The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.
Mr. Speaker, it has been quite a while since I have been physically present in the House. This is my first day back, partly because of the COVID pandemic, and partly because the decided to shut down Parliament and prorogue to get away from the WE scandal that was damaging his reputation, due to the Liberal corruption and involvement there.
As I am here today, I want to say that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. My heart goes out to those Canadians who have suffered in many ways, including from the loss of a loved one, from separation and from isolation. We all need to work together to do the right thing and move forward.
As is my habit when it comes to the throne speech, I am going to talk about what I liked in the throne speech, what I did not like in the throne speech and what I thought was missing in the throne speech.
In terms of what I liked, there were a lot of noble ideas, including things that the citizens of Sarnia—Lambton could agree with and get behind, but without any evidence that action was going to be taken.
This is the third throne speech I have had the pleasure of hearing. This one was really reminiscent of 2015, with a lot of the same buzz phrases, such as “the middle class and those hoping to join them”, and “a whole-of-government approach”. Nobody really knows what that means anyway. Resiliency and agility were mentioned as other buzz words, but again, it was mostly a regurgitation of promises previously made.
I think addressing the opioid crisis is a priority, but that was a promise made by the government years ago and we are having more deaths from the opioid crisis than from the COVID crisis. Some of the other things in the speech, like pharmacare, the Liberals have been talking about since 1992. We continue not to see anything.
The speech mentioned pay equity for women. I was on the pay equity committee when I was first elected in 2015, and there has been no action taken in five years. Where is that action?
Concerning the truth and reconciliation recommendations, the government has said that the relationship with indigenous people is its number one priority, but since 2015 we have seen no action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.
Achieving the Paris targets by 2030 is certainly a noble theme, because those targets came from the previous Conservative government. The reality is that the Liberal government is not going to achieve the 2030 targets, and it is now talking about exceeding those targets.
These things may be noble, but where is the action?
One of my constituents pointed out that the promise to plant two billion trees in 10 years is way behind, and if the Liberals want to get going, they are going to have to plant 547,945 trees each day for the next ten years. That is another promise I do not believe is going to happen.
Affordable housing is something we desperately need in my riding, and I have been waiting for it. The Liberal government has been talking about a national housing strategy and affordable housing since I got elected. I do not know if the money is just going to the Liberal ridings and not to the Conservative ridings, but I am still waiting. It is a crisis and something we need to get behind.
I was very happy to see something about seniors in the throne speech because, in 2015, they eliminated the minister of seniors, which seemed wrong. Half of the people in Sarnia—Lambton are over 60, so seniors are important to my riding.
The Liberals said they were going to take action on long-term care. Certainly, this pandemic has shown us that we need to do something there, but there needs to be recognition that if we come up with national standards for long-term care, more resources are going to be needed. More helpers will be needed: there are not enough workers. That will increase the cost of long-term care.
How will the many seniors living on a fixed income be able to pay for that, especially single seniors, who are among the poorest in the country? Although there are a lot of noble themes, a lot was just a regurgitation of old promises.
What I did not like in the throne speech was the way the response to COVID-19 has rolled out. It has been a gong show from the beginning. The said there was very little risk to Canadians. She said border controls do not work, and then flip-flopped on the mask issue. I have been sending rapid tests for approval to the since April of this year. To see that the Liberals are still nowhere in terms of implementing rapid tests is a big deal.
It is especially a big deal in my riding, because it is a border riding. Lots of folks are inter-married. There are people who have not been able to travel to see their dying parents, attend weddings or funerals, and a lot of people own property on both sides. Rapid tests would be a great way to make sure people could be tested for COVID, found negative, come across to do what they need to do to be part of their families without risking Canadians, and return. It is incredibly important to get this out and not just say the words but get it implemented, and implemented using a protocol at the border that I suggested to the .
There were some other things that I did not like. Sarnia—Lambton has 30% of the petrochemical oil and gas production in the country, and there was no addressing western alienation or the oil and gas industry. I see nothing but further erosion with respect to this very important industry.
I have three refineries in my riding: Suncor Energy, Shell Canada and Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil. We heard today about the job cuts at Suncor. The day that it looked like the clean fuel standards were being put in place, Shell went up for sale. The Imperial Oil refinery officials are saying it is existential to them: If they do not get an exemption from the clean fuel standard, it will cost three or four billion dollars a year, and the company can be more competitive in other parts of the world. Those were things that I did not like in the throne speech.
I also did not like the single-use plastics ban that was announced. This is hypocrisy from a government that gave $35 million to Nova Chemicals, in my riding, to incentivize the stakeholders to build a $2 billion expansion in Sarnia—Lambton instead of in Texas. Of course, the Liberals had to make concessions on the carbon tax because that was not going to be competitive with Texas. We are talking about 1,500 jobs each year for the next five years, and then a bunch of permanent jobs. Now the Liberals say they are going to ban single-use plastics, which puts this project at risk. These are Canadian jobs.
Single-use plastics are not the problem in Canada. I would point out that in the middle of a pandemic, in order to keep every Canadian safe, every bit of food we got from any place was packaged in individual single-use plastics, and everybody who went to the hospital was treated with little implements that were single-use plastics that were wrapped to be sterilized. When Gatineau floods every other year, the sand is put into single-use plastic bags to keep the damage from happening. The issue in Canada is not single-use plastics. We collect a whole bunch of plastics, but we only recycle 9% of them. The issue we should be looking at is microplastic pellets in the Great Lakes. Those issues are fact- and evidence-based. The Liberals talk about being fact- and evidence-based but, honestly, they are way off base on this one and they are going to cost Canadian jobs again for no reason. I did not like that.
The response to crime is always rich coming from a government with Bill , which reduced incidents like forcible confinement of a child down to a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine. It is always fun to hear what the Liberals have to say about crime. Once again, they are going to tackle crime by putting in a handgun ban. I can assure them that the criminals of this country are not going to obey a handgun ban. The lawful gun owners will, but they are not the problem. Ninety-five per cent of gun crime in this country is committed with illegal guns and guns used illegally. Once again, the Liberals are attacking the wrong problem.
What was missing in the throne speech?
An economic recovery plan was mentioned that is going to create a million jobs. I am not exactly sure where those are coming from, because the Liberals are eliminating oil and gas jobs, they are going to kill the plastics industry and they have not done anything for forestry. It goes on and on. That was missing.
Broadband Internet is a noble theme. Where is the money? My riding was promised $12 million in 2015 or 2016, and we are still waiting for that.
What about the duty-free business? I know the tourism industry is under duress. Duty free is 100% export and right now, the government is doing nothing except closing the borders and depriving tourism businesses of their revenue. Every dollar not spent there is a dollar spent in the U.S., so there is an opportunity.
Finally, I would say the understanding that it is a great time to invest misses the point that, if interest rates increase just 1%, that adds $12 billion to the debt. Provinces are crying out for more health transfers. We give about $40 billion total in health transfers, and a 1% interest rate increase could be $12 billion. Four per cent could be the entire health transfer.
We are really restricting our ability to help the country by not understanding basic math and basic economics.
With that, I will summarize by saying that it was a disappointment, but there is more to come.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend and colleague, the hon. member for .
Since I am the health care critic, it will not surprise anyone that my response to the throne speech is mainly about health and the fate of seniors under the current government. I will let my colleague, the agriculture critic, share his concerns on that topic. However, since agriculture is one of the main industries in my riding, I would like to acknowledge all of the farmers in my riding and tell them how proud I am to represent farmers, who never compromise on the quality of their produce and never will.
The Bloc Québécois had four conditions. Obviously, we made several proposals. We made our position clear. Before we would vote in favour of the throne speech, four conditions had to be met: an increase in health care transfers to cover 35% of Quebec’s costs; an increase of $110 a month to old age security; full compensation for supply-managed farmers to make up for the loopholes in the trade agreements with the United States, Europe and the Pacific nations, which have been allowed to stand by successive governments, Conservative and Liberal alike; and respect for areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.
None of these conditions were met, announced or even touched upon in the throne speech. It should therefore come as no surprise that I will be voting against the throne speech, which I, along with other observers, see as a political diversion intended to draw attention away from the Liberal Party's inherent problems: ethical problems, not genetic problems, and the WE scandal. A number of pundits have commented on the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, saying that it was merely a partisan replay of the throne speech.
This is the same government that keeps calling upon our spirit of collaboration in these difficult times. It is true that the world is going through one of the worst health crises ever. The Liberal Party’s next slogan should be, “Do what I say, not what I do.” It is turning a deaf ear to a broad consensus in Quebec and even, in some respects, across Canada. I will get back to that. Once again, with the throne speech, the government defied a broad Quebec consensus and the unanimous will of every party in the National Assembly. That is something. It also ignored the united front presented by Quebec and the provinces with regard to health transfers, Quebec’s seniors’ rights associations, the FADOQ networks and the AQDR. That is really something.
The says that he is tired of hearing the Bloc Québécois advocate for this broad consensus and unanimous demand from Quebeckers. It is my job to speak for Quebeckers in the House, because he is not doing so, despite being from Quebec. He is turning a deaf ear, as, I would imagine, are many of the Liberal members from Quebec. Who will stand up in the House to defend Quebec? The Bloc Québécois. That is why I was elected.
We are in the middle of a serious public health crisis, and public health is a matter of prevention.
Let us revisit that great idea of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, that of punting the federal government’s deficit into the provinces’ backyards. Some people found that brilliant. Jean Chrétien travelled around the world saying that the best part of this policy was that he was making cuts, but citizens were protesting in front of Québec’s National Assembly rather than the Parliament in Ottawa.
So far, there have been 25 years of cuts. Québec has tried its best to do more with less. It has shaken up structures; it has tried. However, in the case of public health and prevention, when the province is having a hard time caring for patients, when it has to send people abroad for cancer treatments, cuts have to be made somewhere.
At the Standing Committee on Health, which was trying to find solutions and understand what is happening with COVID-19, every expert witness said that we needed to learn something from the pandemic. One of the first lessons is that no one in Canada was prepared to face this health crisis. We will be able to identify the problems later in a report to be prepared by the Committee.
According to those experts, the reason why no one was prepared is the chronic underfunding of the health care sector, which laid bare the shortcomings and weak links in the system when unforeseen events of this scope occur. Year after year, transfer payments have been systematically cut.
The Conservative Party is not in a position to lecture anyone, since Stephen Harper decided on an escalator of 3%. When they were the opposition, the Liberals said that it should be 6%. It is a funny thing. Now that the Liberals have been in government for five years, they are no longer talking about increasing the escalator to 6%.
I am eager to learn what the Conservatives’ position is on the provincial united front. I have been asking the question since the beginning of the debate, but I have not gotten a clear answer. It seems they want the escalator to be predictable, but, apart from that, no one is saying much. The escalator of 3% was predictable, but still inadequate.
Do we agree there is a need to catch up? The federal government’s share of health care is almost 18%, or about 22 cents on the dollar. If nothing changes in the coming years, we will be talking about 18 cents on the dollar.
The provinces and Quebec are calling for 35 cents on the dollar, which means $28 billion more. Right now, the provinces as a whole spend $188 billion a year, compared with the federal government's outlay of $42 billion a year.
During a pandemic, we need to make sustainable and structural investments, not one-off payments. We need structural investments that will enable us to build a future and allow the system to get back on its feet. That is why it is so important to invest wisely in health care.
That is also why our seniors need a decent income. Worrying about making ends meet makes people sick. I am talking about all seniors, starting at age 65. Health issues crop up between the ages of 65 and 75, not just after age 75. We need to ensure that our seniors are financially stable. That is essentially prevention, because, at the end of the day, health care spending is much lower when people are healthy, when they do not have to worry about their income and when they live above, and not below, the poverty line.
For all of these reasons, I cannot vote in favour of the throne speech. I do not understand why the government continues to turn a deaf ear to Canadians.
What does it want? Does it want Quebec to beg? This is our money. The government needs to give us our money.
Mr. Speaker, as agriculture and agri-food critic, I will obviously be talking about agriculture, as my colleague from stated earlier.
Quebeckers and Canadians care deeply about agriculture and agri-food. Last year, we saw the importance of food sovereignty, food autonomy. We realized that it was important. Unfortunately, the recent throne speech was a pathetic exercise in public relations that was completely devoid of new measures. Actually, that is not entirely true: There were some new measures, all of which further encroached on areas of Quebec jurisdiction. That is why we are going to vote against the throne speech, unless major changes are made. Let us be optimistic.
I would not want to ignore the sacrifice that the agri-food industry has made over the past year and is still making. I would like to acknowledge everyone who goes to work every morning to keep us fed. Of course, I am talking about farmers, food processors and agri-food workers. I would like to thank them, because we know we will have all the food we need.
However, we learned that buying local is important. We must seize this opportunity and change course, contrary to what the government did during the crisis. It did not seize the opportunity to act in a manner commensurate with the severity of the crisis. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. Each year, we lose 5% to 7% of our farms, and, this year, the numbers will probably be higher. We have seen milk being thrown out, huge losses in eggs, chickens, grains and agri-food in general. Modifying plants running at low capacity would have required more than a few hundred million dollars.
The food service industry is notoriously unpredictable, and sadly, we are shutting it down once again. Along with labour concerns, all of this puts pressure on the integrity of the food supply. We need to realize the scope of the situation.
The government across the aisle invested $252 million in agriculture during the crisis, despite the Canadian Federation of Agriculture's position that $2.6 billion were needed to make a real difference. During that time, the United States invested $19 billion, about 10 to 12 times more. That is outrageous. We need to do something. The Speech from the Throne only recycles vague promises.
We are going to talk about compensation for supply management. This was mentioned by my colleague earlier. Obviously, it is one of our conditions. There is a rather vague paragraph stating that “those in...supply managed sectors receive receive full and fair compensation”. What does that mean? Who are these workers? What sectors are we talking about? Is it all areas of production?
We want a date and we want timely announcements. Of course, I am going to be told that throne speeches are vague, but everything we are hearing is vague. It has been a long time, and it is not the first time we have seen this paragraph. It is high time something happened. We need help, and quick. As far as milk is concerned, we need the second year's payment. We have to budget for the remaining seven years with amounts because our producers get up in the morning to feed us, but they need predictability. They need to know what to expect next year. They need this money especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The other supply-managed sectors have received absolutely nothing yet. The committee was about to study the issue, but then came prorogation. Why was that? There was a scandal to hide, that is why. The government was left to idle for five weeks, and then we were brought back to the House to vote in four and a half hours on measures that could total up to $57 billion. That is more than $200 million for every minute of debate.
I would like to remind the House that agriculture got $252 million. That is outrageous. The money needs to go out. Poultry, turkey, hatching egg and table egg farmers are not asking for money to put in their pockets. They are saying that they need to prepare for the unfair competition that is going to come from outside the country because those companies do not have to meet the same standards as they do. The reciprocity of standards is another issue.
We need to do something about labelling, and labels will need to be clear. Is it American milk? If so, is that clearly indicated on the carton? Of course, I encourage people to choose the blue logo. I also encourage them to check and see where the chicken in their chicken pot pie comes from.
If governments do not make good choices, consumers will have to. Our supply-managed farmers need time to prepare. Stakeholders are telling us that the amounts for these modernization and marketing programs were decided in August 2019. That was over a year ago now, and this is urgent.
I want to reiterate that I appreciate the throne speech's good intentions, but good intentions are not enough. Supply management ensures stable prices, high quality products and a stable income for the folks who live in rural areas. Supply management promotes buying local, which I believe is trendy these days. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think it is catching on.
It may be a good idea to keep our supply management system. This system supports the dynamic use of our land. It is good not only for supply-managed farmers, but also for veterinarians, farm equipment dealers, truck drivers, mechanics, nutritionists, animal feed producers and many more. This system keeps our rural areas in business. It keeps these areas full of life and makes them an attractive place to live.
Unfortunately, successive governments have given way in response to the WTO loopholes. There was the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union in 2017, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in December 2018, and CUSMA this past July. In yet another unkept promise, CUSMA came into effect in July instead of August, as planned, costing the dairy industry $100 million. We do not hear much about these breaches, but it bears repeating. Foreign producers will ultimately account for 18% of the dairy industry.
The Bloc Québécois believes that we need to protect supply management, since it has already been damaged enough. We are saying loud and clear that all supply-managed sectors must receive the money they are owed as soon as possible. Processors are worried today because they were not mentioned in the throne speech. Everything is vague and potentially full of loopholes. The Bloc Québécois will be keeping a close watch. Poultry, egg and dairy processors have also suffered because of these trade agreements, and they need to receive the money they are entitled to. The government needs to keep its word. It does not seem all that complicated to me.
We need to deal with supply management once and for all. We will table a bill. It is coming. With all the noise we will be making, members will be too embarrassed to vote against it. I invite all members of Parliament here in the House to protect and promote our model.
We have plenty of other proposals in our recovery plan. The other parties sometimes say that the Bloc Québécois is only here to complain and demand money. Last week, we were told that we were acting like we were at the ATM. We are not acting like we are at the ATM. It is our people’s own money.
The problem lies in the division of responsibilities in this federation. Half of the money goes to Ottawa, but 75% to 80% of the responsibilities fall on the provinces. That is the problem. There is a reason we want to leave this federation, and that is part of our argument. In the meantime, since we are still part of the federation, we come here and ask for our money, because it is our people’s money and we need it for our long-term care homes, among other things.
I am getting so carried away that I will not have enough time to talk about our recovery plan. However, I will say that we need to encourage and promote greener practices, riparian buffer zones, organic farming, biomethane production, the transition to clean energy sources, local agriculture, greenhouse production using clean energy sources, and agri-tourism. We also need to transfer responsibility for temporary foreign workers to Quebec.
We are proposing quick adjustments, but we are asking that the responsibility be transferred to Quebec to make things easier. Earlier on, I spoke about the labels on all the products we are letting in from abroad. Do these products meet our standards? Are they properly labelled? Will our consumers have the information they need to make informed choices? Slaughter capacity in the regions is also a priority, an extremely urgent matter for which measures need to be implemented.
I will continue as I answer questions.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
We remain today in unprecedented times. Families and loved ones mourn the deaths of over one million people around the world as a result of the coronavirus, with over 34 million people having been infected.
COVID-19 has created monumental challenges and constraints that continue to evolve, challenges that relate first and foremost to public health and safety, but extend to income security, our economic future and the way we interact as human beings on this shared planet.
There are three major crises that we are called upon to address and resolve in our communities and around the world:
The first is the COVID pandemic itself. Infection rates are climbing and many countries, including Canada, are finding themselves in a second wave. It is crucial that all of us continue to work together to defeat this pandemic. Basic fundamental protocols like physical distancing, handwashing and wearing masks in public remain at the very core of effective solutions. As individuals and businesses continue to face the economic effects of COVID-19, financial supports that will allow them to weather the pandemic are critical to our economic recovery.
Second, the need to address climate change has never been more important as manifestations progressively increase in the form of more erratic weather patterns, floods and wildfires, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and rapidly eroding biodiversity. The climate crisis runs parallel to COVID-19 and action cannot be postponed. The Government of Canada is focused on progressive investments in a green economy to support a transition to reduced GHG emissions to meet and exceed the Paris targets and agenda 2030 and to shift to renewable energy sources under our legislatively established net-zero threshold by 2050. We are on track to ban single-use plastics by 2021 and to protect 30% of our land and oceans by 2030.
Third, the fight for inclusion faces new challenges and requires sustained commitments and action in our communities and around the world. Systemic anti-Black and anti-indigenous racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred, division and violence persist.
The killing of George Floyd and, in Mississauga, Ejaz Choudry at the hands of police and the death of Joyce Echaquan in a Quebec hospital following a chorus of racial slurs are only three of the most atrocious cases we have witnessed in 2020. There are many others.
I am also concerned about gender equality, inclusion of the LGBTQ2S+ community, persons with disabilities, veterans, seniors and youth. The fight for inclusion cannot stop until everyone has an equal voice, and our government is committed to action but we will need help from all Canadians.
Let me elaborate briefly on these three priorities.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it remains particularly important to protect the most vulnerable individuals and populations, those among us who are most severely impacted. They include seniors in long-term care homes, women and children fleeing gender-based violence, the homeless and persons with disabilities, pre-conditions and rare diseases.
To protect Canadians in the face of a sharp rise in infections, our government will continue to support provinces and territories in increasing their testing capacity. To meet this critical challenge quickly, we are making the required investments and will create a federal testing assistance response team.
In the throne speech, our government has committed to establishing national standards for long-term care. It remains focused on the elimination of chronic homelessness and will increase investments in rapid housing developments in the short term. We will also bring forward a disability inclusion plan and a rare disease strategy to help Canadians save money on high-cost drugs.
As the coronavirus continues to severely impact national and global economies, the Government of Canada will ensure that individuals and businesses remain financially supported throughout the course of the pandemic. We will deliver targeted financial support directly to those businesses forced to temporarily shut down as a result of local public health decisions.
Some sectors have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The Government of Canada is committed to further support travel and tourism, hospitality and cultural industries like the performing arts. Community leaders in my riding of Mississauga—Lakeshore have emphasized the increasingly important role that the arts play in these uncertain times. The arts provide an opportunity to cope with isolation and hardship and they are at the very core of who we are as human beings. Their positive contributions to the fabric of our culture cannot be overstated.
Our community also recognizes the urgent need for a green recovery and the importance of job creation through climate action. Climate action is central to our government's plan to create one million jobs. Fifty-two percent of Mississauga's emissions come from buildings and 30% of its carbon footprint comes from the transportation sector.
We are committed to creating well-paying jobs connected to the retrofitting of homes and buildings, supporting more public and active transit options and making zero-emissions vehicles more affordable in order to reach net zero by 2050. Our government is also investing in mitigating the impact of climate-related disasters, like floods and wildfires, to make communities more resilient.
Systemic racism is a lived reality for far too many and it is clearer now than ever that we each have an important role in overcoming this ugly and unacceptable reality. Our government is committed to moving forward on a path of reconciliation with Canada's first peoples. We will accelerate work on a national action plan, work to co-develop a legislative framework for first nations policing and move forward on RCMP reforms.
We are taking important steps to fight anti-Black racism and other forms of racism with the release of Canada's anti-racism strategy for 2019-22, and the creation of an anti-racism secretariat. We will continue to support and empower Black Canadians through economic investments, such as Black entrepreneurship program.
Pandemics know no borders and COVID-19 in this regard is no exception. By pushing more people into extreme poverty, driving up food insecurity and threatening refugee populations with increased risk of infection, the coronavirus has exacerbated living conditions of the most vulnerable. Our response to the pandemic is only as strong as our ability to protect them here at home and around the world.
We cannot solve any one of these crises in isolation, but instead local and international efforts must reinforce one another. Many organizations in our community are providing important services. I would like to thank their leadership teams, advocates and volunteers.
Interim Place and Armagh House provide a safe space for women and children fleeing violence. The Compass food bank and ISNA Canada food bank provide access to food and hygiene products for those in need. Indwell launched a new affordable housing project. The local BIAs in Lakeview, Clarkson and Port Credit support our small businesses.
The Mississauga Arts Council assists performing artists with online transition and the Mississauga-Lakeshore Constituency Youth Council and Mississauga Seniors' Council are providing important perspectives on the pandemic response.
For Our Kids, Climate Impact Fund, Peel Community Climate Council and others advocate for a green and just recovery. Many businesses have reinvented themselves in order to meet new needs, like the Como Foundation that provides COVID-19 lip-reading masks for the hard of hearing community.
At the international level, we see equally dedicated leadership. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, is leading and coordinating the international health response to COVID-19. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, leads efforts to protect refugee populations. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, continues to speak out on human rights violations as the pandemic poses additional threats to vulnerable populations.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, leads the global fight against hunger. Tuula Yrjölä. OIC and Secretary General Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, works to prevent conflicts and build peace.
I thank them, their colleagues and international and local partners for their service.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with Olivia Allen, a remarkable 11-year-old student in our community who has demonstrated brilliantly that young people are not leaders of tomorrow but indeed of today. By asking the difficult questions and the right questions, Olivia is already contributing to work to build a brighter future.
There is only one planet and only one humanity. We must connect local and international efforts and work together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and promote inclusion. We must each do our part to build a better world. Our shared collective future depends on it.
Mr. Speaker, it is good to be back. I hear some cheers from the other side. They are happy to have us back, and it is good to be back. It is a little unusual here and I think we are all suffering a bit from that.
It is nice to hear the opposition applaud a Liberal member. I do like to hear that. It is good for the ego, and it encourages me to speak more in the House of Commons. I know they are worried that I have not been speaking as much as I did in the previous Parliament.
I was not going to mention this topic, but the hon. member for brought it up, so I thought I would speak to it. He mentioned single-event sports betting, which is a topic that I know both he and I share a concern about. He asked the hon. member for about it, who unfortunately did not have enough time to answer, but I want to assure him that the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and I have been pushing hard, even though there is not much in the way of sports going on.
I saw an article in the newspaper recently about a casino run by organized crime that was taken down by Toronto area police. It really highlights that the impact of organized crime still exists in the gambling industry.
Single-event sports betting in this country is a multi-billion dollar industry, and very little of it is legal. In my mind, it is time to legalize it. It is time to regulate it, and it is time to take the money out of the hands of organized crime. I know the hon. member for is in favour of it, and a Conservative member has brought forward a private member's bill on the subject as well, so I hope we move forward with that. When we can get back together, it will be an important tool for areas such as my riding, Niagara, Windsor and many other ridings that have casinos in them.
It will be an opportunity to create jobs and for Canadians to take advantage of it. Sports betting in this country is not illegal, as we see with ProLine. People can bet on sports, but it is the single events that people cannot bet on. It is time for us to move on that. I would like to again thank the hon. member for for bringing that up.
We find ourselves talking about the throne speech in the middle of a global health crisis. I want to focus part of my speech on what we are doing right now to help Canadians. The end goal of this crisis needs to be a vaccine or treatment that really works. We are seeing second waves around the world.
We are even seeing that rapid testing is not the panacea some members are claiming it is. If we look to our allies and friends down south, every member in the White House received a rapid test before they went into work, but now there is an outbreak there. This virus keeps moving on.
The end goal has to be a vaccine. That is how we will get Canadians safe again. That is how we will get the economy back for Canadians and have them stop worrying. We all want to meet with constituents. We all want to shake their hands, go to events, see them, speak to them and be in the same room with them. We do not want to be 10 feet away from each other, as we are in this room. We want to be able to be together again. It is human nature.
I will say in the House of Commons what I have been saying on social media. I encourage my constituents and Canadians across the country to continue to practise social distancing, wash their hands, wear a mask and download the COVID alert app. These are ways that Canadians can help control the virus. There is nothing first responders, doctors or the government can do, if Canadians are not following those guidelines.
What have we done? Billions of pieces of PPE have been procured. Half of them are now being manufactured in Canada, and that is a testament to Canadian companies, which stepped up when the need was there. They stepped up to start manufacturing Canadian-made PPE. As I said, they are producing nearly 50% of it, and this is key.
As we are fighting other foreign governments to get the best price and to get access to much-needed PPE, the best way to do it and the best way to handle it is to manufacture it right here in Canada.
I also have to give credit to the , as Canada now has contracts for five different vaccine candidates, up to 154 million doses of the vaccine. Some people may say that there are only 37 million or 38 million of us, so why do we need so many vaccines? It may take more than one dose, or one vaccine may be more effective than another. The Government of Canada is there to look out for Canadians. We are not putting all of our eggs into one basket because we need an effective vaccine.
It concerns me when I hear in this place, and I see it on social media, the anti-science rhetoric that can filter up. It is leading to a great concern in me that when a vaccine is approved there is going to be a segment of the population who does not believe in it, who says that they do not need it, that it is poison and that it is toxic. We have seen this with other vaccines. We have seen diseases that we thought we had beaten, such as measles, coming up again and killing children around the world because of faulty, flawed social media reports that get shared and believed.
Therefore, I hope every member in this place stands up and encourages their constituents, as flu season is approaching, to get a flu shot. Members can get a flu shot, post it on their social media pages and encourage it. If we model good public health behaviour, we can have an impact and be leaders in that. As our hospitals are facing the second wave, they are also facing an increased threat of flu.
As we know, and as we have heard, flu kills thousands of Canadians every year. The more of us who get the flu shot, the better we are able to reduce that surge on the hospital system. I hope every member in this place takes advantage of that and highlights that. They can take a picture of it, post it on their Facebook page and show their constituents that they care.
I am not sure why members of the Conservatives are heckling me during a pitch on flu vaccines. I would have hoped that would be the least controversial thing that I talked about today, but apparently not.
Many of these vaccines are either at the end of phase three trials or working their way to phase three trials. I am confident in Health Canada. I am confident in our Health Canada officials, who will work with companies to approve these vaccines.
We are not going to reopen the economy 100% without that trust, without the belief that we can go in and not spread this virus. We can see how rapidly it spreads. For members of the various parties, we can talk to our colleagues who have gotten this terrible disease, some of them worse than others, so we need to do everything that we can.
I hope that we are able to bury the anti-science rhetoric that often comes up. Our scientists and our researchers are some of the best in the world. Our public health officials and our Health Canada officials, who are working on the various projects that come in, are doing their best. They are working late hours. They are trying to ensure that Canadians are safe.
Therefore, I hope that on all sides of the House we can put our trust in science and we can bury the anti-science rhetoric. Again, I want to congratulate the and her team for the work they have done to procure in advance not only potential vaccines but also the syringes and other equipment that is needed for a mass vaccination campaign.
I see my time is nearly at an end. I welcome any questions.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to say something that may get me thrown out of the Conservative Party caucus. It is a pleasure to follow the member for . I have known him for many years and I would even consider him my friend. That may be the end of my career, so I thank everyone for that. This may be my last speech.
COVID-19 is a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on humanity. There is no doubt the Liberal government is not responsible for the pandemic, and there is no way in the world of global interdependence that Canada could have kept the coronavirus from coming to our shores. However, the government is absolutely accountable for its response. As the Speech from the Throne is a time when the government puts itself forward to see whether it has the confidence of Canadians and the response to the pandemic is a pressing issue of our time, let us take this opportunity to review its performance.
The most critical issue of the pandemic, of course, is the health and safety of our people. With the pandemic now approaching almost a year in duration, lessons are starting to emerge. We are starting to have clarity on what areas are necessary for the government to protect our people. Some of those areas include alertness, awareness, border control, PPE availability, testing and tracing.
How did the government perform in these key areas? Some of the top performers around the world, including Taiwan and Singapore, took action quickly and decisively. They were almost immediately aware of the danger. Canada's response in contrast was slow and confused. We could have been in a much better position. Only shortly before this global pandemic, the Liberal government decided to scrap the pandemic alert system, and in this very House, our proclaimed to the world that the risk of the pandemic in Canada was low.
While many countries acted quickly and decisively to impose borders controls or even mandatory screening, our response was once again late. We chose to hand out pamphlets, rather than impose common-sense border restrictions like checking someone's temperature.
After the SARS outbreak, our country should have been acutely aware of the necessity of PPE and many countries were aware, including our own. We had a large stockpile. Unfortunately for some unknown reason, the Liberal government decided to dispose of that. The PPE we had left, they unbelievably gave to the communist regime in China.
Being able to identify those who have the virus and isolate them quickly is perhaps the most critical action we can take with respect to the spread of the virus. Any country that wants to defend itself from this terrible plague must test, test and test some more. When the rest of the world was creating, reviewing and approving rapid tests in preparation for the second wave, the Liberal government decided to prorogue Parliament.
Thank goodness for the member for . Thanks to her emphasis on the importance of large-scale, rapid testing, she has forced the government, who spent months twiddling their thumbs, to approve a mass order of rapid tests.
However, they are still not here. They are still not in the long-term care facilities. They are not in the schools. They are not in our workplaces. This is stopping our economy from going and it is also stopping women from returning to the workforce. As we know, women are disproportionately the caregivers for our children, and if children cannot return to school, they cannot return to work. For a government that claims to be feminist, this is truly offensive.
The other issue is tracing. Tracing is a critical element as well. I will give the government credit. When we look at tracing, we have a great app. Once again, the government is disappointing and leaving people behind. We have an entire province being completely excluded. Why will the government not extend the app to British Columbia? The Liberals' response on the health side of things has been disappointing and unacceptable.
Let us move on to the economic impact and perhaps that is second only to the health of Canadians in the impact of COVID-19. Many Canadians have lost their jobs. Some have lost their homes and some, even more unfortunately, have lost hope.
To contextualize my comments on the government's economic response to the pandemic, I would like to share the following: It has been said that Liberals measure government programs' success by how many people they help. Conservatives, in contrast, measure government success by how many people we don't have to help. There can be no question that Canadians who are locked out of their jobs, businesses and schools because of COVID-19 needed temporary financial assistance, but let's be clear of the source of these funds. This money did not just appear. It did not come from the government. The government does not produce wealth. The government is an expense, a necessary and important expense, but yes, an expense for our society. That money did not, most certainly not, come from the Prime Minister. He did not go into one penny of debt. He was a millionaire before the pandemic and he will be a millionaire after. The debt was taken from Canadians. Indeed, generations of Canadians will be paying back this debt. We are literally borrowing from our children and our grandchildren. The government should take no pride in taking from our children's future. We owe it to all Canadians, those who have not even been born yet, to borrow what is necessary and not a dollar more.
How has the government done with respect to fiscal management? We have the largest debt in our history and the second worst GDP-to-debt ratio in the history of our country. The non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Officer has described our current fiscal outlet as barely sustainable. Our debt-to-GDP is forecast to increase to nearly 50% in coming years. That is a shocking and enormous number. This will be a serious challenge for our country to overcome in the years following.
Let us look at what some of the government agencies have done with their extra billions. As shadow minister of national revenue, I spend my time reviewing the work that the CRA does. The CRA did some great work early on getting the CERB out to Canadians and we all appreciate that, but what else has it done?
We have had the largest security breach, which allowed Canadians' information to be stolen from us. What was its response to that? Was it an apology and an admission to its limitations? No, it rewarded Canadians' patience with the implementation of interest and penalties on Canadians who are having a tough enough time going through COVID-19. Now if they happen not to be able to pay their taxes, we are going to start charging them interest and penalties.
On top of that, despite the fact that they are unable to fill some of their basic duties, the CRA is now asking for a promotion. It wants to do our taxes.
We have had one of the most expensive pandemic relief programs in the world, which has put us into debt for generations. The former Liberal finance minister John Manley has called for the return of that money, for a payment plan, for a fiscal anchor. We have become completely unmoored from our debt. The Martin and Harper governments, for example, had the fiscal anchor of a balanced budget. Former finance minister Bill Morneau used to say that we had a GDP-to-debt ratio target. We are completely unmoored. We are literally cast in a sea of debt without a plan to get out.
As the famous author Lewis Carroll said, if you don't know where you're going, any road will do. In this case, it includes a road to bankruptcy.
What have we received for this record-breaking expenditure? We have one of the lowest recoveries in the OECD. We have one of the worst unemployment rates in the G7. Our GDP continues to grow at 50% less than the United States. That lack of recovery is costing us new businesses in my riding in the town of Orono, our manufacturing in Port Hope and Cobourg, and our tourism in Brighton.
We need a government that will allow Canadians to get back to work. We need a government that will allow the free market to take us through adversity to the stars, not one that takes us through confusion and disappointment into the depths of socialism.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the people of Mégantic—L'Érable on their extraordinary resilience in response to the situation we have been dealing with since March.
Quebec has to pull back in several regions, once again closing bars and restaurants, suspending cultural and sports activities, and strictly enforcing rules in schools because of a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases. Clearly, we are not done sacrificing and will have to cope with this virus much longer than we would have liked.
As we kick off Mental Illness Awareness Week, we must keep in mind that every decision made by Parliament, by the government, by all levels of government and by public health authorities will impact not only the fight against COVID-19 but also the economy and the well-being or loss thereof of people across the country.
The virus did not make bullying or racism go away. It exacerbated domestic violence, and loneliness has become an even heavier burden for the most vulnerable members of society to bear. Our masks must not prevent us from speaking up and sharing our problems. Our ears and our hearts must remain open to those who need to be listened to and heard.
I would now like to come back to the subject we are discussing today. The Liberal government's throne speech was followed, that same evening, by a free national advertisement for the Liberal Prime Minister. I would remind members that the throne speech was needed because of the 's decision to prorogue Parliament in the midst of a pandemic. At a time when millions of Canadians are depending on their elected officials to make sure they are safe, from a health and economic standpoint, the Prime Minister deliberately chose to shut down Parliament and put us in a position where we could no longer act quickly.
The throne speech was supposed to refocus the government's efforts on helping Canadians deal with and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, or at least that is what the , his ministers and Liberal members claimed. In the end, we got an interminable speech read by the Governor General that basically reiterated the unkept promises of the Liberals under the direction of the Prime Minister. As everyone knows, the Prime Minister does not like to share the stage, so he thought it would be a good idea to make all the media outlets give him some free air time. That gave him a few minutes to summarize the long list of Liberal failures and unkept promises while clearly demonstrating that he had no plan to get the country through the pandemic and that he had learned absolutely nothing from the first wave of COVID-19.
Everyone knew the deal: The prorogation of Parliament, the Speech from the Throne and the PM's televised speech later that evening had but one objective, and it was not to help Canadians. I will paraphrase a journalist from La Presse who, like us, saw right through the Liberals' smoke and mirrors. He basically said that what the Prime Minister presented was more like a preview of his election platform than a Speech from the Throne.
The best was yet to come in that article. He went on to talk about how, in the middle of the speech he thought to himself, “quick, someone snap your fingers, he's trying to hypnotize us. We are going to forget how we got here. The Prime Minister prorogued Parliament last month to put an end to the inquiries into the WE Charity scandal. That is what led to the Speech from the Throne.”
Feedback on the throne speech from across the country was not any more flattering. I would like to share some reactions. “It was a disappointing speech that offered no reassurance.” “[The Prime Minister] lives on another planet. He needs to go.” “The Speech from the Throne can be summed up in three words: spending, interference, arrogance. Nothing new from this government”. “I'm very worried. All of this spending shows that [the Prime Minister] has never made a budget in his life.” Many similar comments can be found in the media and on social media.
Parliament was prorogued by a Prime Minister who promised never to prorogue Parliament to avoid scrutiny. I remind members that he made this promise himself. All of this came just as thousands of redacted documents were being handed over to the opposition. The throne speech enabled the government to sweep the finance minister's resignation under the rug. The throne speech did nothing to address the problems with the work-sharing program for businesses in Mégantic—L'Érable. It did not address the extremely long waiting periods for citizens dealing with immigration issues.
He offered nothing to small businesses, which were left out of the assistance measures even though they are integral to the very vitality of our regions. He did not allow Canadians to have access to rapid tests, which would have helped my region and countless others escape such an aggressive second wave. This Speech from the Throne was a purely partisan exercise to protect just one person: the himself.
However, I am known to be an optimist. I always try to see the good in everything. I told myself that surely something good would come out of the Speech from the Throne. My colleagues may find it hard to believe, but I found something positive, very positive even. What did I find in the Speech from the Throne that was so good?
You seem skeptical, Mr. Speaker. I will end the suspense. The only positive thing about the Speech from the Throne was the response in reply by the new leader of the official opposition, the hon. member for . What a great reply worthy of a head of state.
Allow me to thank him for the trust he placed in me by giving me the role of Treasury Board critic. I am proud to serve on his team in the official opposition, the team of the government in waiting.
The Conservative leader's reply to the Speech from the Throne laid bare the major difference between the leaders of the two main parties in Canada. One is there to be served by Canadians. The other is there to serve Canadians. Although that may not seem like a big difference, in the context of the current crisis, it is vitally important.
The Leader of the Opposition has shown that putting Canadians, all Canadians, at the centre of a future Conservative government is the only thing to do. I look forward to Quebeckers and Canadians getting to know him for who he is: a hard worker, born in Montreal, a navigator in the Canadian Armed Forces, a lawyer and a father. His career path is like that of many of us who were not born with a silver spoon in our mouths.
I will quote part of the opposition leader's speech.
Who is going to make sure Canada is better prepared next time? Who is going to make sure that Canada learns the lessons from the first wave and fixes the gaps and some of the problems that have put our citizens at risk? Who is going to make sure that working Canadian families stop getting left behind by the government?
Who? Let me continue.
We are a government in waiting, and we do not accept the poor response and the lack of lessons learned by the current government in a time of crisis. Canadians will also get to know that I have tried to spend my entire life standing up for this country. I was not born with a sense of entitlement to lead the country, but I have worked hard for my entire life to serve Canada and its people, to earn the chance to lead. That is what we need in public life when we face a national unity crisis, a pandemic, economic rebuilding and uncertainty on the global stage: someone who will fight to ensure that no Canadian family gets left behind; someone who understands the importance of service and community.
That is an attitude befitting a future prime minister. That is what we need in a time of crisis: a leader who understands the importance of work, who loves his country, and who will always place his country's interests above his own.
His agenda for Quebec is clear. I clearly remember his promise to Quebec during the party leadership race: He will not interfere in Quebec's internal affairs and, under his leadership, the Conservative Party will be more open than ever before. He said, “As long as I am your leader, Quebec nationalists, like Conservatives from all walks of life, will be welcome in our party.”
Unlike the current Prime Minister, whose words are rarely followed by action except when it comes to shutting down ethics inquiries, the Conservative leader walks the talk.
The hon. member for was appointed opposition House leader. He is the first Quebecker to hold this position in the Conservative Party of Canada. The Conservative leader's inner circle is made up of many Quebeckers, including the former member for , who I look forward to seeing again with us here in the House.
Our new leader's first meeting with a provincial premier was with Quebec Premier, François Legault. During that meeting, he was very clear about his intention to increase health care funding to the provinces in a stable, predictable and unconditional manner, as a matter of respect.
The leader of the Conservative Party and the official opposition is a leader who worked hard to get where he is and who will deliver on his commitments, unlike the leader of the Liberal Party.
In closing, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to take these few minutes to introduce our leader to Quebeckers because, unlike the Bloc Québécois, which will never be able to keep its promises and will always be an armchair quarterback, we will be able to keep our promises and get to the bottom of things.
It is time we had something besides an armchair critic. It is time we had a real player on the ice, someone like a Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux or Phillip Danault. We want a party leader who can score goals, not someone who is going to watch from the sidelines.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I am proud to speak to the Speech from the Throne. A Speech from the Throne gives us an opportunity to reset our clock, to say that the things we talked about before the election are not valid anymore, because this thing called COVID-19, this pandemic, began to take us off track. All of the old economic and social systems, etc. that we had are not working anymore. We are in a new world and we have to do something about it. I think we expected that COVID-19 would not last and we would be out of it now. We now are braced for a second tsunami of COVID-19, which we hear globally that it will be worse than the first.
With this Speech from the Throne, we reset new systems because the old ones left a lot of people very vulnerable as well as let a lot of people down.
The first thing in the Speech from the Throne was that this government decided that if we did not do something to contain the spread of COVID-19, whatever we did for businesses, individuals or jobs would not be sustainable and could not be permanent because COVID would be there. COVID-19 does not give a fig about jobs. It does not care about boundaries. It does not care what province or territory people are in. It is a global pandemic.
We decided to talk about how we would help Canadians, workers, individuals, families and business owners through the second wave. Because we have a AAA rating, being the only country in the world besides Germany to have that, we can borrow from ourselves at 0.25%, so Canadians and business owners do not have to borrow from the banks at 5%, or use their credit cards at 19%, or even remortgage their homes so they can carry on during this pandemic.
We talked about how we expanded. We brought back new support systems. CERB has now been taken over by a new CRB. People will be moved into EI seamlessly so they can be supported. Interestingly enough, individuals who are self-employed or in the gig economy were not covered by EI before but now they will be.
We looked at how we would support seniors who had fallen between the cracks in the old system. A lot of the system is about innovation and WiFi and many seniors are too poor to afford that, at least they are in my riding. We have looked at how we can help them get more financial stability during this difficult time because they were afraid they would be kicked out of the places where they live.
We looked at people who were very vulnerable, the homeless and people who have substance use disorders, and how we could help them. We brought in an emergency rapid response fund. Homelessness increases our susceptibility to COVID, so we want to get rapid money for those who have no place to live to get them into shelters and other places to live. This is the kind of thing we are doing.
It is not a rehash of what was happening. If anybody understood what was going on, they would realize that this is about helping to protect people and looking at how we diminish the spread of COVID. We have put money into protective equipment. We have millions for testing and tracking. We have given $2.2 billion to provinces to make it okay for kids to go to school and be safe.
That is all provincial jurisdiction that we are putting money into: housing, homelessness, schools. We do not care. We are the Government of Canada. We want to help all Canadians. We are not discriminating against what province they come from. That is what we are doing in this Speech from the Throne.
We are there. We have vaccines now lined up, millions of vaccines so every Canadian, no matter how poor, no matter how rich, no matter what they do will be able to have access to a vaccine. We have upgraded the tracking and testing mechanisms and sent more money to the provinces so they will be able to test and track quicker and to move forward. We have now just got a new test that is for quick testing. We are always guided by science as we look at how to protect people against COVID, against the spread and against spreading it to each other, etc.
People complain about it, but we are looking at a national standard for long-term care homes. The COVID does not care if we live in one province or another. The provinces think it is okay for the federal government to contribute 87¢ on every dollar to provinces to help them make decisions in their jurisdictions.
This is not about interfering with the provinces. This is about recognizing the reality of a pandemic and a virus that does not care. We have moved forward on all of that. Then we talked about how, in the interim, we were going to try to support businesses. We have extended the Canadian wage subsidy and we have expanded it until next summer. We are working on the details of some of the things businesses told us did not work for them. We are trying to deal with that.
We are looking at how to help the tourism industry, which is stranded. The industry used the CEWS, and that is there for them until next summer so businesses can at least be sustained and look at how they can transform into the new economy through innovation. They are going to have to do business differently now. The government is here to help them with all the things they need in terms of innovating for business, in terms of Wi-Fi, looking at schools and how we are able to do things differently to keep citizens safe. This is part of a plan. This is not business as usual.
This is the worst crisis we have had since the Second World War. In fact, all of the things we put in place after the Second World War to sustain Canadians economically, socially and culturally have not been upgraded for 50 years. They are not valid anymore. They are not working anymore.
We now have to look at how to reinvent the wheel by looking at what other countries are doing. We are putting money into innovation so we can have far more companies shift from what they were doing to new, innovative jobs. We are going to be helping young people connect with their first jobs, because some of them cannot find jobs in this new environment. We are looking at how we rescale and train people for the current economy.
This is a forward-thinking document. The economy is always something we have to keep resilient and sustainable. We are saying that we have to do it differently, because the old ways do not work anymore. COVID-19 has exposed all of the cracks in our system. We needed a Speech from the Throne to make sure that we did not just cover those cracks, but filled them in so people would not fall into them anymore.
This is saying that yes, people need to get jobs. Yes, we have to look at the economy. Yes, we need to protect people from illness. Yes, we have to strengthen the health system, which we talked about. We have to look at how mental health fits into the Canada Health Act, and how people access pharmaceuticals when they need them. We are working on all of those tranches at once, so that people do not fall between the cracks.
What is also important to remember, when we start talking about provincial jurisdiction and what we have not been doing, is that we are dealing with a pandemic. All over the world people are suffering. We have also decided it is time for us to step up and help countries around the world so they can develop health care systems, access vaccines and have the equipment needed to test and track.
We are sharing and building alliances with like-minded countries because we can no longer talk about our country alone. We have to talk about how we work with other countries to strengthen the global economy. We have to look at how we fight a pandemic together, and how we shift and change. This is not the first pandemic. Speaking as a physician, it is not going to be the last. If we do not want to have more pandemics, we need to make sure that when diseases start around the world, they remain as epidemics and that countries are able to cope with them.
We need to look at how we trade differently. We need to look at human rights. We need to look at rising fascism around the world and right-wing extremist governments that are denying human rights to people. We have to look outward, as well as inward. COVID-19 does not really care what country one lives in, what borders are between provinces or whose jurisdiction it is. I do not know that COVID ever read the Constitution.
We are here as a federal government responsible for all Canadians and remembering that it is our duty to make sure nobody falls between the cracks, whether because of the health system, which needs to be there to support them, or because of the economy. We are focusing on job creation and new ways of building an economy. If one reads the Speech from the Throne, one would find out that is exactly what we are doing and what we need to do now.
It might be a time for us to sit down and stop talking about partisan politics. All of us need to do what countries around the world are doing. Countries around the world are saying, let us get together and look at how we work together to prevent this from happening. This is a global problem. We might want to say this is a Canadian problem. Let us all come together—
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the throne speech. However, first I would like to recognize the wonderful families of Etobicoke North and our caring, resilient and strong community.
Our families matter. They are good people and they work hard. What makes Etobicoke North such a special place to live, work and play is that we welcome the world. We are proudly one of the most diverse communities in the country. We learn from one another, and we learn each other's beautiful cultures, languages and religions. We look after one another and lift each other up.
I thank the tireless front-line health care workers of the William Osler Health System for their life-saving services, as well as the Rexdale Community Health Centre and Rexdale Community Hub and their partners for their important community care, including providing health services and legal services, delivering food and providing computers and Internet access. I thank all workers who provide essential services, such as those working in grocery stores, personal support workers, truck drivers and taxi drivers, and everyone who worked to keep our community and country going.
I also thank our tremendous community organizations for their work during COVID-19, organizations like Albion Neighbourhood Services, which found new ways to deliver programs to youth and deliver hundreds of meals weekly. The Sikh Spiritual Centre Toronto provided langar as individual packed meals to our community. The International Muslim Organization and the Lions Club joined forces to serve hundreds of families and provided food and essential supplies each month. Trust 15 kept in constant contact with families and continued inspiring and mentoring our amazing youth.
I wish I had time to thank all our organizations and volunteers. I see their life-changing work and am grateful for the work they do each and every day. As I said, we are a community that cares and we are there for one another.
Before I ever came to Parliament, my own research area was on pandemic influenza, particularly on the 1918 influenza, and preparing for pandemics. I helped businesses, non-governmental organizations and industry prepare for a pandemic. I ran pandemic exercises. My priority will always be protecting the health and safety of the people of Etobicoke North and all Canadians, in particular our most vulnerable.
The plan outlined in the throne speech is good for our Etobicoke North families and our community. We will take bold action on health, the economy, building back better and building a more inclusive Canada. The throne speech outlines our plan for continuing to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
In Etobicoke North, in July and August, parents and teachers told me their concerns about their children heading back to school. As an educator, I understand. Our government listened and invested $2 billion to help provinces protect the health and safety of our children, teachers and indeed our families as they returned to school. Our government also invested in and shipped personal protective equipment across the country. We sent the Canadian Forces into long-term care homes to help look after our loved ones. We will make sure Canadians will be able to get a vaccine once it is developed, tested and ready.
Our priority is to look out for all Canadians, especially our most vulnerable. Poverty, hunger, good health, well-being, gender equality and economic status play a role in who gets sick, who gets treated and who survives. We must keep taking COVID-19 seriously to stop the second wave. We must all make sure we do our part to slow the spread of the virus by limiting our contact bubble, physical distancing, handwashing and wearing a non-medical mask or face covering as needed. Ensuring Canadians are supported through this health crisis is the best thing we can do for the economy.
The second part of our plan for the future is to do whatever it takes to support Canadians and businesses through the pandemic. That is why our government invested more than $19 billion to help the provinces and territories restart their economies, ensuring increased testing and contract tracing, increased personal protective equipment and support for our most vulnerable in long-term care.
To rebuild from job losses and strengthen our economy, we will launch a campaign to create more than a million jobs. We will extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy to next summer, rebuild an EI system that works for all Canadians and introduce further support for industries that have been hit the hardest, including hospitality, and travel and tourism. Families in Etobicoke North should not have to choose between their health and their jobs.
The third part of our plan is to build back better to create a stronger, more resilient Canada. The last six months have been hard for many families and have shown fundamental gaps in our society and in societies around the world. We must do everything possible to address these gaps.
This means we will keep strengthening the middle class and helping people working hard to join it. We will continue to invest in our communities, public infrastructure and, importantly, affordable housing. Our government brought i