Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be back in the House with my colleagues and to tell Canadians about my plan to support their jobs and their families.
Speaking of families, I want to start by saying how proud I am of mine. I know my wife, Rebecca, my kids Mollie and Jack, and my parents are probably watching this speech that I give on my first day as Conservative Party leader in the House of Commons.
What an honour it is for me to represent Durham, the area I grew up in, as a member of Parliament, to stand and represent them, and to be the leader of the party that founded this great country. What an intense honour this is for me. I will try to live up to the incredible precedent set before me.
I want to start by thanking the thousands of Canadians who reached out and said good words and sent prayers and their best thoughts for my family as Rebecca and I were overcoming COVID-19. I also want to thank the incredible health care workers we interacted with, like Josée, our personal health care office guide, who called and checked in almost every day. People like her are working tirelessly for Canadians in every corner of this country. I thank them for the sacrifices they are making. I have seen them in action, and at the edge of a second wave, I want, on behalf of the Conservative Party, to thank all of our front-line health care workers for everything they are doing throughout this pandemic.
Canadians can be proud of their guardian angels in health care. Doctors, nurses and PSWs have been there when we needed them. They have been on the front lines of the fight against a disease that our country did not see coming.
Canada was not ready, but our health care professionals were ready to risk their health for us. Now that the fight against the second wave has begun, we know we can count on them.
On behalf of the Conservative Party, I thank each and every one of them.
Two weeks ago, my wife Rebecca and I bundled the kids, Mollie and Jack, into a car and went and waited hours in line for COVID testing, just like thousands of other families did across this country the very same day. We waited for hours, only to be turned away. The health care worker who was managing the line and going through and apologizing to each family as they were sent away wanted to tell us where to go to get another test, but he said every testing site was so busy that places were not even answering their phones. That dedicated health care worker looked more disappointed than we were that day because there was no hope or news they could provide to those families.
We went home. We are fortunate. I have an office now that helps me call around, and I found out that my workplace provided a test. A few days later, our family took advantage of that test. However, as we did that, Rebecca and I talked about all of those other hundreds of families in line with us that day. How many of them did not have a workplace that could help them out of days and days of waiting? How many of them had to take more days off of work because their children could not return to school without a clear test? How many of them had to change plans to take care of an ill neighbour or a grandparent? How many were left stranded? That is all we could think about. We were fortunate to get tested.
Just a year ago, if we were experiencing some of these cold or mild flu-like symptoms, we would have just powered through. Many Canadians actually take pride in never having taken a sick day, always stepping up for their classes, always stepping up for a shift and not letting a cold or a flu hold them back. I admire these work characteristics. This the sort of hard work and perseverance that built this great country. However, in a pandemic, those same characteristics can also cause public health challenges. That same approach, Canadians should realize, could spread the coronavirus to other Canadians. Times have changed, and we have to be cautious and change with them.
We think about the people who do not have options. A single mother who may be working a few jobs to make sure all the bills are paid cannot risk missing one to have to take care of a child at home. A new Canadian who may have been in their job for just a few years may be worried about potentially missing work, and may want to keep their co-workers safe and healthy, but knows they need to make the next rent payment. There are millions of Canadians, like that new Canadian family and like that single mother, who were left out of the throne speech last week. There was nothing but empty words in there for them.
The throne speech, particularly after prorogation, which this said he would never do to avoid a scandal, could have provided a clear and distinct plan on the eve of a second wave of this pandemic. It failed to do that.
One way the could have given these Canadians more peace of mind is through rapid testing, particularly for asymptomatic patients and for families so they could avoid the lines. The knows this. In fact, the Prime Minister himself has said:
We know that massive testing has been part of the solution in places that have managed to contain or slow the spread of COVID-19...
The trouble is, the said this in March during the first wave of the pandemic and, like many things, when the TV cameras are off and the tweets have been sent, there is no follow-up. There is no leadership. There is no accountability. In the Speech from the Throne, we saw an absence of leadership at a time when Canadians, with thousands in line and many waking up at three in the morning to line up, are desperate for some leadership. All they get with this Prime Minister is disappointment after disappointment.
Fifteen other developed countries, our closest allies, already have available rapid-test options that give their citizens answers in minutes. As I said today, the does not seem to realize that CETA, the European trade agreement that my friend for negotiated, allows us to recognize the regulatory approval for medical kits and diagnostic tests from those countries. The Liberals talk about it, they tweet about it, but where was the action? There was just more disappointment.
Half a year after the said that rapid testing was important, and half a trillion dollars later, there are tens of thousands of Canadians in line and forgotten. Canadian families deserve better than this. They were looking for some answers. They were looking for a second wave plan in the throne speech. They heard nothing.
Also, the Liberals had no sense of purpose for the economic recovery for our country. In fact, because they prorogued Parliament all of the programs, from the CERB to rent assistance, were expiring. The Liberals decided to prorogue to avoid difficult questions from some of my colleagues on the WE scandal rather than get Parliament to work diligently towards a plan for small businesses and families for the second wave.
Hashtags and photo ops do not prepare this country for a crisis, and that is why the Conservative government-in-waiting will start to offer that plan to Canadians.
Let us look back, because we still have not been told by the or the , whom most Canadians lost faith in early in March, why they closed the early pandemic warning system, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, in May of 2019. They closed it with no answer. Experts have shown that it could have helped not just thousands of Canadians, but the world with a better response to COVID-19.
The government was warned of risks in December of last year and in January of this year. I am aware of at least five departments of the federal government that knew of the pandemic risks to Canadians, including health and economic risks, in January. By then, with no response and no plan, they were already letting hundreds of cases into Canada. By February, they had already sent critical personal protective equipment to China, at a time when their own departments were being warned that Beijing was trying to rally a global supply of PPE. While they were not being transparent on the full extent of the outbreak of the coronavirus, and while departments were warning them of the inadequacy of our own supply, they were sending supplies and tweeting rather than planning.
The government not only ignored our questions about the border, including my colleague in Prince George asking in January about closing the border to flights from at-risk countries. They accused the opposition of being intolerant. “We've got this,” the said. In fact, for a month and a half she downplayed the risk to our country from this pandemic. That is why I say most Canadians had already lost faith in the health minister by that point.
Conservatives proposed using the EI system to prepare the economy for outages. Later on, when that was not used, we asked the government to push from a 10% wage subsidy program to 75% so we could preserve jobs and there would be something to return to after the closures of the first wave. We proposed this, we proposed the GST remittance, and we proposed faster and more direct rent relief to small businesses, not to the big landlords who unfortunately took their time to often opt out. The Liberals, sadly, got most of their programs slow or wrong. They had to introduce not one, but two emergency bills because the first one was insufficient.
We were all working hard. The whole world was responding, but Canadians expect their government to also work smart. They expected their government, their and their to learn the lessons when they dropped the ball in the first round. When the Prime Minister said in March that rapid testing was Canada's priority, we should be rolling out hundreds of thousands of rapid tests today. Who is accountable there? Five departments of the federal government knew in January. The Prime Minister pledged to be prepared for the first, let alone the second, wave, and just yesterday they bought a rapid test and approved it the next day.
Rather than competing for the bottom, we should be looking to see how New Zealand, Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam responded and learning the lessons, not just looking at the poor response and the poor results in the United States. It reminds me of my land survival training in the air force. One of the wise old trappers in Hinton, Alberta, was asked a question when we were put out into the wilderness to survive as young air force officers. Somebody asked how to survive a bear attack and the wise old trapper said, “You just have to run faster than your friend.” That seems to be the 's self-assessment of his response to COVID.
We seem to be running slightly faster than our friends to the south, but we are not learning from the countries that got it right. Hashtags, inaction and ethical scandals are the consistencies we see with this . Canadians, particularly during the biggest crisis of our lifetime, expect more. They expect a plan and they expect a response when families are worried about a second wave.
As my colleagues know, when I talk about health, I am talking about a government's most important role, namely to keep Canadians healthy and safe.
We know that the government did not fulfill its role in Quebec. By rolling out the CERB without first implementing a wage subsidy, it jeopardized jobs. By dawdling for months over a rapid testing system while refusing to use our allies' system, it jeopardized Canadians' trust. By keeping the borders open for the sake of political correctness, it jeopardized Canadians' health. Families in Quebec and across Canada sacrificed a lot during this pandemic: visits with grandparents, weddings, graduation ceremonies.
Many Quebeckers know at least one family member who fell ill. The long-term care homes faced major challenges. We all know the sad story of the Herron long-term care centre, but what really bothers me is knowing that the Liberal government waited far too long to send the army in to our seniors' homes. Even when the Government of Quebec asked for federal help, the Liberals hung back. Canadians are proud of our armed forces. Our men and women in uniform stepped up to help us at a time of crisis. They would have stayed longer if the Liberals had just let them do their job.
Now the Prime Minister is playing petty politics by foisting his own health care priorities on the provinces. Canadians have seen the Liberals stumble so many times that they do not trust them anymore.
My plan is clear. I will increase health transfers to the provinces by providing stable, predictable funding, no strings attached. This is about respecting the jurisdiction of the provinces, our partners, because we can count on our partners, our orderlies, our nurses, our doctors, and our soldiers, but we cannot count on this government.
Who is going to make sure Canada is better prepared next time? Who is going to make sure that Canada learns the lessons from the first wave and fixes the gaps and some of the problems that have put our citizens at risk? Who is going to make sure that working Canadian families stop getting left behind by the government?
Canadians are still getting to know me as the new leader of the Conservative Party and leader of the official opposition. Only the most dedicated political animals saw my speech live at 1:30 in the morning. My second big speech was from my doorstep. Through adversity to the stars.
As more Canadians get to know me, they will know that I set high standards for myself and this incredible team. We are a government in waiting, and we do not accept the poor response and the lack of lessons learned by the current government in a time of crisis.
Canadians will also get to know that I have tried to spend my entire life standing up for this country. I was not born with a sense of entitlement to lead the country, but I have worked hard for my entire life to serve Canada and its people, to earn the chance to lead. That is what we need in public life when we face a national unity crisis, a pandemic, economic rebuilding and uncertainty on the global stage: someone who will fight to ensure that no Canadian family gets left behind; someone who understands the importance of service and community.
Many Canadians know I am very proud to be a veteran. I am also proud to be a Legion member and a Rotarian. In fact, in this House there are probably dozens of Lions, Legion members and Knights of Columbus, Kinsmen, Optimists and Kiwanis. For decades, service clubs, faith organizations and community groups have been the pillars of strong communities, allowing Canadians to come together to accomplish great things together: service above self.
As a kid who grew up in a General Motors family, I also know that some of those organizations that help build strong communities are unions. Organized labour helps build strong communities. Unions foster community and workplace cultures where workers know that someone has their back.
An hon. member: Did Harper tell you that?
Hon. Erin O'Toole: Mr. Speaker, workers know that someone is fighting for them, as opposed to just agreeing with whatever the government says, like that member; someone who will fight for them when they are sick; and someone who fights for them to avoid the steel and aluminum tariffs that the government allowed to be applied on our hard-working families across the country.
I grew up on a street where neighbours looked out for one another. I have talked personally about when my mom was ill. My family and our neighbours were there to help. They were there for the meal. They were there to make sure the kids were okay. Strong communities take care of each other and foster a culture that values the health and well-being of those in their community. They value everyone.
Conservatives do not believe that big government programs are the solution to all problems. In fact, big and massive government can sometimes be part of the problem. Government can, by its very nature, stand between people. A government can give us clemency, but a government can also give us dependence. Only a community and our belonging to it can give us solidarity.
The does not understand the challenges facing our country because he has never had to understand the challenges facing the average Canadian family. Under the current government, Canada has become less united, less prosperous and less respected on the world stage. A large reason is that our Canadian community is being weakened under this Prime Minister.
The likes to preach that we are all in this together, but Canadians have seen time after time with this Prime Minister that this is not true. Millions of Canadians were already left out of the throne speech. They are not, as the Prime Minister likes to say, all there. In fact, they have seen many times that “all in it together” for the current government means the friends and family of the Liberal Party first and regular Canadians second; connected lobbyists for big corporations first and the Attorney General in their own caucus second; the family of the Prime Minister benefiting and the former finance minister arranging a program for the charity that helped the family.
In the middle of a pandemic, the Liberals were helping their friends and connected insiders. In the middle of a pandemic, they were suppressing the ability for Parliament to oversee spending, while they were creating a multi-million dollar plan to pay volunteers. When I talked about that sense of community earlier that we see in unions, service clubs and faith communities, the great thing about it is the altruism. They do not have to be paid. How novel is that, for the big government and connected insiders party? Canadians are left behind if they are not a Liberal insider with the government.
The Liberals gave a sole-source contract to an MP whose seat was hardly cold because he had just left the seat. They are applying national security exemptions to cover up decisions related to tendering during the pandemic. Think about that: the government is claiming national security grounds so that Canadians will not get to see who got contracts for hospital gowns or N95 masks. Is national security actually at risk or are the Liberal re-election chances at risk?
The has built his electoral success on dividing Canadians, province versus province, industry sector versus industry sector, rural versus urban; friends of the Liberal Party, the Laurier Club, versus everybody else. Now the continues that approach with the throne speech. He has not made Canada stronger or more resilient. He has not shown that we have learned lessons from the first wave of the pandemic, yet he is leaving people out of his vision for building back better.
The Liberals are demonizing Canadians who work in the resource sector or grew up hunting with their family. They are cancelling out people because of a difference of opinion or someone's religious faith. Groups that were doing summer jobs programs and intending to grow a sense of community have been cut off because they were associated with a church, mosque, gurdwara or synagogue. How is that bringing people together?
People may not always get along with their neighbours, but in the winter when someone shovels their neighbour's walk before they get home at the end of the day, they are grateful for them. When someone takes a neighbour's recycling bins in for them, or offers to walk their dog, a sense of community is felt. Rebecca and I have felt that on a daily basis as friends and neighbours have dropped off meals for us. Her best friend, Dhan, dropped off Tim Hortons after ringing the doorbell and driving away.
That is what keeps a country strong. That is what gives people hope on the edge of a second wave, because Canadians know that community means that someone will return the favour if they should get into an entanglement or if they are in lockdown because of COVID-19.
Would not most Canadians help that neighbour, just like ours helped me when I was a little kid and neighbours helped our family this week? Would people not help that neighbour because they worked in the oil patch, or came from Alberta, or Newfoundland and Labrador? Is that what we are starting to see with the approach of choosing who will be a part of building back better?
That appears to be the path that the government is on. It is the vision presented in the throne speech where a person is judged by the job they have or where they live, if they are lucky enough to even have a job after COVID: a Canada where the government decides what jobs people have and what cars they drive, a Canada where millions of Canadians are knowingly left behind and are told the country will be building back better without them.
The attacked me for suggesting that we have national unity challenges. Five years ago, when I was sworn into the Privy Council, the Bloc Québécois was not an official party. There was no such thing as the Wexit movement.
Now there are more members signed up for an email, looking into separation, than there are members of the Liberal Party of Canada. That is the 's record. We are going to be holding him to account.
As I said in my first conversation with him, the most important job of a Canadian prime minister is supporting Canadian families and keeping our federation united. What we should do is respect the inherent dignity that goes into working, whether in the forestry sector in western Canada or Quebec, in the oil patch, in manufacturing or aluminum in the Saguenay. When people use their sweat equity and dedication to save for a home or for their children's education, there is a fundamental aspect of their character attached to the nobility of work. They believe they are part of something bigger than themselves. Their vision of work gives them value and dignity that is far greater than a paycheque.
It is time that government thought this way and valued tax dollars, and Canadian workers and the work they do, rather than the sector they are in.
The Liberals always seem to forget this, but the federal government has a key ally in managing this pandemic. This ally is very familiar with what the people need, and it works hard to educate them, care for them and put them to work. I am talking about the provinces.
The Liberals always govern as though power were their birthright. Just ask the . When a party is the country's so-called natural governing party of Canada, it tends to take a confrontational approach to governing instead of a collaborative one.
The Liberals are mistaken. Our country is a confederation, an alliance of the provinces. The provinces have a shared destiny and a shared dream. The Prime Minister of Canada must be the one to bring them together.
As Prime Minister, I will be a partner; I will not be paternalistic. My vision of federalism is a decentralized one that trusts the provinces, that supports resource development in the west and that respects the Quebec nation. These topics are taboo for the Liberals. They are not modern enough for them. This Liberal arrogance needs to stop. The country was not founded by Pierre Elliott Trudeau. It was founded by John A. Macdonald and Georges-Étienne Cartier.
Canada is not a postnational country without history or identity. Canada is an alliance between two founding peoples, in collaboration with the first nations. The Liberals do not have a monopoly on Canadian identity. They do not have a monopoly on freedom of speech. They certainly do not have a monopoly on national pride.
The Prime Minister likes to use scare tactics when talking about right-wing ideology. He likes to claim that we are intolerant. He does not realize that under his governance, western separatism is now a threat to our country and the Bloc Québécois has returned in full force, all because of the arrogance of this government.
The time has come for a Prime Minister who will unite Canadians. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided. We have a country to rebuild.
For too many Canadians, the dignity of work has taken a blow with the impacts of COVID-19, particularly on family-owned small businesses. Going back to strong communities, often small businesses, entrepreneurs are at the core of that sense of community.
The music store in downtown Belleville, Ontario, Pinnacle Music Studios, owned by Ken and Janet Harnden, just closed their doors after 25 years. At their peak, they had 600 students taking music lessons every week. Great Big Sea's Alan Doyle would drop by when he was in town. They played a major role in bringing people together through music and community. Their supply chain was devastated by COVID-19 and none of the government's programs worked for a small, family-owned business like theirs. They recently made the tough decision, after a generation, to close.
The legendary Ranchman's Cookhouse & Dancehall in Calgary, synonymous with western culture for half a century, closed its doors due to COVID-19. This month the property is for lease for the first time in its history. Restaurants like Campagnolo and Federico's Supper Club in Vancouver have had to permanently close their doors.
Small businesses that put communities on the map, like Caribou Crossing Trading Post near Carcross, Yukon, have been struggling as COVID-19 has shut down tourism. Generations of guide outfitters across Canada's north, who not only play an important role in the rural economy but are dedicated stewards to the environment and to wildlife populations, have had nothing to fall back on. Others have remortgaged their homes just to keep businesses on main street open. Some have pivoted their businesses to find new ways to help their communities in a crisis, like the mompreneur who owns Sohma Naturals in Digby Naturals in Digby, Nova Scotia, which switched from making diaper balm to hand sanitizer during the pandemic.
These small businesses are at the heart of strong communities. Canada does not need them to build back better. They do not need the Liberal government in Ottawa to tell them that their contributions have value.
Canada needs to build back stronger and smarter by setting up small businesses for recovery and success post-COVID-19. We need to ensure that more Canadians are not left behind, like they were in the throne speech. Picking winners and losers in the midst of a pandemic, as the seems intent on doing, is a failure of leadership and an abandonment to a commitment to the community of Canada.
Indigenous communities have also been left behind with an Ottawa-knows-best agenda. Indigenous communities have been strengthened by entrepreneurship and small business ownership only to watch opportunities vanish, from catering services to remote mining operations to security and construction. The prosperity of the country, including our resource sector, can be shared by all Canadians, including indigenous-led businesses and families.
Indigenous communities have known more than their share of tragedy. That is why I, like many members here today, wear orange to show support for reconciliation. It is why we asked several questions on the subject today. It is also why I was disappointed to hear the condescending remarks about how happy he was to hear the Conservatives talking about reconciliation.
Both parties have a bad record when it comes to the indigenous experience, particularly surrounding residential schools. The condescension comes from ignorance. The last prime minister in our lifetime to open residential schools was Pierre Trudeau. Brian Mulroney closed the program, and I was proud that Stephen Harper apologized for it. We have a lot to do on this side, but the Liberals certainly have a lot to do as well. Indigenous Canadians are tired of the photo ops, the hashtags and the inaction on progress.
To Conservatives especially, and to indigenous entrepreneurs, reconciliation means opportunity, means collaboration and means participation in the Canadian economy. Encouraging indigenous businesses, building strong economies in indigenous communities, developing indigenous supply chains and giving indigenous young people brighter futures is part of our commitment to reconciliation.
Indigenous businesses are hiring local workers and reinvesting in their communities, yet they still do not have access to compete for procurement in federal government contracts. This, too, was not addressed in the throne speech. Almost half a trillion dollars has gone out the door, and today my colleague talked about cuts to high-speed connectivity for rural indigenous communities. Is that his priority? It is certainly his record.
We need a serious government, a government that saves for a rainy day, a government that encourages economic growth, a government that fosters peace, order and sound ethical governance. That is what our ancestors always did. That is what the Conservatives want to continue to do and that is what I will do as Prime Minister.
A time of crisis and uncertainty is not the time to conduct social experiments like those set out in the throne speech. It is as though simply ensuring that Canadian families have good jobs is not prestigious enough for this Prime Minister. It is as though hashtags, tweets and impressing the UN are absolutely necessary. It is as though all Canadians have to work for a high-tech company to be happy. Perhaps the Prime Minister needs to meet ordinary people, small business owners who risked everything for their company. I am thinking of La Normandise in Saguenay, a family business that has been around for 30 years and had to close its doors because of the pandemic and poorly designed federal assistance. I am also thinking of Montreal institutions like L'Entrecôte Saint-Jean and Librairie Olivieri, which were hard hit by the uncertainty. Small businesses are fed up with roadblocks, taxes and red tape, but the Liberal government is still cruising down the spending highway.
They even turfed the finance minister because he wanted to avoid a spiralling debt. If the money were at least going to Canadians and not the Liberals' friends at WE, it would not be so bad. Either way, our kids and grandkids will have to pay off that debt, which is quite real. When the Liberals refuse to develop our resources, when they refuse to fight for softwood lumber, when they refuse to stop illegal blockades, they are jeopardizing our social programs. Funding for our hospitals, our universities, our seniors' pensions, the Liberal debt puts all that at risk. It is time for a serious government. The country needs it.
The number one job for the of Canada when representing our country abroad is to stand up for the national interest and our values as a country. We must also foster strong communities with our allies. Putting the national interest first does not mean we have to go alone.
For the last three decades, an uneasy compromise has existed with the engagement of non-market economies and countries that resist democracy and rules-based diplomacy. Our belief, as Conservatives, in free markets and the positive influence of capitalism has fought for equal position with our commitment to international freedom and democracy when it comes to communist China.
As Conservatives, we normally believe that tariffs are bad for consumers. Free trade is supposed to lead to more free nations and greater prosperity as the market allocates economic resources to places that allow for goods to be produced and marketed for the greatest benefit of the greatest number of people.
I still believe in free trade, but I also believe in fair trade where countries follow the rules; free trade among free and democratic nations. I believe in free markets, free trade, even free movement with the U.K., Australia and New Zealand in CANZUK. I also believe that we have to resist the protectionist instincts of our American friends because we do more than $1 billion of business with them every day, because the aluminum in Kitimat and in the Saguenay has been a North American enterprise that helped win the Second World War, because since the 1960s and the Auto Pact, we have had an integrated manufacturing and steel industry in North America. We have to remind our American friends about that. Sadly, we have to remind the Canadian government about that.
I believe we should build new relationships, particularly grow our relationship with India and establish closer economic ties with the democratic regime in Taiwan. The price of market outcomes is too high when it comes to the Communist regime in Beijing. The price for Canadian auto workers, steelworkers and aluminum workers is too high. The price for access to safe and reliable PPE and medical products in a pandemic is too high. The price for Canadian communities and Canadians being left behind is too high.
China has ignored almost all of the conditions under which it entered the WTO. Its interference through its state-owned enterprises would not be tolerated from any other WTO member. For more than a decade, the chief economic exports from China often have been IT infringement, counterfeiting and digital privacy. I saw this first-hand when I worked in the private sector fighting the rise and export of dangerous counterfeit goods from mainland China. All of this is before we even raise the terrible ethnic cleansing of Uighur Muslims, the establishment of a police state in a once free Hong Kong under a one country, two systems agreement, the rapid expansion of its military into the South China Sea, the assertion of China as a near-Arctic nation and the suppression of Christian communities in China.
Let there be no mistake. I am in favour of free trade, but the cost of market outcomes with Beijing is simply becoming too high and the approach of the government is simply out of touch. Do we continue to ignore re-education camps in western China to grow our exports, or do we open new markets, work with our allies and rebalance global trade to show the Communist Party in Beijing that the one thing not for sale is our values? To do this we must help Canadian businesses grow new market opportunities, particularly in the Indo-Pacific and break dependency with China.
We must also show a commitment to free trade alongside the value of freedom. Under the 's leadership, Canada has become less united, less prosperous and less respected on the world stage. Tonight I talked about some of the tens of thousands of Canadians left behind in his throne speech. Our communities are becoming weakened, families are worried and our Confederation is strained.
The is dividing our country between east and west, erasing our history and embarrassing us on the international stage.
Our small businesses are in crisis. After being attacked as tax cheats three years ago, family-owned enterprises were largely left out of the COVID response and now tens of thousands of them are teetering on the edge of insolvency. They do not need to build back better, they need to stay open so the family can survive.
Canadians are tired of being pitted against one another, sector versus sector, rural versus urban, west versus east, because it is really neighbour versus neighbour.
At a time when we need, more than ever, to be united, to work together, to have each other's backs, Canada does not need another slogan or hashtag. It needs a plan. It does not need a poster boy, it needs a handyman. People do not need the cold shoulder of indifference, but the hope that comes from a helping hand that gets them back to work. It needs to build back stronger and the only way that can happen is with a united Canada, where prosperity is shared from our outport communities in Newfoundland, to the Saguenay, to the factory floors in Windsor, to the oil patch of Alberta and the lower mainland of British Columbia. It is a Canada where no Canadian is left behind.
Canada needs someone who will fight for our workers and for people who are proud to work.
Canada needs a leader for all Canadians with a plan for all of Canada, not just the parts where the Liberal government finds its votes. Canada is a great country that was built on the communities that have always had one another's backs without question. That is why so many Canadians feel left out by this prorogation and the WE-scandal-avoiding throne speech. I want all those Canadians, especially those feeling forgotten, those in lineups for rapid tests and those worried about job losses in the second wave of COVID, to know I am proud to lead a strong, united Conservative government-in-waiting, and my goal in the coming months is that more of these Canadians will see a Conservative looking back at them when they look in the mirror each morning.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today in favour of the Speech from the Throne, one that I hope my colleagues across all party lines will support, because it will allow our government to continue supporting Canadians in what is probably one of the most difficult times of their lives.
Over the past six months, Canadians have faced an unprecedented situation, one like no other.
COVID-19 has completely changed our lives and affected Canadians in so many ways. Thousands of families have lost a family member to COVID-19. People who are isolated are experiencing mental health issues. Thousands have lost their jobs or the businesses they built and in which they invested heavily. Parents are anxious and scared when they send their children to school.
Although we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation because of this pandemic, our government did its best to support Canadians from the outset. As the virus quickly spread and our economy came to a halt, our Liberal government did everything it could to put in place measures to help Canadians as quickly as possible.
This pandemic has exposed some of the major flaws that exist in our social systems. Perhaps the biggest disappointment and devastation of them all is what happened in our long-term care facilities, in our CHSLD.
For all of the aforementioned reasons, I am in favour of the throne speech because I see it as the quickest way to bring help to Canadians who need it during these uncertain times. Canadians and business owners need to know that the government will be there to support them in their time of need.
Before I go on, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude, on behalf of my constituents, to all of our guardian angels who bravely fought on the front lines in order to keep Canadians safe and healthy. A big thanks to everyone who went to work every day amid this public health crisis, whether they work in the public health sector, in a grocery store, in food production or in any other essential service. It is thanks to them that we got through the first wave, and together we will get through the second wave.
Unfortunately, the second wave has hit many regions of the country, including Quebec, my home province. We expect that this wave will be far worse than the first. However, we fortunately know more about this virus now and are much better prepared.
Wearing a mask, physical distancing and respecting the other public health guidelines will help us keep COVID-19 under control and ensure that we will not have to shut down our economy again. That is why our government invested and will continue to invest in personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE.
By keeping Canadians safe and protected, and by ensuring that we have a big enough supply of PPE for all Canadians, we are giving our economy the best possible chance to recover quickly once the situation improves.
The best possible way of keeping Canadians safe and protected is by ending this virus once and for all, and one of the quickest, most effective ways of doing so is with a safe and effective vaccine.
From the very beginning, our government has been advised and guided by our brightest public health officials. In a similar way, we are being guided by the best scientific minds through the Vaccine Task Force and the Immunity Task Force. We have made investments in Canada's capacity for vaccine distribution and have secured access to vaccine candidates, while also investing in manufacturing right here at home.
Until a reliable vaccine is available, our government will help the provinces expand their testing capacity so that Canadians do not have to wait days to get tested.
We are also looking into new technologies and other types of tests to make everything go quicker. This will help limit the spread of COVID-19 while allowing a bigger part of our economy to remain open in the meantime.
The federal COVID Alert app was created to improve contact tracing and I was happy to learn that Quebec has finally adopted it. It will help us considerably limit the spread of the virus.
More recently, as we were inundated by emails from worried parents expressing their fears of sending their kids back to school, we invested $2 billion in a safe return to class fund to keep teachers, students, administrators and support staff as safe as possible as they began their school year. This fund was given directly to provinces so that they could improve the protection measures for our schools in the best ways they saw fit.
I was thrilled to see that in the throne speech we committed to setting new national standards for long-term care so that our seniors, the members of our society who have contributed so much and who have spent their lives helping build our country, get the support they need. They deserve to live and be cared for with dignity. We will also help seniors stay in their homes for longer, as home care is often the best and preferred option for them.
Furthermore, because COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities, our government will implement a disability inclusion plan to help them receive a basic income and employment opportunities.
We know that COVID-19 has not only had an impact on our health and our health care systems, it has taken a major toll on our economy as well. Businesses big and small had to shut down for months due to public health regulations. Millions of Canadians were laid off in the early days of the pandemic, uncertain of what they would do next. The CERB was our government's way of getting a safety net to Canadians as quickly as possible when they stopped receiving paycheques. Nine million Canadians received help through the CERB when businesses were closing left and right and there was no work available. Now that our economy has started up again, CERB recipients will be supported by employment insurance. For those who have never qualified for EI in the past, the government will create a transitional Canada recovery benefit.
In order to help businesses that were allowed to remain open during the months of quarantine or those who quickly adapted to telework to keep their operations going and their employees on the payroll, we created the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which helped support 3.5 million jobs across the country. The Speech from the Throne announced the continuation of this program that so many businesses have come to rely on to stay open. I was pleased to see this wage subsidy extended until next summer.
Furthermore, in order to help businesses survive the second wave, we will be expanding the Canada emergency business account to help more businesses with their fixed costs. The government will also work to target additional financial support to businesses that have temporarily shut down as a result of local public health decisions and to those that have been the hardest hit.
We know that this is not enough. The unemployment rate is high, and it is women, racialized Canadians and young people who have been the most affected by job losses across the country. To help Canadians land good, reliable jobs, the throne speech mentioned that the government would launch a campaign to create over one million jobs, using a range of tools at its disposal. We will be directly investing in the social sector, infrastructure and in training programs to give workers the skills they need to take advantage of new opportunities. We will also be scaling up the youth employment and skills strategy to keep our young people active and working. Finally, we will create an action plan for women in the economy to ensure that women and their realities are taken into account in our recovery plan.
As much as this pandemic has taken over our lives, we cannot lose sight of our very important priorities, whether they be protecting our environment, making Canada a fair and more inclusive place for everyone or making Canada stronger on a global scale. This pandemic has exposed our weaknesses and the gaps in some of our systems, such as our health care system and our social systems. We should use this major setback as an opportunity to build back better for a stronger and more resilient Canada.
We have an opportunity to rethink our future and to ensure that everyone is included in our recovery, so in the future our economy can benefit all Canadians. We have an opportunity now to align ourselves and our recovery plan with our ambitious climate change goals so future generations can have a chance at a normal life on this planet.
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to be here today and to take part in the second session of the 43rd Parliament.
It is extremely important to be able to debate the throne speech, which, I believe, lays the foundation for success for the years ahead.
There is no question that we had to look at the areas faced with this pandemic to know how we could make sure Canadians were protected and safe. That was the most important thing. The second was how we could help them get through this pandemic, which is extremely important. The third was how we could make things better, because the turf underneath our feet has changed because of the pandemic. There are certain things we must look at and change, and others we must ensure we put forward as soon as possible. Then we have to look, as a country, at what the areas are where we can support more people and make Canada even greater, which is essential.
There is no question about protecting Canadians. Nova Scotia has done an outstanding job. Premier McNeil was outstanding in guiding us through the pandemic. At one point, he said, “stay the blazes home”, which went viral. I am sure members have heard that one already.
I also want to thank Dr. Strang, our chief medical officer, who guided our government through this. We were then able to work with Atlantic Canada, and I want to praise all of Atlantic Canada. Today, it is the safest bubble in North America. We have zero cases in three of the four provinces, and I think one active case in the other province, and we are tracking that. Atlantic Canada is the safest place in North America. That is impressive. As far as a bubble, we have done our part, and I hope we can learn from that experience.
How do we protect Canadians? We protect them with PPE. It is extremely important that we have the equipment and tools necessary to help Canadians. That is why our government moved forward quickly and asked businesses to come forward with ideas and to put forward proposals that would help find equipment that would help Canadians, including face masks, gowns and hand sanitizer. We all needed those things in this country because we knew globally it would be a challenge to get that equipment. We had over 1,000 companies come forward and many across this country. A company in my riding called Stanfield's produced over 300,000 gowns.
The next important thing is the vaccine. We have now invested and secured candidates to move forward and we have agreements with six countries. I am hopeful, as all members are, that we will find this vaccine for Canadians within the next six to 12 months, which would be extremely important.
How are Liberals helping Canadians through this pandemic? That is an extremely important question. The CERB is the first program we put out. Almost 9 million Canadians accessed the CERB. That is how important it was for us to come forward and help Canadians as quickly as possible.
We then moved into the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which provided 75% of workers' wages. In my riding, I spoke to the owner of Boondocks and he told me that he had laid off all his workers and then, shortly after we put the program out, he was able to bring them all back. That is why this was such an important program, as was the program to help businesses.
We were quick to support seniors because it is extremely important to do so. We used a top-up through GST. We then increased it by $300 tax-free for those on the OAS, along with an extra $200 tax-free for those on the GIS. I do not know if members know how much money that is, but in Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook it was $7.3 million. To multiply that by 338 MPs is approximately $2.5 billion to support seniors in this country. That is very impressive.
Initially I was doubtful that young people would have summer jobs. We were not sure how things would unfold, but companies stepped up and opened their doors again. The students went to work supporting their communities, the businesses and the organizations.
I spoke to the Lake & Shore Recreation Society in Forest Lake. Its representatives told me if they shut down, they would never have reopened if it had not been for student summer jobs. They were able to offer the summer camp once again, which is a very important program.
Another is our veterans. It is extremely important that we were able to support veterans quickly as well. We approved almost $200 million to move forward on the backlog, which was extremely important so veterans could get services they deserved. On top of that, we included in the veterans disability payment $600 and that cheque should come soon for disabled veterans, which is extremely important.
We have also added a question in the census to identify veterans. It has not been there for 51 years. How will we help veterans if we do not know who they are? That was extremely important. Yesterday, we passed Bill , which allows for $20 million to help veterans through organizations that work closely with them on the ground, and that was extremely important as well.
We are moving forward on early learning and child care. We have been talking about it for years. It is essential. We have to get it so that both spouses who are working know that their kids have child care and early learning. Now with the pandemic, we need to accelerate that much faster.
Here is where building better is extremely important. Not only do we help move forward, but we also create other types of opportunities. Investing in the social sector is crucial. We are creating jobs and also systems that are necessary to move forward. Investment in housing to eliminate chronic homelessness is very important.
My colleague spoke about broadband. It is essential. We have seen the gaps. It became evident very quickly in this pandemic. If people do not have broadband and connectivity, they will not be able to contribute as much they should. If we want people in rural communities, we need to do that ASAP.
We also have to up our game in skilled workers. The throne speech announced the greatest investment ever in skilled workers and training. David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, stated clearly that this was probably the most important thing we could do to support Canadians.
Health care needs universal pharmacare. We have talked about it and we will deliver it. We are moving it forward and we are going to begin negotiation with the provinces. There are a lot of them ready to go and they will be quick to the door to accept that challenge. This will show all Canadians, including the Conservatives, that it is doable.
We have also seen the gap in long-term care. That is why we are bringing forward national standards, which is crucial to ensure that seniors from one coast to the other will have the same services in health care.
The opposition leader gave a very good speech. For a while, I though he was describing the Liberal philosophy, but he never talked about climate change. It is real and he will have to add that to his next speech.
I also want to talk about what we will do for climate change. We will legislate net-zero emissions by 2050. We will exceed our 2030 targets. We will invest in green retrofits for businesses and clean energy funds. We have the Atlantic loop.
I am very proud of a business in my riding, which is a leader in open mapping. It received $361,000 to retrieve and dispose—
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am most pleased to speak on the throne speech. I do believe this throne speech, and the legislation and policy that will flow out of it, will put Canada on the right track going forward.
We are in a pandemic that seems to be gaining ground again. This is the time for leadership. The has shown leadership day after day. Contrary to what the said, the Prime Minister and his government were in communication with all members of the House, and having meetings at night in conference calls with the bureaucracy. Everybody put in ideas, but the government showed that it was willing, under the leadership of the , to make changes that would improve policies for individuals, businesses, organizations, provinces and territories, day in and day out since the pandemic began.
The developed the programs. He worked with the provinces, and the provinces have congratulated the , time and again, on his willingness to work with them during this pandemic.
He has certainly shown leadership in terms of working with all Canadians. I heard the say that he only wanted to work with some. No. The has worked with all Canadians, with all organizations and with all provinces. The Prime Minister is showing he is the leader that is needed in this time for this country to move forward. This is the direct opposite of what the had to say.
This throne speech sets out a blueprint for where we need to go in the future. There really is no shortage of ideas. The purpose of a throne speech is to lay out the blueprint in the House of Commons and to have other ideas and criticisms come forward, certainly. I believe that, in the way that Parliament is structured, other ideas can come forward to improve on the blueprint that the government has laid out, although it is a very good blueprint.
The finance committee, in fact, heard hundreds of suggestions from Canadian organizations and individuals between April 3 and the end of June. I want to qualify that. This was a criticism that I do not believe was valid. I want to qualify that a key point made by witnesses before the finance committee is that, while future spending is essential, it must be done in a fiscally responsible way, and the should certainly, at the earliest opportunity, lay out an economic growth plan. That is what witnesses were saying. I agree with that approach, and I think that would show Canadians how we are going to get there in terms of meeting the needs of the pandemic but also meeting the needs of the economy going forward.
Witnesses before the finance committee, and in my own riding and across Canada, spoke very favourably about several programs that will be continued as a result of the throne speech and the legislation flowing out of it.
The Canada emergency wage subsidy offered a 75% subsidy for businesses, and it will be extended right through to next summer. Although it is a wonderful program, I would note that it needs some tweaks. Many new businesses, start-ups, or expanding businesses that are buying out other businesses and therefore have different business account numbers with the CRA, do not qualify for the program. We have to fix that problem. Those businesses are important to our economy. They are the backbone of our economy, and we need them.
The second major program announced in the throne speech is the Canada emergency response benefit. It was very important to ensure that families had the funds to put food on the table, and had some security for their families, after jobs were lost as a result of COVID-19.
That program is rightly being rolled into an improved EI program, and is absolutely necessary, going forward. That is a commitment made by the Government of Canada in the throne speech. In fact, legislation has already been put in this House through Bill and Bill that ensures that the benefits of CERB will remain as we work to restart our economy.
For those in the tourism industry who were only able to find limited work this summer, the reduced hours, as announced, that will be required to gain EI is extremely important. The throne speech mentions it and legislation passed through here once on the Canada recovery benefit to support workers who are self-employed or not eligible for EI, the Canada recovery sickness benefit for workers who must self-isolate due to COVID-19, and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit for Canadians who must take care of a child and are unable to work. That is extremely important for people, moving forward, to help them out.
Another area we heard a lot of positive feedback and comments on is CEBA, the Canada emergency business account. The throne speech states:
This fall, in addition to extending the wage subsidy, the Government will take further steps to bridge vulnerable businesses to the other side of the pandemic by:
Expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account to help businesses with fixed costs;
Improving the Business Credit Availability Program;
And introducing further support for industries that have been the hardest hit, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries like the performing arts.
It is important we do that, and we welcome that program, but I want to also put a slight caveat on CEBA. A number of us from all parties have been saying that the Canada emergency business account must allow personal accounts to qualify, not just business accounts. When I was farming I did not have a business account with a bank; I had a personal account and I was running about a $2-million operation. I can give an example of an individual in my riding. This construction guy with a $900,000 operation puts out three T4s and can show income tax going back years, but he does not qualify for CEBA. That is wrong. It should not just be through the bank business account. We had to fix that so that the people with a personal bank account qualify as well.
As an aside, there was the regional relief and recovery fund, established through the regional development agencies, that is basically the same as CEBA but is in the rural areas for businesses that may not qualify through the banks system. That program has run out of money. I am asking the and the government as a whole to put some more funds into that RRRF so that people who actually deal with those agencies can qualify. That needs to happen.
I understand time is running down for my remarks, but I want to say I am looking forward to the work of the Government of Canada in accelerating the universal broadband funding. This is critical. We have seen through the pandemic that it needs to be done.
I am encouraged by what the throne speech said about the Atlantic loop in terms of energy between Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and how that may flow throughout the system.
We really used Canadian resources to help Canadians and build Canadian industries. I am really pleased on the environmental side that the throne speech outlines a number of opportunities for retrofitting homes and businesses, and more.
We have learned through this pandemic that we have to supply ourselves locally, and we need to move forward on that as well.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to share my time with the member for .
Remarkably, it has been more than a year since I have spoken in this chamber. Circumstances and life have intervened. It was an exciting night for me on October 19, 2019, when the people of sent me back to the House of Commons. I want to thank them for that.
The next day was less happy. I was diagnosed with a blood cancer, multiple myeloma, and my kidneys were pretty well shot. Here we are, less than a year later, and I am feeling strong. I am grateful and ready to work, along with so many others with their own experiences. I want to thank the nurses, doctors and support staff of CancerCare Manitoba and the dialysis unit at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. They are now a part of my community, for their nurturing and wonderful care.
How the world has changed since then. No one has been immune to the impacts of COVID-19. It affects who we see, how we see them and how we live our lives.
The throne speech documents our response to this unprecedented health and economic challenge, with investments of billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the pandemic for people, businesses, institutions and communities. We understood that speed could mean imperfection, and adjustments have been made, and continue to be, as we learn and adapt to the evolving landscape of this pandemic.
The pandemic has shown that when all levels of government work together, we get the best results. Canadians do not want their leaders to bicker, name-call and disparage others. Democracies by nature encourage disagreement. That is what makes our system strong. However, we become vulnerable when our debates become acrimonious.
The pandemic has shown that when governments at all levels work together, better results happen. It is worth remembering that there have been 18 meetings between first ministers since the start of the pandemic.
Canadians do not want their leaders to bicker. They do not want them to name-call and they do not want them to denigrate, today more than ever. Democracies, by their nature, encourage dissent and that is what makes our system strong, but it weakens when the debate turns nasty, as we have seen recently in other places.
Among government's big jobs is to determine the pace of change. Whatever we do, it is not enough for some and it is too much for others. Trying to satisfy everyone will satisfy no one. What we do know is that social policy and economic prosperity are partners in nation building. Without child care, creating jobs and generating economic growth, we are slowed. If our citizens are unwell, unable to work or denied education or training, our communities cannot reach their full potential.
The pandemic is the most important health and economic crisis in Canada's modern history, but we will come out of these turbulent times well positioned to write the next chapter of the Canadian economy and the country's history.
The , who has led the Canadian effort with empathy, with sensitivity, with intelligence and grace, has asked me to be his special representative to the Prairies. I am a prairie guy, born and raised, through and through. This is the part of our country that shaped my values and an appreciation for staying close to the ground.
Winston Churchill was in Winnipeg on January 22, 1901, nearly 120 years ago. It was the day Queen Victoria died. Churchill happened to be in Winnipeg giving a lecture to earn a few dollars as a newly elected member of the British Parliament, recently returned from covering the Boer War as a journalist. Churchill looked out the window of his hotel room, gazed toward the west, and said that someday this land would feed the world.
How could Churchill have known that not only are we feeding the world with the crops he had in mind, but we are producing what the world needs and what the world wants today: energy, agriculture, plant and animal protein, artificial intelligence, community building and repairing relationships with indigenous peoples?
In many ways, the Prairies are leading not only in Canada but globally. This leadership will only be more important as nations look for stable partners producing what they need; what all of us need. This is the platform already built by those who came before and enhanced richly by today's talented scientists and academics, by the work ethic of producers all across the regions of the Prairies and indeed right across the country. We are poised to come out of the pandemic to accelerate trade to create more wealth, enabling us to distribute that wealth fairly, inclusively and justly.
As minister of natural resources and as minister of international trade diversification, I had the honour of representing Canada worldwide. In my experience, unfailingly, we are seen by the rest of the world as a leading nation, and a stable democracy financed by an abundance of resources, natural and human. We are humbled by size, challenged by geography and motivated by values that bind. We will get through this pandemic, and when we do, the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will help lead the way.
Alberta's entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity and the wealth generated by its natural resources will take us to the next generation of energy development in Canada. Already we see this happening, making the adjustments necessary to navigate a changing energy landscape worldwide. They will be on the leading edge of transformation, using the resources we have now to help ease the transition to the new energy reality.
Saskatchewan is blessed with fertile soil, passionate producers, traders, entrepreneurs and community builders on the leading edge of research and discovery. Saskatchewan is a trading province, more diversified in its trade than any other.
In my own province of Manitoba, celebrating its 150th year, swift-flowing rivers produce our electricity. Great cultural achievements have made Winnipeg a city attracting the finest creative talent. We have welcomed immigrants from every corner of the globe who have enriched our communities and our economy. We continue the essential work of reconciliation enthusiastically, supported by Manitobans. As our said to the United Nations General Assembly, “For First Nations, Metis Nation and Inuit peoples in Canada, those early colonial relationships were not about strength through diversity, or a celebration of our differences”.
Today, children are observing Orange Shirt Day, witnessing and honouring the healing journey of survivors of the residential school system, our national shame. We should never forget what indigenous peoples have taught us. Without their teaching and protection, many of our earliest immigrants to the Red River Valley would not have survived. Indigenous peoples' respect for land, water and air is a sacred trust. What riches this region enjoys and what an opportunity for all Canadians to move forward with all the potential that is the Prairie west. It is a rich diversity, and we can say we know it, but it is a formidable challenge to weave it together to be a national fabric out of all of this material. This has been the national project from before Canada became a nation.
I am proud to be a part of this team, and when I say “this team”, I do not mean just my colleagues on this side of the House, I mean all parliamentarians who share our aspirations for a strong and prosperous Canada. There will be a brighter day ahead, and we will face the challenges together.
Madam Speaker, first of all, I am so happy to see my friend and colleague from speaking on behalf of his constituents today. For sure, we want to hear the musical instrument that he plays so well.
It is an honour to address the House on behalf of residents of Brampton South to speak in support of the throne speech, which introduced our government's vision for the future of Canada. The throne speech acknowledged the difficult time our country has faced as a result of the worst health crisis of our generation, as well as the measures our government has taken to support Canadians throughout the pandemic. It also laid out the plan for our recovery.
Over the past six months, we have seen Canadians come together to help each other. We are united now more than ever as we face new challenges from COVID-19. People from across my riding have shared inspiring stories about acts of kindness and generosity, stories about young volunteers delivering groceries for seniors, non-profit organizations stepping up with donations and essential businesses serving the community.
When the pandemic started, our government moved quickly to support Canadian families and businesses. In fact, in Ontario, 97% of all direct financial support came from the federal government. The Canada emergency response benefit supported approximately nine million Canadians to help them pay their bills and support their families during these difficult times.
Canadians required a strong response, and our Liberal government has been there to provide direct support to the Canadians who needed it most. Over 9,500 seniors in my riding received a one-time GST payment. Thousands of workers were supported by the Canada emergency response benefit. Many businesses were supported through the wage subsidy, the Canada business account and more, while community organizations also received much-needed funding.
For example, Lady Ballers Camp is a not-for-profit charitable organization that provides girl-centred programs to encourage physical, emotional and educational development. Our government supported this organization through the Canada summer jobs program and the emergency community support fund. This support allowed Lady Ballers to continue operating, and our community is better because of that.
I had the pleasure of meeting with some other amazing organizations in my riding that are doing vital work throughout the pandemic, organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Cancer Warrior Canada, United Achievers' Club, Canadian Association of Retired Persons, Lockwood Seniors Club, Brampton Senior Citizens' Council and many others. They have been stepping up to support our community. To all organizations supporting Bramptonians during these difficult times, I say thanks from the bottom of my heart.
This spring, my team and I worked tirelessly to reunite families of Brampton South who were stuck abroad. A constituent of mine was stuck in Morocco, and my office worked closely with the , Immigration, Public Safety Canada and Global Affairs Canada to make sure they had a flight home. This story is one of thousands from my riding and across the country from people who were thankful for our government's largest repatriation effort in Canadian history.
Health care workers have been on the front lines of this war since the very beginning. I had the chance to speak with many nurses, doctors and hospital staff at Peel Memorial Centre in my riding, as well as with experts such as Dr. Lawrence Loh and Dr. Naveed Mohammad. They are doing great work. Their dedication makes them real-life heroes. I thank health care workers across the country for their incredible efforts. I was honoured to thank health care workers in many socially distanced care parades, like the one at Amica Peel Village seniors' home.
On the topic of long-term care homes, it is an absolute tragedy what happened to seniors during the first wave of this pandemic. Eighty per cent of all COVID-related deaths in Canada occurred in long-term care homes during the first wave. The CAF report done in May on five long-term care homes in Ontario was deeply troubling for me and many in my riding.
One of the five homes mentioned in the report was in my riding of Brampton South. Since the Canadian Forces report, I have worked with a number of my colleagues in advocating for real change for our seniors. I would like to take a moment to recognize my colleagues: the member for , , , , , and others for their tireless advocacy. I was beyond thrilled to see our government make commitments to set new national standards for long-term care and to amend the Criminal Code to penalize those who neglect seniors under their care. This would ensure that Canadian seniors get the best care possible, which they deserve.
The throne speech has a good plan for workers and for businesses in Brampton South and across Canada. It extends the Canada emergency wage subsidy program through the next summer and expands the Canada emergency business account to help with fixed costs, which provides business owners with a clear path for getting through this challenging time. As we build back better from COVID-19, the federal government will launch a campaign to create over one million jobs to restore employment to previous levels. This will be done through investing in housing, transit and green infrastructure projects. I am looking forward to this much-needed campaign to get people back to work and invest in communities like mine.
We have also moved forward with a new way of care and a $240 million investment, made in May, to develop, expand and launch virtual care and mental health tools to support Canadians. These measures will ensure that Canadians with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, get the quality of care they deserve. During consultations with my residents, members of the CARP seniors organization and many others, I heard clearly the necessity for national pharmacare. I was pleased to see the reaffirmation of this national program.
Members of my Youth Council, a local organization and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health told me about the importance of investing in mental health. That is why this government is going to expand on the first ever mental health promotion innovation fund, which provides national funding to support the delivery of community-based programs for mental health. Our government recognizes that infrastructure investment creates good jobs and builds healthy communities. Bramptonians know that we need strong investments in our city and I have been working hard to ensure we get our fair share, whether it be $35 million in safe restart funding to support the City of Brampton; the largest investment in housing by the federal government the Peel Region has ever seen, which will create over 2,200 affordable units and shelters; or more transit funding, like we saw this summer where the federal government invested approximately $45 million to upgrade Brampton's transit system. This government knows now is not the time for austerity. It is the time to invest in our communities and in Canadians.
Some of the people hardest hit by COVID-19 are women, especially low-income women. I am proud that the government has listened to the needs of women and is taking bold action to support them as they establish affordable, inclusive and high-quality child care. Creating a Canada-wide early learning and child care system will relieve the burden on women and families.
Recently I visited a local child care facility in my riding, Lullaboo Nursery, to see how it was adapting during COVID-19. I was thrilled to see that support is coming for this essential service. Let me be clear: There can be no recovery without recovery for women.
Finally, I would like to discuss the fight for racial equality for all Canadians. The throne speech addresses these concerns and will take steps to address online hate by introducing legislation to address systemic inequalities and by bringing reforms to the RCMP. Brampton South is a beautiful community that everyone should feel safe to call home. One's religion, who they love or the colour of their skin should not matter.
This is a vital moment to shape Canada's future for the better. Our Liberal government's Speech from the Throne lays out bold action on the environment, the economy and equality. We are focusing on protecting Canadians from COVID-19, and helping them get through the pandemic by supporting Canadians and businesses for as long as it lasts and building back better to create a stronger, more resilient Canada.
We are making commitments to extend key supports to help Canadian workers, families and small businesses through COVID-19. I am asking all members of Parliament to support the bill so that Canadians continue to receive the help they need in this most difficult time.
Madam Speaker, first of all, I will be splitting my time on this speech with the member for .
If I had to choose a heading for this year's Speech from the Throne, I would choose the 's byline, “not the time for austerity”.
I like it for so many reasons, particularly in relation to what is happening in our world. I like to get to the root of things, so I went to the source and found the applicable definition of “austerity” as it relates to the economy. It is this: enforced or extreme economy especially on a national scale.
Given what our nation is facing, I could not agree more with that course of action. Canadians need to be sure that the government will address the real problem that is facing this country immediately, and that is a worldwide pandemic that is costing millions of lives around the world.
For all of us who serve Canadians at this unique time in history, it is our duty to ensure that we do our utmost to provide the environment that minimizes the toll the virus takes on the lives of Canadians.
First, the instruments of government are there for us to mitigate the adverse health outcomes, and we must use all of these resources and fund them to the level required to address the Canadian health system's response to this pandemic.
Second, we need to mitigate any long-term damage that would occur as Canadians feel the effects of the shutdown of parts of our economy necessitated by a response to the virus. Parts of Canada's economy have responded well after the initial shutdown. Sadly, parts of our economy will take years to recover to the same level they were at prior to March of this year. It is our job to ensure that we remove the structural impediments to the survival of these industries, so that the cost of insolvency and restart are minimized, because that affects us all.
In addition, the people in those industries, those who have trained to excel in their chosen field, need to have clarity as to how we emerge from this pandemic even though the when is still not clear. Forgoing a life of effort and investment, both personal and financial, is not the chosen outcome. Addressing these two objectives austerely would be the wrong approach.
Then I look at the government's response to the pandemic and the economic turmoil our country has experienced thus far this year: government programs that have expended twice as much as was lost in income, hastily designed response programs that throw Canadian taxpayers' money at the wall to see what sticks, several failed responses that have missed the target for helping those we need to help, and covering up incompetence on program execution and design with the taxpayers' wallet, resulting in the highest unemployment rate in the G7 group of advanced countries and the most spending per capita in this group of Canada's peers.
Call it what we want, eventually results matter, and the report card on the government's performance is dismal. We all recognize that mistakes have been made in our response to the pandemic and its economic outcomes, and we accept that mistakes happen when governments need to move very quickly to address an urgent situation. However, it is incumbent upon us to take what we have learned thus far and not continue with the same mistakes going forward.
That is not austerity; that is common sense. I do not know why the government confuses the two.
Let me move to how the Speech from the Throne fails. This was deemed so necessary that a make-believe Parliament, barely sitting, had to prorogue in the middle of the summer.
Failure one is its misleading Canadians on fiscal sustainability. Here are the incoherent statements on financial stability contained in the Speech from the Throne. The first quote is “With interest rates so low, central banks can only do so much to help.” The second is “This Government will preserve Canada’s fiscal advantage and continue to be guided by values of sustainability and prudence.” The third is “Government can do so while also locking in the low cost of borrowing for decades to come.”
Considering that this country's central bank, the Bank of Canada, has increased its balance sheet almost fivefold in the past six months to over $500 billion, keeping interest rates low only works because the only buyer of our country's bonds is the Crown corporation we own. Our debt is being mispriced and Canadians are bearing not just that balance sheet but also that excessive risk.
What happens when this independent central bank says that it will no longer buy the debt being issued by the Government of Canada? By the way, it is something it was not doing at scale until this year. Is the Government of Canada now subject to the whims of the Governor of the Bank of Canada? An independent central bank has suddenly become a very powerful central bank.
Then there is this statement in the Speech from the Throne: “maintaining a commitment to fiscal sustainability and economic growth as the foundation of a strong and vibrant society.” We have been spending beyond our means for every year of the government's mandate, and now we have been unprepared for an unusual event. The government's latest response is to abandon anything resembling a fiscal anchor and replace the finance minister. At least someone got fired for all this financial nonsense. As much as I agree that someone had to be accountable for the fiscal mess the government has created for this country, I sense strongly that the person pulling the trigger in that action is the real problem.
Failure number two is that “build back better” is an overreach at this critical time in our nation's history. First of all, recycling American gimmickry is political sloganeering that should require royalty payment to the producers. This statement is beyond trite. Canada has always built upon our strengths, and our Canadian resource industries lead the world in environmental standards. This overreach, costed by many to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, provides no accountability for a tangible environmental outcome, and its scale is only being considered because of the pandemic, that is, why let a good crisis go to waste? It talks of millions of jobs and echoes the same nonsense put forth in the green energy strategy of the late Ontario Liberal government. It is no surprise that the plan has the same architects. Who are the main beneficiaries of an industry that will pay half the Canadian corporate tax rate? Once again, accountability, please.
Where in Ontario are the hundreds of thousands of jobs, these new clean-energy jobs that were promised as part of the increase in power costs in Ontario that has done its fair part to move jobs out of Canada? This part of the throne speech needs to be called out for what it is: a job selection and subsidization mechanism. The government is saying that it likes transferring taxpayer funds from productive parts of Canada's economy to parts of the economy that have more influence with the government. It is insider influence at its worst, and the government has shown it is a master practitioner. The government's friends win; Canadian taxpayers lose. What is left out is the Canadian resource industry.
Let me again quote from the Speech from the Throne. “Canada cannot reach net zero without the know-how of the energy sector...including people in places like British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.” Are these far-flung places? The writer of this part of the Speech from the Throne should be sent to the hinterlands to find that we are all Canadians with the same desires to build a great country while contributing to our businesses, our families and our communities.
I will quote the speech a final time. “The Government will: Support manufacturing, natural resource, and energy sectors as they work to transform to meet a net zero future, creating good-paying and long-lasting jobs”.
If there is one consistently oxymoronic thought pattern I hear in Ottawa from members of the government, it is this notion that we have to retrain our country's best scientists, engineers and technicians, all while saying we need to follow the science. Our industries are adjusting to a low-carbon world. The government is the only inconsistent factor in getting to a viable outcome, and I caution the government on its actions in this regard. Tempers are rising. People do not believe the Liberals are acting with integrity or common sense. The government has no representation in two of Canada's most productive provinces.
Be careful what you are doing to this country. I can tell you very clearly there is more strain—