The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to put my thoughts on the record today with respect to the 2020 Speech from the Throne.
There was a lot of hype generated from the Liberal benches for the speech, particularly because the prorogued Parliament with the excuse that his government needed six weeks off from parliamentary duties to formulate it, but in reality, there was not a whole lot new in this throne speech. It was mostly recycled Liberal promises from the past 30 years. For example, if we take child care and pharmacare, I was but a very small child in the 1990s when the Liberals first announced they were going to do this. That was 30 years ago, so from that perspective the Liberals really have no credibility on any of the priorities they have promised in the throne speech. I am certain many Canadians would agree.
Perhaps the six-week prorogation in the middle of the worst health and economic crisis in a century was really to avoid the billion-dollar WE scandal, the resignation of the former finance minister or possibly the ’s third ethics violation investigation, or maybe it was a pre-election strategy to announce massive spending in order to court votes for the next election. Regardless of the reason, the Liberal government had the responsibility to introduce a plan for Canadians to get them back to work safely and failed to do so.
Shamefully, the throne speech failed to even mention Manitoba, and it was nearly an hour long, which really shows the priorities of the with respect to the concerns of Manitobans. There were so many opportunities for the Liberals to support Manitoba, in particular, our critical infrastructure needs.
I have personally called on the to support the partnership between the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg and approve the $321 million in federal funds required for the north end wastewater treatment plant upgrade project in my riding. Manitoba needs this project in order to support the health of Lake Winnipeg, which as all Manitobans know has been severely impacted by algae blooms due to too much phosphorous. It is a green infrastructure project, a no-brainer for the government, and I have asked and urged it to please approve this funding.
Additionally, some of the hardest-hit people in my riding have been small business owners who employ thousands of Manitobans, and these jobs are in jeopardy. Many of these businesses were not eligible for any support from the Liberal government. There are still issues with small business owners qualifying for the CEBA loan, where business owners used personal banking accounts rather than business banking accounts and as a result were not eligible. The Liberals promised this change months ago to much fanfare and it has yet to be delivered. Many other businesses in my riding were not able to access the commercial rent assistance program, which has been widely regarded as a dismal failure, despite the desperate need for its success.
One area in which Canada cannot afford to be anything less than successful is with rapid testing. Possibly one of the most frustrating things about this throne speech is the failure of the Liberal government to prioritize the desperate need for rapid testing in this country. It is not as if the Liberals did not know it was a priority. The himself mentioned it back in March, six to seven months ago.
If we fast-forward to today, my constituents are sitting in long car lineups on Main Street in Winnipeg because of the ’s lack of leadership on this and the apparent inability of the to pick up the phone and call our trusted allies in Germany, the U.K., Japan and many others, to ask how they brought about these rapid tests for their citizens months ago.
Rapid at-home testing would be a game-changer for Canadians, especially in parts of Canada that are entering a second shutdown, like in Manitoba where we are no longer allowed to gather in groups larger than 10 people, even if we are outside, which has been really tough for Manitobans. Rapid testing would allow Manitobans to safely visit their elderly parents in care homes or send their kids to school with the all-too-common runny nose, and our front-line workers could feel assured that their dry cough is not a death sentence to those around them. Importantly, for the immigration file, rapid testing could give Canadians confidence that families separated due to the Liberals' border closures could safely reunite. Safety is key. The Liberal delay on rapid and at-home testing is unacceptable. Canadians deserve far better from the Liberal government.
The stakes have never been higher. Our economy and the finances of our country are facing desperate circumstances. We have spent $380 billion of deficit so far in this pandemic, which as we have learned from our shadow minister of finance would be roughly $40,000 per family of four. We are only seven months into this pandemic since the first lockdown, so imagine where we are going to be in a year at this spending rate. More than that, our national debt has reach over $1.5 trillion under the Liberal government’s watch. I do not even understand how much money that is because it is so gargantuan. While the Liberals continue to tell Canadians that it is all fine because interest rates are low, Canadians have the right to know that there is no guarantee interest rates will remain low.
The Liberals seem to have no intention of ever balancing the budget, and conceivably, Canadians alive today may never see another balanced federal budget if these Liberals remain in power.
Conservatives recognize that it was the government that forced Canadians to stay home and businesses to shut down, stopping their ability to earn an income, and so it was the government’s responsibility to compensate for them for that.
However, now Canada has the highest unemployment rate in the G7, with 10% of our working population unemployed, and many more working at a reduced capacity. In fact, compared to our G7 allies, we have spent the most on the pandemic recovery, yet we have the worst economic outcomes. How is that possible? It is far from over.
Our beloved neighbourhood businesses are at risk. For example, we know that three out of five of our restaurants may close permanently. It really is terribly sad to think about what Canadians are going through during this very difficult time.
The Liberal government needs to be doing a far better job on many things, and one of those things is immigration. I am honoured to serve as the shadow minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. I sincerely thank our leader for entrusting me with this incredible responsibility on behalf of all Canadians.
As I peel back the layers of this $4-billion department, I am finding that the Liberals have severely mismanaged many areas of immigration, particularly family reunification. COVID-19 is the greatest challenge Canada has faced in 100 years, yet the Liberals have asked some Canadians including and Canadian children to navigate this challenge alone, without the support of a spouse, a parent or a close sibling.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer has told Canadians that the virus may be with us until 2022. What message does the have for families currently separated in response to this warning? The status quo has been cold-hearted and unsustainable. The emotional well-being and financial realities of separated families must be addressed immediately by the Liberal government.
Conservatives believe in a non-partisan, welcoming and well-managed immigration system for Canada based on a fair, transparent and efficient process that earns the respect of all of Canadians. We firmly believe in compassionate measures to assist in family reunification and to uphold Canada’s humanitarian tradition as a safe haven for refugees. I will work diligently to hold the Liberals to this standard.
Canadians expect Conservatives to face this unprecedented challenge head on and to put forward a robust and inspiring vision for the future of this country that ensures national unity, prosperity and regaining respect on the world stage.
We understand the suffering of working people, because we are working people, and we will champion their ambition to be successful and support their families in a free society. Canadians deserve a government that will lead them through the difficulties we face. They deserve a government that is steady, reliable, responsible and ethical, and a government that thinks outside the box and allows the choices of Canadians to reign supreme in their lives.
I love our new caucus mantra, given to us courtesy of our leader. It is Per ardua ad astra, which means “through adversity to the stars”. Conservatives will show Canadians that we are a government in waiting. As a shadow minister, I have been entrusted with the responsibility to fulfill my role with respect, professionalism, the pursuit of excellence and the duty to fight for everyday Canadians. That is exactly what I plan to do.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague, the member for .
I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the recent Speech from the Throne. As Her Excellency the Governor General said, each of us, as parliamentarians, has a duty to work within the constraints of these challenging times.
The members of this House are not only tasked with addressing a once-in-a-century health crisis, but also a devastating climate crisis, long-standing social and economic inequalities, and unrest around the globe. COVID-19 has highlighted existing inequalities in our society and the urgent need for these to be addressed. Although the past few months have shocked our systems, this is not the first time we have been called to address a quickly changing world amid social and economic unrest and a devastating global health crisis, but we have to go back 100 years to find anything quite like what we are dealing with today.
Much has changed in Canada since the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919 swept over a nation already strained by the unprecedented impacts of one of the first truly global wars. This House was a very different place then. It would be another two years before Agnes Macphail would become the first woman elected to the federal Parliament. In that same year, Canadian women were given the right to vote.
During this Women's History Month, it is important to remind ourselves of these facts. The idea that it was important for the government to step up and help its citizens in times of difficulty, and support them when they needed it, was new and radical at the time, but it would not remain so. After losing 60,000 Canadians in the First World War, we were to lose another 50,000 while politicians in the House said public health was not their concern but that of the provinces, or the municipalities, or hospitals and charities, or the individual. Canadians were not prepared to accept such heartless indifference from their elected officials and were not going to take it. They demanded change, as they would again and again during times of crisis. Our predecessors in the House of Commons listened. It is our turn to listen now.
We are the delegates of the people and, as Agnes Macphail said, “The first thing to be considered by...the delegates of the people...is: what do the people want?” I quote the words of the first woman elected to this House because the people want gender equality; the people want us to support the most vulnerable in our society, including seniors and persons with disabilities; the people want social and economic justice; the people want us to fight climate change and leave a healthier planet for our children; the people want us to fight discrimination and bigotry; and, the people need support from their federal government.
Although COVID-19 has negatively impacted Canadians of all races and genders, it is women who have been hardest hit. At the height of the pandemic, 62% of job losses impacted women. Many had to make the difficult choice between their jobs and their children, leading to what has been called a “she-cession”. Over the past five years, our government has made historic investments to promote gender equality. We cannot afford to lose the ground we have gained, and we must do more. In building back better, our government plans to create an action plan for women in the economy, guided by experts whose diverse voices will help power a whole-of-government approach.
I am pleased to see the government's commitment to make a significant long-term investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's she-covery project report, by supporting women's participation in the workforce, by 2026, Canada could add up to $150 billion to our annual GDP. To achieve this, we must offer Canadian families both day care and before- and after-school programs. We are talking about helping more families, helping more women join the workforce and be treated equally to men. I am surprised that I have to say it in 2020, but women are still fighting and we cannot give up now.
Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella recently wrote an opinion piece on the death of her friend, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Abella said Ginsburg spent her life explaining that being fair to women is not being unfair to men, it is simply catching up.
Young or old, our government remains committed to helping the most vulnerable Canadians. Supporting people with disabilities has always been a passion of mine, and I continue to encourage our government to do more for people with disabilities.
I was very happy to discuss the throne speech with disability advocates like Professor Jeff Preston at King's College in London. Our intent to introduce a new Canada disability benefit along the lines of the guaranteed income supplement as well as reforming the eligibility process for Canadians with disabilities is being well received by the disability community. However, Jeff is worried about what will happen after a vaccine is found and people with disabilities try to get back into the workforce. Our government recognizes this problem and has committed to a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities.
While some of us are getting tired of doing business by Zoom, many people with disabilities see this as a lifeline. We must harness this new way of doing business to help everyone.
Over the last six months, we heard about many long-term care facilities that had been ravaged by COVID-19. The tragic scenes that we have watched unfold across Canada these past few months should never have happened. Of all of Canada's deaths related to COVID-19, a staggering 85% of them occurred in long-term care homes. Now with the second wave, we have to do more.
On this National Seniors Day, Canadians have demanded we do more. This is why we will work with our partners in the provinces and territories to implement national standards for long-term care homes, so all Canadian seniors can live securely and with peace of mind. The said recently that he remained unapologetic for doing everything we could to support our seniors, that they deserved nothing less.
While COVID-19 has been raging around the world, fires on the west coast, so massive the suffocating smoke has reached Ontario, remind us of another insidious threat that imperils our world, climate change. Canadians are joining people around the world who are saying we must act and we must act quickly. We cannot put aside our plans for a cleaner environment because we are fighting a pandemic.
I wish this was not a political issue, but regrettably some of my colleagues have turned it into one. They ignore the economic opportunity that creating a greener, more sustainable economy can provide Canadians, including those in the natural resource sector. They ignore the long-term savings for individuals, businesses and governments in transitioning to a net-zero economy. We have not. Our government will utilize the expertise and know-how of the energy sector and the natural resource sector to reach net zero.
A key part of this plan will be continuing to support innovation and help businesses grow and grow green. As the parliamentary secretary for economic development for southern Ontario, I spent the last number of months speaking to mayors, chambers of commerce and business leaders across sectors. They were all very supportive of the government's quick action to support the many businesses that had been adversely affected by COVID. Whether it was the Canada emergency wage subsidy or the Canada emergency response benefit, they knew we had the best interest of workers and businesses in mind.
Just before the throne speech, I spoke with the manager of the London International Airport. He said that they were really hoping CEWS would be extended so they could keep staff on the payroll and be ready when travellers came back, and they will come back. He of course was very happy to hear that our government was proposing the emergency wage subsidy be continued until the summer.
Other businesses were kept afloat during COVID-19 because we offered close to $1 billion nationally with the regional relief and recovery fund, or RRRF, through our economic development agencies. Many of these businesses would not have survived even six months without this support, particularly in rural and remote communities.
Countless Canadians are in sectors like the performing arts and the hospitality or tourism whose livelihoods have been especially hard hit. That is why Destination Canada is investing $30 million to support the recovery of communities. We know the hotel industry is the backbone of tourism in our country and we are working tirelessly to help affected workers and entrepreneurs.
I look forward to supporting even more initiatives. I hope my colleagues of all parties will work with us constructively as we rise to meet the challenges we face today. We are privileged to meet in this chamber. Canadians are calling upon us to meet the times we face. It is our duty to meet them.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure to appear before the House today to speak to our government's Speech from the Throne and why I believe it presents the best plan possible for Canadians who need support during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Our government's plan will ensure not only that our economy can rebound once COVID has been beaten, but that we come back as a stronger, greener, more inclusive Canada.
I am proud of the great solidarity and resilience that the people of Châteauguay—Lacolle have demonstrated during this difficult time. From the beginning of the lockdown, many volunteers and community groups stepped up to help those who were most affected by the health crisis. Terrific organizations such as Sourire sans Fin in Saint-Rémi and the Centre d'action bénévole du grand Châteauguay provided services, such as much needed food to local families, and the coordination of personal outreach calls to seniors confined to their homes. I was very pleased to see our government sent supplemental funds out to these and other groups in our regions that were providing emergency relief.
I also want to take this opportunity in the House to thank the front-line health and essential services workers in our region who worked tirelessly to ensure our health and safety and for their continued dedication to the public good.
With the sudden lockdown, many people found themselves, through no fault of their own, without work or the possibility of finding work. Providing income replacement to the unemployed, self-employed and gig workers was our top priority in March 2020.
With the rapid rollout of the emergency relief benefit, Canadians could breathe a sigh of relief. Many in my riding called and wrote me to tell me how much the CERB helped them and their families cope with the financial insecurity of this crisis. It helped them to do what they needed to do to keep themselves and their families safe during the first six months of this crisis.
I do not have to tell members that the COVID-19 lockdown was a huge shock for businesses. In my region, my team and I worked with farmers, manufacturers, restaurants and retailers who had to adapt to the COVID reality. Very quickly we were able to collaborate with our regional development agencies, whether municipal, provincial or federal, as well as our chambers of commerce to identify needs and facilitate access to programs, such as the Canada emergency business account and the Canada emergency wage subsidy. These and other programs were greatly appreciated in my riding, and our government's commitment to extending these programs is welcomed.
We have weathered the first wave of this pandemic and we are now beginning the second. We know this will not be easy, but with the plan that our government has outlined in the Speech from the Throne, we have a pathway forward to take bold action on health, the economy, social equality and the environment to build a more resilient and sustainable Canada for everyone.
The throne speech presents the four foundations of our action plan presented to Canadians to respond to COVID-19 and recover from the consequences of this pandemic.
The first foundation is to fight COVID-19 and save lives by doing everything in our power to protect Canadians, especially the most vulnerable. We need to work together to ensure the health and safety of our citizens and to beat this virus. We will do so by guaranteeing Canadians that they can be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is ready. We will also support our provincial partners and ensure that we have adequate supplies of protective equipment and testing materials.
The second foundation of our plan is supporting people and businesses through this crisis as long as it lasts, whatever it takes. Contrary to what some say, this is not the time for austerity. The strength of our actions now will determine the quality of the world we will leave our children and grandchildren. The best thing we can do is to support Canadians during this health crisis.
Why did our government take extraordinary, but necessary, measures during the first wave of the pandemic? Canadians should not have to choose between their health and their job, just like Canadians should not have to take on debt that their government can better shoulder.
This will be our guiding principle from here on out.
I thank members from all parties for their unanimous support of the measures in Bill , which passed in the House the other night. These important measures, including a more flexible EI program, paid sick leave and a caregiver benefit, will allow us to continue helping Canadians and their families.
By extending the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency business account, we will help companies stay in business, create jobs, support women in the economy and ensure our financial sustainability.
The third foundation in our government's plan is to build back better to create a stronger, more resilient Canada. One thing we have seen is that this pandemic has laid bare unacceptable inequalities in our society. We need to do something and bridge the gaps in our social systems, invest in health care and strengthen our workforce.
Today is the International Day of Older Persons, and I want to say that our government remains committed to increasing old age security once a senior turns 75 and to boosting the Canada pension plan survivor’s benefit.
The fourth pillar of the plan is standing up for our Canadian identity and values. Canadians take care of one another, as we have seen from coast to coast to coast in recent months.
I am proud of the solidarity the people of Châteauguay—Lacolle have demonstrated. For example, a group of girls organized a Black Lives Matter rally with help from our Kahnawake Mohawk neighbours. Since then, a number of initiatives have sprung up in my riding to raise our community's awareness of racism and to support people demanding an end to violence and discrimination.
I would like to take a moment to note the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan, which occurred under deplorable circumstances, and to express my deepest condolences to her family.
We must keep working together to gain ground in the fight against systemic racism and achieve gender equality and reconciliation.
We are proud to champion the values that define our country. This pandemic is the worst public health crisis Canada has ever experienced. The past six months have exposed fundamental flaws in our society and around the world.
We must tackle today's problems and prepare for tomorrow's. Now is the time to remember who we are as Canadians. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to contain the global crisis and rebuild better together.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
I would like to start my remarks today by commending people of the Kelowna—Lake Country community. Their resiliency in the face of this pandemic has been truly remarkable. I would also like to thank my team in our constituency office and in Ottawa, who work as one cohesive group as we triage daily issues, for their hard work in ensuring that our constituents have been responded to quickly and given information or assistance as needed during a very challenging time with daily announcements and also with Service Canada office closures.
It is also important to recognize the many essential workers who have gone above and beyond over the last six months, ensuring food is on our table, mail is in our mailboxes, medicines are in our cabinets, and transportation is available through transit and taxi; and, of course, our law enforcement, medical workers and first responders, who are always on the front line every day in our community and in communities across the country.
Our hearts also go out to those who have lost loved ones during this time.
This pandemic has created uncertainty for so many. Individuals, families, not-for-profits and businesses are having to make tough decisions and, at times, heartbreaking ones. During the course of this pandemic, I heard from countless constituents and business owners in my riding that the programs the government was implementing simply were not working for them. Families have been separated and many still have limited access to each other. People have passed away, either from COVID-19 or other ailments, including in my family, and it has been tough for everyone in different ways.
The last time Parliament sat with its full functions and usual powers was on Friday, March 13, 2020. I took a picture on that day, which I posted on my social media last week, of the calendar right here after we voted to adjourn in response to the spread of COVID-19. I had a feeling it was going to be an important date in our Canadian history and was compelled to capture it as we were filtering out of the House of Commons. Little did I know at the time how significant it would actually be and what the next many months would bring us, or that the next time we would be back at regular sittings with all functions and powers of Parliament would not be until six months later, on September 23.
Some committees, but not all, sat virtually since March. Important committees such as natural resources, justice and human rights, and national defence have not sat once since March, and many other meetings sat infrequently.
It is unbelievable that the government had the international trade committee sit only once since March. I have been honoured with this as my new shadow cabinet ministerial portfolio. There have been important issues we should have been discussing, causing great concern to Canadian businesses. China still has agricultural products embargoed. Canada's trade agreement with the European Union, CETA, will no longer apply to the United Kingdom as of December 31. We received shipments of defective PPE from China. The U.S. put tariffs on aluminum. There were to be four committee meetings to discuss the trade dispute with Australia over excise taxes, which Canadian wineries and cideries will have to start paying on domestically grown product. This will mean, for example, a new $30,000 a year tax bill to small farm-gate wineries.
It is said that someone's true character shows during times of extreme, stressful situations; we saw the true character of the Liberals come out during this time. They just could not help themselves. Their desire for ultimate control, dislike of governance and the parliamentary process, and helping their elitist friends will be their legacy during this pandemic.
Just a few examples include trying to pass legislation giving the finance minister ultimate power to tax, spend and borrow for almost two years, without debate or parliamentary process; not allowing all committees to be sitting virtually and regularly to discuss important issues to Canadians; an order in council in the middle of the pandemic on gun legislation that had no input from stakeholders at a committee so that all voices and facts could be heard.
We saw another example of the dislike for parliamentary oversight in a process here a couple of nights ago where some of us were in this place until after 3 a.m. Instead of properly bringing forth a bill weeks ago, a bill worth over $50 billion in taxpayer spending, for a wholesome analysis and debate and for study at committee to hear from everyday Canadians and stakeholders who would have brought their voices forth with ideas and suggestions, the Liberals allowed for only four and a half hours of debate and forced a confidence vote.
The Liberals have given sole-source contracts with no public request for proposals. There was extensive lobbying with a non-registered lobbyist, of course I am referring to WE Charity; and they were planning on giving an almost-billion-dollar government program to active Liberal campaigners and supporters, again WE Charity, who showed clearly they did not have the financial or operational capacity to fulfill the program.
I was here in Ottawa on August 12, one of only four times we were scheduled to sit this summer, and I had the opportunity to question the former finance minister. Little did I know at the time that I would be the last member of Parliament to question him prior to his resignation during all the conflict and ethics investigations over the WE Charity scandal.
We are here today debating a new throne speech, because on August 18, the announced the prorogation of Parliament, triggering the second throne speech in under a year. He stated that he did so because we need a plan to help families, businesses and individuals and to relaunch the economy. This cancelled all sittings and scheduled committee meetings. This was a real shame, because I sit on the industry committee and we were slated to hear from businesses and industry associations regarding their challenges and recommendations as we work together to recover. I had submitted several names from my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country to bring their voices and ideas forth.
Where is the big economic recovery plan?
Where is this big relaunch plan that we were expecting in the throne speech? We have been anticipating it for five weeks.
Much of the throne speech looks like it was cut and pasted from the last throne speech, which was 10 months ago. When we add that to statements made by the government over the last few months, there was nothing really new that we have not heard before.
We have a who prefers to give speeches from podiums rather than to govern. This was shown a few days ago. When the Governor General had barely finished reading the throne speech, the went on national television to address the nation, basically paraphrasing what the Governor General had just read but in a partisan, election way. It was hardly a unifying and inspirational speech one would expect from the leader of a country.
Unity and sovereignty are not mentioned in the throne speech. These are core values of our country and have been put in jeopardy by the government. The only time unity is mentioned in the throne speech is when it is part of another word, like “immunity”.
There is a large backlog in the processing of disability benefits for veterans. I received an email late last night from a veteran in my community who had been waiting for years for back payments for benefits. He was shortchanged because of an accounting error. The Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs has not met once since March, and we have learned that Legions across the country are in jeopardy of closing. They have been networking with their veterans. The service of veterans was only mentioned briefly, in a roundabout way, in the throne speech, with no acknowledgement of key issues to veterans.
The government is vague in the throne speech when it talks about things it is not passionate about, yet it is very specific on others. One example is further restricting responsible gun owners.
First responders are dealing with overdoses continually, every day, and the government said that it will “continue to address the opioid epidemic tearing through communities”. What does this mean? There are no actions or policy ideas.
Planting two billion trees was in the last throne speech, and planting two billion trees is in this throne speech. What a lost opportunity this summer. People who were looking for work could have been outdoors planting trees. There were volunteer opportunities.
Businesses, particular small businesses, were mentioned, but there was nothing new or hopeful to grasp on to. There was no inspirational relaunching of the economy. There was only a listing of existing programs.
Our important manufacturing, natural resource and energy sectors are mentioned briefly, but only in relation to climate change. They should be strong economic engines of our recovery. Businesses in all of these sectors are on hold, and not because of COVID-19 but because of uncertainty, thanks to the policies and ideologies of this government.
The throne speech talks about creating one million jobs. Two million jobs were lost and one million have been recouped, but a lot of people are still out of work. If new jobs are to be created, we should be talking about the high-paying jobs that have been lost over the last couple of years.
The official opposition has made many recommendations to the government, which it has implemented as part of its program. I will continue to stand up for what is important to my constituents in Kelowna—Lake Country.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the member for for her great speech today and her outstanding work since her election last year. She is a strong addition to our government in waiting. I just want to let her know that her hard work is very much appreciated.
I would like to thank all of the workers in my community who have put their community first during 2020. From prevention to testing to treatment, people in the health care field, and those who have stepped into the health care field, have done so much for our community. We have essential workers who, in times of great uncertainty, continued to provide the services that we required of them, and everyday folks whose jobs were not declared essential soldiered on to continue to serve their friends, neighbours and family members: people working at grocery stores, repairing roads, collecting garbage or working at financial institutions. Whatever it was, they carried on in the face of adversity.
Early in the pandemic, we were called on by the country to come together to provide the support that Canadians desperately needed. Giving credit where credit is due, there was a fast reaction from the government, but it needed a little help to get where it needed to be for Canadians. The wage subsidy is a great example of that. Through the work of all the members in this place, we were able to take it from the 10% proposed wage subsidy to the 75% that businesses were calling for, and that they so desperately needed to be able to keep businesses open and keep employees on the payroll. It is a tremendously important improved outcome created by the work of parliamentarians.
What also happened around that same time, early this year, was an unprecedented attempt at a power grab by the government, looking to tax and spend without parliamentary oversight until December of 2021. Parliament pushed back and we were able to stop that attempt at a power grab.
At that point we knew that the work of the government was going to require a close eye. That became so apparent during the summer months, when we learned that a company had paid members of the 's family half a million dollars. His government saw fit to give that organization half a billion dollars.
At every turn, when members of the House or committee members tried to seek answers, they were faced with obstruction. They were faced with filibusters. The government wanted to deflect, duck and avoid accountability.
While many Canadians were making tough decisions about how they were going to pay their mortgages or rent, and worried, looking ahead, about how they were going to heat their homes or how they were going to eat, the Liberals were looking out for their well-connected friends and the insiders: people with access to the halls of power and the 's office, believing that the executive had a set of rules that was different from the rest of the country.
We heard a great deal of testimony that was very damaging to the government, damaging to the , and so damaging to the then finance minister that, in fact, Bill Morneau resigned in disgrace.
There were echoes of a scandal from the Liberals' first mandate, the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which saw the fire cabinet ministers and kick women out of his caucus who had the courage to stand up to him and speak truth to power. That was the subject of the Trudeau Report 2, in which he was found to have broken ethics laws when he interfered in the prosecution of his well-connected friends at SNC-Lavalin.
During that same mandate the Liberals had, there was also the Trudeau Report 1, in which the was found guilty of breaking ethics laws for his illegal trip to billionaire island, and now here we are. Canadians gave Liberals a reduced mandate and put them on notice. They shortened the leash, but the Prime Minister is under investigation again by the Ethics Commissioner.
While these investigations were going on and the government was being damaged, the shut down Parliament. He prorogued, breaking a promise that the Liberals would never prorogue. In fact, the Prime Minister marched in the streets against prorogation, stating he would never do it and would never try to avoid accountability.
What did the Liberals do with those six weeks, aside from hiding from accountability? They did not get ready. They did not consult with stakeholders and opposition parties. They did not prepare to provide Canadians with the help they need. While all of our allies had approved rapid testing, we were into the second wave here in Canada. After weeks of opposition pressure, after we had come back, and after the doors had been unlocked after they had shut down Parliament, we put the pressure on for rapid tests. We were talking about rapid tests in March and are still asking the where they are. The government bought 7.9 million of those tests, but they were not approved. Suddenly, the next day, they were approved.
We have been calling for these tests but they are not in the hands of the government or Canadians yet. The says it is going to be a couple of weeks for the tests. How many schools are going to be closed in the next couple of weeks while Canadians wait for those tests? How many workplaces will close? How many more community outbreaks will occur? This is a failure of the Prime Minister, one of many during this pandemic.
Canadians deserve better. The said a couple of weeks, but he had a couple of weeks. He had six weeks. However, the Liberals had to rush through the reforms to the emergency response benefit because they did not get ready. They did not use those six weeks. The hid.
Let us talk about the commercial rent assistance program which has been, frankly, a disaster. It is expiring. There is nothing on the Notice Paper. There is no plan. The Liberals failed businesses. For many of the programs they have had, and in spite of urging from business groups, small business owners and the opposition parties, the criteria were often very narrow and excluded many Canadians. Many people in my community did not qualify for a single program.
For the six weeks the Liberals had, the Speech from the Throne fell very short of what Canadians deserve. What we did see, and what has been demonstrated to Canadians, is the importance of having this place, of having our parliamentary democracy and having a check on the power of government. The work that opposition members do is critical to the function of our democracy. Canadians get better outcomes when we do our work, when Parliament does its work and when committees do their work. That is what we are going to continue to do.
As the official opposition, Canada's Conservatives are going to continue doing the work of holding the government to account. When the time comes, this government in waiting will act on the lessons learned during this pandemic, and we will continue to deliver for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, at the outset I will indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Before I commence my address, I want to thank another group that is very important: my constituents.
I thank those who are essential workers, who have stocked shelves in grocery and convenience stores, driven Ubers, delivered takeout and kept our neighbourhoods and schools safe and clean.
I want to thank the medical professionals, like those at St. Joseph's Health Centre, who are bravely treating those with COVID-19, and those who provide health care to the very vulnerable, people like Angela Robertson and her team at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, who are on the front lines of the opioid crisis.
I want to thank neighbours, like the ones on my street in Roncesvalles Village and so many other streets around Parkdale—High Park, who organized to deliver groceries to people in quarantine who tested positive.
I want to thank musicians and artists in our community, like Jordan Isaac, who took curing isolation and loneliness to heart by serenading seniors on their balconies at long-term care homes like the Elm Grove Living Centre, and the organizations for whom seniors are a part of their clientele, like the workers at Parkdale Intercultural Association, CultureLink and Parkdale Community Information Centre, who are addressing the mental health and well-being of our elderly throughout this pandemic.
I want to thank those on the front lines of the spike in domestic violence caused by this pandemic, people like Abi Ajibolade and her team at The Redwood shelter, who are working overtime to keep women and children safe.
I want to thank the small businesses that, despite their own struggles to stay afloat during very challenging circumstances, have found the time to give back to their employees, like the Stay Home ale that was created at the Indie Alehouse, the funds of which go to support the employees themselves. I also thank the businesses that give back to our communities through fundraising efforts, like Barque, which provided food to front-line workers, and the efforts of Cici’s Pizza in Parkdale and Scout in Roncesvalles Village to raise money for food banks.
I want to thank the organizations that have been going above and beyond the call in addressing the critical issue of food insecurity, which has always existed but has been acute during the pandemic. The most notable of these is the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre, which has provided the use of its industrial kitchen to Jagger Gordon at Feed it Forward so that their joint forces could deliver meals to those in need with the help of the Tibetan Women's Association of Ontario.
I want to thank the advocates in my riding who have continued to shine a light on the need for things like climate action, addressing housing, and most recently, the continent-wide movement to confront systemic discrimination and anti-Black and anti-indigenous racism. I thank people like Debbie King, Ayan Kailie and Alexa Gilmour.
As the said, the story of Canada is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This rings true with the residents of Parkdale—High Park, who I am proud to represent here in Ottawa. I outline these attributes and achievements not simply because of what people have been doing in my riding during the pandemic, but because of what their actions have taught us about the pandemic, the fault lines and vulnerabilities they have exposed and the opportunities they have highlighted to build back better.
Let me now turn to the throne speech and the priorities we are outlining for the next session of Parliament and our country.
The first is that the path back to economic recovery starts with a plan to crush the coronavirus itself. This is why addressing the health care needs that relate to the virus is the lead pillar outlined in the throne speech. This means investing heavily in things like domestic supply chains for personal protective equipment. It means investing in research and development to develop a domestic vaccine. It also means procuring the supply of promising potential vaccines that are being developed abroad. It means putting in $19 billion, as we have already, to help all the provinces and territories with the safe restart of our economy. This is fundamental because, without a health plan, we do not have an economic plan and path forward to recovery.
Another thematic point I have learned from my constituents and my capacity as a member of Parliament and parliamentary secretary is that any plan for an economic recovery must start with women. We are in the midst of a “she-cession”. What we need to get out of this “she-cession” is a “she-covery”. These are terms that have been coined in the last few months that very aptly describe where we are as a nation. That is why we heard very active commitments outlined in the throne speech with respect to engaging women more robustly in this economic recovery and a commitment to an action plan specifically for women and their full participation in the economy.
We also saw a commitment to nationwide child care, which has been the subject of much discussion on the floor of the House over the past several days. People say they have heard that before and ask why they should believe people this time around. I understand their frustration. I remember some of those commitments being made by past governments. What is important now is that this is the first time in 16 years any federal government has come to the table in the form of a throne speech or a budget statement and said that, nationwide, child care is a priority. That is a critical commitment, and what I am dealing with here and now is the renewed vigour and interest in that commitment.
What am I talking about? To be candid, I am talking about people like me. For far too long, the notion of child care and a universal nationwide child care program has been deemed to be the purview of women of child-bearing age. The critics would call it a 25- to 35-year-old female issue.
What this pandemic has exposed to all of us, working from home, juggling and trying to balance caring for people who are ill and looking after children with the competing demands of work, is that the current system is not working. What we need is robust child care. By addressing robust and universal child care, we can fulfill the commitment we have repeatedly made that we want to ensure women's full participation in the economy. It is time to achieve and move on this demand. It is good that men, particularly men in this country who have now been through and are still going through the pandemic, are getting on board with this important idea.
The third issue is that we cannot recover from this virus or even prepare for the next one, and indeed there may be a next one coming, when isolation and quarantine at home is critical but too many do not have a safe and secure place to isolate, a place to call home, as we have heard so often in the vernacular.
Housing has to be addressed. Housing has to be part of a plan to build back and build back better. That means owning homes, renting affordable homes and supportive housing. Those three planks of our national housing strategy were announced three years back, with funding to the tune of over $50 billion, but what is very recent is that we made a commitment in the last two weeks to put $1 billion around the country into a rapid housing industry, or RHI, which will do things like build modular homes quickly for people who are in acute housing crisis and need homes to be built now. These are important steps in the right direction for things, as the pandemic has exposed and my constituents have explained to me, where the needs are acute.
I represent a riding in the city of Toronto. Much like many other urban centres around this country, we are experiencing an acute homelessness issue, a homelessness crisis, which has to be addressed. It is not sufficient when people are unable to be housed. Not only are they not able to look after themselves but they are also not able to curb the spread of this virus. What we are doing is upping our ante with respect to homelessness. We are saying that we will commit to ending chronic homelessness. The previous commitment our government made was to reduce it by about 50% over a period of years. We are saying that is not sufficient, and we are upping the priority and making a bold commitment to end chronic homelessness.
The fourth issue is that the recovery must not only build back better but also greener. People have been captivated by what we have seen in terms of a lower carbon footprint and animal life surfacing all around us, etc. They have also raised concerns about the usage of single-use plastics during the pandemic, when people were using single-use plastics at much higher levels. We are addressing things on both ends. We are committing to conservation measures. We are also renewing our commitment to ban the harmful use of single-use plastics.
We are also embracing where the economy is going, as well as what a just transition for workers looks like in terms of embracing a green economy by focusing on clean tech, clean infrastructure and zero-emission vehicles. Part of the million jobs plan we have for this country will involve this new economy, a greener economy, and we will continue to price pollution, an important statement that was reiterated in the throne speech.
The last theme I will discuss is the commitment to ending systemic racism and confronting discrimination. In the wake of what we have seen in the United States and are seeing here in Canada, this is a critical need. It is something I personally have believed in and advocated for all of my adult life. I am glad to see so much interest in it across all sectors of Canada, across all racial demographics and across all groups.
People want to see change. What are those changes? We are redoubling our work on reconciliation. We are working hard to have diversity and procurement. We will address overrepresentation in prisons and corrections through diversion and rehab. We will enact standards about the appropriate use of force and address online hate, something I had the privilege to work on all summer long in my capacity as parliamentary secretary. We are addressing seniors' needs with national standards and with beefed up amendments to the Criminal Code about the neglect of seniors.
What all these themes represent is that we are listening. We are listening to what we have heard from Canadians during this pandemic and as we continue to fight this pandemic. Therefore, those views have shaped our priorities. These are important initiatives that I hope we can have all-party support for, and I look forward to working with members opposite to enact these bold visions.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to support the Speech from the Throne. On March 13, 2020, Parliament shut down, and in the days that followed, in consultation with premiers from across Canada, a strategy was developed for curbing the COVID-19 crisis.
We were in uncharted territory. We asked businesses to close and employees to stay home. In these unprecedented times, the and our government had to rapidly prepare a plan to ensure that Canadians could still put food on the table and pay the rent, and that businesses could stay afloat.
The government introduced the Canada emergency response benefit to help, first and foremost, the most vulnerable. For businesses, it introduced the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which allowed employees to retain their jobs and businesses to stay open.
For businesses, our government introduced various measures, including the Canada emergency business assistance and the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance. Many businesses in my riding, especially in the entertainment and tourism industry, have thanked our government for the CEWS as it has allowed them to retain their employees. We know that over four million people have gone back to the workforce. The fact that the government has proposed to extend CEWS until next October is a welcome relief for employees and employers.
For families with children, we increased the Canada child benefit. For seniors, we provided a one-time tax-free payment on their GIS and OAS. This has helped over 6.7 million seniors. As well, we provided a one-time special payment in April, through the GST credit for low and modest income seniors, of between $400 to $600.
Many Canadians have written to say that the concrete investments we have made in them has alleviated their financial stress.
I held a virtual town hall during the pandemic, and the comments I received from the people of Don Valley East helped us refine many programs. I want to thank all my constituents for their input, which was incorporated into the Speech from the Throne. My constituents will be glad to see that the post-pandemic recovery outlined in the Speech from the Throne balances the needs for equity, sustainability, environmental responsibility and fiscal prudence.
With the ending of CEBA, our government has ensured that these Canadians who have been unable to find a job are transitioned to the EI. Again, I thank my constituents of Don Valley East for their input to ensure that the EI system is aligned to the 21st century.
As a government that is concerned with the welfare of all Canadians, we have used the fiscal firepower to the benefit of all Canadians, unlike the 2008 financial crisis where the previous government gave boutique tax cuts to the rich and left out the middle-income and low-income Canadians through austerity.
How have we been able to invest in people? According to senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, Canada entered the COVID-19 pandemic with a healthy fiscal situation out of all G7 economies. In my previous life, where I did business—
Madam Speaker, as a government that is concerned with the welfare of all Canadians, we have used fiscal firepower to the benefit of all Canadians, unlike the 2008 financial crisis when the previous government gave boutique tax cuts to the rich and left out middle-income and low-income Canadians through austerity.
How have we been able to invest in people? According to senior economists at CIBC Capital Markets, Canada entered the COVID-19 pandemic with a healthy fiscal situation out of all G7 economies. In my previous life, where I did business turnarounds, I know that when we invest in people, we get a 100% return on investment. The best way to keep the economy strong is to keep Canadians healthy.
COVID-19 has exposed that women, especially the front-line workers, have taken the brunt of the stress and job losses. According to the OECD, 56% of women work in the five C’s, caring, cashiering, catering, cleaning and clerical, and 71% have lost their jobs. These are not just statistics, but the reality of many, including in my riding. Women, along with racialized Canadians, youth and persons with disabilities, are facing slower returns to work and dim employment prospects. This is unacceptable.
To get women back to work, we need an affordable child care system. I would like to remind the House that in 2006 the Paul Martin government had secured a national day care strategy, signed by all provinces and territories. This progressive plan would have seen the implementation of affordable child care for all Canadians two decades ago and we would be in a better position today. Unfortunately the Harper government tore up the hard-won agreement, and parents and children alike are feeling the damage of that heartless decision.
Going forward, we need to have a bold agenda. That is why our government and the introduced three new programs: the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada caregiver benefit and the Canada recovery sickness benefit. These programs will capture people in the gig economy, the self-employed and the contract worker as well as those who do not qualify for EI.
COVID-19 exposed food insecurity. Our government stepped up to the plate and provided $100 million to various food banks. A few weeks ago, at a virtual meeting with organizations across Don Valley East, I was pleased to announce that they had received $2 million in emergency funding. This money is to be used to facilitate better food distribution.
To help alleviate isolation among seniors, we provided $9 million in funding for the United Way. To help students through this pandemic, we created the Canada emergency student benefit, which has helped over 650,000 students. Through the Canada summer jobs, we are able to help both businesses and students lessen their economic burden due to this pandemic.
During the crisis, we saw the horrible images of long-term care facilities and the highest death rate. This is a provincial responsibility. COVID-19 exposed how the provinces that did not invest in long-term care facilities and allowed private organizations had the highest death rates.
The showed leadership and worked with the provinces to provide funding of $2 billion to alleviate stress and allow the front-line workers a safe environment. I would like to thank all the front-line workers for their selfless service in keeping Canadians safe.
In addition, through the safe restart agreement, our government has provided over $19 billion to provinces and territories to safely start their economies. These funds are to be used to support the most vulnerable, invest in child care, increase testing and contact tracing, the procuring of PPE, etc.
Farmers should not be forgotten as they have stepped up to the plate to ensure Canadians have access to food. The Conservatives made false statements that no Liberal had ever visited a farm. This is nonsense.
On September 9, I visited the Sculthorpe family farm in Port Hope, Ontario. I was joined by members of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association. The farm raises grass-fed cattle. Farmers like the Sculthorpes are doing important work in sustainable beef production for both Canadian and international markets.
Contrary to what the opposition claims, our government has invested millions of dollars for beef produces and in Alberta alone, $8.3 million for six projects that will help support Canada’s world-class beef industry.
Investment in agriculture, one of the largest contributors to the economy, is an important investment. These monies will help producers become more competitive and provide them with the tools they need to remain sustainable and innovative.
Contrary to the statement by the , the pandemic has brought all Canadians together. My constituents from all political stripes participate, provide their input and want the government to continue doing the good work it is doing.
I urge all members to show leadership and not play politics. People are united, not divided, and it is critical that we remember this.
With COVID-19 in resurgence, I urge all Canadians and residents of Don Valley East to download the COVID-19 alert app on their phones. This app provides guidance to the government in helping to slow the spread.
Madam Speaker, I will begin by informing you that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from .
We are here to debate the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. Perhaps we should first ask ourselves why there was a Speech from the Throne.
The government had not even gotten through the first items on its legislative agenda from the previous throne speech, which was delivered barely a year ago. Then the government sidelined Parliament for months, preventing it from passing legislation and implementing this legislative agenda. Why did the government suddenly decide to prorogue Parliament and come back with another Speech from the Throne?
We need to look back at the context of the prorogation. What was happening then?
At the time, four parliamentary committees were studying the WE Charity scandal, the government did not know how to handle the matter, and the resignation of the finance minister had not taken the pressure off.
In a situation like that, what better way to take the pressure off than to completely shut down Parliament? They had already sidelined it for months, and then they decided to shut it down altogether. The committees that had started working on WE Charity were told, “Game over! Hit the showers!”
We figured that they were raising the stakes, that we would get a substantial throne speech announcing something new, because they had not even been able to carry out the legislative agenda from the previous throne speech that had been delivered only a few months earlier. We thought they would have something big for us, especially since they announced there would also be an address to the nation, which is an exceptional event, a very rare occurrence. We thought we should all sit down in front of the TV, because something absolutely spectacular was coming.
Let me point out to my colleagues that the opposition parties have been working with the government since the pandemic hit, because we felt it was the right thing to do. All but one party ended up regretting it. The government took advantage and started acting like a majority government, ignoring any positive input it might have received from Parliament.
The work of Parliament was suspended, in came a throne speech, and we were all glued to our screens, sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering what would be announced.
In the end, we got nothing but platitudes and recycled promises from last year. The government told us to wash our hands and maintain social distancing and announced what it had already been doing for months, namely being generous to everyone and their dog and throwing around money that it does not have to get Canada through the crisis.
Lord knows it has been tough to get through this crisis so far, in part because, as my colleague from said earlier, the government has utterly failed to do its job within its own jurisdiction.
When it came time to close the borders, the government once again sat on its hands, wasting weeks. In the meantime, the virus, which was not yet present in the community, made its way into the country. The government's reaction was so pathetic that the mayor of Montreal had to send teams to Dorval airport to warn travellers who were arriving in Canada. That went on for at least two weeks.
The government is continuing to hand out money, but the only people it has not been generous with are supply-managed farmers, despite a formal agreement to compensate them. The government is generous with everyone but supply-managed farmers.
The government has also not been generous with seniors. It is giving them peanuts. It is thanks to seniors that the government has so much flexibility and the privilege of a certain prosperity. The government owes that prosperity to seniors and it has forgotten them.
What is worse, the government has now created two classes of seniors, younger seniors and older seniors. It is as though there is a huge difference between the age of 74 and a few months and 75, as though a person somehow all of a sudden needs more help as soon as they turn 75.
Obviously, Quebec and the provinces have been neglected by the current government. Yesterday, I heard the , all happy and proud, say that, at the beginning of the crisis, the government gave the provinces nearly $1 billion to deal with the pandemic. That is nearly $1 billion to ensure that 10 provinces and three territories are able to deal with the pandemic. That is right: $1 billion. He was all proud and happy to tell us that.
This same government was prepared to give $1 billion to an organization that is close to the Trudeau family to manage a program that would pay people to volunteer. What is the thinking behind paying people to volunteer? The very definition of volunteering does not square with the idea of getting paid to do so. The government wanted to give this organization millions of dollars in fees to manage the program. This government thinks $1 billion for a Liberal-friendly organization is not too much, but then claims it is being generous by offering $1 billion to support Canada's health care system during a pandemic. That is amazing.
When we say that makes no sense, that more support needs to go to the provinces, which are struggling to meet intense demands with the resources they have, the government tells us with contempt and in a patronizing way that we are asking for a blank cheque, for money to be sent without any strings attached, no guidelines and no conditions.
The reality is that it was the provinces that gave the federal government a blank cheque when it proposed an agreement that would create a single health care system from coast to coast to coast. To get the provinces on board, the federal level proposed paying 50% of the bill. Now it assumes only 22% of the cost. We trusted the federal government and we were ripped off. Once again it failed to keep its promise, and now it is talking to us about blank cheques.
Just pay the provinces what you owe them. Give the provinces what is rightly theirs. It was the provinces that gave the federal government a blank cheque.
While the government lectures Quebec and the provinces about what happened in long-term care centres, the reality is that on top of paying 78% of Canada's health care costs, the governments of Quebec and the provinces assume 100% of the costs associated with seniors' needs and care. That is the reality.
The government wants to stomp all over us once again and is proposing an agreement with conditions attached if we want the money. We will never accept it.
Madam Speaker, our reading of the throne speech makes it clear that the government has once again ignored Quebec's demands. It is actually very hard to find any concrete answers to people's demands in the throne speech. I myself do not see any.
We want measures for our farmers, especially measures that address compensation, the importance of getting cheques quickly and the agriculture programs that do not reflect the reality of small farmers. We want answers about the aerospace industry, but we did not get any.
SMEs are another issue, specifically partnerships, business owners who pay themselves dividends and very small businesses. Liquidity issues are going to be huge. With all the problems suppliers are having and the whole fixed-costs issue, I am worried we are going to see a spate of bankruptcies. None of that is in the throne speech.
The Liberal plan also involves interfering in areas under provincial jurisdiction, such as health and infrastructure, by investing money without going through the Government of Quebec. The Government of Quebec is opposed to that, of course, and is backed up by the Canadian Constitution.
What about the increased health transfers called for by Quebec and the other provinces? There is nothing about that in the speech. How to explain that Canadians have to wait until the age of 75 before getting help? It is impossible. COVID-19 has real-world implications. I will share two examples from my riding. The Agora des arts, a theatre and concert hall, has undertaken a major renovation. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made the bids skyrocket by 60%. A project that was supposed to cost about $5 million will now cost about $9 million. The federal government's contribution was already limited at 14%. The Government of Quebec covered the majority of the costs, but the community also invested $700,000 to get this project completed. The project is now in jeopardy because of COVID-19, but there are no programs to help in this case. I am very worried, and I am calling on the to ensure that the federal government will join the Government of Quebec in contributing to the project. I also encourage the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue to show their support for the Agora des arts.
Then there is the issue of the Resolute Forest Products paper mill in Amos, which is facing an extended shutdown. This is happening in my area, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, on the North Shore and in other regions of Quebec. We need to create a recovery committee and I would like to be able to propose real solutions to promote the recovery and help processing. Can we capitalize on secondary and tertiary processing? I would like to be able to say that I am building on federal government solutions but, for now, that is not the case. People can count on me: I will be very involved in this file.
The solutions are not in the plan entitled “A Stronger and More Resilient Canada” but in the document known as “Le Québec choisit, le Bloc agit”. That is recognized. The Bloc's COVID-19 recovery plan is strong and practical and based on what people in Quebec's regions are asking for. My leader and all the Bloc members went to meet with Quebeckers. They listened to them and came up with real solutions. I will name several of them.
There is the whole issue of people who are receiving the Canada emergency response benefit. We are very concerned about that. These people are going to have to pay back the money they were given. Could that not have been addressed beforehand? Obviously, the answer is no. It is the same thing with the problems that the lack of employment incentives have caused for businesses. Businesses were looking for workers. Could the government consider giving non-fraudulent CERB recipients an eight-month grace period on any penalties and interest they have to pay when they file their taxes? It is going to be chaos in our 338 riding offices this spring. We will be getting a huge number of calls from people who are unable to pay back the thousands of dollars they owe as a result of the CERB.
We are talking about increasing federal health transfers to 35% with no strings attached. I would remind members that, under the initial agreement set out in the Constitution, the federal government is supposed to cover 50% of health care costs. I am tired of being told that my province is poor when Canada is not paying the share it owes Quebec.
I will continue by talking about the recovery plan. Quebec deserves the truth about the country's public finances. Will the government provide its fiscal projections for the next three years? That is fundamental. Can it give our business owners and our governments an idea of what to expect? It seems to me that that is just common sense.
The Bloc Québécois is proposing new revenue sources to restore the economy. In particular, we must stop tax avoidance by large corporations that use tax havens. That way, the government could recoup billions of dollars and help the provinces and the less fortunate.
We could force tech giants to pay GST. We could also charge a 3% royalty on their Canadian operations. The royalty would go to arts and media organizations that deliver 40% French-language content. We need to stop saying that we are proud to be a country whose two official languages are French and English, and we need to take concrete action.
The moving expense deduction for oil, gas and coal companies could be eliminated. Legislative amendments could be made to collect sales tax from retailers without a local place of business, including on tangible goods purchased from abroad and online. What I find absolutely astounding is that it costs more to send a parcel through Canada Post. For example, Miellerie de la Grande Ourse sells two jars of honey for $12, but Canada Post's fees push the cost to $30. How can our businesses stay competitive? If that parcel were sent from the United States, it would cost less due to international agreements. I do not understand the logic. We need to support our businesses more, especially by lowering transportation costs.
There are concrete ways to support economic recovery in our regions. How can we develop a collective, pragmatic vision? The answer is economic nationalism. For example, we could create a regional development, recovery and economic diversification fund geared toward processing natural resources in Quebec. Regional funds like these could be administered by regional councils empowered to set their own priorities for our own resources in collaboration with Quebec. This could be done for various sectors, such as aluminum, forestry and farming. In my riding, a territorial innovation support fund could be used to build a slaughterhouse.
I think one great idea is to use the infrastructure of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation, but its budget will have to be increased and indexed retroactively so that it can provide concrete assistance to our SMEs.
We could bring workers back to the regions by creating a tax credit for young graduates, newcomers and families who settle in the regions. COVID-19 is an opportunity to encourage people to move back to Quebec's regions.
Federal programs have to be more flexible and adapt to different realities in each of Quebec's regions. No more unilateral solutions, because they are bad for us. Employment insurance clearly needs a complete overhaul so that it covers all workers.
With regard to agriculture, it is time to stop selling out supply management in future negotiations and start compensating farmers without delay. A lot of promises have been made to farmers, but they are still waiting for their cheques. Then we have to promote local agriculture and let Quebec take over the management of the temporary foreign workers program, which has been disastrous.
As far as fisheries are concerned, a domestic market needs to be developed by improving distribution networks and promoting lesser-known seafood products. This would help reduce our dependence on foreign markets. All of this comes with a cost. Why is fish from China cheaper than fish from the Gaspé Peninsula? I will never understand that.
When it comes to transportation and infrastructure, Ottawa needs to commit to contributing unconditional funding for upgrading Route 117, which is notorious in my region as the site of countless accidents. It is a dangerous highway back home in Abitibi—Témiscamingue and in Laurentides—Labelle. This is a trans-Canadian highway. The federal government should contribute. It should also support the regional airports' development plans and encourage a Quebec alternative to Air Canada's virtual monopoly.
We are concerned. The NAV Canada issue had repercussions. If we want our regions to be autonomous and have a strong economy, then investments need to be made in our infrastructure, in our airports.
We need support for programs that help people who work in the tourism industry.
The government can help the region of Montreal. I talk a lot about the regions of Quebec because that is where I am from. Fighting climate change is crucial.
The Speech from the Throne only makes me more of a sovereignist. After all, if you want something done right, you are better off doing it yourself.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for today.
I rise today in a virtual manner to first and foremost thank you, Madam Speaker, and all the House staff for making our participation in this virtual Parliament possible. It is important to be able to have MPs across the country participate, and while I would much rather be in Ottawa physically, I am pleased to be able to represent my constituents here today.
Given this is my first address in the new session of Parliament, I want to recognize two things before addressing the Speech from the Throne.
First, I want to recognize that today is Treaty Day. I am privileged to represent communities across the riding of Kings—Hants, including three indigenous communities: Sipekne'katik, Glooscap and the Annapolis Valley First Nation. Sipekne'katik was involved in the signing in the peace and friendship treaties with the British Crown back in the 1700s, whose agreements form a key basis of the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples today. I wanted to recognize Treaty Day at the beginning of my remarks and join those in my community and across the country who are celebrating today.
Second, I want to acknowledge and thank my constituents for their hospitality and caring for others during a difficult time. Of course, it was and remains COVID-19 where constituents helped by making masks, delivering groceries and providing fresh produce to those who needed it. These are just a few examples, but I could honestly create an entire speech simply on the kindness that was shown since COVID-19 and in the days following the Nova Scotia mass shooting, and I want to recognize those efforts.
As it relates to the Speech from the Throne, there were many themes that I think are important for the communities I represent, indeed, all Canadians. In the time I have remaining, I will highlight some of those.
I will start by saying that Canada is still in the midst of fighting the pandemic, and while I sit here in Nova Scotia where we are fortunate to have a very low case count, we are seeing a rise across the country and, indeed, across the world. That is why I thought it was prudent that the first half of the Speech from the Throne was focused on efforts to continue fighting the virus while supporting Canadians.
We have already taken significant measures as a government to protect Canadians' health and economic security. As it relates to health, there have been direct investments to the provinces, including the safe restart agreement, with $19 billion to support measures such as greater testing capacity, improved testing, support for the purchase of personal protective equipment for health care facilities and resources to municipalities across the country that are on the front lines, frankly, of delivering key services.
This summer, I had the chance to connect with my constituents directly on their doorsteps. As we approached September, the back-to-school plan was the top priority, whether it was grandparents wondering about their grandchildren's plans for going back to school or parents wondering how they could balance jobs and whether their children were going to be safe. This is why I am proud of the government for investing $2 billion to provide support directly to the provinces so that they have the resources necessary to keep our kids, teachers and staff safe, which I know has been a conversation we have heard a lot in the House over the last couple of months.
Programs such as the Canadian emergency response benefit, the wage subsidy and the emergency business account have benefited millions of Canadians and protected their jobs. I would like to highlight investments through the regional relief and recovery fund, which allowed local development agencies, such as the Hants-Kings Community Business Development Corporation, to provide funding to businesses that needed help and did not meet eligibility criteria in other programs.
Given the importance of agriculture in my riding, and I mention this every time I get the chance, nearly $500 million of COVID-19-related support provided to various commodity groups was welcomed and will be important to reducing the negative impacts felt in the industry.
In my riding, I have spoken to many business owners, individual employees, those who have had to stay home to look after a loved one and seniors who benefited from additional top-ups under the old age security. These investments and programs have ensured that Canadians stayed safe and have helped our economy avoid the worst impacts. However, there remains a lot of important work to do.
I represent a riding with many jobs of family members, friends and neighbours tied to the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. There are thousands of jobs in Kings—Hants tied directly and indirectly to the vitality of our airport. I was pleased to see mention of airports and airlines in the Speech from the Throne. While we know that air travel will not return to normal any time soon as a result of the pandemic, it is important for us, particularly in rural communities, to have transportation links that can connect us as a country and serve as a gateway to the world beyond our borders.
I was also pleased to see a commitment from the government to expand the Canada emergency business account to support businesses that are the hardest hit by helping support their fixed and overhead costs.
I have said this many times, but I will say it again. Kings—Hants is home to the highest tides in the world and it is an emerging wine region with hospitality second to none. I hope my colleagues and, indeed, all Canadians will consider visiting when they feel comfortable in doing so. However, I have heard many tourism and hospitality operators and business owners whose model is built around bringing people together who have suffered greatly, so I was very pleased to see mention of the tourism and hospitality sectors in the Speech from the Throne and I look forward to our government's work to support them in the days ahead.
I was also heartened to note that the government has committed to promoting affordable housing. Affordable housing is often referenced as solely an urban issue. It is not. This matter is in the community that I represent and in many rural communities across the country, in particular, by adding the national housing strategy and increasing investments to rapid housing in the short term. We saw that with the $1-billion announcement by our government about a week and a half ago.
I want to mention one development. The Ryan's Park development in Kentville, the community that I represent, serves as an ideal example of what can be achieved through solid public partnerships and the right vision.
I know this topic has been discussed in the House as of late, but I was also encouraged to see rapid testing as a top priority for our government. Given the fact that COVID-19 is likely to be a reality for many Canadians at least in the year ahead or perhaps longer, this is going to be an important tool for us to try to adapt to what is, frankly, our new normal.
Finally, as aforementioned, child care and early education are top of mind for Canadians across the country and I was very pleased to see a focus on early education and a national strategy for after-school programs. Of course, we have provinces that are able to deliver that, but us working with the provinces and territories is important. We have seen that collaboration throughout the pandemic and this is an important step forward.
While our focus must remain on the challenge at hand, we cannot forget about other challenges and opportunities that Canada needs to address, and I would like to address some of the build back better aspects of the Speech from the Throne.
We knew rural connectivity was a challenge before the pandemic. We had invested $500 million under the connect to innovate program and the universal broadband fund and accelerating that is going to be extremely important because we have seen the divide between rural and urban Canada in terms of connectivity. It is like not having electricity in the 21st century. I look forward to our government and all parliamentarians helping support us on that initiative.
I also want to talk about greening the economy. This was a top issue in my riding during the last election. Of course, it is across the country and, indeed, the world. I really appreciate the reference to working with rural industries to help transition them and be ready to be competitive in a low-carbon economy. That is things like agriculture, forestry and mining. It is extremely important that our government work hand in hand with these industries to have them ready to compete in a low-carbon economy.
I will quickly mention the Atlantic loop, the coal to clean strategy. We have a tremendous opportunity in Atlantic Canada, in partnership with Quebec, to have electricity that is zero-emitting by 2025. This is going to open up a world of opportunities.
Platform commitments around old age security, a 10% boost for those over 75, I know will be extremely important in Kings—Hants. I hear from seniors often about the fact that they have challenges in dealing with increasing costs and I was pleased to see that, along with a plan for national pharmacare.
I mentioned agriculture in my riding. One of the silver linings of COVID-19 has been the benefit to local agriculture. Canadians across the country are focused on where their food is coming from. We have seen that the agri-food industry has become very centralized. We need to position ourselves to feed the world, but we also need to be mindful of making sure that our regional and domestic supply chains are strong and that we can support local farmers. It will not only help the local economy, but it will also help for environmental reasons.
The final thing I will mention, which was in my remarks before I joined in today, was around the SM5. I was very pleased to see the continued support for our supply-managed sectors. I have the greatest concentration of supply-managed farms east of Montreal and this is extremely important in my riding.
I am pleased to say that I will be supporting the Speech from the Throne. It is a Speech from the Throne that puts Canadians at the centre of its work and I look forward to working with all parliamentarians to address the needs of Canadians in the days ahead.
Madam Speaker, at the outset, I want to thank every constituent in Beaches—East York and every Canadian across our country who has stepped up in these difficult times, whether they are essential front-line workers in health care, grocery stores or food supply chains, or whether they are teachers or individuals looking after loved ones. I give sincere thanks to everyone who has stepped up and made a difference in these really difficult times.
In the throne speech, we have seen a comprehensive set of old commitments, from the 2019 platform, mixed with a set of new commitments that respond to lessons learned in the course of this pandemic. I want to focus on lessons learned and what we can glean from the throne speech in answer to those lessons.
First, it is important to recognize that we face an economic crisis because of the health crisis and that the best economic response is also a public health response. In the short term, that means a massive rapid-testing program, and in the long term, that means a vaccine. In the throne speech, we heard our government commit to doing everything it can to see rapid tests deployed, upon approval. With respect to a vaccine, the government notes that Canada has already secured access to vaccine candidates and therapeutics, while it is investing in manufacturing here at home.
Second, our social safety net was not fit for the purposes of millions of Canadians. When we look at the CERB numbers, we see there were almost nine million unique applications. Almost nine million Canadians received income support in their time of need.
Our social safety net, specifically employment insurance, was not fit to answer to this crisis. Our government's new EI recovery benefit will ensure that most people will be supported in the coming six months. That is important because there was a lot of angst from people who were worried the CERB was going to end. They now know they are going to receive supports through the EI system in the months ahead.
However, fundamentally, we need a permanently strengthened social safety net. I have pushed within caucus and outside of caucus for a permanent minimum floor below which nobody will fall in our society. In a wealthy country like ours, we should not have the poverty levels we have.
My third point is about essential workers. I mentioned at the outset a need to thank essential workers, but we have to do more: We need to protect essential workers. That fundamentally means ensuring that there is leadership. I know provincial minimum wages matter more than a federal one, but we should lead through a federal minimum wage, as we committed to doing in 2019. It also behooves us to ensure that we work with provinces for portable benefits. Where there is federal jurisdiction, we should also ensure that we are updating our competition laws to address wage fixing. We have seen concerns there recently, and certainly I saw concerns there through my work on the industry committee, where our national grocers communicated directly about the prospect of ending pandemic pay premiums for front-line workers.
We also need to recognize our migrant workers, who are so often our essential workers, whether on farms or in health care settings. We need to ensure that we are protecting migrant workers and ending the systemic exploitation of them. This means prioritizing permanent residency through immigration work programs.
In the throne speech we see language that says, “We owe an immense debt to those who served and still serve on the frontlines...earning the lowest wages in the most precarious sectors...on the frontlines of the pandemic.” It also notes, “Canadian and migrant workers who produce, harvest, and process our food...deserve the Government’s full support and protection.”
Fourth, a lack of supportive housing has undermined isolation efforts, and existing supportive housing, especially for-profit nursing homes, has failed our seniors. We need more supportive housing, but also national standards for nursing homes and increased staff and training levels, with a focus on non-profit care.
In the throne speech we see a commitment to a conversation with provinces about national standards for our nursing homes. We see a commitment to targeted measures for personal support workers to provide increased supports. We see language that says, “No one should be without a place to stay during a pandemic, or for that matter, a Canadian winter.” It also references a recent $1-billion announcement that is focused on eliminating chronic homelessness. Importantly, with regard to old commitments and new commitments, there is an important new commitment in this throne speech to ending chronic homelessness in our country.
Fifth, the economic fallout has disproportionately affected women, and we know that child care is a significant answer. Our federal government has taken important steps over the last five years to support child care, but we need to build on these efforts. In the throne speech we see a commitment to building on these efforts. We see an acknowledgement that we must not let the legacy of the pandemic be one of rolling back the clock on women's participation in the workforce.
Canadians need more accessible, affordable, inclusive and high-quality child care. The government will make a significant long-term sustained commitment to create a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. Also important to note is that there is a renewed attention to before- and after-school care, an acknowledgement that flexible care options for young children are more important than ever.
Sixth, the twin health and economic crises have disproportionately affected people of colour. We need to double down on our efforts to address systemic racism and reconciliation. Working to end poverty will make the biggest inroads.
As an aside, during the course of this pandemic, I had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time reading and learning more about a number of different issues. I read the last writing of Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, from 1967. More than 50 years ago, this leader was focused on tackling racism and speaking about the need to end poverty. Of course we need criminal justice reform, but we also need to focus on our social safety net, not only as a matter of justice for essential workers and people in poverty, but also if we are serious about addressing systemic racism.
We also need to focus on reconciliation. In the throne speech we see acknowledgements that we need to keep moving even faster: We are going to work toward a national action plan for missing and murdered indigenous women; we are going to have UNDRIP legislation before the end of the year; and we are going to continue to work to close the infrastructure gap and make sure there is clean water in every community. I said this in answer to the first throne speech, but I will reiterate it again: We need more attention to our urban indigenous communities. As we know, here in Ontario, over 80% of indigenous Canadians live in our urban centres.
Seventh, we have listened to public health experts to save lives in this pandemic and need to continue to heed their advice to address the opioid epidemic. That work should include a federal task force to reset our national drug strategy, which has been called for by police chiefs, and action toward decriminalization and safer supply projects. We have heard so many different voices: Public health experts across our country have called for this conversation; police chiefs have called for this conversation; the Chief Justice of Ontario has called for this conversation; and people who have lost loved ones have called for this conversation. Every serious person who has looked at this issue has said the current drug prohibition framework is killing people and that we need drug policy reform to save lives. I hope we have a serious conversation about this and put the politics aside to save lives going forward in the same way we have put politics aside in the course of this pandemic.
Eighth, our government can respond quickly and successfully to a crisis with determination, and we need that same level of determination brought to a green recovery and the climate crisis. The throne speech rightly acknowledges that climate action will be a cornerstone of our plan to support and create a million jobs across our country. We need great action, from the retrofits announced in the throne speech to the clean vehicle supports announced in the throne speech, and so much more, to make sure we get to net zero by 2050, have stronger science-based 2030 targets and ensure we have effective climate accountability legislation to set five-year carbon targets and turn those long-term targets into short-term practical actions.
Ninth, infectious diseases represent an incredible threat to our collective well-being, and we need to be proactive in order to prevent the next pandemic. I would argue the Public Health Agency's Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response should issue a public assessment of how Canadian activities, domestic and abroad, contribute to pandemic risk and then tell us how we can take steps to reduce those risks. I had the luck to speak to Dr. Jane Goodall recently, and she made it very clear that this pandemic is at least in part a result of the way we have disrespected our planet and animals. We need to reconsider and reset how we treat both our planet and animals as this relates to pandemic risk.
Lastly, the pandemic is not over and there will be more lessons to learn. This summer obviously offered us a reprieve, but as the cold weather sets in and we move increasingly indoors, we need to maintain our bubbles strictly, as much as we reasonably can. We need to keep physical distancing with others and wear masks when distancing is not possible.
I want to close by thanking every single person in our community who, through the Michael Garron community campaign, has sewn and helped distribute masks. Our office alone distributed 10,000 cloth masks in our community. I want to thank everyone for those efforts.
The federal government will continue to be there, in partnership with Canadian families and the provinces, to make sure we get through this pandemic, not only to address the economic crisis, but also to address the health crisis.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to throne speech presented to Canadians last Wednesday.
I would also like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
First of all, I want to give a nod to the member for , and I hope is still online, who talked about the highest tides in the Bay of Fundy. Let him not forget that he shares the Bay of Fundy with me, as the member for West Nova, the member for , the member for and also the ones down around Saint John. When he says that he has the highest tides in the world, of course he has to share that with us.
It has been a week since the throne speech was presented to all Canadians. Under the current circumstances, I had wished that I would be welcoming it with relief, but unfortunately, this speech is a collection of previous speeches. It is a leftover potluck of previous Liberal promises that they never delivered on, which leaves me very skeptical regarding Canada's post-Covid recovery.
It is absolutely shameful and unacceptable to have prorogued Parliament for six weeks, only to come back with a speech so ill-suited to the health crisis affecting our country from coast to coast to coast. We are all affected by the challenges that we all know about, as well as those specific challenges that are different from one province and one region to another.
We know Canadians have been in dire need of support. Folks need to be supported for many months to come, and we, in the opposition, have been recognizing this necessity. However, to ensure the government's future spending is done correctly, it is incumbent upon parliamentarians to ask the government some tough and important questions before it injects substantial sums of money into programs.
A responsible and respectful minority government consults opposition parties sooner than 48 hours before a throne speech is printed, especially in the current period, and at a time when national debt has reached an unenviable and worrisome level.
With a minority government, the country's economic recovery during a crisis must be done in collaboration with opposition parties for the good of the Canadian population. The should have, for once, worked with the other parties to reinforce the team Canada approach, not only when it suits him, such as when he is trying to defend his throne speech.
We know that the throne speech shows a lack of backbone and a lack of will. It contains no economic recovery measures.
As well, we need the additional health transfers to the provinces and territories to be without condition, rather than with conditions that are a direct intrusion upon provincial jurisdiction. This is certainly not the time to accentuate the deep disagreements the has with his provincial counterparts. Instead, it is the time to help Canadians, small businesses, industries, the elderly and the most vulnerable of our country.
I held the minister of health portfolio in Nova Scotia 12 years ago and know very well that the health of my province was not that of Quebec or Alberta. This is even more the case today, as the cases in the Atlantic bubble are still close to zero, unlike here in Ontario and Quebec. It is essential that the let the provinces manage their needs themselves.
How is it that Canada, which the has been saying for years is doing better than any other country in the G7, still does not have faster access to COVID testing for individuals, has an unemployment rate that is higher than all others, and has a deficit reaching a catastrophic and unprecedented level?
Where is the Prime Minister's real leadership? When it comes to testing, the government made the announcement yesterday that it will be two to six weeks, or even longer, before Canadians have access to the new testing.
Back home in West Nova, the heart of our local economy is generated by tourism and the fishing industry. These two local economies were hit hard in the early weeks of the pandemic crisis. They are still being greatly impacted and will certainly remain deeply affected over the next couple of years.
I quickly addressed to the ministers my concerns and the challenges West Nova businesses were experiencing early in the pandemic. Then, when the government emergency measures finally arrived, it was too late for many of those businesses, as they did not meet the eligibility criteria.
My interventions, I felt, were on time, but the government's slow emergency response for the tourism industry and other small businesses came too late. The tourism season in Atlantic Canada and the survival rate of these businesses has been catastrophic, just like elsewhere in the country.
In the throne speech, it was mentioned that additional support for small businesses will eventually be available, but unfortunately, it is too late for many of these businesses. They were expecting, and I was expecting, real change in the throne speech.
I still believe that, had the not prorogued Parliament for so long and had he acted like a real government leader who makes the survival of his country a priority, we could have worked together, as respectful parliamentarians, on financial measures and emergency programs that could have been adapted to the country's different realities.
I spent the summer travelling in my riding, talking to business owners, especially those in tourism-related businesses. I did my part in supporting them and making the hidden gems of West Nova known to a wider audience. We have a beautiful riding, from the Acadian shores of Clare and Argyle to the mountains and farms of the Annapolis Valley. It was very apparent that they feel completely forgotten by the government, because, for one reason or another, they could not qualify for any of the business programs.
Several elements in the throne speech are, as was mentioned earlier, recycled broken promises, such as high-speed internet access in rural areas like West Nova, the modernization of the Official Languages Act and reconciliation with our first nations.
The promises related to reconciliation with first nations have been talked about by the government since 2015, and they are now seen as a bit of a joke. I find it distressing that the Liberals continue to use the promise of reconciliation with indigenous peoples so lightly. It is a real and serious issue, but the opportunistically uses it only when he is in trouble and needs to shine up his image. It is sad to see the failures of his promises to the first nations, such as the response to the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and last spring's blockade crisis with the Wet'suwet'en.
The best example of this failure is the lobster fishery crisis that has been going for almost a month in my riding. That crisis has been foreseeable for months, almost a year now. The , with her hands-off approach to the crisis, preferred to ignore all the warning signs, believing that the dispute between commercial fishermen and the Mi'kmaq was going to settle itself, just like the thought that a budget would balance itself. However, neither will happen as long as the Liberal government is in office. All of the catastrophic situations that the government causes and ignores will only get worse, and this is causing suffering that can be avoided for many Canadians.
For weeks now, tensions between these two groups have been at their peak. Public safety is at stake, both on the sea and on the wharves. Protests are still being planned, with no clear and equitable deal for either party. Weeks ago, the and I engaged in a dialogue in which we agreed that we needed to work together to solve the issue in a reasonable time, and by considering both parties' interests.
This situation is a perfect example of how I, as a Conservative, wanted to work with the government, and we could have worked together, but I am still waiting for the regular follow-up and fair closure that the Minister was to provide to me. It is completely unacceptable that the Minister says that she is having discussions with the two groups of fishermen, while the commercial fishermen are still trying to make themselves heard. The Minister has been telling us for weeks that progress is being made, but it is clearly not happening in St. Mary's Bay. She should be ashamed of her lack of leadership and her failure to deal with this urgent situation diligently, as a minister should be doing. It is a time-sensitive situation, and she must act immediately.
How can we have lasting reconciliation with our indigenous peoples when the government's mismanagement has set these two peaceful groups against each other, jeopardizing the possibility of reconciliation for another generation? For this, these Liberals should be truly embarrassed.
I look forward to working as the shadow minister for intergovernmental affairs and ACOA. I promise the that I will not abuse his phone number. How much trouble can two Acadians actually get into?
This leads me continue my work in keeping the government to account in this chamber, in committee and, of course, back home.
Nova Scotia and Canada deserve better.
Madam Speaker, it is a real honour to rise on behalf of the people of Barrie—Innisfil to speak in reply to the throne speech.
Before I begin, I would very much like to thank all first responders, not just in Barrie—Innisfil but right across those country, those who have been on the front line, health care workers. As a former firefighter in 2003, I recall the SARS crisis and the anxiety that was felt by myself and others who I worked with in the paramedic and police services in dealing with that crisis. That anxiety was heightened by the fact that we did not know if we would get the virus and take it home.
I really appreciate the first responders and front-line health care workers. They deserve our greatest respect.
I also want to thank the administration staff in the House. I know Gaétan is keeping all our desks clean so we do not take the virus back to our ridings.
Six weeks ago, the government prorogued Parliament. At the time, we were at the height of a scandal that was becoming more emboldened as new information became available. The said that the reason why he would prorogue Parliament was to come up with a bold and ambitious new course for the country. I would suggest that the ambition was on the part of the Prime Minister to save his political skin at that time.
Members will recall that the government was becoming more embroiled in the scandal. More information was becoming available. There were more indictments of individuals who were involved. Therefore, the and the government simply decided to prorogue Parliament so they could make it go away. It is not going away.
Let us look at the Prime Minister's bold and ambitious plan. If any of us looked back to the 2015 election platform of the Liberal Party, “Real Change”, we would see that much of what was promised back then was recycled or rehashed in this throne speech. Many of us will recall that at the beginning of the current government, in 2015, Liberals were big on “deliverology”, but we have seen very little in that regard, except for this rehashing and recycling of promises.
At the beginning of this crisis, all of us were working together in a team Canada approach. I said this the other night when I spoke to Bill . Many MPs were on the front lines. We became the front line voice of the government, because in many cases Service Canada offices were closing. People were calling our offices because they were anxious. The level of anxiety was heightened as a result of the fear, the unknown and the uncertainty of what was going to happen next.
All of us worked together. Many programs that were announced initially became woefully inadequate, and were found to be that. The Canada emergency wage subsidy, for example, started off at 10%. If it was not for the opposition, all opposition parties, and I am sure the government heard about it as well from business, then that wage subsidy would not have been brought up to the level it was.
There were problems with the CERB. People were falling through the gaps. Maternity benefits is an example of where people were falling through the gaps on CERB. It was the same with the CEBA, the Canada emergency business account. A lot of businesses did not qualify for that benefit.
We all parliamentarians worked together to ensure that these programs were in place. Of course, they were meant to be temporary.
Now as we enter into a new wave of COVID-19, clearly we as parliamentarians and the government need to be there to help Canadians. However, we need to be there in recovery as well, not so much as an issue of dependence on the government but to create a recovery plan. What I fail to see in the throne speech is that recovery plan.
What does recovery look like?
We have to ensure the government gets out of the way of recovery and allow the power of the free market, allow the power of Canadian businesses, the people they employ and the products they produce to do that. It comes in every sector of our economy.
The other thing we did not see in the throne speech was any sense of investor confidence in those sectors of our economy that have been decimated as a result of government policy, legislation and regulation.
Clearly the natural resources sector has been impacted has been impacted as a result of the government. We hear many stories of Alberta being on its knees as a result of the legislation, Bill and Bill , regulation and taxation policies that have been imposed on the sector. We want to ensure we move from dependance to recovery, and there was very little in the throne speech that spoke to this.
With respect to recovery, the other area we really need to focus on is the issue of rapid testing. I find it curious that just yesterday the government approved a rapid test for which an application had been filed with Health Canada just 24 hours before. It is amazing how rapidly the government and Health Canada will move when there is a tremendous amount of anxiety on the part of Canadians who are standing in line for COVID-19 testing. The fact is that rapid testing has been around in other countries. Twelve countries around the world have approved rapid testing, many of them our allies. We have trade pacts and trade agreements with them. Many rapid tests have been put in front of Health Canada, so why the delay? Why the delay that further causes problems for Canadian families that have to wait in line for testing and then for the results?
Rapid testing is going to become critical for us in out recovery. I was glad to see the rapid test approved, but the government needs to do more to ensure that it is there.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that the longer the spending plan goes on it will become unsustainable: $343 billion in deficits, approaching $1.2 trillion in debt. That is on the expenditure side of the ledger. We will need to ensure that we create revenue to pay for these types of programs. We have to allow the power, as I said earlier, of the Canadian economy to do that through less legislation, less regulation, fewer policies, less taxation and create investor confidence that will provide us with the revenue we need to pay for those programs.
October 1 is a troubling day for many businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises. Rents are due today, yet the commercial emergency rent assistance program that business owners have relied on, though not many of them because it is a deeply flawed program, will cause those business owners problems.
The last thing I want to talk about are veterans. In its boldness and ambitiousness, the one thing that was neglected in the throne speech were veterans. Not one word of veteran was in the throne speech. Earlier this week, we heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer about case loads approaching 50,000 that had to be adjudicated and they had yet to be processed. That means 50,000 veterans and their families are living with additional anxiety. I would hope the government would announce a plan to help fix that.
Two years ago the NDP suggested a plan to help alleviate some of those backlogs, and we supported it. The government needs to ensure that is fixed. As shadow minister for Veterans Affairs, I will do everything I can to hold the government to account to have those backlogs fixed.