The House resumed from January 25 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with Canada's favourite grandfather: the member for . I would remind him of the Speaker's stern warnings not to show any pictures or props of grandchildren. That would be completely inappropriate.
It is my honour to rise again virtually to speak to Bill . The Liberal government's failure to protect Canadians and the Canadian economy, by approving and acquiring rapid tests and by securing vaccine doses on time, has put us at risk. Of course, the impact on the health of Canadians is the most significant impact, but the issues for the Canadian economy are very serious. Our unemployment rate is among the worst in the G7. Our GDP is continuing to lag behind most other industrialized economies'.
If Canadians can return safely to work, they will. They will re-energize our economy and bring energy and jobs flooding back to our economy, but the question is whether there will be jobs for them to return to by the time the vaccine rollout is completed, without a plan for the economy. A plan is more than just a willingness, a desire or dream to spend $100 billion. It is an actual plan. Without that plan, the answer to that question may be no, which would be tragic.
The fiscal update did not provide any concrete answers on how we can recover from the millions of jobs we lost in the pandemic or how we can emerge as one of the world's economic leaders as we did so famously after the great recession. We led the global economy out of that most terrible recession. We need a plan that builds on Canada's proven areas of economic strength, such as energy, manufacturing and information technology. Now is not the time for grand experiments or radical transformations. We need to rely on the reliable, relentless power of our workers, business owners and free-market enterprise.
The fiscal update and Bill do nothing to put in the conditions required to empower our workers and job creators to bring prosperity back to our wonderful land. While the fiscal update has little direction, it does have a lot of spending. What the Liberal government is ostensibly asking for is a $500 billion blank cheque. That is a tremendous amount of money. What has the Liberal government done to deserve a rise in the debt threshold to $1.8 trillion? I will repeat that: $1.8 trillion.
During the pandemic, Liberals have spent the most and gotten the least. We are outpacing all of our G7 counterparts with respect to deficit spending; however, our GDP growth and unemployment rates are among the worst in our peer group. What have the Liberals done to develop and build this trust, to raise the debt ceiling to $1.8 trillion? We have seen repeated violations of Canadians' trust. From the WE scandal to the SNC-Lavalin affair, we have seen breach after breach of Canadians' trust.
In fact, unbelievably, at the beginning of the pandemic the Liberals exploited the crisis to attempt to obtain an unlimited and unfettered ability to tax and spend. What is more, the , who said she does not believe in projections, says she will not limit the Liberal government's spending with a fiscal anchor. The fiscal anchor is of course meant to protect the government's finances and protect future generations from an excessive burden of debt.
The does say she is putting up guardrails. With respect, Canada's national debt is now over $1 trillion. Our deficit in 2019-20 is going to be over $400 billion. We do not need guardrails. The car is already in the ditch. We need a plan to get out of the ditch. The audacity of asking for $500 billion of additional borrowing authority, given the government's pathetic record of reckless spending and financial mismanagement, is nothing short of shocking.
Before Canadians can be asked to assume more debt, the government must create a credible economic recovery plan: a path back to fiscal sustainability. To give the government a $500 billion blank cheque would not just be reckless. It would be negligent. Our Conservative Party believes that Canadians, including those not yet born, deserve the opportunity to be prosperous. The government is putting this aspiration at risk.
We need to see legislation from the government that offers stability, confidence and compassion. Unfortunately, Bill offers a lot of spending and a lot of debt, without building the framework for security and prosperity.
Madam Speaker, we are speaking on Bill , and I want to thank my hon. colleague from . He reminded me of my beautiful granddaughter, and I know I am not allowed to show those photos, so I will not do that again, but if any of my colleagues want to see them, I can do that. We are here to actually speak on serious terms, but I have to say that in troubling times and challenging times, my granddaughter and my family, and all our families, bring us back and remind us what is truly important.
I want to remind Canadians that it has been almost two years since we have had a federal budget. Unbelievably, and through good faith, our Liberal colleagues in the government have had an unprecedented amount of autonomy with their spending, based on goodwill and good faith collaboration from the opposition. When Canadians needed help the most, the opposition and all parties came together and dropped partisan politics, and we worked together in a team Canada approach. Sadly, we have seen that the Liberals have failed Canadians once again. They blew it, and today they are asking for another $500 billion. They want us to just trust them. They know what is best for Canadians.
It is disappointing. Our colleague from mentioned Jackie, his constituent, and her small home-based business that is struggling. As our colleague from mentioned, there are thousands of Jackies right across our country who are failing, whose businesses have been shuttered and have closed their doors. They are facing financial hardship. A Liberal talking point is that they are investing in Canadians. Today, I am going to highlight some of the businesses in my riding that the Liberals have absolutely failed. While I will mention only a few, due to the time that I have to highlight them, I can tell members there are literally thousands of businesses right across our country that have fallen through the cracks and been left behind due to the Liberals' lack of a plan to get relief to those Canadians who need it the most.
Roy Call is a constituent of mine I have known since I was in high school. Roy's family operates C+ Rodeos in my riding. It is among the top 10 rodeo stock providers in our country. The family has worked and built this operation for over 35 years. Three generations of the family work their ranch. Their stock has been bred for over 35 years and sadly, they have fallen through the cracks. They are among those tourism or events-based businesses that have absolutely fallen through provincial relief programs and federal programs. Repeatedly, we have brought the situations of C+ Rodeos and others to the government and the ministers, trying to work collaboratively with them on that team Canada approach that they so desperately want to foist back on the opposition, saying we should work together.
Sadly, today if Roy and his family do not receive any help, they have to downsize. In a rodeo performance-based business, what does downsizing mean? It means euthanizing perfectly good, healthy rodeo stock animals. I do not think anybody wants to see us get to that point. That is where we are, with business people having to make those hard decisions.
I also want to talk about Central Display, an events-based business, and Jack and Sheldon. They go from community to community and help put on those events that are such economic drivers that our small communities depend on, such as conferences and other events. They provide the resources and services for those events to be put on. When they go into these communities, they temporarily hire local staff. They teach them a skill and hire them to actually provide the services in those communities. They work with dry grad groups and support special groups, like the women's hockey team in Smithers, British Columbia. However, in 2020, they lost in excess of $650,000 and are projected to lose up to $1 million in just the first six months of 2021.
These are real numbers. The government is asking for more money and it says it wants to invest in Canadians, but that money is not getting to where it is needed the most.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with a lady who was celebrating her 100th birthday, Margaret Sweder. I phoned her to congratulate her on her 100th birthday, and she told me that she was just missing the simple things, like a hug. She is a sweet lady and very sharp. She said that it was the first time she had a call from Ottawa that she actually wanted to take. She thought it was the tax man who was calling. I gave her a virtual hug and made a date with her for tea when the “COVID thing”, as she called it, ceases to exist.
These are the real stories that I am not sure those across the way get. I could go on about the failed vaccine promises that the Liberals have mentioned. Yet again, we know they have let Canadians down.
Unbelievably, throughout this pandemic the Liberals have taken the opportunity for pet projects. Unbelievably as well, what they want to do is shutter airport towers just when we need them the most. In our critical time for recovery, they want to shutter airport towers in places like Prince George, my riding, where we have the third-longest runway in Canada. We are part of the northern corridor project and part of the Asia-Pacific gateway. They want to take a key economic driver in our region and shutter the doors. How blind are they?
The government comes to us, the opposition, to say “Just work with us.” Trust is not just given; it is earned. Respect is not just given; it is earned. Time and time again what we see is that they just do not get it. We see a lot of sabre-rattling where the threatens the opposition with going to an election and talks about a confidence vote. Let me be very clear: The only person who wants an election right now and wants to send Canadians to the polls is the Prime Minister. The rest of us are concerned about our constituents, about the fact that it is unsafe and we are seeing increased closures and quarantine measures.
This brings me to a very important point, and I want to thank my colleague from for bringing this up yesterday. He pointed out that there is a very human toll to what is going on here. He said, “The University of Calgary published a study recently showing that there is a two percentage point increase in suicides for every one percentage point increase in unemployment. Imagine the human cost of 7% unemployment.” We also know that substance and alcohol abuse grows with unemployment. Increased isolation and anxiety have led to increased suicide and domestic violence crises.
We have to do more. Sadly, what we have seen is that the Liberals have left Canadians behind. They have blown it.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from this morning.
It is great to see the Speaker and all of our colleagues, despite this being in a virtual setting. It is the world we are living in right now.
Today I have the privilege of speaking to Bill . For those sitting at home, this means the implementation of commitments that were made by our government in the fall economic statement. What I hope to do with my time here today is talk about those commitments and how they relate to what I have heard in my constituency of Kings—Hants and in Nova Scotia, and talk a bit about where I see the future in terms of our economic recovery.
I will first talk about support announced in the fall economic statement that is part of this bill. There are $1,200 to help support children under six years old in households that are making under $120,000 a year. I cannot say how much I have heard on the doorsteps in my riding of Kings—Hants about the power and benefit of the Canada child benefit and what it has meant for low- and medium-income households to have a little extra money at the end of the month to buy healthy groceries and make sure their dependants have opportunities in recreation, arts and different activities.
In Kings—Hants alone, though I do not have the exact number, I believe the program means that $15 million or $16 million a month go to my riding. My hon. predecessor, Scott Brison, talked about what this program meant for the people in Kings—Hants and, indeed, across the country. Every member of Parliament in this House could speak about the importance of what this program means. It is a temporary measure. It is $1,200 for 2021, recognizing the fact that families are going through challenges right now and we need to be there for them as a government. It is certainly something I applaud as a parliamentarian, and I expect that all members of the House can speak about the benefit of what this represents.
I turned 30 not too long ago. I am one of the youngest members in the House and the youngest in the governing party, and I am not too far removed from my days in university. I was fortunate to attend Saint Mary's University in Halifax and Dalhousie for a law degree, and I can say that the cost of education is a challenge for many individuals. I still hold student debt. We need to make sure we are helping to protect those students, in particular, who are most vulnerable. Right now, as I understand it, as part of this bill, 1.4 million Canadian students will not have interest accrue on their student loans during this time. That is extremely important. We know that we need to support our next generation of young workers and leaders in our country, and I certainly applaud the government in this direction.
I want to talk about long-term health care. In my part of the country, in Nova Scotia, we have seen the challenges in Northwood. There were 51 deaths in long-term care in Northwood. We have seen challenges across the country, in Quebec and Ontario in particular. I have heard from constituents in my riding who reached out to me to say that we need to do more on long-term care, that the federal government needs to be willing to help step up and support, and that is exactly what we announced in the fall economic statement.
We have dedicated over $500 million to help support the provinces and territories in battling COVID and making sure measures are in place. We know there are probably longer-term conversations that need to happen around long-term care, but this is a meaningful step in the right direction. We recall that during the height of the pandemic, when premiers and provincial governments called upon the Canadian Armed Forces to intervene and help support, we were there to make sure that happened.
Through the safe restart program, $19 billion went to the provinces and municipal governments to help support them through some of the most challenging times in the pandemic. This is another demonstration of the work this government has been doing to support the provinces and territories, particularly in an area that is extremely important, which of course is long-term care.
There are also $133 million allocated in Bill for virtual care. As chair of the rural caucus, I know that for some of our most rural and remote communities having access to care may not allow for a direct relationship. We may in some cases need to be able to access tools and technologies, very similar to the way we are running a national Parliament right now on a Zoom call. We can make sure that telemedicine and telehealth options are available. Given the pandemic, this is extremely important as an interim measure, but in the days ahead it is going to be even more important moving forward.
The final piece I want to talk about in the key points I wanted to highlight in this bill is a change under the ability for business owners to access the rent subsidy. Before Christmas, the , through I think Bill , announced changes on the wage subsidy to help support businesses and simplify support for rent for businesses. This was extremely important in my community of Kings—Hants.
I live in an area called East Hants about half an hour outside of Halifax. Although Nova Scotia has been spared and we have worked collectively to avoid some of the case counts we have seen across the country, there was a rise in cases just before Christmas that required significant shutdowns, particularly for restaurants and hospitality organizations. This was something they were able to take advantage of. The provision under this act allows them to access the benefit before rent is actually due, which is extremely important because we know cash flow for businesses is challenging, particularly in the hospitality and restaurant sectors.
I have had the chance to listen in on this debate, which was happening yesterday, and will continue today and I believe tomorrow as well. I want to point something out. I have heard members of the opposition talk about the debt. As someone who considers himself a business Liberal and who certainly appreciates that we have to be fiscally prudent, I recognize that is not a bad direction, but it is hypocrisy.
There are members in this House who, in one sense, talk about the debt, which is a valid concern and we have to be mindful about managing that in the days ahead, but then in the other sense, they say this government has not done enough. In one breath they say we have taken on too much debt and are concerned about it, and then in the next breath they talk about all the measures the government should have taken further.
I would like to ask my Conservative colleagues across the way which it is. Is it that they are concerned about the debt and we should not have taken as much on, or is it that we need to do even more for our businesses? Most Canadians at home are going to recognize that talking out both sides of their mouths is hypocrisy.
I want to finish by talking about where we are going. Yesterday, the member for talked about the concern with rising debt levels. I agree with him that we need a strong economic strategy on the other side. We have a budget that will be forthcoming, I suspect, in the next couple of months. Our government is focused on ways to drive economic recovery. We have talked about providing up $70 billion to $100 billion of temporary economic stimulus.
The has been quite clear, both in this House and outside, that her focus will be on those temporary measures. We have to be mindful of adding large structural spending that is not sustainable over the long term. I applaud her in that regard. Our government is going to have a strong plan to be able to bounce back and manage the debt load by growing our economy. That is traditionally how all countries of the world have been able to do this: growing their economy to be able to make the proportion of the debt to their economy go down and down. That was certainly the case before the pandemic, as we had the lowest unemployment in 40 years and a lowering debt-to-GDP ratio.
I want to put on the record some things I think are going to be important in the days ahead. The first is child care. This is not just an idea of social programming anymore, this is beneficial. Economists and business leaders around the world are talking about the importance of child care to help support parents getting back into the workplace. That is certainly something we need to see in the days ahead.
The second is agriculture. As the chair of the rural caucus, the agriculture industry in Canada is extremely important to me. It represents over $130 billion to our GDP and we are poised to be able to grow even further. I hope to see in the days ahead our government leveraging that industry for success.
I will finish with a few others such as natural resources, particularly our forest industry. I look to British Columbia around mass timber and the success it is having in being able to drive innovative practices and sustainable business practices for our forestry sector. On the Atlantic and the Pacific in our coastal communities, small craft harbours is an extremely important program to help support our fishing community.
The final point is on regulatory reform and modernization. We are talking a lot about spending, which is important. We are following other OECD countries. We also have to look at ways to leverage the private sector to be able to let it grow and create jobs, and so we have to be creative in the days ahead as well.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start off by wishing my colleagues a very safe and happy new year. The COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented stress and hardship on Canadians, from small business to long-term care homes and front-line and essential workers. Every Canadian has a story to share of how this pandemic has impacted them. Constituents in my riding of Brampton East are concerned about their businesses, the safety of their workers or simply when they can pay a visit to loved ones they have not physically seen in months.
For said reasons and countless others, the federal government has committed to the implementation of a strong and robust recovery plan presented by our through the fall economic statement. Our government's message is clear: We will do whatever it takes to protect the health and safety of Canadians for as long as it takes.
This message extends to our commitment to strengthen the economy by creating one million good jobs, investing in training and skills, creating valuable opportunities for youth and investing in green technologies to help combat climate change. This is a critical component in providing Canadians the support they need in Bill . The economic statement implementation act would help put into action what the fall economic statement set out to do, which is supporting middle-class families, helping students manage their debt and investing in resources that will help better protect Canadians and the economy.
Amendments to the Income Tax Act will mean that families entitled to the Canada child benefit will receive additional temporary support of up to $1,200 for each child under the age of six. Families have had to transition their entire household routines in order to accommodate more time being spent at home, which means facilitating extra child care, buying additional school supplies to aid in virtual learning or simply helping with the cost of raising a family.
Throughout 2020, our government saw that families needed our help, which is why we stepped up to provide an extra one-time $300 payment in May and increased the Canada child benefit payment amounts in July. The proposed temporary $1,200 support for families is an increase of almost 20% over the maximum annual CCB payment. Our goal for a stronger and more resilient middle class involves ensuring that families have the resources they need in order to help nourish and support their children's futures. This plan includes a Canada-wide early learning child care program that will help ease the burden of arranging affordable child care. We know that this pandemic has disproportionately affected women. Doing better is not simply a choice, it is a responsibility that this government takes very seriously.
We will continue to support Canadian students. Our government plans to eliminate the repayment of the federal portion of the Canada student loans and apprenticeship loans from April 2021 to March 2022. Students in Canada can feel a sense of relief once these measures are in place to help them manage their student debt. This investment will help 1.4 million Canadian students who are trying to achieve higher education and ultimately begin their careers. I have listened to their experiences. I know that this support is essential. By easing the federal interest portion of student debt, we are allowing students the opportunity to focus on working toward their career goals and not being worried about incurring additional debt.
We also provided financial support to post-secondary students and recent post-secondary and high school graduates who were unable to find work last summer due to COVID-19. Eligible students received $1,250 for a four-week period for a maximum of 16 weeks between May 10 and August 29, 2020. Those with a disability or dependants also received an extra $750.
Most post-secondary students in my riding were unable to access the Canada emergency student benefit and are very positive toward our government's support for students, including the doubling of the Canada student grant amount to a maximum of $6,000 in response to the increased need for the 2020-21 school year.
Our government is actively creating opportunities for youth, whether that be through the investments of over $300 million into the Canada summer jobs program or the youth employment and skills strategy investment. These investments help young Canadians gain practical experience and make meaningful connections in the workplace. Students need our help. They have adapted to new learning methods and have overcome tremendous adversity during these troubling times, which is why our government is here to lend a helping hand.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put immense strain on our health care systems. The amendments made to Bill mean that we can help better protect those most vulnerable, like seniors, by investing through the new safe long-term care fund. This funding will help prevent and manage outbreaks in long-term care homes, which will ultimately help save lives.
The heartbreak and fear that many Canadians have felt knowing that they have a loved one living in a long-term care home or, God forbid, losing someone to the virus are all too common. We will also be establishing a new national standard for long-term care facilities to ensure that none of our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles or friends must endure a substandard level of care. No person deserves that. Amending the Food and Drugs Act means that we can increase our investments in order to support access to virtual health tools, mental health supports and substance use programming.
Asking Canadians to stay at home can impact the mental health of so many. Restricting social interaction for long periods of isolation and job anxiety can take a toll on people's mental health. As the government, we want to make sure that every Canadian has access to the supports they need.
As we begin this new year, there is a great sense of hope among Canadians. This sense of hope was created by the hard work that was put into composing the largest vaccine portfolio in the world. I was excited to hear that all the long-term care homes in the region of Peel have received doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a government, we will continue to ensure that our vaccine rollout happens as efficiently as possible. We will also continue to prioritize those who are at high risk of or vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
The amendments made in Bill under the Food and Drugs Act will help our government increase funding to support testing, vaccine procurement and distribution, as well as isolation sites. In November, the federal government, in collaboration with various levels of government, granted $6.5 million to establish an isolation centre for residents of Peel, in my riding of Brampton East, and throughout the region, to isolate safely if they cannot do so safely at home.
It is imperative that the messaging we continue to convey to Canadians is that we will support them for as long as it takes. That means including investments, such as the one proposed in the fall economic statement, which will help upkeep our efforts for medical research, countermeasures and rapid testing, and ensure that every Canadian can receive the vaccine.
Adapting to new research and trusting the science our health officials advise us on is how we can best protect the health and safety of Canadians. That is why investing in research is so critical under the presented amendments of Bill .
The Canadian economy cannot function without the success of our small businesses across the country. Unfortunately, this pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on the ability of our small businesses to succeed. They account for over 90% of all businesses in Canada, and our economy cannot afford to stand back and allow businesses to close their doors. We must continue to provide a prudent fiscal plan that helps businesses stay viable and keeps employees on the payroll.
The Canada emergency rent subsidy saw over 20,000 organizations apply within the first four days of the application period. As a government, we are also cognizant of employees who have seen a reduction in their working hours or have been told not to come into work. Therefore, supports such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy have been extremely important to small businesses and their employees.
In my riding of Brampton East, I had the pleasure of speaking with various small business owners who were able to access both programs. I spoke with Mr. Dheri, the general manager of a local Turtle Jack's restaurant, who was thankful to have access to the Canada emergency wage subsidy so that he could keep his employees on the payroll. His is one of the over 350,000 small businesses across Canada accessing the Canada emergency wage subsidy program.
We want small businesses to be able to open back up once it is safe to do so. As we continue to fight COVID-19, our government will be there for Canadian small businesses every step of the way, so we can safely rebuild our economy and make us stronger than ever before.
While speaking to constituents, I have heard first-hand their concerns surrounding climate change and the state our children and grandchildren will inherit. Our fall economic statement represents actionable steps and investments to tackle these concerns. By taking steps to making homes greener and more energy efficient, Canadians can reduce their carbon footprint while lowering their energy bills.
Our government's efforts to establish a network of zero-emission vehicle charging stations across the country in convenient locations, including where we work, live and travel, will help accelerate the use of zero-emission vehicles. We will build on current investments and zero-emission vehicle infrastructure by providing an additional $150 million over three years to help ensure that charging stations are available and conveniently located where and when they are needed. This is on top of the 500 electrical vehicle charging stations at more than 250 locations across Ontario announced last year. Brampton is currently home to many electrical vehicle charging stations, and I look forward to welcoming many more.
Building back our economy requires a jump-start of investments to help stimulate growth once we get through this pandemic. As we stated in the fall economic statement in November, the federal government will invest billions of dollars over three years to help make this happen. The amendments proposed will help our government continue to make investments in resources to best manage the pandemic and support the recovery of our economy.
As I said before, there is a sense of hope among Canadians. We will continue to roll out and distribute vaccines over the coming months, and Canadians will be ready to return to a sense of normality. We must support these hopes and ensure that the economy, and Canadians' return, is adaptive, innovative and strong.
A lot of changes have happened this year due to COVID-19. Working from home has now become common practice among businesses. Students have adapted to online learning, and businesses have amplified their online capacities. The decisions and amendments that we decide on as members of Parliament will allow positive change to come to fruition. It will help us save lives, improve mental health supports, help middle-class families and create a more inclusive economy and society for all. Let us continue to move forward together.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from .
I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill , which implements certain provisions of the economic statement of November 30, 2020, including adjustments to child benefits and the emergency rent benefit, as well as provisions affecting student loan interest. It also puts certain provisions in place to facilitate the importing of foreign COVID-19 vaccines.
I would like to comment on some of the bill's measures. It is normal to want to support students during this crisis. However, we must remember that Quebec has its own loan and bursaries program. We must therefore ensure that these measures will not put Quebec students at a disadvantage.
Two provisions of the bill will help expedite the distribution in Canada of COVID-19 vaccines produced abroad, but there is still nothing to facilitate local production. That would require reintroducing the amendments to the Patent Act that the government introduced in the spring but ultimately allowed to die on the Order Paper on September 30.
The delayed delivery of the Pfizer vaccine and the headache that this has created for Quebec and the provinces is a clear example of the ramifications of Canada's overreliance with respect to medical procurement. Investments of almost $1 billion were included in the economic update to increase the production of vaccines in Canada. We will have to carefully monitor the federal government's handling of these investments.
It is definitely unfortunate that the economic update does not provide for an additional and sustainable increase in health transfers considering that the federal government currently covers only 22% of health care costs when it should cover half. Additionally, the amounts allocated by this bill to long-term care again bring to the fore the federal government's desire to impose so-called national standards for health care. Quebec and the provinces would not accept this blatant intrusion into their jurisdiction when the federal government has failed miserably in carrying out its responsibilities to address the health crisis, for example on such issues as border control and vaccine supply.
The bill makes no mention of other measures in the November 30 economic statement, leaving our businesses in complete uncertainty. What about the credit programs for hard-hit sectors? A year into the pandemic the federal government is indicating that it is still not prepared to help the tourism and hospitality sector or arts and culture. It is also frustrating that the federal government is still failing new entrepreneurs, whose fearlessness is at the very heart of our economy, who often have to make major sacrifices to start their business and achieve their dream, and who are now facing the agonizing prospect of bankruptcy.
I would like to read a letter that three young entrepreneurs in my riding sent to the before Christmas and to which no one has yet bothered to respond.
Dear Minister of Finance,
My name is Joanie Raymond. I am 26 years old. I have been working in the restaurant industry for the past 8 years.
One year ago, with two other people, Dominik (26) and Veronique (33), after saving some money and borrowing some from friends and family, we collected $250,000.00 and we decided to pursue our dream of opening a restaurant.
We invested $250,000.00 with the group, Barbies Resto Bar Grill, a Quebec based chain and we started working to build our restaurant in the city of Ste-Julie in Quebec.
Our first target opening date was to be March 1st 2020 but with a couple of small delays, the opening date was moved to March 27th 2020.
Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 and the first lockdown we were only able to open June 22nd 2020 at the end of the first lockdown.
We started paying rent March 1st 2020. We started having a small payroll in March 2020. We have our GST, QST numbers, we had our CRA business number, everything was set to go.
Based on all eligibility criteria set out in the beginning of the pandemic, we were not eligible to receive any rent subsidy (CERS) from March 15th 2020 to September 30th 2020.
Also, we were not eligible for any wage subsidy (CEWS) from June 22nd to September 30th 2020. Even though it was difficult for our restaurant as all other restaurants, we did understand that were not lucky and we hoped for better future days for our business.
With the second lockdown since October 1st 2020 we are still not able to receive any rent or wage subsidy. The drop in revenue is still only for businesses that were open in 2019 or January/February 2020.
We are the forgotten ones. As the pandemic progresses, Mrs. Freeland, we see our dreams turning to ashes. Our hope is vanishing and we only see dark days ahead of us.
We pay rent, we invested $250,000.00 of our savings and $1,000,000.00 in loans.
Bankruptcy is imminent for business like ours.
Is any help on the way for us? Or should we simply lock our doors declare personal bankruptcy and never dare to purse a dream again?
We would like to have an answer from you.
If you decide there is no help for us at least we know and we go back to a miserable life.
Christmas holidays are approaching and for us it's usually a time to celebrate but this time for us it's of mourning.
WE NEED HELP, late is better than never.
Our head office sent several emails to you and to the Liberal MP in Brossard.
We wait to hear from you.
Let us know if you plan to help us or not or simply forget about us.
Thank you from all of us, Joanie, Veronique and Dominik.
This letter was signed by Joanie Raymond. Our young entrepreneurs need help.
Another change the government should have made has to do with the minimum withdrawals seniors make from their RRIFs.
In early spring last year, the government lowered the minimum amount that seniors had to withdraw. However, in the meantime, some of them had already withdrawn the full mandatory minimum from their RRIFs. They wanted to be able to put the difference back into their RRIFs, but the federal government refused.
The problem is that these retirees, having met their obligations promptly, are financially disadvantaged by the change the government made mid-fiscal year. Not only will they have to pay taxes on the excess amount they withdrew under the previously legislated provisions, but the excess amount withdrawn will not be allowed to continue to grow in their RRIFs.
We have consistently advocated for measures to financially support our seniors, who are particularly affected in many ways by the current health crisis. In this case, however, it is the federal government itself which, in addition to being ungenerous to seniors to date, is penalizing some seniors who have been more willing to comply with their legal obligations. This is patently unfair to them. Worse still, all RRIF recipients are being penalized in some way by this measure, which has the effect of reducing the tax exemption they can benefit from.
My colleague for and Bloc Québécois finance critic spoke several times with the minister and her team to get the government to finally correct this measure, but ultimately received a cryptic, cold and insensitive response that seniors who had withdrawn the minimum amount from their RRIFs prior to last spring's announcement would not have faced the market volatility associated with the health crisis and that their withdrawal would have been proportional to their assets at the time.
What can be understood from such a response? It is the exact opposite of the empathy we would expect from the government towards those to whom we owe the prosperity that the government has been able to lavish on just about everyone but them.
Perhaps it is not too late for the government to finally listen to reason and correct what needs to be corrected.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Montarville for his outstanding speech. I was very touched by his testimony and the letter he read. When the government does not get the message, it is important to do something and find other ways to get the message across, and this was a good one.
I am going to focus on one particular aspect of the economic update, namely transportation, my critic portfolio. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has really had a negative impact on the transportation industry, specifically air transportation, which is experiencing a serious crisis.
We had high expectations for the economic update, and we were really hoping for something major, since we had been promised for months that there would be help for air transportation. On reading the economic update, however, specifically the section on the air sector on page 32, we learned that the government was simply going to continue negotiating with the airlines to establish a financial assistance process. I was floored.
Air sector workers have been struggling since March. They are out of work, with no income. The government has been saying for months that it will find a way to help them by talking to the companies and by taking action, but it turns out those were nothing but empty promises. This economic update is from November 30. It was bad enough in November, but today is January 26. It is almost March and nothing has happened. All these workers will have been out of work for a year, yet there is still no assistance for air transportation.
It gets worse. Many people had purchased plane tickets but never received refunds. The government did absolutely nothing to defend them or protect them. However, page 32 of that economic statement says that “the government will ensure Canadians are refunded for cancelled flights.” That is good news, but it had already been announced way back on November 8.
On that date, the then released a statement in which he promised that, before the government spent even one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, it would ensure that Canadians got their refunds. Nevertheless, today, January 26, 2021, travellers have still not been refunded. As a result, yesterday, a court delivered an initial ruling and ordered an airline to refund a couple from Rimouski, Quebec.
It is unfortunate that the current government is not doing anything about this critical situation and that people are suffering because of it. It is particularly disappointing because the government is supposed to govern and make decisions when the situation warrants it. We, on this side of the House, are putting pressure on the government, pushing it to take action. We tabled a petition signed by 33,000 people calling on the government to comply and require refunds for travellers. We introduced Bill to reiterate that travellers have the right to be refunded.
A new was recently appointed, perhaps to cover up for his predecessor's incompetence, and he immediately said that he would continue to seek a solution so that travellers get refunded. We are pleased with his initial reaction, but a solution already exists. All the government has to do is pass Bill C-249 and order airlines to refund travellers. The government has never really told the airlines that. Instead, it prefers to repeat that it is looking for a solution and working on the issue. This is not complicated. When a service is not provided, the consumer needs to be refunded. That is the law, and it just makes sense. If I order a pizza and it never gets delivered, that is too bad, but I will get a refund. That is how it should be.
I am flabbergasted at the government's complete lack of action on urgent issues affecting people's daily lives. I spoke about tickets and about unemployed workers who are struggling, but there is also the fact that the government's actions with regard to air transportation have been rather inconsistent.
The government is telling people not to travel and has been repeating that for the past few days and weeks, but it is not actually doing anything to stop people from travelling.
On January 2, the day after New Year's Day, people who had spent Christmas without their families and without gathering with loved ones, as they would have liked to do, found out that people who had decided to take non-essential trips south or elsewhere around the globe qualified for $1,000 in compensation from the government. This is unbelievable, and it is frustrating, too.
It took a while for the government to wake up and realize that maybe it needed to do something. It finally decided to take action, but it said its measures would only start in January, so they would not apply to people who had travelled before January. It is wrong to reward people who did not follow public health guidelines.
The same applies to border control. There is still no ban on non-essential travel, even though this has been a problem for several months now. It is nearly February, and this is still a problem. There is still no monitoring of people in quarantine. The only measure is automated calls where people press a number to indicate they are complying with the quarantine. It is frankly absurd. Even people who chose to travel have criticized the situation, saying it is ridiculous. That is the kind of job the federal government is doing.
In the meantime, customs officers are not very busy at the border, so they could help with monitoring people in quarantine.
The Government of Quebec is asking for help in getting the authorization and additional powers to do what the federal government is not doing, namely monitoring quarantine enforcement at the border.
A month after Christmas, the government still has not made a decision on a sector in crisis. That is unacceptable to me.
The economic update also addresses the issue of regional air transportation. It is nice that the government realizes that there is a problem. Again, the problem has been going on for months. In March, Air Canada announced, brutally and without warning, that it was cutting 30 regional routes. The regions' first reaction was to say good riddance. They were fed up with seeing the airline disrespect the competition, cancel flights without notice and slash prices only to jack them back up. The regions decided to find another solution. In Quebec, they decided to establish a group to look at the problem with the Union des municipalités du Québec, the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, tourism associations and the Government of Quebec and come up with solutions.
Do you know what happened? They asked the Minister of Transport to come and meet with them, to talk to them and listen to what they had to say. However, the Minister of Transport did not even bother to meet with them. In the middle of the crisis, 30 regional routes have been cut and certain regions of Quebec are now without service, but the Minister of Transport is so familiar with the problem that he does not need to listen to them. He does not need to hear from mayors, businesses, or the tourism industry. He does not even need to hear from the Quebec government.
In fact, that is what the and member for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine said when we toured her riding over the summer. I heard her on the radio saying that we see the trees, but the minister saw the forest. He is so familiar with it that he does not even need to talk to people. That is serious.
This frustration of not being able to talk to the minister is something that I heard from the airline industry. The airports were not able to talk to the minister, the airlines were not able to talk to the minister, and the pilots were not able to talk to the minister. No one was able to talk to the minister, and the minister did nothing. At some point, people got fed up. It is frustrating. I think that this is part of the reason for the change of minister.
We hope that the new minister will make some changes and that the government will get a move on, because this is a bad situation. A government that does absolutely nothing and makes no decisions is a very bad thing.
Worse still, here is one of the first things that happened in the regional air transportation sector after the crisis. Nav Canada was having trouble making ends meet, so it decided to jack up its fees by 30%. When Nav Canada asked the minister for help, the minister told it to figure things out and charge airlines that were already struggling 30% more for its services. In turn, airlines raised ticket prices, so fewer people travelled by plane. It is all nonsensical. To top it off, there is no more regional transportation.
The same thing happened with airports. The government made a big deal about rent relief for airports, but that was only for large airports. What people do not know is that rent relief is based on fees. If there is no money coming in, there is no rent to pay. The same goes for the airport assistance program. Much was made of investment assistance, but that does not help pay the bills. If they do not have any money, how are they supposed to invest?
That is what I wanted to say about the government's treatment of the air sector in its economic update. It is very disappointing indeed.
Madam Speaker, happy new year to you and to colleagues. I sincerely hope that 2021 is a big improvement over 2020.
I will be sharing my time with the member for .
When this government was first elected in 2015 and subsequently in 2019, it rightly identified growing income inequality as a serious threat to a free and democratic society. Several initiatives were taken, including the raising of the upper tax bracket and the lowering of a middle bracket, a worthy initiative. However, clearly the most significant initiative was the creation of the Canada child benefit, a direct cash benefit to low-income families with young children. Pre-pandemic, this meant more than $100 million had been allocated to Scarborough—Guildwood. This in turn led to the largest reduction of child poverty of any riding in Canada.
During the pandemic, the additional CCB funds had been allocated to the benefit of Scarborough—Guildwood and all other ridings. Bill is proposing a $1,200 benefit for each child under the age of six for eligible families. It is estimated to be an increase of 20% over the maximum Canada child benefit. For Scarborough—Guildwood, that will likely mean an additional $20 million directly into the hands of low-income families. The CCB has had, and continues to have, the desired effect of lifting kids and families out of poverty, supplementing family incomes and reducing wealth inequality.
I do wish there was a definitive study showing the economic return of the $100 million distributed locally, now estimated to be $120 million spent locally. I would imagine there is a significant economic multiplier. Regrettably, however, a benefit is not a job. Life and economics are never that simple, but I dare say that given the choice, most parents would prefer to have a decent, if modest, job that feeds their family rather than a government benefit.
Then along comes the pandemic and knocks the most vulnerable for a loop. It is hard for people to provide for their families when they do not have jobs. Quite properly, the Government of Canada stepped in with an array of benefits, the most significant of which is the Canada emergency response benefit, known colloquially as CERB. I do not know the gross amount of CERB funds given to Scarborough—Guildwood, but it is certainly in the tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions. However, again, a benefit is not a job.
What has been revealed over time is really a tale of two pandemic economies. Those earning salaries calculated to be in the order of $40 per hour or more have not only survived, but thrived. They have in many instances prospered with both increased income and increased capital assets, such as homes, businesses, properties, etc. However, those in the $15 to $20 range have been devastated, slipping closer and closer to absolute poverty, with attendant worries about food and housing insecurity. Regrettably, the biggest pop-up business in Scarborough—Guildwood has been the proliferation of food banks. Unfortunately, they are doing roaring business.
This has been a huge setback for income inequality and for the catchphrase “those in the middle class and those wanting to join it”. If this economic disruption continues for much longer, Canada risks a permanent structural inequality that will be devastating for all of us, rich and poor alike. Permanently impoverished citizens are unstable and make the lives of others insecure, hence the rise of security devices and gated communities.
The pandemic has exposed our vulnerability in supply chains as well. There are no jobs in the $15 to $20 range because of globalization's desire to get the cheapest product the fastest.
We do not make PPE, for instance. We cannot create our own vaccines. We line up at box stores to purchase products made everywhere else but here. It is good for others, but not so good for us. These are vulnerabilities that could be papered over in prosperous times, but not so much now.
I am not so Pollyannaish as to think that Canadians are going to rush out and start buying more expensive Canadian-made products just because they are Canadian. Canadians are pretty tight with their money. I would, however, argue that they might well buy Canadian products made in their community by their neighbours if they thought or knew that the competing product was made by slaves in a foreign country. I would like to believe that Canadian consumers, if they knew, would find the purchase of slave-made products repugnant. However, here we are in 2021 with massive amounts of products being sold in Canada through a supply chain infected with slave labour.
According to a conservative estimate from the walk free initiative, 40 million people are engaged in modern slavery. World Vision estimates that 1,200 Canadian companies are importing goods made with slave labour.
Recently, CBC's Marketplace ran a piece on slave labour in the making of the PPE products that we use on a daily basis. The Globe and Mail ran two articles on how Canadian companies use slave labour to build products in China. The Toronto Star wrote a devastating piece on goods coming from foreign sources that the U.S. will not allow to be sold there, but we allow their transshipment into Canada.
Polls are starting to show that Canadians are becoming increasingly alarmed. Some frame this argument against supply chain slavery in terms of moral repugnance. I share that view. Some frame this argument in terms of universal basic human rights. I also share that view. Few, however, frame it in terms of societal and economic suicide.
If we as consumers knowingly or unknowingly purchase a product infested by supply chain slavery, we are destroying a job opportunity for a friend or a neighbour or a family member. Remember the tale of the two pandemic economies. Those in the $15 to $20 range are most devastated by the absence of jobs. Any goal of redistributing income equality is out the window. The risk of permanent structural damage to the economy is increased.
What to do? I appreciate the government seems to becoming more alive to the moral and human rights argument and stepping up the authorities it does have. Time will tell how effective that increased surveillance will be. I, however, would suggest four specific initiatives.
The first is the intentional use of the government procurement process to shorten the supply chain from global to Canadian. As one person put it in our pre-budget consultation, the supply change should be run up and down the 401.
Second, let us give the Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise the power to compel companies to respond to inquires on human rights abuses.
Third, let us make it abundantly clear that the failure to cleanse supply chain slavery from a company's business will immediately result in the denial of consular and/or government financial support.
Fourth, let us adopt and/or take over Bill , formerly my private member's Bill, bill . It would compel all companies of a certain size to certify to their shareholders and to the that they have examined their supply chains and are satisfied that there is no slave labour present.
Not only is slavery morally repugnant and a gross abuse of human rights, but it is also in our economic interest to ensure that the products Canadians buy are free of slave labour. Canadian workers are among the best in the world, but they cannot compete with slaves.
The government's laudable goal of reducing income inequality will never be achieved if infected supply chains are allowed to exist. The Speech from the Throne has many laudable and supportable initiatives, but to not deal forcefully and effectively with supply chain slavery is, in fact, self-defeating.
I thank the House for the time and attention. I look forward to questions from colleagues.
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from for sharing his time with me today.
I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill . I would like to begin by thanking all the essential workers across Canada, particularly those in my riding of Acadie—Bathurst, who have been working in grocery stores, hospitals, long-term care homes and other areas since the very beginning of this pandemic. They are real heroes.
I would like to thank all essential workers from the riding of Acadie—Bathurst who have worked tirelessly since this pandemic hit us and spread throughout Canada and throughout the world. They are the real heroes, whether they work in our grocery stores, hospitals or nursing homes. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for being there for us every single day since the pandemic hit us.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been there for Canadian families. We have provided different types of assistance, including help for workers who have lost their jobs, for example through the CERB. We have been there for businesses in my region and across Canada that have had to close their doors because of this pandemic. The wage subsidy has been a huge help that has enabled them to retain their employees, which is why we will build on those efforts and continue helping Canadian families and workers. We are going to make sure that they have the programs they need to get through these difficult times.
I was talking about the CERB, but in my region, we have built and grown our economy around certain industries for centuries. I am thinking of fisheries, for example. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding our fisheries. That is why we put in place, with the and our government, $470 million in funding to assist fishers through this difficult period of instability in the export markets for our seafood. This is an incredible investment in this area, and we must continue to ensure that our fisheries sector thrives for years to come.
On the subject of families, and without repeating everything my colleagues have said before me, I believe the Canada child benefit is one of the greatest legacies we can leave this country. Thousands and even millions of families have been able to access this program.
For the Canada child benefit, the numbers in my riding of Acadie—Bathurst are unbelievable. The last time I checked, $3.5 million is coming to this riding each month, and it is tax free. The numbers are astonishing: The number of children who received the Canada child benefit is 10,520.
Since we put it in place in 2016, this program has been a tremendous help to families, but when the pandemic hit, we provided additional funding to help these families get through the crisis and have a little more money in their pockets.
The business loan program is administered by our various regional agencies. I would like to give a shout-out to the CBDCs, here in my riding, in Bathurst or in Tracadie-Sheila, which have been tremendous at helping businesses get through these difficult times. Our financial institutions have made it possible to deliver these business loan programs.
Bill is in fact designed to enhance those programs and provide a little more support to those families and businesses in my riding and across Canada. Take students for example. As we have said, we want the interest on student loans to be forgiven. That will give students a break. I am sure that my colleagues know what that is like, having been students, just as I was. It is stressful for students to have to worry about making student loan payments, wondering if they will find a job while in school, especially since that is very difficult right now in New Brunswick, with all the restrictions and closures. No longer having to pay interest will help students get through these difficult times.
The enhanced Canada child benefit is another measure that will truly help families in our region. Families with a net income of $120,000 or less will be eligible for up to $1,200 more. Families with a net income over $120,000 will also receive additional money. I hope that my colleagues in the opposition will support this measure to help families across Canada in their respective ridings. As members know, this program helps many Canadian families.
Once again, we want to give some respite to people struggling with mental health issues and maybe even substance abuse. This pandemic has affected a lot of people, and some have had to isolate for several weeks. This has certainly had a negative impact on mental health. Home is often considered to be a safe space, but that is not always the case. There are many incidents of domestic violence, and we need to put an end to that. This bill will provide much more support for these vulnerable people during the pandemic.
Earlier I mentioned that the regional relief and recovery fund, or RRRF, has been invaluable to businesses back home. We are going to improve this measure so that more businesses can access the fund, which will be distributed through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, in co-operation with regional agencies such as Community Business Development Corporations, or CBDCs.
Eight dollars out of 10 from all the help programs Canadians and people in my riding receive come from the federal government. When I see a province like New Brunswick, which received astonishing amounts of transfer payments under different programs and streams, not helping the people of New Brunswick, it is unacceptable.
I saw a report today which showed that a lot of the money we transfer to provinces is being left on the table, especially in my home province of New Brunswick. I found it a bit disturbing to see that families who need help in New Brunswick do not receive the funds the federal government transfers to the province. When I look at the numbers, $7,452 in help is coming from the federal government and only $75 in help is coming from the Higgs government right now in the province of New Brunswick.
We all have to play a role in helping Canadians during this difficult time, during this pandemic. I wish and hope the Government of New Brunswick will use these funds to help businesses and New Brunswickers across my province.
We will not stop there. We said that every Canadian would be taken care of, and that is what we have endeavoured to do from day one. Through the various programs we have brought in we will be able to get through this difficult period and relaunch our economy.
I see that I am running out of time, but I forgot to address some things, including about the airports. Budget cuts at different airlines have resulted in my region losing its airport. I am pleased to see that our government will not give any financial assistance to these airlines until our regional connections are restored and Canadian passengers have their tickets refunded.
I hope that my colleagues will support Bill to help Canadian families and our businesses.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
No one can minimize the very serious effects of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our individual lives, our communities and our entire country. The times we live in are certainly not normal and the measures that have been implemented to mitigate the harm of the virus have been significant.
In the very early days of the pandemic, Conservatives were eager to work with the governing party to find solutions for Canadians. We knew it was imperative to act quickly and effectively, so those feeling the negative economic impact of the mandated shutdowns were offered the support they needed. We called on the government to close the borders, a recommendation it ignored for months and, sadly, caused considerable damage. To prevent job loss, we urged the Liberals to increase the wage subsidy program from 10% to 75%. When our constituents told us about the problems they were having accessing the rent relief program and other emergency benefits, we immediately proposed changes and fought for them. It often took weeks or even months for the government to respond. For some we are still waiting, but eventually some solutions have been put in place.
All of this was done with the understanding that measurable support must be given to help Canadians until the tide turns and a greater economic certainty is present, but here we are. We are nearly one year in and we are at a precipice. Even though the country is facing an astronomical deficit and debt load, there is no plan for recovery and there is no end in sight with regard to government spending. In the last year our country has adopted many policies which in normal times would have put us on a track to mirroring other economies like Cuba or Venezuela, where masses of people are out of work and individuals are reliant on the government for their very survival. It is entirely unsustainable for any long period of time, but oddly, to our detriment, the current federal government is proposing that many of the measures that have been implemented during the pandemic become permanently entrenched. This is scary.
The deficit for this year is projected to come in just shy of $4 billion, thus bringing the net national debt to a record $1.1 trillion. That is a massive number, one that is incomprehensible for many of us. The proposed changes to the Borrowing Authority Act in this legislation would increase the gross borrowing limit to $1.8 trillion, an increase of a whopping $700 billion. I realize those are big numbers, but to boil it down, we are living in a credit card economy. We are consuming more than we produce. We are buying more than we sell. We are borrowing from the world in order to buy from the world. We are sending jobs and money out the door in exchange for foreign goods. In essence, or in short, we are in trouble. Others get the jobs, the investments and the savings, but Canadians are left with the debt.
With the government's plan to increase spending, but no plan for economic recovery, Canadians should be concerned. It is the government's responsibility to facilitate an environment of economic prosperity. This is made possible by implementing policy that will draw investment into our country rather than repel it; by putting policy in place that would encourage job creators instead of punishing them; and by implementing policy that celebrates those who work hard in the private sector instead of forcing them into a place where they are reliant on the government for bread.
To sign off on the government's current intent to spend hundreds of billions of dollars without so much as a plan for economic recovery or accountability measures in place would be totally irresponsible of me and others in the House of Commons. The current government is providing poor leadership, and Canadians certainly deserve better. For Canada to get back on track, we must free the wealth creators, the innovators and the risk takers. We must believe in the people of this great country.
In response to a question about government spending, the said, “We took on debt so Canadians wouldn't have to.” I hate to break it to him but that is not exactly how it works. Governments do not have money. There is no special government bank account that money gets deposited into without a source, and of course, that source is us, Canadian taxpayers. The less revenue there is to tax, the less money there is to spend on social programs, health care, infrastructure and education. For this reason, it is confounding that the Liberals do not fight for industries such as the energy sector, manufacturing or agriculture, industries that have traditionally helped stabilize our economy for decades. They are well positioned to continue to do so; they just need a government that believes in them.
When the was embroiled in scandal over the SNC-Lavalin affair, which members will remember he pressured the former attorney general to let a criminally charged company off the hook. He did it under the guise of saying, “I am fighting for jobs.” What about the jobs here in western Canada? What about the jobs that were just lost when Keystone XL went out the door?
Why could the not do so much as pick up a phone, make a call and advocate for those workers and those jobs? Does he only care about jobs if they happen to be in his riding? Canada deserves a Prime Minister who will fight for unity, not against it. It needs a Prime Minister who believes that Canada is one nation from sea to sea and that the nation in its entirety is worth fighting for.
The debt-to-GDP ratio will rise to 56% this year. That is just a short distance away from our 1996 high of 66%, when the Wall Street Journal deemed Canada to be “an honorary member of the Third World”.
While the private sector is shrinking rapidly, the government is engorging itself. This is entirely unsustainable, but it is incredibly beneficial to a political party that is most successful when Canadians are dependent on government. Doling out money is actually a political leader's dream. It turns the people's affection toward him. It positions him as their hero, caretaker and saviour, so to speak.
Responsible leaders restrain themselves from utilizing this enticing tool. Instead of making it a long-term solution, they limit and put restrictions in place. It is not so with our current leader. Sadly, for quite some time the current government has fostered animosity toward job creators and wealth generators. The Liberals are engineering a society that will leave everyone less prosperous and more dependent on government.
While the Liberals love to talk about giving and receiving, I wish to talk about the value of earning. I am talking about the privilege, the honour and the dignity of work. It is an incredible thing for one to earn what one receives. Studies show that individuals who receive money without earning it are more likely to be depressed and less likely to be happy or feel fulfilled. Whenever we discuss permanently increasing government handouts, we must look at the potentially negative ramifications, not just for the economy but for society and the people. People matter. Canadians must be free to use their gifts, talents and abilities to further themselves, to benefit their local communities and to rebuild.
Ronald Reagan famously said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.”
I am convinced government programs are not the answer to getting Canada back on track. Canadians are the answer. It is Canadians who have the ingenuity, work ethic and ability to come up with the solutions to the problems our country faces.
Ronald Reagan also said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Frankly, I am tired of hearing the government patronize Canadians by essentially telling them to sit on the sidelines and cheer. What coach benches his best players?
Instead of putting the government in the position of being the ultimate problem-solver, and exploiting the pandemic to increase government control in the lives of Canadians, I believe we have a real opportunity to do just the opposite. We can shift the spotlight onto Canadians: those who are dreamers, risk-takers, wealth generators and job creators. It is time to put them in the game. They have the ability to put forward exceptional ideas, solve problems and build toward a vibrant future. We must unleash the power of the workforce so Canadians can start receiving paycheques instead of government handouts.
The Liberals can try to reset, restart and reimagine this country, but the fact is the power belongs to the people. Canadians always have been, and always will be, the solution to the problems we face. It is time to let Canadians skate.
Mr. Speaker, 58,000 businesses closed their doors in 2020. There are 58,000 families who will not have the income they would have had from the family business. The CFIB is now estimating that there will be up to 200,000 small businesses closing in 2021. Think of the devastating impact that will have on the families who depend on them for their livelihood, and on the communities where jobs will be lost. The economic spinoffs of those business closures will be devastating.
New businesses have been particularly ignored by this Liberal government throughout the pandemic. In December, I had the opportunity to ask the government a question with respect to new businesses. I talked about a gentleman named Paul in my riding. Paul was going to launch his new small business in March 2020. Of course, that did not happen because of the first lockdown, and his business launch was pushed into May. Since then, he has desperately tried to make his business viable. He is not eligible for the wage subsidy. He is not eligible for the rent subsidy. Why is this? It is because he decided to start a business, and the government has deliberately chosen not to support people who made the decision to start a small business. Why it has made that choice, I do not know. I have asked questions about this many times. I do not get answers.
People like Paul invest their life savings, the money they have worked their entire life for, into a business at great risk. They put hundreds of hours into that business, 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90 hours a week. That is what entrepreneurs do to try to make their businesses successful.
To keep his business going, Paul has had to access a line of credit against his home and put more money into the business in a desperate attempt to have his life's work remain viable. I pleaded his case to the in December. I outlined exactly the circumstances that I am outlining now. I asked the minister to please give something to Paul.
The response was that Paul should look at the regional relief programs. That was where there would be something. Of course, I had looked at the regional relief programs in a desperate attempt to help Paul and businesses like his, not only in my riding but all across the country. As I learned in law school, the devil is in the details. In order for Paul to be eligible for a regional relief program, he had to have been operational before March 15, 2020. Basically, the 's response was, “Sorry, there is nothing there for Paul.”
Since I asked the question in December, I have had dozens of new businesses in my riding get in touch with me, desperately asking how they can access some form of financial support so that their businesses can continue, so that they will not go bankrupt and lose their life's savings, so that they can continue to employ people in their businesses who can then support their families. They are desperate to stop the domino effect of the closure of businesses and the devastating impact that has on the business owners, the employees and the community. Unfortunately, I have no good answer for these people, because the government knows this issue exists.
I have asked about it in question period, and my Conservative colleagues have asked this question many times in question period and there is never an answer. Here we are debating a bill that would implement new economic programs. Conservatives have asked the government what it is doing to support new businesses and why these businesses are undeserving of any support. Therefore, Liberals know of the issue. It is clear. They have heard it. They have heard it from CFIB and from opposition members, who have asked if there is anything in this legislation to help new businesses. The answer to that is absolutely nothing.
We are left asking ourselves this question. This is a government that has opened the floodgates of spending. It is spending money on everyone and everything. We are racking up debt at a horrific rate. Why have the Liberals deliberately chosen not to support new businesses? I want to go back to that.
When people decide to become entrepreneurs and to set up a business, they do it at great risk. They have to invest their own money and often have to provide personal guarantees, including maybe a collateral mortgage against their home. People do that at great risk. They put in 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 hours a week in the hope that their business will be successful. The lockdown occurred, we understand that, but why has the government deliberately chosen to ignore people like Paul and like Michella, whom I spoke to yesterday about her business? It is something I cannot comprehend.
When I think about the answer the government gives on this, which is effectively to maybe look at a regional relief program, it is so tone deaf and offensive to business owners who have worked so hard to try to make their businesses successful. It reminds me of someone else who was incredibly tone-deaf in the midst of a crisis. There is the infamous quote by Marie Antoinette. When she was told the people had run out of bread, she said, “Let them eat cake.” Guess what, the government is effectively saying to entrepreneurs and new business owners who have risked so much, “Let them eat cake.” I find that offensive.
I am here advocating on behalf of small businesses and new businesses not only in my riding, but also on behalf of businesses all across the country. They deserve better than what the government is giving them. If the government is going to give them nothing, if it has made that deliberate decision, which is the only thing I am left to conclude, that it has deliberately decided to let those businesses fail, then it should stand up and say it. Do not say they should look at some program that offers absolutely no support. The government should just say it is sorry, because it has decided that those businesses are going to fail and good luck.
Right now, there is only one business in my riding that is expanding rapidly and doing extraordinarily well. We see their signs everywhere, in strip plazas and downtown cores. Do members what to know what that business is? It is “For Rent” or “For Lease”. It is exploding all across my riding and all across this country. Why is that? It is because of the decisions the government has deliberately made, and I do not have an answer as to why. I would like to know why new businesses are being told that the Liberals do not care and that they can go out of business. They have an opportunity to correct it. We are debating this bill now. Why will they not make some simple changes so new businesses do not go bankrupt?
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to lend my voice in support of the fall economic statement, more commonly referred to as the FES.
As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, our foremost commitment remains supporting the resilience of our people and businesses. To uphold this commitment, our government has provided an unprecedented $407 billion in overall support to keep Canadians and Canadian business afloat.
In doing so, the federal government has provided more than $8 out of every $10 spent in Canada to fight COVID-19 and to support Canadians through these challenging times. The significant investments we have made, in public health, in the provision of medical supplies and personal protective equipment, in income support and paid sick leave, have very much helped slow the spread of the virus. Our commitment of an additional $1 billion to a new safe long-term care fund will help ensure that seniors live in safe and dignified conditions and have exceptional infection prevention and control.
As a result of these efforts, apart from the island nation of Japan, Canada has the lowest peak new-infection rate among G7 nations in wave one and the lowest rate of new infections in wave two.
Canada has also experienced a rebound that is both vaster and stronger than initially forecast in the July economic and fiscal portrait, and which compares very well with its international counterparts. Whereas only about half of the American jobs lost through the pandemic have returned, in Canada 80% of these jobs have been recovered. British Columbia has very much been a leader in this regard, with 98.7% of the job losses recouped. These numbers are truly astounding when we consider the makeup of the B.C. economy and the economic sectors that have been hardest hit.
While it is always paramount that federal spending addresses the needs and desires of all Canadians, it is especially gratifying to discuss a fall economic statement that speaks to the most pressing and distinct concerns of British Columbia. I know, from speaking with business owners and non-profit representatives in my riding, that the federal supports that have been extended and expanded in the fall economic statement are, in so many cases, the only reasons why businesses have been able to keep their doors open and workers employed.
The Canada emergency wage subsidy, which has protected 3.9 million jobs across the country, is being extended until June and increased to a maximum subsidy rate of 75% so that employers can keep their workers through these challenging months. For small businesses, the Canada emergency business account has provided critical liquidity; and the Canada emergency rent subsidy has helped businesses with fixed costs, direct from the federal government to tenants, with additional support in the case of government-ordered closures.
While these subsidies have helped bolster our economy and protect our businesses, we also recognize that crucial sectors, such as tourism and hospitality and the arts, have been disproportionately impacted by the necessary travel restrictions and limitations on gatherings. This is certainly true in B.C., where tourism is one of our largest economic sectors, and it is especially relevant in my riding, where the resort municipality of Whistler alone, which has 12,000 permanent residents, is responsible for a quarter of the annual tourism export revenue for the whole province of British Columbia. Of course, our borders are now closed to non-essential travel. For this reason, the fall economic statement would create the highly affected sectors credit availability program to offer 100% government-guaranteed, low-interest loans of up to $1 million over extended terms for heavily impacted businesses. This program will be available very shortly from financial institutions.
We are also proposing a $500 million top-up for our regional development agencies for a total of $2 billion, so they can continue to support small business owners who otherwise would be unable to access the federal pandemic support programs, through the regional relief and recovery fund. Importantly, 25% of these funds is earmarked to support our local tourism businesses.
Given the unique and diverse economy in B.C., it has been a very long-standing priority to establish a separate regional development agency for our province. Previously, a single office in Vancouver was designated to serve over five million British Columbians. This is in very stark contrast to the 28 offices for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which serve a population that is less than half of B.C.'s. That is why it is so important that the fall economic statement committed to splitting Western Economic Diversification into two distinct agencies: one for British Columbia and one for our prairie neighbours. This would allow for better service for both regions to help with the important sector transformations taking place and allow these regions to take advantage of the distinct economic opportunities that present themselves.
My riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country is the most unaffordable region in the country that is not solely situated in an urban core. While the programs our government introduced have lifted over a million Canadians out of poverty since 2015, our work on addressing that affordability crisis is far from complete. However, the fall economic statement makes continued progress in this important direction.
All Canadians have the right to safety and shelter, as well as the ability to live comfortably as part of their community, but the pandemic has exacerbated the number of our most vulnerable community members who are facing housing insecurity. That is why our government has created the $1-billion rapid housing initiative to further the construction of modular housing, as well as the acquisition of land and conversions of existing buildings into supportive housing units. This program follows along some amazing leadership we have seen from cities such as Vancouver and Victoria.
For many in my generation, the idea of home ownership in our community is just a dream. To address the long-standing challenge of the lack of affordable housing, we are proposing to expand the rental construction financing initiative by $12 billion to continue to provide low-interest loans and mortgage insurance to support the construction of purpose-built affordable rental housing.
Since its inception in 2017, 30% of the initiative's investments nationwide have gone to British Columbia, including the recent construction of a 24-unit affordable rental housing building in Whistler, which will be managed by the Whistler Housing Authority to ensure affordable rental levels are maintained for the next 50 years.
Alongside housing concerns, many in my riding are under strain from a lack of affordable and accessible child care. In Squamish and Pemberton, for instance, there is a three-year minimum wait-list to receive licensed child care. In the meantime, parents are having to balance exhausting hours of dual work days against expensive and unlicensed private care.
To provide immediate relief for families with young children, the government is introducing a temporary and immediate support for low and middle-income families that are entitled to the Canada child benefit, raising the maximum benefit of $6,765 per child under the age of six by an additional $1,200 in 2021.
To address our long-term child care needs, the government is proposing to provide $420 million in the 2021-22 year for provinces and territories to support the attraction and retention of early childhood educators and workers by supplying grants and bursaries for students studying early childhood education.
Capilano University recently launched early childhood education programs in both Sechelt and Squamish in order to address this high demand for educators. This funding will support efforts like these, which, along with eliminating wage and infrastructure barriers, are crucial for us to meet the growing demand for educators right across B.C. and Canada.
The FES also commits to setting up a federal secretariat for early learning and child care to support the development of a Canada-wide system. We know this is not just sound policy to improve the lives of families, reduce gender inequalities and give children the best chance at success. It has also been widely identified by experts, including our former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, as one of the top two initiatives that could grow our GDP more than anything else.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing and more deadly health crisis in B.C. The pandemic-imposed restrictions have had a cascading effect that has led to a more toxic and lethal supply of drugs, leading to 1,500 deaths in B.C. as part of the opioid epidemic last year.
To support Canadians struggling with substance abuse, we will provide an additional $66 million over two years to support community-based organizations responding to the opioid crisis. Funding like this will be vital for the creation and continuation of safe consumption and overdose prevention sites, such as the safe consumption site that opened in Squamish this past year and the one that opened in Sechelt as well.
While the pandemic has drastically curtailed the use of public transit across the country, it remains a critical link for essential workers and others. For this reason, we provided over a half-billion in support for public transit in B.C. under the safe restart agreement. We know once the pandemic is over ridership will rebound quickly in places such as metro Vancouver, which had the fastest-growing ridership of any public system in Canada and the U.S. prior to the pandemic.
To meet this growing demand, numerous projects are being planned or are under construction to expand this service. All orders of government on the north shore are working together as part of next step to alleviate congestion and improve public transit both to and from the north shore. I am pleased the federal government is stepping up to provide permanent public transit funding to support a lot of these efforts going forward.
The measures I have outlined in this speech are just some of the many ways that the FES will help bridge British Columbians and Canadians through the pandemic by providing support for the Canadians and Canadian businesses that need it most. The FES also has a number of down payments on larger programs that set the stage to build back better to a greener, more inclusive and more resilient country on the other side of the pandemic.
These measures, among others, will be part of the $70 billion to $100 billion in stimulus over three years to ensure our economy comes back stronger and more resilient than before. The FES is good for British Columbians. It is good for Canadians and I urge my—
Mr. Speaker, I am here today to speak about Bill the economic statement that the federal government presented to the House on November 30 of last year.
COVID has been hard on our communities in many ways. This time has been filled with constant change, significant modification in our habits and real health concerns. When I speak with constituents across the riding, I am shocked by how many things they have noticed have changed in their lives. I appreciate the innovation that I have seen in our riding. People are coming together to support one another, and businesses are stepping up to find new ways to practise what they do.
Just last week, I participated in a grand opening event at a vineyard in my riding. It was a small event with strict distancing rules and careful protocols, but 40 Knots wanted to take an opportunity to showcase their newly closed-in outdoor space, which will allow for events to happen all year round. The windows are able to open in warm weather and close in the colder weather while continuing to allow for a beautiful view of their vines. I deeply respect 40 Knots for their sustainable model of making wine and the creativity they have shown, along with that of the many local businesses in my riding during this time.
This innovation is inspiring, yet many folks have struggled during this time because of the way our local economies are built. Across Canada, we need to see an increase in supports for regional economic development strategies. I am carefully hopeful about the announcement that there will be a new regional economic branch in British Columbia. I do want the government to understand that I believe it is the rural and remote communities that have the most need for supports during these economic changes. I hope to see an office, in fact, located in my region of North Island—Powell River.
This is especially important for me because there are some significant challenges happening in my riding right now. On December 17, the made an announcement about the Discovery Islands fish farms. The announcement was based on recommendation 19 of the Cohen Commission from 2012. I respect that part of the process included several first nation communities in our riding. Those nations have a constitutional right to speak on behalf of the area they protect and represent, and have represented since time immemorial.
I understand that all seven nations have notified their members that they are in support of the announcement. Indigenous communities have a right to stand for what they believe is best for their traditional territory, and as key partners in our region, it is important during this time that we work together to create solutions to move forward. Although, I do want to point out an important gap in this decision.
Prior to this announcement, my colleague, our shadow minister for fisheries, the member for , was very clear. The needed a plan to go hand in hand with this announcement. I want to be clear. It did not need to be a step-by-step plan, but I wanted some sort of commitment that would allow for certainty during this time. I do understand that the Cohen Commission recommendation was made eight years ago, and that this was a timeline that many were watching, but that does not mean the minister should not provide something. The lack of a plan has left a void in my region, especially in the more northern parts of Vancouver Island.
During this time, we do not need more unknowns to face. COVID has certainly provided enough. What we do require is some certainty.
I want to acknowledge how hard this announcement has been on communities, workers and businesses. It is overwhelming, and I know many people are worried about the future of our region. When the made her announcement, there was no plan at all. I was hoping to see a commitment to significant resources and a regional approach.
I want to put on the record what I am hearing from constituents in my riding. First of all, there needs to be a firm and strong commitment to wild Pacific salmon. Habitat restoration is an important part of this, but there are so many other factors. People are asking for there to be a plan. The need to see an improvement to the well-being of wild Pacific salmon in our riding has only increased, as people have shown me rivers that are no longer seeing salmon return.
Across our riding, the lack of on-the-ground fisheries staff has also been a growing concern. I ask members not to get me wrong. There are some amazing DFO staff in our region; however, there are significant concerns that for a huge part of the coast that we represent, we simply do not have enough people on the ground to manage the need.
Happily, the indigenous guardian program has been growing across the riding. There is a sense of trust from our communities, both indigenous and non-indigenous, that these folks fulfill the role as protectors of the natural resources in the region. Communities are looking for ways for this program to be able to grow and develop to do important work.
Currently, there is a parallel process happening in our region to go alongside the decision made about the Discovery Islands. This process is the commitment that the federal government has made for a more sustainable aquaculture system. In my region, people are asking for clarity on what that will look like sooner rather than later. Businesses that are highly reliant on the fish farm industry are clear: the next steps need to be clearer for them so that they can make sure their business plans are modified appropriately. With the closure of the Discovery Islands open-net fish farms, businesses are looking for opportunities to invest to modify their businesses, and they are looking for the government to be part of that plan. There needs to be a clear path that is accessible, and with the change that is happening so quickly, they need to see the resources there to meet it.
Investment in economic development in indigenous communities has also been identified as a high priority. There is some amazing and innovative work happening in more than 20 first nations I represent. There is a desire to have discussions about these projects and see how they can be built to provide economic opportunities in our area.
There are also several hatcheries in my riding, and many are working on a volunteer basis. They have not seen an increase in funding to support them in well over 30 years but have found many creative solutions to fill that gap. Many of them have reached out to my office and are wondering how their role will change due to this announcement. I have also heard from commercial fisheries and public fishers who are hoping to see action taken in the sustainable management of fisheries and they want a voice to be a part of that.
I have asked the minister to prioritize our region to look at how to support us moving forward with a coordinated approach that recognizes the specific needs of our region. Again, a localized regional economic development plan simply makes the most sense. This requires a collaborative approach, and the federal government needs to be a significant player in this process.
I also want to point out that the municipalities in this part of the region will be impacted as well. There is a need to have resources for them to create strategies that make sense for their communities.
More attractive economic development means that we need to see better Internet and cell reception in our region. The Connected Coast project in our area is one we are very proud of; however, we need to see the resources now, not later. Our region demands it. The lack of cell reception is a deterrent to inviting business opportunities and for safety as well. There have been multiple petitions from the region sharing this reality.
All of this really fits into the reason I put forward my Motion No. 53, principles for a sustainable and equitable future, in the fall. This motion requires the government to equitably distribute funds and programming among federal ridings and take into account UNDRIP, climate change and the prioritization of projects by small businesses that create diversity in local, long-term, well-paying jobs, because that is how we keep profits and benefits within the community.
I also want to point out that the steel workers who work in the processing plant at Port Hardy have reached out to my office. They want to make sure their voices are heard during this process as well.
We need to look at these principles to make sure we follow a localized regional economic plan. I urge the minister to review my motion and adopt these principles as soon as possible.
For our region to work together in a positive way, we need to see some clear commitment from this government. With the lack of clarity, it is hard for people to know what steps to take next. It is not good for our region, and I am concerned it will focus us on our differences rather than on our joint commitment to this place we all live.
As I come to the end of my speech, I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge that women working in the fish farm industry have noticed an increase in sexual harassment during this time. This is on social media. I want to state clearly that this is simply not okay and that we must all strive for a better country, where women are treated with respect and not objectified by sexism.
As I end my speech, I want to remind the government that it is local, rural, resource-based communities like the ones I represent that have built this country. I also want to point out that economic marginalization of indigenous communities in this region and across Canada has been a huge barrier to communities and legislation has often been the barrier, so I hope to see the government do better.
Mr. Speaker, from the onset of COVID-19, the government has done everything in its power to combat the virus and mitigate its harm, using every tool available to safeguard the health and livelihood of Canadians, particularly for Canada’s most vulnerable. It definitely appeals to me that protecting health is the best economic strategy in a global health crisis like this pandemic. In fact, more than $8 of every $10 spent in Canada to fight the virus has been spent by the federal government.
Let me be clear. By no means has this been a solo effort. In the summer, we announced support for the provinces and territories as part of our $19.9-billion safe restart package. An additional $2 billion is being made available to provinces and territories through the safe return to class fund to protect the health of students and staff. We are also working with cities and indigenous communities to ensure Canadians have the support they need and to help stop the spread of the virus in vulnerable communities. This has truly been, and we have said this many times, a team Canada effort.
Over the last year, I have held 30 community consultations and town halls in my riding of Whitby. Those have been mostly virtual but a few were in person before the pandemic hit. People in Whitby are engaged and I know the measures contained in the fall economic statement would help people across my community.
The recently tabled fall economic statement outlines the Government of Canada’s actions to date and proposed new measures to support Canadians through this crisis and lays the groundwork for rebuilding Canada’s economy through a robust, inclusive and sustainable recovery.
For example, we moved quickly in the spring to introduce robust economic programs like the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency business account to help people, businesses and organizations of all sizes survive this pandemic. These important programs helped thousands of people and businesses across Whitby and the Durham region. As has been said, we will do whatever it takes to protect Canadians and their livelihoods as we move forward. Through targeted and flexible support measures, we will continue to provide economic certainty to Canadians and businesses through this turbulent and uncertain time.
We have also assembled a comprehensive, world-leading portfolio of vaccines, investing more than $1 billion in vaccine agreements to secure a domestic supply of up to 429 million doses.
Once the virus is under control and our economy is ready for new growth, our government will deploy an ambitious three-year stimulus package to jump-start our recovery through an investment of between $70 billion and $100 billion. This is comparable to other nations, investing approximately 3% to 4% of GDP.
The fall economic statement puts a down payment on this growth plan and sets the path for an inclusive recovery that is equitable, sustainable and would create good jobs for all Canadians.
This pandemic has laid bare and in many cases deepened significantly the inequalities Canadians face, especially in the workforce. Simply put, inequality makes our economy less resilient, less sustainable and less fair, which is why a robust and complete recovery must leave no one behind.
For example, the government is committed to ensuring that this growth plan addresses the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women. We have announced the creation of a task force of diverse experts to help our government develop an action plan for women in the economy, a plan that would help more women get back into the workforce and ensure a feminist, intersectional response to this pandemic and our recovery. This is evidenced by applying a gender-based analysis to every measure in the fall economic statement, which I am very proud to see. This action plan would help advance gender equality and address inequities faced by vulnerable women, including indigenous, Black and racialized women. It would strengthen our economy as a whole and benefit all Canadians.
The government will also begin work on transformative initiatives, such as a Canada-wide early learning and child care system, in partnership with provinces, territories and indigenous peoples. Investing in accessible, high-quality, affordable and inclusive child care would not only be good for families, but also makes good economic sense. It would give children a good start in life and would give parents, especially mothers, the support they need to support their participation in our country’s workforce and provide for their families.
It is also important to recognize that young people continue to suffer disproportionate economic impacts from COVID-19, and we must therefore ensure that the pandemic does not derail their future. That is why we are proposing to build on the employment, job skills development and educational supports provided to youth and students over the summer by introducing additional measures that would ease the financial burden on students and provide more opportunities for young people to gain work experience. This would include new proposed investments of $447.5 million in the Canada summer jobs program next year to support up to 120,000 job placements in 2021-2022, and $575.3 million over the next two years toward the youth employment and skills strategy to provide approximately 45,300 job placements for young people.
In Whitby alone, which is my riding, over 300 positions were funded through the Canada summer jobs program, providing valuable skills to young people in our community and helping to strengthen our local economy. This work is critical, and I think it is definitely going to make a difference in our recovery and in increasing economic participation by young people.
The legislation before us also proposes to eliminate interest repayment of the federal portion of the Canada student loans and the Canada apprentice loans for 2021-2022. This would help ease the financial burden of student debt for up to 1.4 million Canadians.
The fall economic statement also reiterates our government’s commitment to fight systemic racism and discrimination in all its forms, a painful lived reality for Black Canadians, racialized Canadians and indigenous people. We will do this through clear and meaningful proposed investments in a number of key areas. For example, we will launch a pilot program for open bidding opportunities that will expand economic opportunity for Black-owned and operated businesses, building off the successful procurement strategy for aboriginal business.
Committing to diversifying government procurement, as outlined in the ’s new mandate letter, is a critical step toward ensuring all Canadians can participate in government procurement and a clear step toward empowering marginalized communities. Additionally, the government will help ensure representation at the highest levels of and throughout the public service by creating a centre on diversity in the federal public service to help accelerate progress on diversity and inclusion and by modernizing equity legislation to be truly inclusive.
We will aim to empower communities by supporting community-led initiatives to combat racism and promote multiculturalism by expanding the government’s community support, multiculturalism, and anti-racism initiatives program and its anti-racism action program, and through proposed investments to protect communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes. As well, we remain committed to rooting out and addressing systemic racism in our justice system by supporting the use of impact of race and culture assessments by judges and by helping to decrease the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and Black Canadians in the criminal justice system through community justice centre pilot projects in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario.
The fall economic statement also charts a path forward on building a net-zero future. To quote the fall economic statement:
We need to invest in meaningful climate action. Failure to do so will only increase the costs and the risks of climate change to all Canadians. COVID-19 has reminded us all of the importance of early, sustained action to address systemic risks that threaten our daily lives.
With critical investments, the government is doing just that. This includes $2.6 billion for home energy retrofits, $226.4 million for new electric vehicle infrastructure, $3.16 billion in nature preservation and a plan to plant 2 billion trees, and $98.4 million to help the agricultural sector fight climate change as well.
In conclusion, through these and other important initiatives and investments, as outlined in the fall economic statement, our government will continue to tackle the challenges and barriers that constrain Canadians.
Building a sustainable, resilient and fair economy is critical to our success in coming out of this crisis, and Bill helps to chart a path forward on this important work.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish you and every member the very best as we return to the House in this new year. Just as it affords us the chance to leave behind old habits that do us harm, a new year allows us to re-evaluate and correct our course. If there is one message my constituents would relay to the government as we enter 2021, it is that it should resolve to get back to normal.
Economic indicators across the country are not encouraging, and as the outlook worsens, the impacts of the government’s pattern of neglect and regional division will only be amplified in western Canada. The consensus I received from my constituents over the past many months is clear. They do not want a global pandemic to be the pretext for a great reset of our economy, nor do they want the government’s continued failure to effectively fight COVID-19 to justify inaction on our economic recovery.
My constituents demand a common-sense approach to recovery. They want to get back to work. They want a government that creates the conditions for every sector of our economy to thrive, but otherwise stays out of their lives. They recognize that stable work and reliable paycheques will be the key to emerging from this pandemic as quickly as possible.
The Conservatives were proud to stand up for Canadians when the pandemic hit. We worked to improve and accelerate many of the government’s relief programs. They were needed and have done a lot of good. Indeed, the Conservatives pushed for Parliament to reconvene as often as possible for the sake of navigating our country through this storm. Unfortunately, our calls were largely ignored.
However, it is not March or April anymore. In January 2021, we have a much better understanding of this virus and how to mitigate its effects. It is time to begin our road to normalcy and recovery. Why? It is clear that the current approach to spending cannot continue indefinitely. Let us reiterate the seriousness of some vital economic indicators that the government has helped to exacerbate.
Looking at debt, Canadians are being asked to shoulder the burden of $8.6 trillion of household, corporate and government debt. This equates to 387% of our GDP. Over the last six years, there has been a 40% increase in our debt, outpacing our growth in GDP by three times. Government debt in particular has grown larger than Canada’s GDP, and that was the government's measuring stick.
Our situation is worse than that faced by Greece during the sovereign debt crisis, or the United States during the 2008 financial crisis. Never before has our country faced such a burden of debt, with no plan to address it. Our deficit is higher than at any point in our history, now at 17% of our GDP. Not even the deficits amassed during World War I, at the height of the Great Depression or during the 2007-09 recession come close to our current deficit as a percentage of GDP. What is more is that the government continues to lack a plan to return to some level of balance.
What do we have to show for this spending? We have very little. Our unemployment remains the highest in the G7, despite the fact that we spend the most among OECD countries.
We could have been facing an entirely different situation had the government buckled down when times were good. From day one, it was clear that the Liberals had no interest in honouring their spending promises. Over the course of their first mandate, they spent the cupboard bare, adding $100 billion of debt before COVID even reached our shores. These patterns of reckless spending and anti-enterprise overreach have real consequences. Before the pandemic even began, $160 billion in investment left Canada because of the government’s poor decisions, leaving us in a weakened position.
What could make the situation worse? For one, the bill proposes to make COVID-era spending permanent. It asks for a $700-billion increase in the borrowing limit, reaching $1.8 trillion by 2024. It is almost as though the Liberals have no long-term plan to engage the hard work and ingenuity of the Canadian worker.
Let us let Canadians do their part to carry us through the storm. Rather than picking favourites, the Liberals should tap into the talents of every worker to produce the goods and services the world will buy. The government must level the competitiveness playing field with the rest of the world.
Just as Canadians must be empowered to lead us into a robust economic recovery, the government’s responsibility lies with its public health response to the pandemic. In my view, it has clearly failed.
Last night I had the pleasure of listening to my colleague from speak to the detailed systems that have been in place for years in the greenhouse industry to prevent and shut down viruses before they can severely damage the health of its plants and the productivity of its businesses. She then compared this with the fallacies of the Liberal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Canadians simply want a truthful answer from the government. First of all, why did the Liberals make such obvious errors in responding to this pandemic from the very beginning?
They allowed 60,000 people into Canada from China in the first three months and never closed our borders. They ignored the first-hand warnings that came from the Department of National Defence that a crisis was coming.
They gave away precious stocks of PPE to China and took too long to secure what our first responders needed, as well as the general public. They said wearing a mask is immaterial and then insisted it was mandatory, even when social distancing indoors and outdoors. They shut down small businesses but not huge international box stores. They did not ensure balanced reporting, as their media outlets continue to focus 24-7 on only the dangers of COVID, instilling fear of the disease and fear of repercussions on children, parents, employees, employers, small business owners, seniors and students.
The Liberals are saying that staying safe is only possible through isolation; anything else is taking a big risk. They failed to provide rapid tests that would enable people to return to work faster and keep businesses open. They focused only on a vaccine agreement with China to begin with, which did not materialize and is not surprising, effectively putting us in the precarious position we are now facing, as those who wish to be vaccinated are left waiting.
All of these missteps are having huge repercussions on Canada’s economy, and they are not the only factors stonewalling our ability to do what we are capable of doing as a nation: To be the first country in the world to restore our economy and restore the ability of Canadians to get back to work, school, sports and special occasions and back to being with family and friends.
The very people we are sent here to represent have more questions that leave them anxious and confused by their government’s actions and by their doublespeak.
Why are the Liberals continuing to raise the carbon tax during the pandemic? Why are they pushing the clean fuel standard and introducing a bill that requires Canada to reach zero emissions 50 years from now when they cannot meet the commitments they have already set? Why would the want to cause such increased devastation to the livelihoods of the middle class and the working poor, who are struggling more than ever now to join it?
Why do the Liberals ignore the amazing contribution of rural Canadians, indigenous Canadians, western Canadians and east coast Canadians who have generated the wealth of this nation? To date, they have received no credit, no recognition and no appreciation for the internationally recognized environmental achievements of our agriculture, resource and manufacturing industries across Canada, without which the source of wealth for those who live in our beautiful major cities would not exist.
Why do the Liberals want to stagnate and kill Canada’s oil and gas industry, and for that matter, the cutting-edge carbon sequestering clean coal industry, when the best resources and highest standards for environmental protections in the world exist right here and should be championed and shared all over the world?
Jerry Dias, while participating in a Corporate Knights round table, spoke to the need for Canada to move forward with building and purchasing electric cars and installing charging stations across the country, which is a good thing. My brother out on the west coast loves his electric car.
Truly, if the Liberal government cared about Canadians and this nation, it would hear what Jerry said. Forty more years of oil will be needed around the world. It should be using every opportunity to grow our economy and be a truthful, transparent and servant-oriented government. It could be honest about why its response to the coronavirus has been so ineffective.
Bill would give the government unprecedented access to billions more of Canadian tax dollars with no accountability to its citizens, at a time when those tax dollars literally do not exist and will not exist for years to come because of poor financial management. The government is printing money so that it is in control of our democracy instead of the Canadian people, and it is controlling the economy rather than enabling free enterprise.
Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health and economic emergency the likes of which we have not seen in a century, certainly not in my lifetime, and if I get my way, we never will again.
Through the first wave, we saw a virus the world had never seen or heard of before. It absolutely punished communities across Canada and around the world. Although we have been spared the worst of the pandemic in my home province of Nova Scotia due to a combination of smart policy and, more importantly, community buy-in, I see my neighbours across Canada in different provinces who suffer greatly at the hands of the second wave. We have Canadians who are suffering severe lockdowns. We have Canadians who have lost loved ones. We have people who have been impacted severely in terms of their economic or personal health and well-being. The circumstances cannot be overstated and they require our attention.
Despite these challenges, Canadians have responded admirably since the very beginning of this pandemic. We saw Canadians follow public health advice, which seemed strange in those early days when people were uncomfortable wearing a mask. We learned to wash our hands in a new and appropriate way, which may have been different from what we had learned over the course of our lifetime. We saw people willing to sacrifice some of their own comforts to protect the health and well-being of their neighbours. If there is a sentiment that is more Canadian than that, I would love to hear what it is. In Canada, we stand up for our neighbours and are willing to fight as hard for them as we are for ourselves.
I am also proud of the way that our government and, frankly, this Parliament have responded to the pandemic. I remember in the early days being part of the team that was tasked with developing some of the economic measures in response to COVID-19 and taking calls not only from MPs within the government caucus but also from MPs from all parties from every region. I think of members of Parliament who represent agricultural sectors in Ontario calling about the impact on grape growers in their region; western Canadian MPs who were calling me about support for workers in the energy sector who were going to be impacted, or about the exodus in downtown office towers when more Canadians were working from home; and, of course, here on the east coast, the MPs defending not only the public health measures but the economic supports for families who were having a hard time keeping food on the table. That said, I found it extraordinary to see the commonalities between the issues that were coming from western, northern, central and eastern Canada. Regardless of who we are or where we are from, when we lose our jobs or our health is put at risk, we need the support of our neighbours. I would like to think that we came through with the help of MPs from every party to deliver the exact kind of support that was most needed during a time of unprecedented challenge.
I think of the measures we adopted, like the Canada emergency response benefit, CERB. At the time, nobody had heard of it. In a matter of weeks, we threw together a program that has now reached almost nine million Canadians to help keep a roof over their heads. To support businesses, there is the emergency business account, the wage subsidy and other measures to help them keep their doors open and workers on their payroll. These are the kinds of programs that were designed to meet very specific needs that, frankly, arose by virtue of the pandemic. These are not just things we wanted people to have because they might have been nice. We realized that the pandemic had very serious and acute impacts on our neighbours, friends and co-workers, and we wanted to step up as a government and as a Parliament to make sure that those needs were met. We knew that the cost of failing to meet the needs of Canadians in a time of emergency was far greater than the cost of extending the kinds of supports that would see them through difficult times.
The legislation on the floor of the House today largely follows the trend of our emergency response and continues the pattern of meeting the needs of Canadians that have arisen as a result of this pandemic. Over the course of my remarks, I will touch briefly on the benefits of Bill that will be extended to Canadian families and businesses and, most importantly, that will continue to protect the health and well-being of Canadians as we struggle to fight the second wave of COVID-19 from coast to coast.
With respect to the support for families, I want to draw members' attention to the enhanced Canada child benefit for parents of young children who are dealing with shutdowns of child care, who perhaps do not feel safe sending their kids to child care, or who may have given up their space early in the pandemic because they did not know if they would need it during a period of an extended shutdown. However, there is an increased cost to taking care of kids at home.
I have a four-year-old at home and it is a challenge to try to work from home and deal with parental responsibilities. We want to make that easier, particularly for families that may not be in the highest income brackets. That is why we are enhancing the Canada child benefit to provide up to $1,200 this year for parents who have children under six years old. For families that are financially better off, the benefit might not be quite as generous, but it will still make a difference. If households earn over $120,000 a year, they will still see an increase of $600 to deal with the fallout of taking care of kids at home during this pandemic.
Continuing with the theme of supporting families, we are extending certain features of CERB that will allow Canadians who were eligible but who maybe did not receive all of their payments to continue to receive those payments now that we have entered a new calendar year. That would not have been possible without this legislation.
I had my start in politics as the president of the StFX Students' Union in the town where I was born, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I wear the X-Ring every day. Back then we were advocating to have the interest on federal and provincial student loans eliminated. I am so pleased to see that this legislation is going to implement that step, and also remove the interest on Canada apprentice loans to make sure that this does not just benefit those who hold loans from universities, but also those who have taken skills training courses at community colleges who are working in the skilled trades today.
To support businesses this legislation does a couple of things. It makes a technical change to the rent subsidy program to ensure that businesses continue to receive the rent subsidy support they need to keep their doors open before their rent is due, rather than having a reimbursement on the back end. We have made changes to the regional relief and recovery fund, which has done wonders for small businesses that did not qualify for other supports in Atlantic Canada, by making it more like its equivalent, the Canada emergency business account for businesses that had an easier time qualifying.
In particular, I want draw attention to the health and safety measures included in the bill. There is $1 billion committed in the fall economic statement to improve long-term care and, in this piece of legislation, $505 million to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our long-term care facilities. In Nova Scotia, the bulk of the cases that we have seen come from one facility, and if we can limit the outbreaks within these facilities where people are kept close to each another and are at higher risk of the spread of COVID-19, we can protect the health and well-being of all of our neighbours and ensure that we do not put our economy at risk at the same time.
We are making significant investments, including the $133 million in the bill toward continuing support for virtual care during the time of the pandemic. We have learned some lessons, which I hope stick around on the back end of this pandemic, that will reduce the burden on our health care system and allow Canadians and communities that may have difficulty accessing a family doctor to receive the care they need virtually.
Along a similar vein, this investment is going to help continue to allow the Wellness Together Canada portal to help Canadians who are struggling with mental health or addictions in this pandemic get the support they need and, importantly, provide support for those Canadians who are living with addictions and need support to help deal with substance abuse difficulties they may be living with, in particular, those who are struggling and living with an addiction to opioids. Opioids are taking lives from every community in our country and we need to pay attention to this crisis.
The bill includes over $260 million to continue pursuing vaccine development, to implement travel measures and to invest in testing and research that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. We know that the best economic policy we can adopt in this pandemic is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and defeat it as swiftly as possible.
Before I conclude, I want to raise that I have seen notice of a Conservative motion on the Order Paper that would seek to divide portions of the bill and accelerate the Canada child benefit piece and delay other portions of the bill. Though I do not doubt that the intentions are good, I would implore all members not to fall into the trap of thinking that we can accelerate one piece without delaying the other important measures, specifically those targeted to protect the health and well-being of Canadians by preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
To conclude, this pandemic and the government's response has been the single most important project I have worked on in my career to date. In some ways I hope it remains that way for the rest of my life, because it is interesting and engaging, but for all the wrong reasons. Our fellow countrymen are hurting, are sick and are struggling financially. By continuing to advance emergency supports that will help families take care of their kids, get our communities back to normal, put food on the table, put a roof over the heads of families and help businesses keep their doors open and workers on the payroll, I know that we will remain on the right track.
l look forward to seeing the support of members of all parties in the House when it comes time to vote on this important bill.