Madam Speaker, I will split my time with the strong, new member for .
In their first call, our Conservative leader urged the to address western alienation and national unity. By failing to even mention it in the throne speech, the Prime Minister completely ignored the people I represent, and yesterday he called them crazy, and so it is impossible for me to support it.
Canada is in fiscal peril. The throne speech shows that the Liberals will keep risking Canada's finances so that kids the same age as my nieces and nephews and younger generations will struggle with affordability, starting a business, buying a home and planning for retirement. They may never experience the same health care, pensions or services their grandparents did.
In 2014, the said, “The budget will balance itself”, but his first one was twice the deficit he promised. In four years, he put Canada $87 billion in debt and now, when Canadians need support most, the Liberals are running a massive $343-billion deficit. The PBO warns that “we cannot afford deficits of over $300 billion for more than just a few years. ...it would [be] unsustainable.”
Conservatives do not advocate for fiscal responsibility as an end in itself. Instead, our caution is precisely to prepare for days like today so that there is fiscal firepower to support Canadians in crisis, but Canada is doing worse than our European allies. Under the Liberals, in March and April, three million Canadians lost their jobs and more than a million Canadians are still out of work. Canada has the highest unemployment rate in the G7, and the largest industries are sustaining major, prolonged damage, costing real people real jobs and hope for a better tomorrow.
This month, 70% of Canadian small businesses reported lower sales, 60% are not fully staffed and one in three are still fully closed. After six months of the Liberals turning Parliament into a special committee, stripping powers from MPs and opposition parties, spending hundreds of billions of dollars with limited scrutiny while attacking as heartless anyone who would dare to ask questions or ask for oversight and accountability, and after six weeks of shutting down everything to avoid his own scandals, what is missing from the throne speech is a clear post-pandemic road map and a real plan for the private sector to lead Canada's economic recovery.
It is fair to say that Canadians want elected representatives to work together. Conservatives have done so, but it is also our job to speak truth to power. Let us be real about the Liberals' failure to close the borders early, risking health and lives in response to COVID-19, and now to support Canada's front-line medical workers and first responders, who make up 20% of Canada's COVID cases, which is twice the global average. The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions links that reality to a lack of protective equipment.
Last week, I heard from firefighters who cannot source N95 masks in rural or smaller population centres. So many of those first responders across Canada are volunteers. That is inexcusable, given all the early warnings. On January 17, Canadian military intelligence warned the about COVID-19. On February 7, the World Health Organization warned about global PPE shortages. On February 13, the Public Health Agency warned that Canada's stockpile was inadequate. However, the Liberals did not even try to buy PPE from international suppliers until late March and had already sent planeloads of Canadian PPE to China without any plans to replace it.
To protect public health, obviously, decisions must be based on science, evidence and practices in best-performing countries. Announcements must be clear and accurate. However, the Liberals have confused Canadians who are worried about making ends meet, and worried about their kids going back to school and whether they will be able to go back to work. People just cannot keep waiting for test results.
On August 26, infectious disease specialist Dr. Andrew Morris called Health Canada's rejection of home testing “absurd” and said that rapid testing is the backbone of infectious disease management, but the throne speech had precious little to fix Canada's failure to adopt the most effective models. The U.K., Japan, Germany and even the U.S. in April approved instant and rapid home testing, but not Canada. One single approval trickled in just today from Health Canada—some urgency.
On a personal note, I am grateful to our new Conservative leader to be the public safety shadow minister. It is not just a title or a huge responsibility for me, it is personal. I live on a farm in a rural riding in an escalating crime epidemic. My constituents fear for their families, homes and businesses, vulnerable to increasingly brazen criminals in a slap-on-the-wrist, revolving-door system. It is costing them enormously, financially and in their peace of mind. That is why, in 2018, I pushed Motion No. 167 to combat rural crime as an anxious rural resident and MP myself, and as the daughter-in-law of a proud RCMP detachment assistant for more than 40 years.
I know so many under-resourced officers, administrators and victim services advocates who are at their wits' end, just like rural residents who feel like sitting ducks.
In Lakeland, there are 10 first nation and Métis communities. As a person who happens to be part Ojibwa, my heart aches when they share their worries about pervasive crime, recidivism, safety and their youth. Multiple indigenous communities in Lakeland declared local states of emergency because of out-of-control gang activity and crime since 2015. They worry about the exact same shortages of front-line mental health, addictions and police support and services as everyone else in Lakeland and in Alberta. What a shame the Liberals did not actually act on my Motion No. 167, but Conservatives will not give up.
The Liberal approach to firearms is a complete failure. In Toronto, shootings are up 83% under the current Liberals, with 2020 the worst year on record. In the throne speech, a single sentence promised to control the flow of illegal guns into Canada, as if the Liberals have not been in government for the past five years. What is worse is that the knows mass confiscation of legal firearms will not reduce crime. Last year, about handguns, he said:
...that would be potentially a very expensive proposition...it would not in my opinion be perhaps the most effective measure in restricting the access that criminals would have to such weapons, because we’d still have a problem with them being smuggled across the border....
He is right. Where are the real resources and political will for front-line law enforcement and CBSA to tackle guns, organized crime and border smugglers, who are the main sources of firearms violence in Canada? Every dollar and every minute spent on this pointless and ineffective firearms ban could instead be used to go after criminals, who are not worried about filing paperwork and do not follow firearms laws already.
As for those who have been crime victims, I have walked their path. My lifelong and childhood best friend, the kind who is family, Dana Turner, was murdered in 2011 by a guy who also attacked an undercover cop and a prison cellmate. It is still seared into my mind: the desperation in looking for her, the hope that we would be wrong or that it was not what it seemed. I struggled through Dana's sister Paula's victim impact statement in Parliament to support life means life legislation, a Conservative bill the Liberals defeated in 2016. Later that same year, Dana's murderer was sentenced to prison for 16 years with no chance of parole. Two years ago, thank God, the appeal court upheld the judge's sentence. Dana was the victim of Mark Lindsay, but so were her parents, her sons, her siblings, every relative and her friends. As Paula generously said, so, even, were his parents because crime ricochets through so many lives and impacts so many people forever.
Canadians should not have to hold their breath and cross their fingers, hoping upon hope for exceptional lawyers, or that they can afford them, and for the grace of individual judges for justice to always be served. That is also why I am proud. Our new Conservative leader is committed to ensuring that even if someone is not criminally responsible they will not be a threat to the broader public. It is why we will keep calling on the Liberals to reverse their reduction of sentences for major offences, and I will ask for more action on dangerous offenders.
It is not just Canada's domestic security that is vulnerable on the Liberals' watch. The 's naive admiration of the “basic dictatorship” of China is also a threat. Canadians are still unjustly imprisoned in China. Whether it was the Nortel hack in the 1990s, the Equifax hack in 2017 or the BlackBerry hack discovered in 2020, they all trace back to one place: the Chinese Communist Party.
China's state agencies are stealing Canada's cutting-edge research and innovation and interfering with critical infrastructure like telecoms. The Five Eyes partnership is Canada's most important international security and intelligence-sharing agreement, but Canada is the only member to not ban Huawei. While the Liberals are dithering, our new Conservative leader is clear: He will not allow the Communist Party of China to spy on Canadians through Huawei. China's state-influenced companies are setting up massive databases to compromise influencers and decision-makers, including 16,000 Canadians, while it is using its financial power to expand and control crucial and physical infrastructure in other countries. Of course, China's state owned and affiliated enterprises are consolidating control of resources and resource producers, including Canada's, which are all the more vulnerable because of Liberal policies and the severe economic consequences of the pandemic.
In closing, the could have outlined a concrete plan to keep Canadians safe, to create jobs and to restart the economy. He did not, so I will vote no confidence in the government.
Madam Speaker, I am proud to be the voice for my constituents of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and, now, the new shadow minister of agriculture and agri-food on behalf of farmers and agricultural producers. It is a tremendous honour and responsibility that I do not take lightly.
Over the past several months, we have seen our country go through a lockdown, when Canadians were asked to stay at home and keep safe, except for those who worked on the front lines. I would like to take a moment to thank all of the front-line workers and the farmers for helping us through this pandemic. Farmers stepped up to make sure that Canadians were fed, regardless of the obstacles that they faced and the minimal help that they received through the emergency response programs. How were they repaid? The word “agriculture” does not even appear in the Speech from the Throne. I had hoped that the Liberal government would use this opportunity to recognize the importance of agriculture not only in feeding Canadians but as a critical pillar of our economy.
I am disappointed to see that, once again, the agriculture sector is not a priority for the government. Agriculture should be included as a key component of Canada's economic recovery plan coming out of COVID. To be honest, I was not expecting much, but at the very least, it would have been nice to hear that it is understood that our agriculture sector had been through a lot and that the unique challenges that threatened various farmers' livelihoods must be addressed. This would have gone a long way to tell my constituents and Canada's farmers that their voices have been heard. Admittedly, an ambitious plan that is responsive to the on-the-ground concerns before they metastasized into a food security crisis would have even been better.
Contrary to Liberal beliefs, food does not just magically appear on the shelves of our grocery stores. Farmers, ranchers and producers work tirelessly to ensure that Canadians have delicious, grown and raised-in-Canada food available to them on their grocery store shelves. When the pandemic initially hit, Canadians were caught by surprise and the instinct to stock up kicked in. For some reason, toilet paper was the first product on everyone’s list, but the reassurance that farmers and food producers were up to the task of feeding Canadians and that we were not in danger of running out of food was not front of mind.
It did not take long, however, for most to recognize how fragile our way of life is. I am grateful that Canadians do not have to worry about food availability on top of everything else, but it is the government’s responsibility to be aware of and to act proactively to ensure that Canada’s food security remains unthreatened in the years to come.
When it comes to actions, the Liberal government’s track record of responding to the on-the-ground realities have a lot to be desired. There is anxiety from across the agricultural community about competitiveness, market access, reduced production and processing capacity, just to name a few. I sincerely hope that the government’s actions will finally address its accumulating concerns, because if they do not, we may no longer be able to take for granted our current level of food security.
We must ensure that our local food production remains stable in the face of uncertainty. Our domestic demand must also be able to be sustained by local production. Anything short of that would be negligent. This year, 2020, has made it abundantly clear that when times are tough, we can only truly rely on our very own made-in-Canada safety net, so why is it that the concerns and calls for action from those who feed us so often fall on the deaf ears of the government? If the government truly recognized the fragility of our food security and was serious about protecting it, we would have seen it demonstrated with actions or, at the very least, with a promising throne speech.
It is sad to say that the throne speech did not provide much evidence that there was an epiphany on the government's part. Still, I am going to remain hopeful that Canada’s food security will not stay in the government’s blind spot for much longer and that we will soon witness a determination to do better. I truly hope that is the case and I welcome every opportunity to work collaboratively with the and members across party lines to create conditions where farmers can earn a living knowing that their government will have their backs if external factors outside of their control threaten their livelihoods.
The first step, which I am hopeful is a common-ground issue that we can get the ball rolling on right away, is modernizing the business risk management programs. The diversity of the agriculture sector requires a more flexible solution than we currently have. The obstacles are different for different producers.
The agriculture committee completed a study on business risk management and was ready to review the report right before Parliament prorogued. The FPT ministers meeting that was scheduled for October has now been moved to November, leaving time for the agriculture committee to resume its work on this report and get it to the minister ahead of these meetings.
It is important that industry works collaboratively with all levels of government so that we can soon find long-term solutions to better manage risks and provide real stability to a sector that contributes so much to our rural communities and our economy. Likewise, I am hopeful the government will recognize the urgent need to sit down with beef and pork producers and processors and find—
Madam Speaker, likewise, I am hopeful that the government will recognize the urgent need to sit down with beef and pork producers and processors to find actionable solutions to solve the processing capacity bottleneck, especially in Ontario.
Aside from the immediate reduction in food output, many farmers are worried that they will be pushed out of business if obstacles are not immediately removed. However, the message that was sent to farmers, with the pennies-on-the-dollar COVID-19 relief package, not only did not convey a sense of urgency, but proved yet again that farmers are not valued by the government.
Canada's farmers are some of the hardest working people I have ever met. They are proud people and would never ask for a handout, but during this pandemic they needed a hand-up. Existing programs are not enough. Neither was the so-called relief package, which was a drop in the bucket of what was required. Besides, a big chunk of that was not new money; it had already been budgeted under the existing AgriRecovery envelope prior to the pandemic. Family farms without a business account were not even able to take advantage of the Canada emergency business account loans when they needed them the most. The bottom line is the government was not there for our farmers while they were doing the incredible work of overcoming challenges to feed Canadians.
Unfortunately, the government's relationship with farmers does not stop with inaction. It is one thing to not help our farmers amid external forces of instability, but it is another thing entirely to have our government choose to inflict direct harm with destabilizing policies.
It is troubling that the government continues to add rather than remove obstacles with punitive schemes such as the carbon tax. The carbon tax is already a major cost for grain farmers. It is estimated that it will reduce their income by about 12% by 2022. There are only two options for drying grain: natural gas or propane. There are no alternatives. Whether they are from drying grain or heating barns, these costs are significantly adding up, and things will continue costing more and more, as the tax is scheduled to continue going up.
However, the ultimate impact of trying to phase out oil through these schemes, whether it punishes consumers or producers, is the inevitable rising costs of Canadian goods. This will make it impossible for our farmers to compete against foreign producers that are not subjected to these costs.
How many farmers will have to go out of business if they are stifled from being able to compete? The availability of food on our shelves today is not an accurate picture of tomorrow's food security. It is paramount that the government recognizes the consequences of the policies that push farmers out of business, because if the can is kicked down the road, the government will only have itself to blame for a failure to act proactively to secure our food supply.
Rural Canadians do not feel represented by the government. That is because they are not. It is, however, the responsibility of the government to at least make an effort to govern on behalf of all Canadians. If the Liberals did, they would not only talk about connecting rural Canadians to high-speed broadband, as they have for the last months and years, but would actually do it. They would recognize the amount of vetting that law-abiding firearms owners go through to get their licences and what hunting and sport shooting represents to our heritage, traditions and community. Likewise, they would understand just how many hoops farmers have to jump through and what it feels like to have a government this far removed from the issues that impact their livelihoods.
I urge the government to self-reflect and consider the long-term ramifications of pushing farmers away from doing what they love to do. I sincerely hope that upon reflection we can all come to the common understanding that the neglect of our agriculture sector and of rural Canadians—
Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the House and today is no exception.
It has been a very interesting time for all us, no matter where we live in Canada. I thought maybe I would share some thoughts with respect to contrast. It is not meant to scare people on what would have happened if the Conservatives were in government, but rather to put things in a different perspective.
First, in the last six months we have witnessed a great deal of co-operation, of people coming together to work. We often use the words “team Canada approach”. Led by the national government in Ottawa, we have seen a great sense of need to respond to the pandemic. Provincial governments, municipal governments, non-profit agencies, essential workers, a wide spectrum of people and organizations have recognized the need to work together. The only exception to that would probably be the Conservatives.
A great deal has been accomplished as a direct result. Millions of jobs have been saved and millions of people have been assisted directly. I thought it might be somewhat advantageous for us to spend some time talking about why it was so important for the government to be engaged so heavily on this file.
If we go back to the very beginning of 2020, the economy was doing quite well. Canada was very successful at excelling in a lot of things. The job numbers were fantastic. Members will recall that in our first four to four and a half years, the Liberal government created over one million jobs. We had the lowest unemployment. We were doing exceptionally well. It was not just because of the things we were doing in Ottawa, but what others were doing in all regions of the country. Some regions were finding it more difficult than others. The impact of the world price on oil did have an impact. Some things we did not necessarily have much control over. However, generally speaking, the economy and our communities were doing quite well.
When the pandemic came, it got to a point where we had to make the decision to shut things down. It was a wise decision. We listened to what the health care experts were saying. Science matters to this government. Listening matters to this government. When the decision was made, we understood that the government needed to step up and provide the types of supports Canadians would need in the coming days, weeks and months, and even beyond.
The has been very clear that we will be there for Canadians throughout this process. From day one, we have been. Remember, there was no such thing as a CERB program back in January. We created a program, with the support of civil servants and with an understanding of what we had been hearing, from virtually nothing. The program was so effective that well over eight million Canadians benefited from it. Canada has less than 37 million people. We can do the math.
It is interesting to hear the criticism coming from the Conservative party. They are saying that we are not doing enough. There is no doubt we can always do better, and we look for ways we can do better. Depending on which Conservative MP I am listening to, the government is spending far too much money and we should not be doing the things that we are doing, but then others say that maybe we should be doing some of the things that we are doing. The only consistent message from the Conservative party is that we, as a government, are spending too much money.
Therein lies the difference that we need to highlight. A Liberal government, and this in particular, genuinely believe that the last six months have been a time in which the government needed to step up and support families. It should not be an option, but if we listen to the Conservatives, we would think that there was an option. We believe that we need to put money into the pockets of Canadians throughout the country because of the many hardships caused directly by the pandemic. That is what CERB was all about. The CERB program was there to support Canadians when we had to support Canadians. It was the right thing to do.
Regarding the economy, obviously we are concerned about jobs. As I pointed out, in our first four years we created well over a million jobs. That is about the same number Harper created, but it took him nine or 10 years to achieve. The wage subsidy program has literally saved tens of thousands of jobs. It has prevented many companies across Canada from going bankrupt. It has allowed companies to keep jobs in their factories and places of employment that otherwise might not have been maintained. It not only protected jobs, but provided the money that was necessary for people to pay their mortgages, buy groceries, get gas for their vehicles or have day-in and day-out necessary expenditures and be able to continue on.
Those two programs affected a wide spectrum of Canadians, directly or indirectly. When we look at the throne speech, it shows us why it is laughable that the Conservatives or others would try to imply that the throne speech does not have a plan. In the throne speech we see the extension of the wage subsidy program. We see more in terms of how the CERB program is going to be incorporated, in a different form, into the employment insurance program. Those are substantial issues. We are talking about billions of dollars, not millions.
Within the throne speech, which was read just the other day, there is a litany of things to provide comfort and assurances to Canadians. This government is going to continue to be there for them in a very real and tangible way. We are going to continue to fight the COVID-19 virus for however long it takes, and we are going to be there to protect our economy and jobs. If we look at the commitments made in the throne speech, we find historic amounts of money allocated for job retraining. We recognize the value of changing skill sets and the need to upgrade one's skill set as the economy has changed.
The made reference to many things that now stand out, both positive and negative, because of the pandemic, and there are some things we can pick up from that.
Canadians love our health care system. In the throne speech, there is a reaffirmation of the pharmacare program. I know some would say we should implement it today. It is not quite as easy as that, because we have to work with the provinces. In order to maximize the benefit of a national pharmacare program, provinces have to work with the federal government.
It is discouraging for me when I hear Conservatives say that we should just give money to the provinces and that we should not interfere in what they believe the federal government should have no interest in. I believe the Conservatives, and their cousins in the Bloc, are wrong. I believe the Bloc does a disservice to Canadians when it advocates for just handing over cash to the provinces and that the federal government should have no role. However, I understand it. The said it quite well. The Bloc wants to see the destruction of Canada.
On the other hand, I do not quite understand why the Conservatives do not believe there is a stronger role for the federal government in ensuring that Canadians are getting what they want regarding health care. We have the Canada Health Act. I encourage Conservatives to read it. They will see there is an opportunity for Ottawa to contribute to the debate. It is not just about money, as the Conservatives tend to think it is.
I hope the Conservatives will start listening to their constituents on the very important issue of health care, because I believe a majority of Conservative voters who live in Winnipeg North would disagree with their twisted approach on the delivery of health care in our country. There are Conservatives who will support me because of their stance on health care.
At the end of the day—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Madam Speaker, I need to move on as there are a number of other points I want to make.
An issue in Winnipeg North, which I am sure is universal across the country, arose when classrooms and schools started back in September. There was a great deal of anxiety. Parents were debating whether they should send their children to school or hold the them back and wait and see.
A wonderful announcement came from the government of a $2 billion commitment to assist schools and help to get young people back to school. That went a long way to providing some comfort to constituents, teaching professionals and other stakeholders.
Similar to when we make reference to the issue of health care, the government has a responsibility to be there in that real, tangible way. One of those ways was the very positive and progressive announcement by the government of that $2 billion to help make young people feel more comfortable in getting back into the classroom as well as to support our teachers. I suspect that is something the Conservatives would have never supported. I do not hear them talking about it.
Initiatives that have been brought forward have had a very positive impact. Ottawa has worked with the provinces in a number of areas, such as supporting children in schools, pharmacare and health care. That is one of the reasons for the $19 billion safe restart agreement. Ottawa worked with the provinces and came up with an agreement. For example, Manitoba will almost triple the province's ability to test for COVID-19. The government will be there in a very tangible way to support our health care services.
I was quite encouraged when I saw the letter from the Premier of Manitoba, acknowledging how Manitoba would benefit from the restart agreement between Ottawa and the province. That type of cooperation makes a big difference. We have witnessed that virtually from day one.
We have had issues as MPs when we have been encouraged to provide that feedback directly. I have no doubt that MPs on all sides of the House listen to their constituents and ultimately bring forward, in the best way they can, their thoughts to the authorities, whether through a department or minister.
I was appreciative of the system we set up to allow Liberal members of Parliament the opportunity to raise issues every day for a period of time. We felt comfortable knowing that if we raised these issues in caucus, it would filter through to the ministries or the PMO. We were being listened to.
I suspect each party had its own mechanism to allow for that direct input. I appreciated the fact that the made it such a high priority for all members of Parliament, of whatever political party, to bring the ideas and thoughts of their constituents to the attention of the PMO, the ministries or whatever other mechanism an individual MP felt most comfortable with. I like to think that it had a profoundly positive impact on a number of programs that we brought in.
I can see that my time has run out. I will pick up on a couple of those points during questions and answers.
Madam Speaker, for the last six months we have faced a global challenge that for many of us is the worst we have ever seen in our lifetime. However, one thing we can say with a lot of confidence is that Canadians can be proud of how they have come together. We have seen examples, in communities in every part of Canada, of Canadians coming together to take care of their neighbours. We have shown that in hard times we take care of each other.
The pandemic has also shown us that when government does not act, there is a cost to neglect and a cost to inaction. Many of the lives lost in this pandemic were in long-term care homes. It is shameful to think that our seniors, elders and loved ones, the people who helped build this country and sacrificed so much, could not retire and live their lives in dignity and respect. They bore the brunt of COVID-19, and that has scarred our country.
We all deserve to know that our parents and grandparents are safe. We were shocked and appalled to see that the military had to be called in to care for our seniors in long-term care homes.
The army had to be sent in to our long-term care homes. Conditions were so bad that soldiers felt obligated to write a report on the many deficiencies.
There is no question that there needs to be more funding for long-term care homes to care for our seniors. However, there is a problem. If that funding goes to for-profit, long-term care homes, then it will end up in the pockets of shareholders and it will not end up caring for seniors.
While the Bloc talks about transfers as the only path forward, if profit remains in long-term care and the federal government transfers money into long-term care, would it not be irresponsible for that money to end up in shareholders' pockets, instead of caring for seniors? I will say it again: Profit has no place in our health care system and it has absolutely no place in caring for our seniors.
What COVID-19, this pandemic, has exposed is that our health care system has some serious gaps. It makes no sense that the quality of care received in this country depends on whether one has a job with benefits in order to be able to afford dental care or medication coverage. That makes no sense.
We know the Liberals now talk in the throne speech about accelerating pharmacare. They are not going to break any speed records. The Liberals have been promising pharmacare for decades. Simply putting in the word “accelerate” gives no confidence to the families that cannot find the means to buy the medication they need to stay healthy. This gives them no confidence. This gives them no sense of relief. People need to be able to get their medication without a credit card, but with their health card. People need to get it with their health cards and that is what we believe in.
Over the last several months, we have seen millions of Canadians lose their jobs. We have seen millions of Canadians who cannot go back to work. Through no fault of their own, COVID-19 has stopped their ability to work because there are no jobs left in many areas, such as tourism, hospitality and the service sector.
The Conservatives want these folks to just have nothing, no supports or help, when it is clear they cannot get back to work. The Conservatives would rather these folks just fend for themselves and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When one does not have a job to go back to, that is not good enough. It will not cut it. When someone is sitting at a kitchen table and has no job to go back to, that is when we take care of each other. Maybe the Conservatives do not believe that, but the New Democrats believe Canadians need to take care of each other when we are down and out, and that is what we are going to continue to fight for.
I want to remind folks that at the beginning of this pandemic, we were in this chamber and we knew that the pandemic was going to hit. We stood up time and again in this chamber and asked the Liberal government, and the directly, what the plan was to help workers who would lose their jobs. The response at the time was that they would waive some of the week's requirements so that people could apply for EI faster. I came back and said this was not good enough. The New Democrats said that EI only covers 40% of workers; the vast majority will be left behind. We fought and pushed, and we finally got the Liberals to agree to a program that helps all Canadians.
However, then they wanted to exclude people. We fought for a CERB that is universal. We got the CERB, but then they wanted to exclude people. The Liberal government's approach was designing a plan that excludes the people who do not need help, instead of trying to design a plan that does not leave the people who need help the most behind. That is the difference. Our focus has always been on getting help to people who need it and getting it to them as quickly as possible.
New Democrats fought and made a difference for Canadians throughout this pandemic. When the left out students, we fought for them and got them help. When the Prime Minister and the Liberal government forgot about and left out seniors, we fought for seniors and got them help. When the Liberal government left out people living with disabilities, we fought for them. When the government completely forgot and refused to provide paid sick leave, we fought for it and we are very hopeful we are close to achieving that now. Every time the Liberal government threatened to cut help to people, we fought back and told them not to cut help to people.
Even recently, the government was going to cut the help that families receive, families who cannot go back to work, by $400. Instead of the $2,000 that people are just getting by on, the Liberals were going to cut it to $1,600. We fought back and were able to maintain the $2,000. We fought for a wage subsidy that would ensure that workers would be able to stay at their jobs.
I want Canadians to know that we will keep fighting for them every step of the way.
The NDP has been fighting to help everyone in need. When the failed students, seniors, people with disabilities and workers, we fought for them. We fought for a wage subsidy so that people could keep their jobs and businesses could stay open. Every time he threatened to cut off the assistance people needed, we fought back.
We are now seeing numbers increasing. We are up against a second wave of the pandemic, and a lot of people are worried about potential shutdowns. If, in order to keep us safe, shutdowns happen again, it could mean more job losses. In the context of a second wave and the fear of a potential lockdown, people need to know that there will be help for them when and if they cannot work. Despite knowing this, and despite the government having shut down Parliament for almost two months, we still do not have a clear plan in place to make sure that we have a permanent safety net to support people when they need help.
Our employment insurance should have always been designed in a way that it covered all workers. That is what we are going to continue to fight for. This is not just temporary. We need an employment insurance program. We need safety nets to help all Canadians at any time they need help.
The Conservatives and others believe that to help people get back to work we have to make them desperate to go back to work. People want to work. People find dignity in work. If we make it safe to return and give people paid sick leave so they know they can take the time off they need to get well instead of going to work sick, people will work.
One of the best ways we can create jobs is to make investments that will help build a more sustainable economy, help create local jobs and help to fight the climate crisis. That is a New Democratic vision of how we can invest in an economy that works for everyone.
One of the most important things we can do with respect to investments, which I will continue to ask the Liberal government to do, is to invest in housing. We know this is a massive crisis in the country. Canadians cannot find a place to live. People could not find a place to live before the pandemic and now during the pandemic, this crisis has only become worse. We need to build housing.
The Liberals continue to make announcements about building housing, but the announcements do not make people better off. They do not give people a roof over their head. We need to see the dollars flowing for affordable housing. We know that if we build affordable housing that has a low carbon footprint, we not only help create jobs locally and ensure people have a place to call home, but it also helps fight the climate crisis.
Retrofitting homes is something we have campaigned on before, something we have long called for, and this could be a way for us to have a just recovery. If we, as a country, decided to invest in retrofitting all buildings and homes, we could lower the cost of heating and cooling them, which would make life more affordable. We could create jobs locally in communities across the country. We could do our part to fight the climate crisis. That is a vision of how we could move forward.
Many of our colleagues have raised this concern when we have talked about housing. They have talked about the impacted communities across our country, people from all walks of life who cannot find housing. We have to highlight our indigenous communities in particular, urban and on reserve, and our northern communities. These are some of the hardest hit communities that have seen the least investment in housing and whose situation right now is so critical. These are people who cannot find a place to live. There is overcrowding and that means the lives of people are being impacted. It hurts their health. We have to do better.
When it comes to housing, the Liberal government and previous Conservative governments have failed indigenous people. Here is an opportunity to turn that around. Let us make the right investments now and lift people up. Let us build quality housing across our country, particularly recognizing the historic injustice faced by indigenous people. Let us build housing for indigenous people in the north, Let us support leaders who have solutions for their communities. They need an ally and partner. Let Ottawa be a partner to support the building of affordable housing.
While we are dealing with this pandemic crisis, we still face a number of crises. Despite the fact that we are really focused on COVID-19, as we should be, there are still other crises surrounding us. One of the most prevalent, the most pressing is the climate crisis.
We see climate fires in B.C. They have made the air quality in the Lower Mainland, in my riding of and in surrounding cities in Vancouver and Surrey, so bad that it is among the worst of all major cities in the world. People were faced with the dilemma of opening windows for better ventilation or closing windows because the air coming in made it hard for people to breathe. This is COVID-19 and the climate crisis meeting each other at the same moment. While we fight COVID-19 crisis, we cannot forget the climate crisis.
What has been the 's response to the climate crisis? He bought a pipeline. His government has not yet reduced emissions. It has not taken any concrete action to meaningfully reduce emissions nor meet any of the targets. It is meaningless to set targets just to miss them. What is the point of setting a target if no accountability is in place to ensure we actually meet those targets?
We know that for a lot of families one of the biggest concerns in this pandemic is their children. They are worried about their kids. They are worried about them being safe. If we want a recovery, if we want to be able to invest in our economy in a way that people can return to work, then we need to invest in child care. There can be no recovery without child care, particularly given the fact that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women.
People have referred to the recession and the loss of jobs as a “she-cession”, and the fact that we need a focused “she-covery”. It has to be a recovery that acknowledges the gendered impact of COVID-19, and that means investing massively in child care. It does not mean another empty promise.
Those who were kids the last time the Liberals promised child care have now grown up and are having kids of their own, and there is still no child care. There have been consecutive Liberal governments, majority Liberal governments, that have had the opportunity to do this time and time again. To show members the cynicism of the Liberals, they will cry out and say that they had one chance to make it, and try and blame it on someone else, despite the countless majorities that they have had. Despite the fact that they just recently had a majority government, they will try to blame others. It is the height of Liberal cynicism.
The reality is that people do not want to hear this government blaming others. If the Liberals are in power, it is their responsibility to get it done. Families want to know that they can count on affordable, quality child care that is universally accessible across the country. That is what we need.
Quebec has felt the impact of the Liberal and Conservative cuts to health transfers. During this pandemic, we saw how these cuts created a long-term care system in which many private facilities are cutting corners to make a profit. Hundreds of seniors have died as a result.
Women have borne the brunt of this pandemic. Desperate people are struggling to make ends meet while the rich get richer. Small businesses are shutting down while the Amazons and Facebooks of the world are making record profits. This needs to change, and it needs to change now.
Now is not the time for jurisdictional squabbling. It is time to work together to fix these problems once and for all. While people are dying, the Bloc Québécois is going on about petty squabbles and choosing not to work together to solve problems.
If the 's Liberals are willing to stop putting their friends and the ultra-rich first, we are willing to work with them to rebuild a better, fully public health care system in which the government pays its fair share and Quebeckers have access to fully public pharmacare; to create a society in which safe, affordable housing is available to all; to create a future in which young people have employment and career prospects that are just as bright as their parents had; and to have a federal government that tackles the climate crisis with a will to win, instead of buying pipelines and subsidizing big oil.
That is the NDP's fairer and more egalitarian vision.
I will wrap up by saying that we have a lot of priorities in front of us, a lot of problems in front of us, but one of the things I want to make clear is that, in the recovery and rebuild, once we get past this pandemic and past the second wave, it cannot be working-class families, small businesses and everyday people who pay the price of the recovery. It has to be the wealthiest, those who have profited off of this pandemic, those at the very top, who pay for the recovery. That is what New Democrats are going to fight for.
The Liberals are afraid to say the words. The throne speech says the Liberals will “tax extreme wealth inequality”. I do not know how one taxes inequality, but I certainly know that we can tax wealth. New Democrats are committed to making sure that the wealthiest pay their share, that there is a wealth tax, that we ask those who have fortunes of over $20 million to pay their fair share, that we end offshore tax havens, and that we make sure the recovery is paid for by those who have profited and those who have the means to do so. That is what New Democrats believe in.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
As we safely restart our economy in the midst of a global health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform Canadian society. Since a vaccine is probably still a few months away, the fight against this virus is far from over, and we simply cannot afford to lose any ground. The Speech from the Throne clearly stated that the federal government's number one job is to keep Canadians healthy while building a more resilient economy. Those two priorities go hand in hand.
As the Speech from the Throne indicated, our government's first priority will always be the health and well-being of Canadians. We must crush COVID and breathe life back into the health of our economy.
Our government continues to focus on limiting the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis by maximizing our chances of defeating the virus and to do this, we need Canadians to be ever more disciplined, to be even more respectful of public health guidelines. We all have a role and we are all key players in the team Canada approach.
We need our government to keep doing what we are doing: supporting Canadian research and biomanufacturing, working closely with researchers and scientists to better understand the COVID-19 virus, investing in the development of several promising vaccine candidates and ensuring that we can manufacture and distribute enough vaccine to as many Canadians as possible, as quickly as possible. This is what we have been doing and that is a key focus of the Speech from the Throne. We have signed agreements in principle with so many leaders in vaccine development, following the recommendations from the non-partisan COVID-19 vaccine task force.
The late John Turner once said that life is like a trust and everyone has a fiduciary obligation to give back what one has received from it. Our government knows that now is the time to give back to Canadians, to give back to Canadians particularly who are suffering. It is our fiduciary obligation to secure access to safe vaccines for Canadians, vaccines that will be subjected to rigorous Health Canada assessment and approval processes. We are fulfilling this fiduciary obligation to Canadians.
The also announced funding for the creation of a new biomanufacturing facility at the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre in Montreal. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, I am delighted that this will guarantee our country's ability to produce enough supplies of vaccine for Canadians who need them, such as front-line workers, those working in long-term care and the most vulnerable.
A COVID-19 vaccine is vital if we are to put an end to this pandemic, fully restart our economy and build our resilience. We will move forward by adopting a sustainable approach to our economic recovery. We will work tirelessly to achieve our goals.
Many Canadians have gone back to work, but others are struggling and do not know whether they will keep their jobs if the crisis continues. We understand these fears and we are determined to help Canadians keep their jobs while addressing the many inequalities faced every day by people of colour, indigenous populations and other vulnerable groups.
This is exactly why the Speech from the Throne makes clear our intention to extend the Canada wage subsidy until the summer of 2021 and to reform the employment insurance system to protect all Canadians. We must, we are and we will continue to support all Canadians through this dual health and economic crisis. This is precisely what the Speech from the Throne states.
We must govern with a laser-like focus on the present every day for Canadians, but we also owe it to present and future generations, especially to our children, to the youngest generation, to govern through COVID-19 and rebuild with a view to the reality of climate change. Our government's Speech from the Throne does just that.
We will not fall victim to what some have called the tragedy of the horizon by losing sight of that other global crisis: climate change. We can, and will, govern with both eyes focused simultaneously on the present COVID-19 crisis and on building back a cleaner, more competitive and inclusive Canadian economy. As the recently commented, just because we are in a health crisis does not mean we can neglect an environmental crisis: a climate crisis for which we all know there is no vaccine.
Canadians are looking to our government to build back in a way that considers human and economic health in light of the impacts of climate change. As the Speech from the Throne clearly indicates, we are doing just that. We are building on important measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, maximize efficiency and energy conservation, and we are driving the transition to a clean economy, offering job opportunities for Canadian workers and businesses in every region and every industry. For five years, while public debate was consumed with polarized, partisan rhetoric on carbon prices and pipelines, our government implemented many low-carbon industrial policy shifts and ramped up clean technology investments by 50% at Sustainable Development Technology Canada. It is one of our government's most positive climate action stories that no one seems to have heard about. From phasing out coal-fired electricity and moving toward banning single-use plastics to preparing national building code reforms and offering a $5,000 electric vehicle rebate, more changes are on the way to deliver a path to net zero emissions by 2050.
Of course we need to do more, and we will. We will continue to invest historic amounts in both basic and applied scientific research, including COVID and climate science, within the federal government and post-secondary institutions. As the Speech from the Throne clearly commits, in the upcoming parliamentary session we will deliver on our commitments to enact climate legislation with binding five-year targets to meet and exceed our Paris targets for 2030. We will also legislate Canada's goal of net zero emissions by 2050. This is climate action. We will also table legislation to tighten federal regulation of toxic substances.
I look forward to the right to a healthy environment being enshrined in Canadian law once and for all. We will keep putting a price on pollution while putting that money right back in the pockets of Canadians. It cannot be free to pollute. The government will ban single-use plastics, as previously mentioned, and we need to make sure we have the best science behind it so the decisions to do so will not be overturned in Canadian courts. All of this will drive market opportunities and job creation in the green economy, further enabling our economic recovery.
As part of the plan we announced in the throne speech, the Government of Canada will take the following measures: It will create thousands of jobs retrofitting homes and buildings, cutting energy costs for Canadian families and businesses; invest in reducing the impact of climate-related disasters, like the floods that affected my constituents in Pontiac, to make communities more resilient; help deliver more public transit and active transit options, which will help the tourism and recreational tourism industries in the Outaouais and across Canada; make zero-emission vehicles more affordable and accessible; invest in more research infrastructure across the country; and support investments in renewable energy and next-generation clean energy and technology solutions.
Our government will ensure Canada is the most competitive jurisdiction in the world for clean technology companies.
In conclusion, the Speech from the Throne has charted a solid path forward. We will protect Canadians' health, preserve jobs and focus on the crisis of COVID here and now, while not losing focus on the climate crisis we must tackle for the future.