetime. Within a matter of weeks, our government introduced the Canada emergency response benefit, the CERB, which provided direct and immediate income support of $2,000 per month to those who had suddenly lost their jobs. The CERB provided over 277,000 Manitobans with money so that they could make their rent or mortgage payments and put food on the table. Now, as we transition away from CERB, our government continues to support Canadians with an improved EI benefit that provides $500 per week for those who continue to look for work.
Canadians should not have to choose between their livelihoods and their health, and that is why we introduced a national sick leave benefit. We also announced a caregiver benefit for parents who need to take time off to care for a child or a loved one.
I know that these benefits have been absolutely critical to many families in my communities. I know many parents have had to make difficult decisions regarding their employment, and women in particular have faced the brunt of these difficult choices. The numbers we have seen are shocking. Women's participation in the workforce has dropped to levels we have not seen since the 1980s. Canada's economic recovery will not be complete without a strong return to work for women across the country. To achieve this, we have committed to a national child care strategy so that parents will have access to quality, accessible and affordable child care as they return to their jobs.
During this difficult time, many of my constituents have emailed, phoned and sent letters regarding key policies they wished to see in the Speech from the Throne. Thanks to their thoughtful feedback, our government has made strong commitments to establishing national pharmacare, increasing old age security, supporting family reunification and many important initiatives that would have a significant and positive impact here in Manitoba and across the country.
I know that all members of the House will agree when I say that Canadians have truly risen to the occasion and supported one another in amazing ways in the last six months, and Manitobans are no exception. Let me take this moment to recognize the selfless efforts of our front-line health care workers in Manitoba, who have worked tirelessly under the most difficult of circumstances. I also want to recognize essential workers, such as our truck drivers and grocery store clerks, who have stepped up when we needed them most.
I want to take a moment to give a special mention to the folks at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. It has been at the forefront of incredibly important work to protect the health of Canadians, including developing the first Canadian COVID test on January 15, providing testing regimes for remote northern communities, and conducting essential research support for vaccine and therapeutic development.
We have often heard the proverb that it takes a village. During COVID, we have seen it come to life in my community of Winnipeg South. Mosques, churches, temples and local organizations here have exemplified what it means to be a community and have come together to take care of those most in need.
We know that the devastation facing our small-businesses community has been among the biggest challenges our country has faced through this pandemic. Small businesses are the backbone of the Manitoba economy, providing thousands of jobs in every corner of the province. Our government recognizes this, and has committed to supporting SMEs through a number of initiatives. Early on, we provided the emergency wage subsidy, which covered 75% of a worker's wages so that businesses could continue to keep their employees on the payroll. Not only have we made this program more flexible, we have also announced that we will be extending it to next summer so that businesses can plan ahead.
Other federal support programs have also been critical to the vitality of our businesses, including the Canada emergency business account loan program, which has provided $40,000 in interest-free loans to qualifying businesses to help them bridge to the other side of the pandemic.
For businesses that have been unable to access these programs, Western Economic Diversification and our regional development agencies across Canada have been critical in helping us provide direct support to SMEs.
In May, the government earmarked approximately $1 billion to the regional relief and recovery fund, RRRF, which was designed specifically to aid small businesses that may have fallen through the cracks and were unable to access other business programs. In my home province of Manitoba, the RRRF has supported 85 different businesses, with a total funding of over $8.4 million. Just last week, our announced an additional investment of $600 million to the regional relief and recovery program so we can continue to support small businesses and help them weather this time of economic uncertainty.
This is a very difficult time for so many, and our priority remains protecting people and saving lives. At the same time, we cannot forget that when it comes to protecting people there is another crisis on the horizon that will create even more health and economic disruption than COVID-19. I am, of course, speaking of the climate crisis. Nowhere is the climate crisis felt more strongly than in the disruptions to our water cycle and our freshwater systems.
Decades of public opinion surveys record that Canadians feel no resource is more important than fresh, clean water to our economy, health and well-being. I am delighted the Government of Canada cemented its commitment, in the Speech from the Throne, to create a Canada Water Agency to work with provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous governments and stakeholders to better manage and protect our precious freshwater resources. I am especially pleased and honoured that the has asked me to lead this effort.
As Canadians, we are fortunate to have over two million lakes and rivers: approximately 20% of the world's freshwater. Our waterways support fisheries, tourism, shipping and navigation, and so many other industries. They are crucial for aquatic ecosystems and wetland habitats, which are vital for many plants and animals.
An important part of keeping our freshwater resources protected and well managed includes improving deteriorating water quality. To this end, in 2017 we invested $70.5 million in the Great Lakes and the Lake Winnipeg basin. Over five years, $44.84 million was provided to the Great Lakes protection initiative in order to address the most significant environmental challenges affecting the Great Lakes: water quality and ecosystem health. For the Lake Winnipeg basin, $25.8 million was allocated to address the increasing challenge of nutrient pollution and toxic algae in restoring the health of Canada's sixth great lake.
In this era of climate instability, flooding has had a major impact on communities and the public treasury. The government has paid out more in disaster assistance in the last 10 years than in the last 40 years. The Manitoba flood of 2011 alone saw more than 7,000 people displaced from their homes, critical infrastructure destroyed, and 70 states of emergency declared in local communities, resulting in a $1-billion impact to the Manitoba economy.
To address these flooding and water challenges, the Speech from the Throne commits the Government of Canada to make investments in the Canada Water Agency, as well as in major water infrastructure to better manage and protect our waterways for the benefit of the environment, the economy and future generations.
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most serious health and economic crisis our community has faced in generations. In Manitoba, as well as in communities across the country, we have seen Canadians come together and work together in extraordinary ways to help one another through these difficult times. There has been unprecedented co-operation among the provinces, territories and the federal government. Canadians want to see that co-operation continue, and they want to see all parties in the House work together to help meet the challenge of COVID-19 and build a better Canada when the pandemic subsides. Let us not disappoint them.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House, as opposed to participating virtually, as we debate the Speech from the Throne. I am very pleased to be here.
I want to start by acknowledging how very challenging these last seven months have been for so many. I look at the people working in the hospitals and long-term care facilities and front-line workers everywhere, including people delivering groceries. It has been seven months and it has not been getting any easier for many of them. We know they are getting tired and we want to express our immense appreciation for what they are doing. I also want to recognize that many individuals and businesses also continue to face extraordinary challenges.
Regardless of the disagreements we might have in the House, I think it is fair to say that we are united in the agreement that we must do the best we can to support Canadians during this time. In these unprecedented times, it is healthy to have vigorous debate and at times disagreements on the best path forward.
About one year ago, we were on the campaign trail. Just a few short weeks later, the current government was given a new mandate by the people. It was a minority mandate, because the Canadian public did not have quite as much faith in the Liberals as they had in the previous election. There was an important message in that election for the Liberal government to hear, but I am not sure the Liberals heard it.
Since that time, we have had two Speeches from the Throne, but we have had no budget. We have had over 80-plus days of the morning show on the Rideau porch. The would come out on his porch and announce spending and extraordinary new measures. During that same time, we had 14 sitting days in the House. Let us think about that. We had a Prime Minister announcing extraordinary new programs during an unprecedented crisis and we had only 14 sitting days. The bottom line is that we heard about billions and billions of dollars, with very minimal debate.
That is how mistakes get made. By bypassing Parliament, committees and process, the Liberals will make mistakes. That is why things like the loan program for businesses was such a disaster. The Liberals did not look to the brainpower, to the people and the experience within the Parliament, to take that extra bit of time needed to do things properly. That is on the government. It was 80 days of the on the porch and 14 days in Parliament with minimal debate.
I went back to read a number of Speeches from the Throne as part of my process of thinking about what I would say today. I went back to 2008 and 2011 and I saw very workman-like speeches. They were very orderly, workman-like, telling Canadians what the vision and goals of the government were.
Then I went to the Speech from the Throne in 2015 from the current Liberal government. What it said was that the Government of Canada “will promote more open debate and free votes, and reform and strengthen committees.” Right now a committee is looking into some challenges of the current government, the WE scandal, and the government is doing its very best to shut that committee down.
That speech also said, “notable are the things the government will not do....it will not resort to devices like prorogation and omnibus bills to avoid scrutiny.” What did the Liberal government do in the middle of a crisis? It prorogued. No one believes it was anything other than to avoid the WE scandal and further testimony about how the government was helping Liberal friends in this time of crisis.
I found it absolutely stunning that when we finally came back after the prorogation period, we had a fast-tracked bill. Again, there was no committee debate. Was this 2015 promise just for 2015 when the Liberals had a majority or was it a promise for what the Liberal government wanted to do?
However, the had the nerve to say to the media that we had to fast-track the bill because we had to get help to Canadians. I remember reading this and thinking about fast tracking the bill. We had five weeks in which we were ready, willing, able and we would have done anything to do proper scrutiny of the bill to ensure it was done right so we would not be in the same position we are with the bills we have seen, such as the rent assistance program.
They did indicate that they wanted to trust their government. The Liberals say that they want Canadians to trust them. I do not know about other members, but as we hit ethical scandal after ethical scandal, I think that trust is eroding in many ways.
I did not mention democratic reform, but that again was a strong commitment by the government.
After reading this Speech from the Throne, I am left with a some doubt on whether the Liberals will do what they say they will do. They have a propensity to recycle their broken promises. Their promise on child care goes back 20 years, which is an awful long time. Their promise on pharmacare has been there for a while. The Speech from the Throne focused a little on the current issue and a whole lot on recycled, broken promises.
On what is most important to Canadians right now, the Liberals have said that their number one pillar is to fight the pandemic and save lives. I think everyone in the House can agree with that, but we have to look at the execution of this. Who sent all our PPE equipment either to the dumpster or to China? Who failed to keep our stockpile up to snuff? Who failed to look at what other countries were doing with respect to rapid testing? Who failed to close the borders in an appropriate time and accused the opposition of being racist by suggesting we should close the borders? It was the government. However, we need to look forward now.
We now know that everyone expected a second wave would come. We knew that there was a bit of a window to prepare for that. What did the Liberals do about fighting this pandemic and saving lives?
The Liberals will set national standards for seniors, because those are the people who have been most impacted. A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal talked about the issues with seniors, and standards were not one of those issues. They were issues of ensuring protective equipment, training personnel, licencing inspections and capital improvements. Those things would prevent issues in a second wave. Did the government make a move? I know it is the responsibility of provinces and territories, but did the Liberals say to the provinces and territories that a second wave was coming, that they wanted to support them, what could they do to help, was it just about money or were there other things they could do to help? If a second wave hits these seniors homes, part of it is on the current government.
For indigenous people, they were very specific 10 months ago. The Liberals would eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve by 2021. In the speech, they say they will make additional resiliency investments. What does that mean? I think most first nations know what eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories means, but do they know what additional resiliency investments are?
I find much to be concerned about with the government's current approach. Certainly, from our side, we would have great difficulty supporting this Speech from the Throne.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate virtually today. I would like to take this opportunity to say hello to my House of Commons colleagues and everyone following our proceedings. I would like to point out that I am taking part in today's proceedings from the city of Lévis, which is currently in a red zone. I want to commend the resilience of the people of Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis who are experiencing the strains of the lockdown.
The purpose of my intervention today is to convey that I cannot support the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Governor General on September 23, 2020.
The role of government and of parliamentarians is to help and support people, to minimize the impacts of the pandemic and to try to make things run smoothly. I simply cannot support the throne speech because there are two fundamental components missing from it, things that would help people in red zones, like the people of Lévis.
Measures need to be put in place immediately to deal with the resurgence of the pandemic. That includes quicker testing and results analysis. For example, the wife of one of my colleagues who works in the education system was tested for COVID-19 and has been waiting for three days now for her results, which means that my colleague also has to wait for the results. That is paralyzing the work of our organizations, despite telework being an option. It slows things down, not to mention the fact that some jobs require staff to be on site.
In our region, there are a lot of manufacturing jobs. These measures are needed immediately to support public health authorities in order to make testing faster, something that is not clearly set out in the throne speech.
Another necessary measure involves providing reasonable and targeted support to businesses and individuals during the pandemic so that the government remains agile and flexible once it is over. Unfortunately, even before the pandemic, the Liberals were already caught in a deficit spiral. Right now we are far from improving our situation.
What is in a throne speech? As my colleague from British Columbia mentioned, we usually expect a throne speech to present a vision.
This vision could have explained how to fight the pandemic and help people right now while presenting a plan for the medium term. However, neither of these elements is in the throne speech. On the contrary, it is chock full of all kinds of promises. Having many priorities means that there are none. It is just a jumble of words. Unfortunately, this does not meet our immediate needs as the pandemic surges and we are experiencing a second wave.
In my view, the best analysis of the throne speech is the one provided by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. His analysis leads us to conclude that the throne speech is not what Canada needs right now to face the pandemic. We should remember that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is an independent officer and he is in some ways the government watchdog. He is there to remind the government that it must stay on track if it wants to prevent problems from arising further down the road.
We have seen the warning signs. Before the throne speech, my old colleague and former finance minister, Joe Oliver, said that it is time for Canada to pick a fiscal anchor.
Of course we need to support people. In 2008, the Conservatives did that through massive infrastructure investments to stimulate the economy. Many projects got built in my riding, including the Lac-Etchemin arena, the Lévis water treatment plant and the Notre-Dame-Auxiliatrice-de-Buckland infrastructure project. Those were measurable outcomes of targeted investments, and the Conservatives also had a plan at the time to balance the budget.
A former Liberal finance minister, John Manley, said it is important to have a fiscal anchor because that shows the financial markets that Canada is supporting people and knows where it is going in the medium term. Unfortunately, the throne speech proves that this government is going in the opposite direction.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's economic outlook, it is possible to get through the pandemic and stay on track with realistic fiscal anchors, but that will not be possible if the government engages in new spending.
As my colleague from British Columbia said, the Liberals are interfering in programs that are provincial responsibilities. As the saying goes, they are throwing money out the window. That is not the sound management we expect. Moreover, financial markets are worried. Firms such as Fitch Ratings have downgraded Canada, and credit rating agencies such as Bloomberg and Moody's have warned Canada that if it does not stop spending shamelessly and keeps introducing poorly targeted measures, it is going to crash and burn.
We want to support Canadians, but we want to be able to do that now and in the long term. The measures proposed by the Liberals combined with the government's extravagant spending would threaten the social safety net in the medium term. That is troubling. We are not even close to achieving sustainable development.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, there is a risk that the sustainable debt-to-GDP trajectory could be reversed. In other words, if we continue to spend excessively on extravagant and poorly targeted measures, we will be temporarily “doped” by a significant cash injection, but we will have to pay for the damage in the medium and long term, since this is borrowed money.
There is another aspect that concerns me. The Speech from the Throne says that interest rates are going to stay low for decades to come. Of course that is unrealistic. The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is currently 0.25%. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's assumption, that rate could remain stable for the next three years, but it is expected to increase by 1% within five years' time. That is five times higher than the current key rate. The rate would remain fixed at 1.25%, but that would still increase the debt by $8 billion. The government seems to be deluding itself regarding easy credit.
The third thing that worries me is the government's poorly targeted measures. People received more money than they lost from their savings. This is borrowed money, though. It belongs to the government.
Canadians' household income went up by 5.4%. That is nice to see, but since this is borrowed money, it will have to be paid back. The problem is that the Liberal government makes poor spending choices and implements measures that hurt the economy. For example, it did not encourage people to stay connected to their jobs or to return to work.
I will not support the throne speech because it contains extravagant expenses, is devoid of any fiscal anchors and does not present short-term measures to combat the pandemic.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Chair for coordinating the hybrid sitting. This is the first time I have participated.
I will now yield the floor to my colleagues and I would be happy to take questions.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to rise in the House today in the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, in the second session of the 43rd Parliament. I first want to congratulate the government on its Speech from the Throne. During a difficult time, it is fair to say that the government has done an excellent job balancing the safety of Canadians with the need to encourage a prosperous economy.
I feel the federal government has done an excellent job of meeting the specific needs of all communities, especially those of my riding of Egmont.
I am impressed with the four foundations of the government's plan. Of course, we must fight the pandemic and protect the health and safety of all Canadians. Second, we have been on a consistent course of supporting the values of reconciliation, equality and the fight against systemic racism. Third, our immediate effort is to help Canadians through this difficult time. As I have heard from many people in my constituency of Egmont, there is an appreciation and respect for government's rapid and effective decision-making. Government responded in a way that was reliable and it built confidence in our country. Across my community, individuals and businesses feel they are supported and respected.
I think Canadians know that the government respects all communities and understands the needs of every individual.
While concerns certainly remain, there is a great sense that government will do everything in its power to protect the interests of every Canadian.
Finally, the fundamental goal of creating jobs and continuing our support for the middle class truly looks forward. We need that aspirational language. We need to put together the constructive framework for future success and we need to provide a clear pathway toward better days ahead. In my opinion, government is meeting that test of leadership. Furthermore, I believe government has achieved its leadership role in partnership with individuals and communities. We have not worked in a top-down manner. Instead we have listened to Canadians. Thanks to the hard work of thousands of Egmont residents, we are building a stronger economy that benefits everyone. As a result, the people of my community have told me they believe they have a share in the community's progress. They believe that we are all in this together and will share the challenges and the opportunities.
I want to thank all those in Egmont who reached out with clear, articulate ideas to move our community forward even in the context of our greatest crisis since the Second World War. In the largest sense, government has done well for the past five years to accentuate a spirit of partnership with Canadians. In my opinion, I believe that community partnerships that emphasize job growth through infrastructure is the best road forward.
In Egmont, that forward-looking plan is helping to build one of the greenest communities in Canada. Our leadership role in renewable energy is well recognized across Canada. For decades, Egmont has adopted an approach that accentuates advances in wind power and now there are new projects that build on the promise of solar energy. The key part of these efforts is government is providing its expertise and investments in a way that benefits an entire community.
We all have the opportunity to share in Egmont's environmental progress. As we emerge from the current crisis, we will be in a tremendous position to take advantage of the world's changing energy demands. We are building, and we are building stronger and smarter. For that reason, I was very happy to see references in the throne speech to an Atlantic energy loop. For years, Atlantic Canada has worked on plans to co-operate on energy initiatives. The support signalled in the throne speech reflects my hope for an eastern partnership that permits freer flow of energy resources while rewarding hard-won advances in technological innovation.
From the perspective of individuals and families, I am also pleased to see further evidence of the government's ability to focus on people. During the spring, we were all deeply concerned about the effects of the pandemic on long-term care facilities. Mercifully, there were no outbreaks on Prince Edward Island, but every Islander shared in the pain and distress experienced across Canada.
For that reason, I am very pleased to say that we will be working on national standards for long-term care, which will protect thousands of Canadians and build confidence in our systems. To achieve that confidence-building goal, we will need to work with our provincial partners and provide the resources needed to create safe and welcoming places.
Additionally, I am extremely pleased to see that we will embark in a new direction when it comes to disability supports. A program modelled after the guaranteed income supplement for seniors will make a tremendous difference in the lives of many people in my community. I look forward to the day that we make this commitment a reality.
In some ways that promise reminds me of the government's decision to reverse the decision by the former administration to push the retirement age to 67. Personally, I know many people who have worked more than 40 years and are looking forward to retirement at age 65. To move those goalposts was unfair. I want to commend the government once again for reversing that unfortunate agenda. Again, that is why I am proud to be a part of this government.
The Speech from the Throne does not pick winners and losers. It does not favour one group over another. Instead, we are following a path that tailors itself to the needs of individuals, families and communities. We are not about the broad, sweeping generalizations of the past government, rather this is a government that embraces unique challenges faced by every Canadian in a way that responds to specific needs and recognizes opportunities.
Along those lines I also want to congratulate the government on its rapid and effective response to COVID. All of us remember the difficult days of March and April when there was so much uncertainty and concern. Programs were designed that almost immediately addressed those worries and built a relationship of trust and confidence between the federal government and Canadians.
I admit that I was worried. I was concerned that the crisis was too big, that we would miss people and lose sight of communities, but we did not. We succeeded because this government has an understanding of the uniqueness of every individual and every community.
In closing, I would like to encourage the government to maintain that path, to remain vigilant about the concerns of the kitchen table and the need to build a stronger national economy.
I want to thank all the residents of my community for their hard work, creativity and willingness to build a stronger community.
We worked together, and together with Prince Edward Island, we are building a stronger Canada.
We are beginning to emerge from this crisis and I am confident that we can do so in a way that will leave both Canada and communities like Egmont even stronger than before.
As a Liberal member, I believe that a government can accomplish great things. As parliamentarians, we must work together for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous honour and privilege to be a voice for the residents and businesses of Mississauga East—Cooksville and to virtually speak in Parliament from my great community.
I would like to acknowledge we are gathered on the ancestral land of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank all the front-line workers from all sectors of health care and essential services from my home of Mississauga East—Cooksville and from all members' hometowns from coast to coast to coast. In no particular order, they include Canadians from all walks of life: personal support workers, police, bus drivers, military personnel, pharmacists, supermarket workers, nurses, doctors, drivers, public servants, waste-removal people, construction workers, cleaners, security guards, support staff, postal workers, our teachers and thousands more. I believe I speak for all members when I say we owe them a debt of gratitude and thank them for their self-sacrifice, their service and their dedication to our communities across our great country.
The war against this invisible enemy has truly been a team Canada effort to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to support workers and businesses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have put Canadians first. The way our Liberal government, led by our , has collaborated and consulted with our partners, including the provinces, territories, municipal governments, labour, businesses, not-for-profit agencies, scientists, public health authorities and so many other stakeholders, has been essential to the successes we have had in our fight against the coronavirus. As was crystal clear in the Speech from the Throne, for our Liberal government, support for our workers and families is paramount. The health and safety of our workers and the recovery of our economy remain our government's top priorities.
I need to address what I feel in my heart of hearts was the saddest and most tragic aspect of this pandemic. COVID-19 has exposed significant ugly weaknesses in our health care system. Of all of Canada's deaths related to COVID-19, a staggering 85% have occurred in long-term care homes. Now with the second wave, we must do more to protect our most vulnerable. Our hearts go out to all those who have passed away from this terrible virus.
Many seniors from my riding were residents of Camilla Care long-term care home. Tragically, Camilla Care lost over 70 residents to coronavirus. The reports of understaffing, COVID-positive residents sharing rooms with residents who were COVID negative and a lack of basic care, including feeding, toileting and dressing, are unacceptable and cannot happen again. I heard from families, friends and loved ones who could not see or speak with their dying parents. They will live with these painful memories forever. The lives lost in long-term care homes to COVID is one of Canada’s greatest tragedies. Vulnerable seniors deserve to be safe, to be respected and to live with dignity.
Although long-term care falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the federal government will take any action it can to support seniors while working alongside our provinces and territories. Canadians stand strong with us on this righteous cause. A recent survey showed 88% of Canadians agree that there is a need to implement extensive social and health programs to help and protect our seniors and most vulnerable citizens.
The Liberal government will work with Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to explicitly penalize those who neglect seniors under their care, putting them in danger. The Liberal government will also work with the provinces and territories to set new national standards for long-term care so that seniors get the best support possible, and take additional action to help people stay in their homes longer. Let us all thank the members of the Canadian Forces who were there in long-term care homes and shined a light on the neglect.
The said recently that he remained unapologetic for doing everything we could to support our seniors, that they deserved nothing less. We agree and we grieve for all those we have lost.
The Speech from the Throne addresses gaps in our social system. The pandemic has underscored the inseparability of Canada’s economic, health and social well-being. Our sound recovery will address these stark gaps in our social safety net and ensure that the most vulnerable communities are not left behind.
The government has pledged support, taken action and will continue to work with further targeted measures for personal support workers; help for vulnerable communities; support for the disabled; increased flexibility of systems to reach people at home, i.e., like we are doing here virtually; and the accelerated development of a universal pharmacare program. We will support our communities, investing in all types of infrastructure, including public transit, energy-efficient retrofits, clean energy and affordable housing.
The throne speech is a plan for a stronger and more resilient Canada. I can say unequivocally to workers in my community and across our country that if they have lost their jobs, we have their backs. Since March 15, almost nine million people have received the Canada emergency response benefit, also known as the CERB, helping millions of Canadians and their families avoid catastrophic household income loss while, at the same time, helping to keep our economy strong. People are still living in uncertain times and the government will continue to be there for them. So many residents in my area have emailed, written and called me just to say what these concrete investments have meant to them, and the financial stress and strain they have alleviated.
We are shoring up our employment insurance system. The government has created a transitional Canada response benefit to help Canadians transition from the CERB to the employment insurance system, which will be revamped to include self-employed individuals and those in the gig economy. A more flexible EI program, paid sick leave and a caregiver benefit will allow us to continue helping Canadians and their families.
The government will do whatever it takes and use whatever fiscal firepower to support people and the businesses that employ them. I have worked closely with the Mississauga Board of Trade and the many businesses that have been impacted negatively by this pandemic. I can think of no greater shock to a business than to have to stop cold, through no fault of their own, and live with the uncertainty of when things will get better or start to normalize.
I have reached out to small businesses to identify needs and facilitate access to programs, such as the Canada emergency business account and the Canada emergency wage subsidy. These and other programs were greatly appreciated in my riding and the government's commitment to extending these programs is welcome. The wage subsidy program has literally saved tens of thousands of jobs and has prevented many businesses in Mississauga East and across Canada from going bankrupt.
The Liberal government will take the following steps to support struggling businesses. It will extend the wage subsidy into the summer of 2021, expand the Canada emergency business account, improve the business credit availability and introduce support for industries that have been hardest hit, like travel, tourism and hospitality.
In conclusion, the throne speech reflects our government's road map to manage the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role that Canada will play in a world that has likely changed forever. When I think of the millions of everyday acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that are being performed across this country, I know we are already building back better. We are and will be more resilient, more innovative, more economically dynamic, but also more generous and sharing. However, for now, we must stay alert, control the virus and save lives.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to once again rise in this House to represent the good people of Sturgeon River—Parkland.
The past six months have been a time of tremendous trial for my constituents and all Canadians. Loved ones have been lost, families have been separated, businesses have shut down permanently and our government has failed to provide a clear plan for a way forward for this country.
Alberta and the other western provinces were hurting before this pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, including in my constituency. The Liberals have refused to sign off on new resource projects, costing thousands of jobs and billions in investments. Their infrastructure bank and have failed to deliver billions of dollars in investments, costing our communities and many more thousands of jobs. Just the other day, Alberta was hurt again with the announcement that Suncor will be laying off thousands of workers, along with TC Energy.
Canadians pulled together to get us through the first wave of COVID-19. We endured lockdowns in the spring that cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and closed tens of thousands of businesses. Yes, we saved lives, but what did the Liberal government do with the sacrifice of Canadians? It dithered.
While our government could have spent the summer procuring rapid testing or planning for an economic recovery, it focused all its energy on shutting down an investigation into its own ethical failures. We have yet to receive the full details of the WE Charity scandal created by the Liberal , and if the Liberals had it their way, Canadians would never know the full truth. That is why we are here today, not even a year since the last Speech from the Throne: Instead of governing the nation through this crisis, the Liberals chose to play political games, prorogue Parliament and shut down any committee investigations into their wrongdoing.
Our Conservative team will not relent. We will hold the Liberal government accountable for its ethical failures. I know that on this side of the House, we are looking forward to sunny ways and sunny days indeed. While many Canadians may be dealing with a COVID pandemic, the government is dealing with an ethical sickness. The has been fond of telling the opposition that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and we have heard him loud and clear. We will be taking his advice and prescribing a full dosage.
There is a pandemic, and everyone out west is talking about it, but it is not COVID-19; it is the joblessness pandemic. It is a disease that has been with us for years before COVID-19 hit us. Unfortunately, rather than working tirelessly to save our struggling energy industry and the western economies, the Liberals looked eager to dance on our graves and declare our economy bust.
Why else would nearly every decision since their election in 2015 appear to be targeted toward undermining our jobs and energy industry, whether it be the pipeline-killing Bill , their carbon tax or now their mega carbon tax that is masquerading as a clean fuel standard? Why is it that whenever western MPs stand up for their constituents, they are accused of only playing to regional interests? Whenever our auto sector or aerospace sector is threatened, all Canadian MPs are called together to stand up to save jobs, yet we hear nothing when our energy sector is suffering.
Alberta was proud to support fellow Canadians in the 2008 financial crisis. We carried this country's economy when the federal government had to bail out an American auto company. We were proud to support our brothers and sisters in Newfoundland and Labrador when their offshore industry was suffering. When the Atlantic economy was struggling, it was the cheques sent home by Atlantic workers working in the Alberta oil patch that kept families going.
Today, Albertans are struggling and Saskatchewan is struggling. The west is struggling. The engine of Canada's economy is facing record unemployment. Where is our federal government to lend us a hand? We have shovel-ready projects that will create tens of thousands of jobs. We do not even need a bailout from taxpayers; we just need the Liberal government to get out of the way.
The Nova Gas Transmission line, which has been waiting for nearly a year for federal approval, would create 5,500 jobs. It is the next generation of polypropylene production in the Alberta industrial heartland. At least 2,500 jobs are on the line, yet the Liberals are pushing forward with their antiplastic manufacturing agenda. With the Liberal mega carbon tax at an estimated $350 a tonne, major players that produce fertilizer to feed our farms and produce fuel to heat our homes are at risk of packing up and moving south of the border. Western Canadians do not need a minister of the middle class and those working hard to join it; we need a minister of the middle class and those working hard just to survive and stay middle class.
The Liberals are promising Canadians a lot of goodies in the throne speech, but nothing that has been promised has not been promised before by the Liberal government. The Liberals will say that this time is different, that they are working with the NDP, which holds the balance of power. We have heard this story before. I have a word of caution to my colleagues in the NDP. They can learn a lot from the B.C. Green Party or the Liberal Democrats in the U.K.: Things never really work out for the junior partner.
The throne speech should be praised for its commitment to recycling. By that I mean recycling old Liberal talking points. The Liberals have promised universal pharmacare and a universal day care system. They have promised universal broadband as well. Yet, they have been in power for five years and have failed to deliver for rural communities.
All of this is happening while the Liberals continue to plow forward with the greatest expansion of government spending and debt financing in modern Canadian history. This is over $400 billion in federal deficit, not counting the hundreds of billions taken out by arm's-length Crown corporations such as the Bank of Canada, BDC, EDC and the CMHC. This is hundreds of billions off the government's books, but hundreds of billions that Canadian taxpayers will still have to pay for if things go bust.
How exactly are the Liberals going to finance this new pandemic debt, while also launching the most radical expansion of the Canadian welfare state in a generation? It is with low interest rates, cries the . We can afford everything, as if we can sustain low interest rates for decades on end without the consequences of massive inflation: inflation that will erode the savings of our vulnerable seniors, inflation that will risk the opportunity for millennials and those in generation Z to buy their first home and inflation that will devalue the hard-earned wages of the working class for the benefit of big business and debt holders.
If the government chooses not to go down that disastrous path, we are left with two alternatives: They will increase taxes to finance this new spending or they will cut spending in other areas to reallocate to these new promises.
Will the Liberals be cutting the child care benefit and child care expenses tax deduction for families so they can pay for their new national day care system? Will families be denied the choice of whether to stay home with their young children or send them to day care? When the Liberals remove the Canada child benefit and tax deductions, that is exactly what they are doing. They are removing choice from parents who want to raise their children at home.
How will the government pay for this new universal pharmacare system? Will they cut health transfers like the Liberals did back in the 1990s? Will they refuse to allow new life-saving drugs like Trikafta, which miraculously saved the lives of those with cystic fibrosis.
If they do not cut spending, they will have to raise taxes. The throne speech talks a bit about this. It talks about raising taxes on digital giants and closing stock loopholes. This is not necessarily something I disagree with, but will these new taxes generate the tens of billions in new dollars that will finance universal day care and universal pharmacare? The fact is that they will not.
We are left with few alternatives. Will the Liberals raise the GST that the Conservatives lowered from 7% to 5%? Will they raise personal income taxes or capital gains taxes? Are they going to raise corporation taxes and risk capital and investment being taken to our neighbour to the south, a low-tax jurisdiction?
It is time for the Liberals to be honest with Canadians about their fiscal plan. Canadians deserve that honesty. Will the Liberals allow mass inflation to destroy the middle class? Will they raise taxes on Canadian families? Will they cut spending and benefits? Will it be a combination of all three? Canadians deserve a real answer.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Governor General and recognize the hard work of her staff, who are no doubt under even more pressure than usual.
I also want to take this opportunity to give my best wishes to retiring members of Parliament, Bill Morneau and Michael Levitt. The WE organization promised its international trips were life-changing. In the case of the former finance minister, that turned out to be true.
My friend Michael Levitt departs politics under more honourable circumstances. I hope his own very principled approach to many foreign policy issues, such as his call to list the IRGC as a terrorist entity, had a positive impact on his Liberal colleagues. Unfortunately, some of his work remains undone, as the IRGC remains unlisted, but I know his advocacy for important issues of justice and human rights will continue.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis that also brought on an economic crisis. No government should have been caught off guard by COVID-19. While most Canadians could not have imagined that a coronavirus pandemic was possible, it is incumbent on governments to be prepared to respond to crises.
Less than 20 years ago, the world experienced another coronavirus pandemic, which led the government of the day to create a national public health agency whose primary responsibility was to prepare a plan for responding to a potential future pandemic. However, this government did not ensure that the agency had the necessary plan or equipment in place.
Given the compassionate tone we sometimes hear, it is easy to forget that this government originally spread anti-mask messaging because of its own failure to ensure an adequate supply of masks.
In response to COVID-19, our insisted that the risk was low and that the border should remain open, until it was too late. She wanted to promote her medical aid in dying agenda and eliminate life-saving benefits, rather than working to make much-needed improvements to assisted living. She had her priorities backwards.
Even after the government announced controls at airports, many journalists and Canadians saw that the measures were not put in place early enough, at the time when they would have had the greatest impact. If we had had border controls and mandatory masks sooner, if we had started using rapid testing like South Korea did over six months ago, if we had had contact tracing technology ready to go, we could have avoided the economic shutdown. It was all so preventable.
In Alberta and elsewhere, oil and gas workers and their families face the painful intersection of multiple threats to their livelihood. Those of the radical left are talking about a just transition for oil and gas workers. They tell them to give up their jobs today and they will be given a job of the future at some indefinite point around the corner.
If I told my employees that I was going to arrange a just transition for them, those salty words would not hide the fact that they were getting fired. Nobody is fooled by the language of a “just transition”. It is in reality a code for the intended destruction of highly productive parts of our economy, which have, up until now, been producing commodities that the world will continue to desperately need.
The truth is that making petroleum products is both a job of the present and of the future. If these products are not produced here, they will be produced somewhere else, because the world is going to need petroleum products for a very long time.
Can members imagine the absurdity of it? Can they imagine trying to get through a pandemic, or even run a hospital during normal times, without any petroleum-based products? The anti-energy zealots in this place should not only stop taking flights or car rides, but should also swear off the use of any plastic products. I defy them to organize a protest without the use of petroleum products.
I would like to now build on the throne speech's references to international development and Canada's role in the world as it relates to my own portfolio as shadow minister for international development and human rights. When it comes to thinking broadly about how to achieve international development, it is critical for us to learn the lessons of history.
Too many of the interactions between the west and the global south during the late 20th century were characterized by a post-colonial echo, in which the worst ideas from the west were promoted and then inflicted on countries in the global south by local elites with the encouragement of some western or European voices, and with the direct support of some international organizations.
Ideas such as communism, state-imposed atheism and coercive family planning all had their genesis in western Europe, and yet they were never fully implemented there, outside of a few fateful months in 1993 and 1994. Generally speaking, while avoided at home, these bad ideas have been imposed in various ways for much longer periods of time on much of the world's poor in Central and Eastern Europe, and in various parts of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. This echo of colonialism, the use of the developing world to experiment with violent and coercive revolutionary policies, which were never really attempted at home, has led to untold suffering and loss of life.
Revolutionary ideas from the west attacked free enterprise, faith and family. The destruction of pre-existing markets, traditions and family autonomy, with an eye to so-called modernization, obviously did not lead to actual improvements in happiness or quality of life. These experiments were a grand and tragic failure. China's destructive Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution and one-child policy are examples of the horrific impacts of this post-colonial echo.
The so-called Great Leap Forward led to between 30 million and 45 million deaths. The Cultural Revolution intentionally turned families against each other in a horrific never-ending show trial of revolutionary purity. These events in China earned Mao the dubious distinction of being the most violent person of the 20th century, but the communism he imposed had its genesis in the west and not in China.
The one-child policy led to forced abortion on a massive scale, as well as large-scale infanticide of baby girls, murdered at the hands of desperate parents who preferred a male child. An estimated 100 million missing women were killed or aborted across Asia as a result of the gendered impacts of coercive family planning.
China's oppressive policies also hampered its development at a time when its neighbours were roaring ahead. Its effects will be enduring, as China deals with skewed sex ratios and a coming demographic winter. Some who work in international development want to talk about a demographic dividend associated with smaller families. However, we are now on the verge of the devastating social impacts that will follow an abrupt aging of the population, which is the result of the steep drop-off in population brought about through coercive family planning.
The one-child policy was not a crime that the government of China committed alone. The United Nations population fund, while claiming to eschew coercive family planning, gave China's government an award for this policy and funded the data collection system that facilitated it. The UN population fund has yet to recognize and apologize for its complicity in this crime.
Conservatives will champion a development policy that holds the UN and other multilateral institutions to account, leverages Canadian expertise and involvement, and promotes partnership with the global south. Rather than seeking to upend existing structures of private enterprise, faith and family, we believe in promoting partnerships that seek to help free enterprise, faith and family to flourish according to their proper nature and purpose. That is the true path to humane development.
We will restore a principled foreign policy that sides with free nations and freedom-seeking peoples against oppressive governments and coercive international institutions. We will oppose all neo-colonial coercive policies, which limit freedom and choice, and we will make the case for the power of free trade and free markets to fight poverty. This will be animated by the idea of solidarity as an individual and community virtue, and not as an excuse for coercive power.
We will support economic growth by seeking to deliver training and financing to the world's poorest entrepreneurs, giving them the capacity to build opportunity for themselves and their families. We will partner with willing nations to strengthen justice systems, fight human trafficking, protect collective security and promote the advancement of propluralism education.
Propluralism education is neither narrowly sectarian nor relativistic; rather, it celebrates the traditions and faith of one's own community as well as the rights and contributions of those with different beliefs. Supporting propluralism education is key to supporting the development of harmonious societies around the world. We will fight to restore Canada's historic role defending religious freedom and communal harmony.
Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada invested more in international development than it does currently. We also gave more to our military, and we even got more votes at the UN. The current government's platitudes tell one story about Canada and the world, but the numbers tell a very different story. The Liberal Party says it will spend more every year on international development, although they have not specified whether that means more in nominal terms, in real terms or as a percentage of gross national income, and currently its contributions are lower than they were under Stephen Harper.
The current government is spending larger and larger portions of our aid through multilateral organizations, instead of working with Canadian charities that engage Canadians directly in the delivery of vital assistance, which are often more efficient. This betrays a lack of confidence on the part of the government in Canada and in Canadian organizations.
Conservatives are building a different vision of how a strong international assistance policy can contribute to the advancement of our values. Conservatives believe that our approach to international development must be characterized by respect for and partnership with the global south, not by the imposition of failed revolutionary doctrines of collectivism.
I hope that 50 years from now Canada's international development budget will be zero, because the goal of international development is to put itself out of business and establish the conditions whereby nations no longer require the generosity of others in order to survive and thrive. Under the Liberals' economic policies, it is more likely that we will be a recipient of development assistance in 50 years, but I hope for a different path. I hope for a day when development assistance will no longer be necessary because reforms have taken place, education and financing have been made available, vestiges of authoritarian oppression have been dismantled, and free people have been able to prosper through their own ingenuity and with the support and help of strong families and communities.
Our strategic and thoughtful support for the right kind of international development today, tied to rigorous accountability and a focus on results, will help us move toward that desired future.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Today I rise to speak on the Speech from the Throne. I first want to acknowledge all of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and all of the families, parents, friends and communities that lost loved ones. For those who have recovered, like my good friend from , I am so glad for them, but unfortunately so many families lost people to this virus.
It is precisely that loss and the seriousness of this virus that made the Speech from the Throne so important. We needed a reset. This is a crisis that generations have never seen before. Legislators need to be at the forefront, sorting out measures to ensure that Canadians are safe and healthy, and to ensure that post-COVID we will rebound to have a greater economy than we saw pre-COVID, with nearly a million new jobs created. That is precisely where we want to get back to. However, the health and safety of Canadians is paramount, and that is why the Speech from the Throne was so important in addressing a lot of these concerns.
In particular, the long-term care community in my home riding of Pickering—Uxbridge was hit hard. I think that, in Orchard Villa alone, there were 78 deaths. Nearly a third of the population in that long-term care home passed away. It was an extreme tragedy. In Uxbridge, Reachview Village lost 14 members of the community. These are our most vulnerable seniors, and my heart goes out to the families and staff members at the homes who are working hard every day to keep the community safe.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that there are gaps in long-term care homes, and I am extremely grateful to the Canadian Armed Forces members who went into Orchard Villa in my riding to provide help and support. Frankly, the report that they released was welcome news to many of the families. It was, in fact, just one week prior to that report being released that I was on a Zoom or Facebook call with family members who were describing the scenes in the long-term care home and what the residents were going through, but nobody was listening.
The families were frustrated because they could not go in to support their family members, and nobody was paying attention. Everybody was saying there were problems with PPE and with separating those who were infected from those who were not, that staff were going into wings that were COVID-free and then going into wings where people had COVID, and there was no reaction. When the Canadian Armed Forces released that report, those families were able to be heard. All of their concerns were now at the forefront, and we talked about them.
When the Speech from the Throne was delivered, my colleagues and I who worked on this file, and family members of residents in particular, were thrilled to see the acknowledgement of the need for national standards for long-term care homes. These are desperately needed. They were probably needed pre-COVID, but COVID really highlighted some of the gaps that needed to be addressed. National standards are a way to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again and that, no matter where one lives in this country, our most vulnerable seniors are going to have a standard of care.
The other thing in the Speech from the Throne, with regard to long-term care homes, was the acknowledgement and direction to change the Criminal Code to penalize any individual who neglects our seniors. We read some horrific stories in the Canadian Armed Forces report. In particular, in the home in my riding, we heard that PPE was under lock and key and critical tools were locked away in the basement. These might have prevented deaths had they been accessible to staff and those working hard for the community.
Therefore, that additional Criminal Code change would be incredibly important, moving forward, to hold those accountable who are essentially responsible for some of our most vulnerable Canadians. I think it was the who said that we as a country, we as a society, must really think about the fact that we had to send in soldiers to care for our seniors. That is something that I certainly have reflected on a lot. I hope everybody in this House and around the country thinks about it as we move forward with national standards.
The next area in the Speech from the Throne that I think was important and has resonated with many, certainly for me and my community, were the impacts on women during this crisis. It was predominantly women who took time off work to care for loved ones when they were sick. It was women who often took time off, when schools closed, to care for young children. It was interesting to see a lot of my friends who were trying to work from home with kids in the background. It certainly has proven the need for child care. Reliable child care across this country is incredibly important.
I come from the GTA outside of Toronto and child care is incredibly expensive if people can even find it. This acknowledgement of a national child care program is something that we absolutely needed pre-COVID, but COVID once again has highlighted the need for child care and the need to ensure that women are not adversely affected by the changes in the economy, because it is often women who are the caregivers. We still have so much work to be done in terms of equal pay and ensuring that women are integrated into the economy fairly, so any sort of setback is now just hindering our progress in terms of ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work.
To address this issue, the other thing that was important was the action plan for women in the economy. We need to fully understand what the impacts would be, short term as well as long term, for ensuring that women get back into the economy as they were pre-COVID, and women should be into the economy even more. The statistic we had previously was that if women's participation in the workforce were at the same level as men's, it would mean an equivalent to something like 3% in GDP growth. That is the type of economic building we want in this country.
There was a lot in the Speech from the Throne, but another area that is particularly important is support for students. Students were adversely affected because the summer is often when they work to pay for their rent or their college or university. Students are among the people who did not have jobs and they still have to go back to school and still have student debt. Therefore, the supports that we will provide to students to ensure that they do not graduate with enormous debt and they do have jobs on the other side are going to be good, not only for students but also for the economy.
Another piece is our universal broadband fund. My riding is semi-rural, but urban. It is right next door to Toronto, and yet we do not have adequate broadband. This is something that, again, pre-COVID was an issue but during COVID when kids were home learning from school virtually or people were working from home, connectivity was a major issue and something that I am glad we are accelerating our commitments on.
I want to acknowledge that the wage subsidy as well as CERB really helped support my community. Businesses would have closed without those supports. I know that we are going to be there to continue to help Canadians as we move forward.
In addition, the best way to help the economy is by dealing with this health crisis. On the other side, I know Canadians know that Liberals on this side of the House are going to be there to support them. We are going to be there to make sure they are healthy and safe. We are going to be there to build our economy back to pre-COVID and better, because we believe that investing in Canadians is the best way to grow the economy.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in response to the throne speech.
I would like to start by offering my condolences to the residents of my community who have lost loved ones and friends and, frankly, to the people across Canada who have lost loved ones and friends to COVID-19.
We are rightly focused on the path ahead, and how we are going to support Canadians. However, it is always important to remember the toll this pandemic has taken. By keeping that in mind, it will motivate us all the more to make sure we are doing the right things going forward.
I also want to thank a few other groups of folks, before I talk about the throne speech. In my community, and I know in communities across Canada, heroes have emerged. One of those groups of heroes is our health care workers, those doctors, nurses, technicians, personal support workers and others who have stepped up, worked on the front lines and who have taken those risks, especially in the early going, to serve Canadians. I want to thank them for their service.
I also want to thank a lot of our front-line essential workers. Member will remember that early on, in March, April and May, when much of the economy had to shut down, or at least people had to work from home, some folks still had to go to work. They went out there and they kept our economy going, supporting our quality of life. I want to thank them for that, especially those in my community, in Etobicoke Centre.
Last, I want to thank those in my community who stepped up to help others. A tremendous number of people in my community and in communities across this country are struggling. People in my community have stepped up, whether it is by volunteering at or donating to a food bank or delivering food to seniors or driving people to medical appointments or whatever the case may be. They have been there to help others, and I want to thank them for that. I have been really impressed with how our community and our country has come together.
Early in the pandemic, I imagine I faced what a lot of MPs faced, which was a tremendous number of phone calls and emails from constituents asking for help, asking for help to access health resources, asking for help because they wanted to weigh in on what government was doing, or asking for help because they were struggling, they had lost their jobs or their incomes had been cut or had declined significantly.
I got a particular phone call, one that was very memorable to me, from a constituent asking for help. Before she got into what her ask was, she asked me how I was doing. I shared with her the fact that we were receiving a tremendous number of calls and emails, and that people needed a lot of help. I said to her that I had run for office to help people, and then she cut me off. She said that I was certainly getting my opportunity.
I share that story because to me it underlines an important point for us that I think we should all remember today, that we are at a critical moment in time and that we all have an opportunity, especially those of us in elected office in positions of decision-making or responsibility, right now. We are at a critical time where Canadians need us and we have an opportunity to support them, and to make our country stronger in the years to come.
I hope that we seize this opportunity. It is on that note that I turn to the throne speech, because when I think about what we need to do, I think about supporting Canadians, I think about making sure that we protect them from this virus, and I think about building back better. The throne speech focuses on those things.
What I would like to do is just highlight a few of the items in the throne speech that I think are particularly important. First off, on protecting Canadians, there are a number of measures that have been taken, starting with controlling the epidemic by encouraging social distancing, travel restrictions, border closures, and tracing and quarantining of people who have tested positive. We have also increased health system capacity, made tremendous investments for the provinces so that they can boost their health system capacity and cope with the COVID-19 cases. We have been very active in investing significantly in treatments, specifically in vaccines.
We have done a tremendous number of things to make sure that we have contracted for vaccines, that the manufacturing capacity is in place, that we have contracts with the various folks who are researching these vaccines, so that when a vaccine is ready, Canadians will be able to access it.
There is also the $19-billion safe restart agreement. It is interesting to hear the members of the opposition ask what the government has done to support provinces and their health care budgets in this difficult time. The $19 billion seems awfully significant to me, and a lot of that money went to health care. It went for testing and contact tracing. There was $2 billion for the safe return to class fund to make sure that when provinces opened their schools, they had our support in making sure those schools were opened safely, and that children and families were protected.
These are some of the things that have been done to protect Canadians from the virus from a health perspective.