The House resumed from May 7 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate today. It is our second day of looking at the budget implementation act, Bill . Given that the budget was over 700 pages long and the budget implementation act is over 300 pages, I will start at a higher level of extraction by examining the nature of this legislation and refamiliarizing some of us with the controversial issue of omnibus bills.
This is clearly an omnibus bill, but I want to set out why it is not offensive. At over 300 pages long, the budget implementation act contains well over 20 acts. It affects the Canada Labour Code, the Federal Courts Act, the Trust and Loan Companies Act, two different varieties of student loans and student financial assistance. I will not read them all, but a large number of pieces of legislation are affected.
The issue of illegitimate omnibus budget bills takes us back to the era of the Harper administration in a minority. They were the best way to push through offensive legislation when parties that formed the majority of the members of Parliament, but were not the administration, would have objected. With the use of offensive omnibus budget bills, the Conservative government quite shrewdly discerned that it could put through things that would not otherwise get public support or MP support, given that they are confidence votes. It put through things such as the Budget Implementation Act 2008 and Budget Implementation Act 2009, which weakened environmental assessment leading up to the majority actions of that government. It continued to put lots of things in budget implementation acts that were omnibus bills.
An omnibus bill merely means that many pieces of legislation are being passed all at once. This is not offensive is if it is all to one purpose. Everything in Bill is mentioned in the budget. As far as I can see, there are no sneaky surprises, as we discovered in a recent budget in which there were deferred prosecution agreements for corporations. As I go through this bill, it is not like the omnibus budget bill of spring 2012 that destroyed our environmental assessment process, which has still not been repaired. It gutted the Fisheries Act and eliminated the national round table, among other things. This is an omnibus bill, but it is appropriate in that everything I can find in Bill C-30 is consistent with the budget itself and has to do with legislative changes to make it possible to enact the budget, which this Parliament has now passed.
There are items of concern. When the bill gets to committee, maybe improvements could be made on some of these, but certainly it is of concern to see withdrawal of supports for important things within our economy during COVID. We are clearly not looking at a post-pandemic budget. After not having had a budget for two years, this budget continues to face times of deep uncertainty. I have had my first vaccine shot. I will wait four months and then get a second shot. With vaccines, we see there is light at the end of the tunnel, but with variants, spikes and economies in various provinces opening up a bit and then closing rapidly, there are a lot of reasons why businesses and individual Canadians will continue to need support.
The notion that we would lower the Canada recovery benefit from the current $500 a week to $300 a week by July should be looked at. That is soon, and we may not be ready for that. The wage subsidy is ending by September. A lot of businesses in my riding know for sure that they will need that wage subsidy well beyond September. There are deep concerns particularly in the tourism sector, so I will focus on tourism for a minute.
The tourism sector has received $500 million in the budget, and that is not nearly enough. We underestimate it, as Canadians and even as parliamentarians. All of us have tourism in our ridings, and collectively across the country tourism's contribution to GDP is roughly the same as the oil sands. It employs far more people, thousands and thousands of them, across Canada in every region, and $500 million is not adequate to meet the needs of the tourism sector.
Big businesses in my riding, attractions such as Butchart Gardens, would normally have upwards of 700 to 800 employees seasonally. Butchart Gardens did not have anything like that number last summer because it was not open, but the wage subsidy allowed it to keep specialists employed: the hundreds of people who were recruited from around the world as horticulturalists. It simply will not be able to keep that workforce if we do not have a wage subsidy. If it loses that workforce and these specialists, horticulturalists and experts are not able to be employed here, they will go to other countries. Their skills are in demand.
We have a very big concern about the $500 million provided for tourism and the $1 billion for promotion. Some of the businesses in my riding feel rather hollowed out by the notion that we will have a billion dollars going to advertising attractions in Canada that cannot stay open.
It is also peculiar that we have a decision by the Department of Transportation that cruise ships on our coasts will not open until February 28, 2022. I have yet to see any justification for that arbitrary date. This is a big concern, because if we are letting people get on airplanes, are saying there are vaccination passports and that people are okay to travel, certainly we should be informed of why there is this arbitrary date. It would continue to damage tourism.
This budget is also very short on support for ground transport. The bus lines of this country, whether Wilson Bus Lines or Maritime Bus, need more connectivity between cities and towns. The support for Via Rail is welcome, at $491 million, but it is all in the Windsor-Quebec corridor. What about Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal to Halifax? In the absence of Greyhound, the Irving Bus Line and others that run between communities, those routes need daily trains and an expanded economy service.
What is missing again is what we are going to do to improve our financial prospects going forward. If we are not going to be looking at cuts, we need more revenue. There are some new taxes in this budget and some ways to save money. I particularly applaud the idea that the Government of Canada is going to stop spending as much on travel by civil servants: That is a $1-billion savings over five years. Most of that travel, as we know, was by air. We have learned during COVID that we can find other ways to meet that avoid greenhouse gases and avoid so much travel.
Long-term we need to look at more revenue. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has pointed out that our debt-to-GDP ratio is going to level out at about 51%. It was about 30.6% before the pandemic, and it will be 2055 before we get to pre-pandemic debt-to-GDP ratios. In 1995-96, we were at 66%, but we do not want to go through that deep austerity program ever again. We have to protect our health system. We have to expand it with pharmacare, which should have been in this budget and was not.
We need to look at where we can get more revenue and be consistent. For heaven's sake, it is time to stop subsidizing fossil fuels. It is time to cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline, which is going to cost another $10 billion to $12 billion. We are looking at excess profits from our banks. We should be going after those. We should be looking at a wealth tax. We certainly do not do enough in this budget. It suggests consultations on what to do about credit card interest rates and horrific payday loans. Those things need more attention.
We need to look at improving the revenue line so that we can afford universal pharmacare, which we must, and so that we can make sure the day care program takes place across the country for all Canadians. As well, we need to bring in support initially for low-income dental and get rid of the interest on Canadian student loans. All those need revenue in their appropriate place. With that, I am thankful for the time to speak to Bill .
Madam Speaker, all of us in this place know that so many Canadians have suffered great loss over the course of this pandemic. Some of us have also been affected by some of that loss. Whether it has been loss of life, health or paycheques, we know this past year has been extremely difficult. Certainly, we know no Canadian has been immune. All Canadians have experienced a loss of control and a loss of normalcy. It has been two years in the making, with Canadians across the country desperate and anxious to turn the corner on the pandemic.
There was a lot of expectation for the recently tabled budget. Unfortunately, for far too many, this budget fell flat, but by no means for a lack of spending. We know the has added $155 billion in new debt this year alone, and Canada's federal debt will pass $1.2 trillion this year for the first time ever. The government has tried to paint all its spending as stimulus spending, but that is not accurate. Yes, some spending will help stimulate the economy, but significant amounts are being spent on the Liberal government's own partisan interests.
Simply put, this is a spending budget, not a growth budget. The limited amount of funds being spent on stimulus have been confirmed by our Parliamentary Budget Officer, who also cautioned that continued debts and deficits will limit the government's future ability to introduce new permanent programs without cuts or tax increases. That fact is simply unavoidable. Massive deficit spending is unsustainable. It jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of the many social programs that many Canadians depends on. It limits the government's ability to react to future challenges and ultimately leads to higher taxes.
It is a hard truth that the Liberal government wanted to ignore the pandemic, but Canadians footing the bill will not have the luxury of ignoring it. Missing from the budget are focused spending on long-term growth and a clear plan to reopen Canada's economy safely. Unfortunately, that means more uncertainty for my constituents. This budget abandons the natural resource sector, one of the greatest contributors to our national prosperity, as a fiscal anchor. While the Liberal government's disregard for the energy sector is not a shock to any of my constituents, who depend on jobs in the industry to put food on the table and keep the lights on, it is nonetheless devastating for those workers who have lost their jobs, had their wages cut or are seeing opportunities and businesses in their industry dwindle. There is no support for them in this budget.
Emergency wage supports are not a meaningful replacement for a stable and predictable paycheque. That is exactly what Canadians want, stable and predictable paycheques. Our oil and gas workers have taken hit after hit at the hands of the Liberal government and now continue to be overlooked as the fails to see the financial and environmental opportunities in the oil and gas sector. That failure has a massive impact on my constituents, but the missed opportunity will ultimately be felt by all Canadians, who also benefit from the success of this sector.
Similarly, consistently overlooked and undervalued by the government are our farmers and farm families. While the budget introduces some measures to alleviate some of the ballooning costs facing our agricultural producers, it cannot be lost that it is the Liberal government's policies that are burying those agricultural producers in costs. The Liberal government has repeatedly failed to recognize the significant financial, food security and environmental contributions of our world-class agricultural sector.
The Liberal government's unfocused spending and failure to deliver a growth plan lets Canadians down. It lets down western Canadians, who do not see themselves or their livelihoods in the Liberal government's reimagined economy. It lets down those Canadians who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and do not know what the future holds. It lets down those Canadians who cannot afford more taxes and are already struggling to make ends meet, which includes low-income seniors, who were left out of this budget.
We know that seniors have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, from health to social isolation to financial costs. Not one senior has been immune to the fallout of this pandemic. Despite this, seniors have never really been a priority for the . The supports that are included in this budget and its legislation are either short on details or leave too many seniors behind.
Prior to the budget, Conservatives called on the to deliver increased financial supports for low-income seniors. The proposed one-time payment and the increase to old age security do nothing to support low-income seniors under the age of 75. For those seniors aged 74 and under who are facing an increased cost of living and unexpected costs due to the pandemic, and who are struggling with overstretched budgets, there is no support.
As shadow minister for seniors, I have been hearing from seniors from across the country who are upset and who feel forgotten. I share in their disappointment. Instead of focusing on spending on seniors who need it the most, the Liberal government has divided seniors. Our seniors, who have worked hard and helped build this country, should not be struggling to make ends meet. They deserve to live securely and with dignity, and this includes seniors living in long-term care.
The pandemic has sadly revealed how far we have missed the mark in ensuring the health and well-being of our seniors living in long-term care. Every level of government has a responsibility to Canada's seniors. We know that federal support is necessary to address the acute challenges in long-term care. While this budget proposes significant spending, there are unanswered questions on how it will be delivered.
The Liberal government has made many announcements, but seniors living in long-term care, their families and those who care for them need us to move beyond announcements. We need a federal government working in collaboration with provinces, territories, seniors advocates and caregiving organizations to ensure that meaningful and appropriate solutions are delivered in the immediate and the short-term. Collaboration is crucial to moving the needle.
As we look to improve the continuum of housing and care needs, aging in place is an important part of that conversation. It is good to see supports in this area, though the budget is short on details. However, noticeably absent from this budget is recognition or support for caregivers. There is also no clear plan for seniors concerned about managing their retirement savings through this crisis and beyond. Seniors deserve to live in dignity and security, but this Liberal budget leaves too many behind.
The potential permanent impact of unfocused and uncontrolled spending is also greatly concerning. Massive deficit spending without a clear plan for growth jeopardizes the long-term viability of our health care system and important social programs. It is critical that social programs, such as old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, continue to be viable in the long term for those seniors who depend on them. That is why Conservatives have put forward a recovery plan that is focused on long-term growth.
Canadians do not need the Liberal government to spend the most money to achieve less than our global counterparts. They do not need massive spending that fails to grow the economy, and instead saddles them and their children with higher taxes. Canadians need measures that create jobs and boost economic growth. They need a plan to safely reopen our economy. They need a plan that includes them regardless of where they live or what sector of the economy they work in.
Canadians want to return to normal and get back to work. Unfortunately, this legislation fails to do that. It leaves millions of Canadians behind. It is time for a real path forward.
Mr. Speaker, people are starting to be cautiously hopeful. As vaccines roll out and we approach herd immunity, Canadians can dream, once again, of something approaching normality. What the new normal might be is, of course, anyone's guess. However, some people are starting to turn to thinking about how we are going to pay for the debts and deficits that have been necessarily incurred over the course of the last 14 months. Some 74% of Canadians are worried about the budget deficit, and it is a legitimate worry.
The government rightly injected billions of dollars into the economy. Looking at the charts in this 700-page budget, much of the money is sitting in Canadian savings accounts. I perceive that to be a good thing. Canadians have been notorious under-savers, more spenders than savers, but now, not quite so much.
Chart 22 in the budget shows that 8% of nominal GDP, year over year, has been put into savings accounts. That is a huge amount of money. It is such a huge amount of money that it will be looking for spending opportunities as we emerge from the pandemic. As it says in the budget documents, it may well become a bit of a tailwind to the economy.
However, what happens when significant excess money is released into the economy, money looking for places to be spent, generally speaking prices go up. Labour becomes more expensive, the cost of goods and services climbs and people's savings do not get them as much as before. Then we have another problem, and that is called inflation.
An article in The Globe and Mail caught my eye the other day. It was about the perceived mismatch between the consumer price index, CPI, and people's lived experience. The price of shelter rose 2.4% last year, which was consistent with the CPI of 2.2%, well within the Bank of Canada's inflationary band. Meanwhile, the average resale price of a home went up 32%. This is a mismatch between people's lived experience and the official numbers. As one commentator put it:
That leads to a cost-of-living indicator that doesn't quite reflect what consumers see and feel, and an inflation indicator that doesn't quite reflect the long-term cost of owned housing relative to other things we buy....To that point, there is a consistent mismatch between CPI inflation as Statscan measures it and how Canadians typically perceive inflation.
The article goes on in great detail as to the various means to measure inflation, a quite academic debate which I will spare the House.
However, in an online survey conducted by the Bank of Canada last year, 55% of the respondents said that 2% inflation was not a realistic representation of their experience of inflation, while 66% of respondents believed that the inflation in Canada was generally higher than 2%. All of the budgetary calculations are based upon a range of 2% to 3% inflation and a clear determination by the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates very low. The Governor of the Bank of Canada has repeated himself several times on that point.
The reason that Canadians are concerned about the size of the deficit is the fear that it will become overwhelmingly expensive to the detriment of other initiatives if inflation takes off and therefore interest rates take off. On the present consensus of numbers generated by the absolute best economists in Canada, Canada can afford a very large deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio.
Historically, we have been here before. Post-World War II, we had a debt-to-GDP ratio in the neighbourhood of 116% and, in 1995, we were named an honorary member of the Third World. At the time, we had a 67% debt to GDP. By virtue of economic expansion and some prudent measures, we were able to deal with those situations, and they were worse than what we are presently experiencing, which is a debt-to-GDP ratio around 50%, give or take, projected forward for the next five years.
However, there is a lingering doubt that the CPI does not quite get the picture right, not on housing, not on shelter, not on food, not on lumber, not on steel, not on cement. In this morning's Globe and Mail, the article entitled, “Copper hits record high”, is a commentary on the rise of the price of copper, which is used for everything, from plumbing to electricity to alternative energy as well as Chinese supply-side jitters and accommodating monetary policy, which is motivating companies to ramp up spending.
Virginia-based trader, Dennis Gartman, said, “The monetary authorities, whether it’s the Fed, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, have all been extraordinarily expansionary. Copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, tin, iron ore, steel, are telling you something’s going on in the global economy.” He added, “This is inflationary, and this is more than transitory circumstances. This is secular in nature.” This is where it might end badly.
I started by talking about Canadians having massive amounts of money in their savings accounts, some of which will go to feed a pent-up demand. What will happen if Canadians go to spend their money and inflation has eroded their pandemic savings account? It will create a lot of very unhappy and upset Canadians. As the great philosopher, Wayne Gretzky, once said. one should go to “where the puck is going, not where it has been.” There are indications out there where the puck is going to inflation and if it goes to inflation, we will have yet another problem.
I commend the government on its handling of the pandemic finances thus far, but we, as Canadians, need to recognize that the inflationary pressures are there. How we handle them will largely determine how we get through this period of “normalcy”.
Madam Speaker, what a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to this bill for the budget implementation act. I listened carefully to the previous speaker from the Liberal Party and wanted to say a couple of things in regard to working with him. I note, with appreciation, that back in 2017, he was the only Liberal member of Parliament who broke the whip on the Canadian autism partnership and voted in support of it in 2017, along with members from all of the opposition parties. I very much appreciate him for that.
I also appreciated the member quoting Wayne Gretzky. In my previous life before I was a member of Parliament, I worked for the Edmonton Oilers for a decade, and so I very much appreciated that speech. I loved the quote that he used. One of the things that was key to Wayne Gretzky's success was practice. His father had a reputation for building a rink in their backyard and Wayne would go out for hours on end just practising. One of the keys to practising, of course, is repeating something learned from the past, which is where I will turn my comments to now.
The member said that in regards to where we are going right now that it “might end badly.” This is of great concern to members on the Conservative side and to my constituents here in Edmonton—Wetaskiwin that this might end badly.
In regard to learning from the past, I was very interested when the Liberal member for said that “in 1995, we were named as an honorary member of the third world.” I listened with interest because that was where I was planning to go with my own speech. Of course, in 1995, Canada's credit rating went down under the Chrétien and Martin Liberal government of the day. We slashed spending on things like health care, social services and education. We slashed international development spending; all of those things. Our spending was the lowest that it has been in my lifetime. I am concerned that that is where we are heading right now. I am going to talk a little bit about what got us there in 1995 and the late nineties where, as the member said, we were named as an honorary member of the third world. To find out what got us to that point, we will have to go back to the Trudeau government of 1968 and the seventies.
When Pierre Trudeau and his Liberal government came to power, there was almost no debt in Canada. There was very little debt, relative to where we are right now, and that Trudeau government decided to conduct an experiment. It decided that running perpetual deficits was a good idea. It ran deficits in 14 out of the 15 years that it was in power. Of course, when the Liberals were no longer in power, interest rates were at an all-time high. There have been some comments about interest rates in some of the speeches so far. However, interest rates were not at an all-time high the entire time the Liberals were in power. When they were making decisions to run their massive deficit experiment, interest rates were much lower.
To give context, in August of 1981, interest rates were at 20.78%, which was a disaster for Canada. That was just before the equally disastrous national energy program experiment that the Trudeau government at that time ran. In August of 1971, 10 years earlier, as the government was just in its third year of power, interest rates were at 5%. By August of 1976, interest rates had risen from 5% to 9.25%, and by August of 1981 they had gone up to 20.78%. Folks who think that interest rates are just going to remain low forever maybe need a little bit of a history lesson, maybe to go back in time and take a look at what happened in the 1970s.
There was a transition of power in 1984 to the Mulroney government and the Liberals, pre-pandemic, prior to the massive deficit spending, liked to point out that in previous decades the highest levels of debt were incurred under the Mulroney government. What they do not say is that the debt incurred, the deficits run up, under the Mulroney government were almost entirely interest on Pierre Trudeau's debt. The interest levels were so high that our biggest deficits in history were simply interest payments on the debt that Pierre Trudeau ran up. Of course, that bill came due and it came due more than a generation later than when the deficit started to be racked up by the Trudeau government. That debt came due in the late 1990s when, as the Liberal member for pointed out, we were named as an honorary member of the third world.
I hope that we learn something today as we go down the road we are going down. We have to acknowledge that we are in a global pandemic and any government in power, any of the main parties, would be running large deficits at this point in time to deal with the challenge we are facing. The Conservative government back in 2008, 2009 and 2010 had to run fairly large deficits to deal with the global meltdown. The difference between now and then is that the Conservative government had a plan right from the start to get our budget back to balance.
We knew that we could not incur these deficits forever and that eventually, in the long-term interest of Canadians, we had to ensure we got our budget back to balance, so in 2008 we laid out a seven-year plan to get back to balance. In 2015 we got back to balance. We followed the plan to a T. I had the pleasure of serving on the cabinet committee from 2012 to 2105 that reviewed the plans of the government, ministers and departments to play their role in getting back to balance. We got back to balance by 2015 and that was the fiscal situation that the government of the day inherited.
If we look at this budget, where the government is on program spending, in 2014-15 program spending in the Conservatives' last year of government was $254 billion. Now let us look at 2019-20, pre-pandemic, before anybody knew what was going to happen. We should remember that the entire way through, Conservatives were asking the government if it was prepared for a future eventuality where the global economy was not as strong as it was. During this entire time of global strength in the economy relative to what it had been previously, rather than continue with a balanced budget and increased spending because of increased revenues that the government could then have the flexibility to spend on priorities of Canadians, it decided to rack up massive new spending. In 2014-15, program spending was $254 billion and by 2019-20, it was $349 billion, up $95 billion, 37.5%, in just five years. That is insane in terms of fiscal management. That was leading into the pandemic.
If we look at this budget, we are dealing with what we are dealing with now, but Canadians would expect to see a government that would have a plan for a post-pandemic world, for getting our finances in order and moving beyond the pandemic. In this budget, if we fast-forward to 2022-23, plans for spending after the pandemic is over, the government's projected program spending is $412 billion. We should remember that in the last year of the Harper government, it was $254 billion. Eight years later, the government plans program spending of $412 billion, an increase of over $150 billion, over 62%, in just eight years.
If we go back to the Trudeau government of the 1970s and look at the disaster its fiscal plan was for a future generation, my concern is that we are heading down that exact same path now with the current government. We need a change in direction. We need a plan from the government, even if it is a long-term plan, to get back to balance eventually so that we can again continue on the path that we were on in 2015, an upward trajectory where governments had the flexibility to spend on the priorities of Canadians.
Madam Speaker, today we are talking about all of the different issues in our budget. We are talking about the future and how we will manage to get where we are going and make sure we have a strong plan to finish the battle against this terrible COVID-19. Clearly, as we have been hearing, our plan is to execute a plan to deliver one million jobs, as promised. These jobs are critical for us to have a strong recovery from this pandemic. These jobs would help make the lives of the community members I represent, and all Canadians, that much better.
The budget implementation act would deliver a plan to support the residents of my riding and all Canadians. It includes extensions and expansions of critical COVID-19 support programs for businesses and individuals. Examples of that are the wage subsidy, which has helped an enormous number of Canadians; the rent subsidy, without which so many businesses would have had to close; and, of course, the other recovery benefits we have provided.
The BIA would also implement the major policy planks of budget 2021, such as funding early learning and child care and supporting students to help them through these difficult times to find the employment they need to start their careers. It also includes a minimum wage of $15 at the federal level. It sets out a clear foundation for a greener, more inclusive and more prosperous economy, and it would make life more affordable for students by extending the moratorium on student loan payments. These are all critically important for our young people.
Ensuring large multinational companies pay their fair share is a topic of much discussion during these difficult times. We know benefits have gone to many of the companies, so as one end of the spectrum suffered tremendously, another area benefited enormously, and I believe they should contribute much more to getting us through these difficult times. This is what we promised in budget 2021, and this is exactly why we need this BIA to pass, so that the legislation delivers.
I can tell members it is a great budget for the residents I know and love in Humber River—Black Creek, and for all Canadians.
Our government values the contribution that seniors have made, and continue to make, to our communities. I miss visiting my local seniors groups. I call the presidents of these organizations as often as I can. They all want to get back to playing bingo and cards at their local community centres, some of which are now being used now to deliver the important vaccines our government has secured to protect our most vulnerable from COVID-19.
I know these seniors will see their lives get back to normal soon because of the hard work the government is doing to end this horrible pandemic. Our policies are showing positive results. For example, 25% fewer seniors live in poverty than when the Liberals took office in 2015. That is a direct result of the good work our government has undertaken, including restoring the age of eligibility for old age security and GIS to 65 years as opposed to the suggested 67 years, and increasing the GIS for the most vulnerable single seniors.
The budget implementation act proposes to increase old age security by 10% for seniors—
Madam Speaker, it would increase by 10% for seniors aged 75 and over, which will help lift more seniors out of poverty.
Taken together, our government's ambitious and progressive measures are making a real difference in seniors' financial security. However, we know there is much more work to do. Canadian seniors can always count on the Liberals to listen, understand their needs and work hard to try to deliver for them.
Education is the smartest investment anyone can make, and our government is committed, as I mentioned earlier, to making life more affordable for students. To ease new graduates into working life and to make sure they are not prematurely burdened by loan repayments, budget 2019 made the six-month grace period after they finished their education interest-free.
During the pandemic, our government imposed a six-month moratorium on all student loan repayments, and committed to a one-year suspension of interest accrual on student loans in 2021-22. The BIA would extend the waiver of interest accrual on Canada student loans and Canada apprentice loans until March 31, 2023.
Let me assure Canadians that every little thing we do, or big thing we do, helps a lot of people and relieves their stress levels, as we know what they are going through at this particular time.
We are also increasing a threshold for repayment assistance to $40,000 for borrowers living alone, so nobody earning $40,000 per year or less will need to make any payments on their students loans. This will support an estimated 121,000 additional Canadians with student loan debt each year. These measures will ensure that Canada's youth are set up to succeed as we recover from the pandemic.
Now, let us talk about a favourite issue of mine, which is child care. I have always enjoyed visiting the local barbecues and events organized in the communities I represent. Getting to see the new families with their children brings a lot of joy to my life.
I know I will soon be back at the third annual Tastes and Sounds of Jane and Finch at San Romanoway. I want to see my friends Spider Jones and Mr. Jane and Finch himself, Mr. Winston LaRose. I know they are keeping safe, and I will see them soon.
Back to child care, the BIA would authorize $2.9 billion in funding for a transformative investment to build a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. This would drive economic growth, and is a plan to increase women's participation in the workforce—
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the help.
This would increase women's participation in the workforce and is a plan to offer each child in Canada the best start in life. It will aim to reduce fees for parents with children in regulated child care by 50% on average by 2022, with a goal of reaching $10 per day, on average, by 2026, everywhere outside of Quebec. Budget 2021 will invest almost $30 billion over the next five years and provide permanent, ongoing funding.
There has been a lot of discussion over whether this budget is fiscally responsible. Canada entered the pandemic in a strong fiscal position. This allowed our government to take quick and decisive action supporting people and businesses, and to make today's historic investments in the recovery.
Systemic racism is a painful reality for too many people. In particular, Black Canadian communities have suffered immensely during COVID-19, and the events of the past year have highlighted the inequities and racism targeted at racialized communities. Our government is taking action to tackle racism, support racialized communities and respond to the uneven impact of COVID-19. As we build back better and recover from the pandemic, we will continue to address systemic racism and empower communities by bridging the gaps that hold Canada back from reaching its potential.
Budget 2021 outlines the government's plan to build a healthier, more inclusive and more equitable Canada for everyone. The budget proposes $200 million toward a Black-led philanthropic endowment fund to support Black-led charities and organizations serving youth and social initiatives, as well as $100 million for supporting Black Canadian community initiatives. Both will be administered through Employment and Social Development Canada for 2021-22. There will also be a new anti-racism grant program to combat rising hate and racism during COVID-19 and a national coalition to support Asian-Canadian groups.
We will be enhancing the communities at risk with empowering and enforcing security infrastructure programs to protect communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes. We will expand access to community-led mental health programs for indigenous peoples, and racialized and Black Canadians. This is a historical first of its kind, groundbreaking, and an investment that we are speaking about. These ventures will have a direct positive impact on the communities I represent for years to come.
My apologies to my colleagues and the translators for the difficulties with my microphone. I thank them for their help.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Clearly, the microphones are a real problem.
I will continue my speech.
I was saying that raising the minimum wage to $15 was sending the right kind of message. We found out that all our guardian angels, all the essential workers, who were brought out of the shadows by the pandemic, earned low wages. By ensuring them a minimum wage of $15 an hour, we are sending them the right kind of message.
Still on the subject of labour laws, I would say this is a half measure. It is a good start, but it is only one step.
With regard to the practice of contract flipping, we can see the intention to add the word “airport” to the Canada Labour Code. The airport sector is hardest hit by this practice, which undercuts its workers. This is a demand that has long been supported by the workers of this industry.
I will now remind members of the situation and what constitutes contract flipping.
In the airport sector, the workers and unions have no leverage to protect the working conditions they have fought for over time. Consequently, with contract flipping, where the work is given to a different subcontractor, workers lose everything. They lose their jobs and working conditions. The subcontractor has no obligation to them, and so the workers' salaries can even be cut. This destroys lives and careers.
Workers could be hired by a new employer, but they have to start at the bottom, despite having 25 years' experience, for example. However, the work is the same, they must work with the same tools and equipment and work the same schedule. By adding the term “airport” in the budget implementation bill, there is some protection for these workers when contract flipping occurs.
I will now speak about half measures, since the Liberals seem to want to only protect salaries.
That is what happened during the recent dispute between Swissport employees and the Montreal-Trudeau and Mirabel airports. The Swissport employees' contract was changed.
Workers who used to earn $23 per hour are now earning $16 per hour for the same work. That obviously makes no sense. This bill would rectify situations like that. It has to go further, though. Why stop halfway?
This is a half-measure. Pay should not be the only thing the law protects. Working conditions, pension plans, insurance plans and union recognition should also be protected. That is what people want, and it is the right thing to do. That is what we are calling for, and that is what unions are calling for. We hope this part of the bill will be improved so we can go all the way.
When it comes to a given situation or practice, what we are asking for is simple. We do not want workers to suffer when the supplier changes. If the government tackles a particular issue, it might as well make sure that issue will not come up again later because it only went halfway. I am expecting to see amendments in this area.
There is something missing in our labour laws, something that workers have long called for. The government says it wants to protect workers and the middle class. That is easy to say but they are unwilling to lean left to better protect people in situations where they are really struggling. Something is missing, and that is anti-scab legislation to stop employers from using scabs in a labour dispute.
In Quebec, the issue has already been settled. The Quebec Labour Code prohibits the practice. Quebec's anti-scab legislation was adopted in 1977, but there is nothing like it in the Canada Labour Code.
Using scabs during a strike is a completely outdated practice, and yet employers have no qualms about exploiting this weakness in the legislation.
For example, in February 2020, employees of the City of Fredericton had their jobs stolen by scabs in the middle of a lockout. There was a similar situation in June 2020 for the energy workers at the Co-op Refinery in Regina, as well as in March 2020, in New Brunswick, involving the workers of the Red Pine landfill.
Also, what about the situation at the Port of Montreal? In August 2020, the representative of the employer indicated that he intended to work with replacement workers or managers, ignoring the rights of unionized workers. We even saw that in the dispute between the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAMAW, and Swissport, which I was talking about earlier with regard to contract flipping, and the workers went on strike. The employer took advantage of the opportunity to hire scabs to drag out the negotiations. The employer had no interest in quickly settling the dispute.
All that to say that the government could have taken action and corrected an injustice by passing anti-scab legislation, but it failed to do so with Bill .
Now I would like to quickly talk about the employment insurance system. It is unbelievable to think that, after all these years, with all of the studies and consultations that have been done, the government is not doing anything about this social safety net that is so important for workers receiving EI benefits, workers—
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House, virtually of course, to speak to Bill C-30.
This budget is an extremely important one. The BIAs are key elements that we will be moving forward very quickly.
We are in the third wave, and I want to thank Canadians right across the country for their efforts, and Nova Scotians as well. There are so many great stories when visiting various communities and organizations.
In my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, the Sackville Public Library was able to make changes during this pandemic so that people could go online, work virtually and have e-books to continue their learning and research, which is so important. The Sackville Legion, the Waverley Legion, all six legions in my riding were shut down for a while but worked closely with the government and the health agency to reopen when they were able to and continue to do their great work to support veterans and their families.
The First Lake Early Learning Centre had to lower the number of students and have smaller groups, but it continued to do the work that needed to be done. I cannot say enough about teachers, students and parents, who have done so well in continuing the education of students. The Waverley Heritage Museum had virtual learning experiences and had students working in this area last summer to support their community. The Boys & Girls Club in the Preston area, which is the African Nova Scotian community, was able to support the community by delivering food and assisting seniors in the area. In Porters Lake, Lake & Shore Community Recreation had a summer camp last summer and will do it again this summer.
Those are really interesting stories that many Canadians could talk about right across this great country.
There are two big areas of investment in the budget that I want to touch on before I get into the BIA.
One is the investment for veterans, an added $5 million over the next three years, on top of the $3 million that already exists for the well-being fund, which is extremely important for veterans and their families and organizations across the country. Also, there is an investment of $45 million toward veterans homelessness. We are trying to eliminate homelessness right across the country, and we are focusing on veterans homelessness and mental health as well.
I want to touch on the Black community as well, because my riding has the oldest intergenerational Black community in Canada. There is a major investment in the philanthropic endowment fund of $200 million to support Black communities. This fund will be led by Black Canadians, which is important to fight anti-Black racism. There are also investments to support Black Canadian communities, $100 million for programs to support capacity building, which is so needed in Black communities so they can continue working closely and supporting their communities.
In the BIA, there is an investment for child care, which is an important one because it would give students and children a better start and allow more women to enter the workforce because we will have a child care program. We will support Canadians by lowering the cost by 50% by 2022, and then down to $10 a day in 2026. This is a big investment. The BIA has $2.9 billion for Canada-wide early learning, which means that it is concrete, it is moving and it is real.
Education is one of the most important investments we can make. To support young Canadians, we would waive the interest on their federal loans until 2023, which is two more years. This would support 121,000 more Canadians than in prior years, and the threshold for repayment, which was $25,000, will be pushed to $40,000.
As I said, businesses have been doing well and being challenged at the same time. We have worked closely with them and will be extending many of the programs until September, such as the wage subsidy and rent subsidy, and there is room for us to extend them until November. If the economy is in need of more investment, we will be ready to move very quickly. Businesses can apply for up to $500,000 in loans, and there are investments in rehiring and digitalization programs. Credit card merchant fees, which are so expensive for small businesses, will now be the same as for big businesses. That would be a big help for the business community, which has been asking for this for many years.
For health care, which is very important in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada and right across Canada, there will be an additional $5-billion investment in the health transfer payments. This is over and above the health transfer payments that already exist, 10 years running. It is a big investment.
We will increase the EI sickness benefit for people who are challenged with illness from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. My colleague Mr. Eyking, the former MP for Sydney—Victoria, was a big proponent of this program.
We are investing in key areas where Canadians have spoken clearly to us, such as a national framework for autism, a national strategy for diabetes and, of course, all of the investments that we have put forward for vaccines and the success of moving those vaccines right across the country. We will have all Canadians vaccinated with a first dose by the end of June.
Seniors are very important to our economy. They have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the success of our great country. Since 2015, we have been able to reduce senior poverty by 25%. We made some major investments. In 2016, we increased the GIS by 10% for those who were most vulnerable. We also added $300 to the OAS and $200 to the GIS tax-free during COVID, which was very important. We are investing in national standards for seniors residences and in the new horizons program, which will help many organizations support seniors. Let us not forget that the Conservatives wanted to move the eligibility age for OAS to 67, not 65 as we did.
With respect to green energy, people can apply for grants of up to $5,000 for home improvements. For major refits there is an up to $40,000 interest-free loan. The net-zero accelerator is supporting projects that will help reduce domestic greenhouse emissions. We will also reduce by 50% the general corporate and small business income tax rates for businesses that manufacture zero-emissions technology.
I see I have one minute left, so I will conclude. We will continue to support Canadians for as long as it takes. Before COVID we were in a very good fiscal situation with the lowest unemployment rate, and over 1.2 million jobs were created. Just by remortgaging our debt we have been able to save $3 billion in interest payments. Not just Canada, but all countries are investing in their people. I am so proud of our government for continuing that work.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to budget 2021.
As I always remind my constituents, I am Beauce's representative in Ottawa, not Ottawa's representative in Beauce. That is why I would like to share with the House my many concerns about this budget and the changes that I would like to see made for my constituents and all Canadians.
The fact that the government took two years to announce its budget is unbelievable. One would think that, since the budget took two full years to develop, it would not have so many glaring problems, but it is important to remember that this government is constantly embroiled in scandal and other types of distractions.
Since coming to Ottawa during the last election, I have seen how complicated it is to work in federal politics. Everything moves at a snail's pace. It is extremely discouraging to have such good intentions but to feel as though this government never makes any progress.
As the associate shadow minister for rural economic development, I examined the budget carefully, and there are many things I would like to talk about today.
I would like to start by talking about the labour shortage that is affecting Quebec businesses. Business people across the country have found very creative ways to keep their businesses afloat during these uncertain times. Unfortunately, in rural areas, even before the pandemic, it has always been extremely difficult to fill all the available positions. The government should expand and enhance the existing temporary and seasonal worker programs to help fill the gap for these businesses.
The government also needs to cut the red tape associated with hiring. In some cases, businesses have to deal with three different departments to bring in the workers they themselves recruited in foreign countries. Current departmental wait times are destroying our businesses. The government cannot keep using the pandemic as an excuse. It is time for these ministers to stop gearing up for their next election campaign and start getting to work on these files.
Secondly, I want to talk about something that I have been passionate about for many years and that is public transportation in rural areas. The problem is that the money is simply not there. When the government promises to provide funding to the provinces, most of that funding ends up in major urban centres. With the population aging, keeping seniors in their rural municipalities could be easier with access to a public transportation system that would give them greater autonomy. In the absence of such transportation services, seniors choose to move closer to hospitals and health care centres for a better sense of security.
We see the same thing with newcomers. They also need transportation. In the context of a labour shortage, many businesses are recruiting foreign workers. It is the employer's responsibility to secure transportation to the workplace for employees with temporary work permits. However, these employees have no means of transportation to get to medical appointments, the pharmacy or the grocery store.
Public transportation in rural areas would help these workers and their families better integrate into their host communities. Without public transportation, students have no choice but to own a vehicle, carpool when possible, or live near post-secondary institutions, which are often located in major cities. For rural areas where about 20% of the Canadian population lives, a per capita contribution is not appropriate. Commuting distance should be a criterion for contribution. This approach would support the provision of transportation services in rural areas.
I would now like to quickly address a fairness issue that is not mentioned at all in this budget. It involves the current state of the Income Tax Act when it comes to the transfer of a family business. Currently, the reality for business owners is that it costs them more in taxes to sell their business to a family member than to sell it to a third party.
The current act unjustifiedly disadvantages operators who wish to pass on their family business to their daughter or son, leaving owners to decide whether to keep their life's work in the family or sell it to the highest bidder.
As everyone knows, Beauce is all about small business, and I would like to share an example from my riding. Eddy Berthiaume of Les Escaliers de Beauce in Saint-Elzéar was forced to make the difficult decision I just explained to the House. As the owner of half the business, Eddy is a hard worker who devoted years and years to building his business. When he was ready to retire, he decided to sell his shares in the family business to his children. Unfortunately, he was unfairly forced to pay thousands of dollars in transfer fees.
The worst part is that his business partner sold his half of the business to a third party and had to pay next to nothing in taxes. Why is that unfair? That is just one of many examples of how the government is leaving this country's small businesses out in the cold. We do not need a government that is willing to grant exemptions to some Canadians while penalizing hard-working families like the Berthiaumes.
I therefore hope all parties in the House will support the Conservative Party when it is time to vote on Bill tomorrow.
I now want to talk about high-speed Internet access and, in particular, the quality of cellular coverage in rural parts of Canada. This is the biggest problem that continues to put rural and remote communities at a disadvantage.
More and more Canadians are required to work and learn from home, so stable and reliable Internet and cellular connections are crucial. The Liberal government has completely bungled this issue, which has lagged for years, through five different programs and three departments.
Fortunately for Quebeckers, our provincial government presented a real plan with dates and objectives to get all homes connected by the end of 2022. The federal plan was so bad that the province implemented its own plan and simply asked the federal government to share the costs. Other parts of Canada are unfortunately quite far behind. We do not need more talk. We need action on this urgent issue.
Budget 2021 does not contain a single initiative to help improve cellular networks in rural areas. In some parts of my riding, people are finally getting access to a decent Internet connection. However, if they walk five minutes down the road, they lose any reliable connection to the cellular network, which makes no sense.
When can we finally hope to have a plan that works from this government to connect all Canadians in rural areas? We need the government to show leadership. It cannot continue to sit on the sidelines and wait for the big telecoms to take the initiative and solve this problem.
Another file that I am very passionate about is our agriculture and agri-food sector, a very important part of Canada's rural economy. This sector has been neglected by the Liberal government for years. To improve the economic development of Canada's rural areas, it is essential that the government help fund not just farmers on the ground, but the entire food chain.
When I was the associate shadow minister for agriculture and agri-food for the Conservative Party, I tried to get the minister to listen to me, but it seems that her hands are tied by a who does not believe in this sector. I still sit on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which released a complete report on business risk management programs. Unfortunately, nothing has changed.
It is essential to improve the business risk management programs for agricultural producers. The minister proposed a few changes to the program on condition that the provinces and territories share the cost. Unfortunately, some provinces cannot do that right now because of budget constraints. The minister is probably happy to wash her hands of it and say that she tried. However, agriculture and agri-food need to be considered as a real driver of Canada's economic recovery.
In closing, this budget is nothing more than a campaign tool for the Liberals, who are throwing money around without a real plan. I hope that, before the next election, Canadians will clearly see that the Liberals are just trying to buy votes with this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill , introduced by my colleague the . This is a first in Canadian history and I think it deserves to be acknowledged once again, as many members of the House already have. As the first woman to introduce a budget implementation bill in the House, the finance minister has broken down another barrier and inspired young girls in the process.
The budget essentially has three main themes. First, since March 2020, our objective has been to help Canadians get through the pandemic. Second, we want to help build a bridge to help SMEs get through the pandemic, since many small and medium-sized businesses have had to close their doors because of lockdown measures. Third, once the pandemic is over, we want a fair, equitable and green economic recovery. My speech today will address these three themes.
The objective of budget 2021 is obviously to help Canadians, for example through programs like the Canada emergency benefit or the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
Many members know that workers have unfortunately lost their jobs as a result of lockdown measures or because schools are closed and they need to stay home with their kids. A number of measures in budget 2021 will be extended until September to help Canadians through the crisis.
I just mentioned the Canada emergency wage subsidy. I have spoken with several business owners who were calling for this benefit to be extended beyond June 2021. It has been extended until September 25. This is good news for our small businesses, which have done an outstanding job of adapting and finding new ways to serve their customers.
I want to take a moment to commend the Prescott-Russell Community Development Corporation for the work it has done through the minister responsible for economic development. The corporation gave subsidies of up to $20,000 to help businesses adapt to the digital economy and develop an online presence, allowing residents to purchase products and services. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen.
As I mentioned earlier, the Canada emergency wage subsidy will be extended to September 25.
Regarding help for businesses that had to close down, we also extended the rent subsidy program. It has been so important for many of those businesses that are either paying rent or a mortgage but are forced to be closed. I think about hair salons that, in some parts of Ontario, have not opened in over a year. One can tell the region somebody comes from by the type of haircut they have. Some people have very long hair right now. Needless to say, these salons are an important part of our economy and I am glad we are helping them with the rent support program.
The CEBA loan was also extended. It has helped many businesses in my riding. Businesses can apply for up to $60,000, and if they reimburse it prior to a certain date, they can get access to a $20,000 grant.
Now, here are some of the measures we have outlined in budget 2021.
Fair, equitable and green economic recovery was one of the main themes of this budget. I am thinking primarily of child care. If we want a strong economy and economic recovery, we need to make sure that women participate equitably in our economy.
It is true that promises have been made before—some were even made when I was 7, apparently. The and the are determined to ensure that this program is implemented once and for all. I hope we will have all-party support, as this is a very important measure.
When I was young, I could easily visit my grandmother, whose house was just behind ours. My mother had to go back to work after only three months of maternity leave. Not every parent has the option of having a family member look after their children. That is why access to child care and the cost of those services are so important.
We know that parents can spend from $40 to $100 a day per child for child care, sometimes more. They often wonder whether they should just stay at home to look after their children because it is simply not worth it for them to participate in the economy or to work while they have children at home. That is not a choice that people should have to make in our society, in a G7 country like Canada.
The Government of Quebec has had a proper child care program in place for decades. It is a great example. There is no reason why Ontario and the other provinces should not have a similar program. I am sure that the negotiations will be successful and that the will get positive results for our families, who are so dependent on affordable child care. That is why we want to reduce the cost of such services by half by 2022 and cap it at $10 per day by 2025-26. That is a realistic and worthy objective that will help families across Canada.
The other important measure in the budget and in this act is help for our seniors. During the election campaign, we promised to increase support for seniors by 10% starting at age 75 for a very simple reason. Starting at age 65, seniors have access to old age security, as well as the guaranteed income supplement for our most vulnerable seniors. The guaranteed income supplement was increased by 10% in 2016, another promise that we kept.
Now we have committed to increasing old age security starting at age 75 for another very simple reason, which is that most seniors exhaust their savings before they reach 75 and suffer the consequences, with some falling below the poverty line. The proposed increase has a noble purpose, and it fulfills our campaign commitment.
Another important aspect of budget 2021 is none other than the issue of a green economic recovery.
I am so glad we are finally focusing on a green economic recovery. The measures in budget will reduce corporate tax rates by 50% for those manufacturers that produce zero-emissions technology. What a great incentive to position Canada as a go-to partner for the world to reuse our products. If we want to get to net zero by 2050, Canada has to do its part, but other countries have to do their part as well. There is no reason why Canada cannot be a provider of net-zero emissions technology. The incentive to reduce the tax rate by 50% is a great example.
Finally, I know we get accused of not being fiscally responsible. We are being compared to the 1990s, so I am will recall some facts. In the 1990s, the debt-to-GDP was 66% and the interest rates were at 12%. Thankfully, we are no where near that. I know that the debt-to-GDP ratio will rise to 51.2%, but then it will decline to 49.2%. By next year, the deficit will be reduced by half and by the following year, the deficit will be reduced even further by half again.
We are on a clear path to get to a budgetary balance, but we will also ensure we do not leave anyone behind. Budget 2021 is all about that. We want a fair, green economic recovery that leaves no one behind.
Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to take a few seconds in the House to commemorate the work of anthropologist, radio host and distinguished author Serge Bouchard. For years, he filled our evenings with his reassuring voice and his profound vision of Quebec and our relations with the first nations. We have lost a great Quebecker. We will all miss him.
I would like to address several topics, because we are talking about the first federal budget in two years, so this is an important event.
The past two years have left their mark and turned life upside down in every one of our communities. Over these two years, we have all had to relearn how to live, work, communicate and get things done. Worse still, we saw businesses suffer and close up shop, workers lose their jobs, and entire sectors get turned upside down, especially the tourism sector, the cultural sector, including our artists, and the restaurant and bar sector.
Then there is the health care system, which had to perform miracles with very limited resources and in difficult working conditions, but I will get back to that later. Thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians fell ill and died in great numbers and are still dying or, even if they recover, can suffer long-term after-effects, known as long COVID.
Does the budget meet people's expectations when it comes to improving the situation and being better prepared for the future? There are some major flaws. There are tons of things missing. One of the first things is, how is it that the budget does not provide for stable and permanent health transfers so that Quebec and the other provinces can treat their employees well, treat their patients properly and face another crisis, another wave or another virus?
Over the years, the federal government has been investing less and less in our public health care system. That is very serious. In the NDP, we share the provincial governments' demand to raise funding to 35% of costs. In recent years, a Conservative government, under Mr. Harper, cut transfer payments to the provinces by reducing the annual increase from 6% to almost 3%. At the time, the Liberals made a big fuss about that, saying that it was a terrible thing that would threaten our public health care system but, when they came to power, they maintained and renewed exactly the same agreement. For that reason, our public health care system is now in dire straits. We need to make difficult choices. Times were hard even before the health crisis, with austerity budgets aimed at cutting corners everywhere. We are now seeing the results of those policies.
We need to give our public health system the means, the tools and the resources it needs. We need to work together to be able to care for our seniors in long-term care facilities. We saw the carnage in the first wave. Some of our seniors, the people who built Quebec by the sweat of their brow, were abandoned, left on the floor, left in their beds, dehydrated, without care and with rotten food, if they had any food at all.
As New Democrats and social democrats, we find this treatment disgraceful. It strips our seniors of their dignity, and we must do something to make sure it never happens again. We are not looking away and saying that it is not our problem. We are asking what we can do to help so that we never find ourselves in that situation again.
It feels like spring is coming, people will be getting vaccinated, and the recovery is on its way, so much the better. These are all good things. We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, we cannot forget what happened last year. If we do, things will never change. The cycle will start all over again, and the same thing is going to happen.
One of the reasons we did not have the means to ensure a basic level of quality care for our seniors in long-term care facilities is the lack of resources. There were management problems, but the Quebec government is taking care of that, because it is not the federal government's jurisdiction, of course.
If we do not help the provinces provide decent care and look after their health care workers, what happens?
When orderlies earning $14 an hour are forced to work mandatory overtime and insane schedules, and this is compounded by a crisis, where a virus enters the workplace, it creates a vicious cycle. It is no longer worth their while to go to work because it is too dangerous, they are not paid enough and they do not want to take the risk. As a result, workers stay at home, and that exacerbates the problem.
Earlier, a member from Quebec said that this is world health worker week and that tomorrow is International Nurses Day. Let us consider. What are we offering them in exchange for caring for our sick patients and our seniors? What are we offering them to make the work attractive and make sure that they still want to go to work even when it is harder than usual, when there is a crisis and they are at greater risk?
For now, that is not what we are seeing, and the Liberal government's budget does not offer any answers. Sure, the government transferred some money, but only on a one-time basis, in the middle of a crisis. There is no plan for the future, yet we know that we need permanent, stable funding.
There is another important issue, and that is child care. We can see how accessible child care services help families and young parents in Quebec and how they allow women to rejoin the labour market. It is a good idea in itself, and I do not want to be a killjoy, but this was a flagship proposal in the NDP's 2015 and 2019 election platforms. It is a good idea, but only if it is executed properly. It could really help people, especially since we are in an economic crisis right now that is disproportionately affecting women. Women's participation in the labour market has dropped sharply, and we know that affordable public child care gives women greater access to the labour market, since they have unfortunately inherited traditional societal responsibities, such as caring for children.
It is a good measure that is very fitting under the circumstances. We could be happy, if only the Liberals had a shred of credibility in the matter. As I said earlier, they have been promising a child care program for the past 28 years. The first time was in Jean Chrétien's red book in 1993. That was quite a while ago. Should we believe them?
Let us see their action plan and what they are going to do, and let us watch how they work with the provinces. Perhaps the Liberals will want to act quickly to meet the need, because there is indeed a need. We see it in Quebec, where the minister of families is desperate. Quebec needs 50,000 more child care spaces, and federal money would be welcome. I met with Quebec's minister of families a few months ago. He asked us to try to put pressure on the government for a federal transfer so that he could open more spaces and pay more educators. That would be a good thing for the Liberals to do, but I have my doubts that it will happen.
Let us remember that, in the last budget, the Liberals' big promise for a major social program was public pharmacare. The NDP agrees that we should have a public pharmacare program, as do the Union des consommateurs, the FTQ, the CSN and the CSQ. There are holes in Quebec's system, which is a hybrid system and is not perfect. Such a program would also help many sick people in English Canada reduce the cost of their medication and access the drugs they need. How is it that pharmacare was a priority two years ago, and now it is suddenly off the table? How is it that we were told that other consultations would be held, but now there is no funding for this program and it is over and done with? One year it is pharmacare, and the next it is child care. The government is playing games by going from one to another. The government does not seem very serious about these things.
There is also a lack of funding for housing, even though there is a major housing crisis in Montreal and across Quebec. There is nothing in the budget about making the tax system fair and equitable. Web giants are still not paying taxes in Quebec and Canada. There is probably even a loophole so that Netflix does not have to pay taxes. The government is even playing favourites among the web giants. I think we need to get to a point where companies that make excessive profits, like Amazon, are taxed more and a tax is imposed on wealth over $20 million. These are solutions that the NDP is putting forward so that we can pay for a vibrant, green and prosperous economic recovery that benefits everyone.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill and to share some of my reflections, not only on the government's budget and its implementation, but also on how the government views its relationship to Canadians.
I have been open in my critique of this budget. There is some good, and there are some things to be optimistic about, but ultimately this long-anticipated budget lacks the courage required to lead this country into a bold, new future. Canadians were not given a clear picture of what concrete steps will be taken to lift us up from our darkest hour. What we all need is leadership.
A leader speaks with clarity. Instead, we often spin our wheels with mixed messaging. The government has clearly indicated that we will be net-zero by 2050, while missing the point entirely that the decade we are currently in is actually the most important to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
A leader speaks with consistency. On the one hand, the government declared a climate emergency in 2019. Then, within the month, it had purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline to shepherd it through construction and more than double oil sands production.
A leader acts with integrity. The government says that no relationship is more important than its relationship with indigenous peoples, yet court injunctions are being enforced on unceded lands across this country in the name of law and order. Reconciliation has lost its meaning.
This budget is just another example of symbolism over substance, where we maintain the status quo under the guise of transformation. I am certain I am not the only one who feels as though the last 14 months have simultaneously trickled by at a snail's pace and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Last March, the world had to stop. We had to stop travelling, stop going to the office and stop enjoying Sunday dinners with grandparents. We had to adapt. Week by week, month by month, we were tested. We saw COVID sweep through long-term care homes as residents had no access to PPE or rapid testing. We closed our borders as a nation and many provinces chose to do the same. In those early months, there was no certainty about vaccine production timelines. All the while, tremors were shaking the economy, hitting small and medium-sized businesses the hardest.
We now find ourselves 14 months into this pandemic, and the has tabled a budget said to focus on Canadians and the middle class, and those seeking to join it. This middle-class obsession is yet another way to avoid talking about the widening gap between those experiencing extreme poverty and the wealthy elite.
We are in the throws of a housing crisis from coast to coast to coast. Not only is it becoming more and more difficult for young people to purchase their first home, but people cannot afford apartments as rental market prices are skyrocketing. People across the nation still do not have access to a primary care provider, mental health care professionals or the ability to pay for their medications they require to live.
Research published last month exposed that over half of Canadians, 53% of them, are within $200 of not being able to cover their monthly bills. This includes the 30% who report they are already insolvent with no money left at month's end to cover their payments. This is unacceptable. How have we let income inequality reach this point? How is it that we are unwilling to face it down directly?
Instead, our government would rather reflect wistfully on the middle class, while banks increase their profits and children go hungry. People are having a hard time. The people we work for. They have done their best to manage so far, but I have felt the increased weight of it all in their correspondences to my office over the last month or two.
People's financial reserves are exhausted. Their emotional reserves are exhausted. They do not need insincerity from their government. They need to be seen. When over half of our population is living with the anxiety of maybe not being able to make ends meet, or already being unable to do so, perhaps this middle-class concept is a little more than a relic of a bygone era.
It is important to name things as they are so we can approach them with integrity. I want us to have real conversations about offering stability, health and well-being to Canadians, meeting them where they are at, understanding the urgency and acting. This budget is a missed opportunity to truly offer Canadians a shift to directly improve their quality of life.
I had been hoping that one lesson taught by the pandemic would have been that we were able to act quickly and put in place life-changing programs, such as the Canadian emergency response benefit. In many cases, it kept people quite literally alive. However, even with the CERB, the government demonstrated indifference to the most vulnerable. We determined an amount that would be livable, knowing full well that we were continuing to ask persons with disabilities, seniors and those on social assistance to live on much less.
We had a chance to offer Canadians the stability of a ground floor to ensure that basic needs are met. We could have offered a collective sigh of relief with a guaranteed basic income. Instead, many Canadians are still holding their breath. I will not hold mine while I wait for the promises of the government to come through.
Another lesson I was had hoped to see reflected in the budget was the need to address racism and systemic inequality. We are still waiting for action on missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. Words will not protect them. Words will not have their cases investigated the way they should be, and words will not root out hate and white supremacy in our society.
The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat should have a robust plan to reach into every corner of our institutions to confront the vectors of power that have been at play since colonization began. Racism kills. We must adopt Joyce's principle that aims to guarantee that indigenous people have equitable access to all health and social services and to the highest attainable standard without discrimination.
We also need concrete, long-lasting actions for change in the Criminal Code, police enforcement and the carceral system. We know that our society will not be able to thrive until we break down the barriers that prevent people from living their full lives. Until there are real reparations and real justice, we cannot talk about reconciliation.
This budget is supposed to be about building a more resilient Canada, one that is better, fairer, more prosperous and more innovative, but without implementing a guaranteed livable income, I do not see how it will help Canadians to be more prosperous. While refusing to hike the capital gains tax and a reticence to impose a significant wealth tax, this has nothing to do with being better or more fair.
Who will bear the brunt of the deficits anticipated for the next decades? It is one thing to announce long-overdue investments in health care and housing, but these were needed decades ago. Will the government have the courage to implement a tax to target the large corporations that are profiting off this pandemic? As things stand, these corporations are the ones building back better and they are doing it on the backs of Canadians.
The also said that this budget is in line with the global shift to a green, clean economy. Everyone here should know without any surprise that I strongly support that vision, but I wish I was able to believe that this statement had value beyond the rhetorical. I see the situation we are facing as a potential opportunity. As the entire world looks to shift away from fossil fuels, we are given an incentive to figure it out now, to invest in innovation that will meet the energy demand with renewable energy or that will reduce our total energy demand.
The economic opportunity of new industries combined with an effort to redirect workers to these sectors holds immense potential. I know that some Canadians, indeed some members of this House, see me as an idealist or perhaps even naive, but my commitment to the rotational workers in my home province and beyond is real. I believe with every fibre of my being that their best futures are not travelling to and from Alberta for dwindling work in a dying industry. Their knowledge and skills can be transferred to benefit the economy of the future, one that is sustainable and renewable, one they can proudly leave to their children and grandchildren. That takes courage to stand one's ground and to do what is right, even when some people do not like it.
I know that with all of my colleagues in this House, we share the common objective of improving the lives of Canadians, but I also know we see different ways of getting there. As a woman, a mother and an educator, I want to put the emphasis on the well-being of people above all. I know that with a healthy and happy society, we can all thrive. What we need is a government with the courage to lead, a government that will share a vision for Canada that inspires us and a resolve to charge forward in that direction with confidence. This is how we will transform our society. This is how we will build the Canada of tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join in the debate on the budget implementation act today. This is the first time I have responded to a federal budget as a member of the opposition. For eight years, I was a member of the government in Saskatchewan and replied to some budget speeches as a member of the government, so this is a new experience.
In listening to the responses from the opposition members, they never talk about anything positive, so for the member for I will talk about some of the positive steps that have happened in Saskatchewan, but I will point out some areas of criticism as well.
As is my tradition, I have some thanks to give. First and foremost, none of us could do this job without our spouses and the support from back home. My wife Larissa is back home with our three kids Jameson, Claire and Nickson. It is Nickson's birthday on May 15, so I have to get home for that.
While I am on the topic of birthdays, this is a special day. I grew up on a farm in Rush Lake, Saskatchewan. My dad and uncle farmed together. We celebrate two birthdays on May 11, my cousin Jason Steinley's, whom I wish a happy birthday, and one of my childhood heroes, my big brother Quinton's. He turns substantially older than me today. It is an honour for me to wish him a happy birthday from the House of Commons. I am sorry we cannot see each other face to face, but hopefully we can have a celebration sometime in the near future.
Moving forward to the budget debate on the implementation act we are talking about today, there are some positives for the people of Saskatchewan. We have a fantastic facility called VIDO at the University of Saskatchewan and this budget has a $40-million to $45-million investment for VIDO, which we appreciate. Not only will it help us get out of this pandemic, it will prepare us for anything that is coming in the future. Investments in science and technology and the health care sector are very important. We appreciate that investment into the University of Saskatchewan. That is something we have talked about for a long time and we wish it had happened a bit sooner, but like we always say, it is better late than never coming from the current government.
We are also seeing a return to bigger government and bigger spending. That is something we have seen throughout this budget. I think it is on track to be 30% more permanent spending by 2026, which is $100 billion more added to the annual budget of the Government of Canada. When it comes down to it, the question we on the opposition side is this. How are we going to continue to pay for that?
We have heard that the Liberals expect this to be a stimulus budget. There is $101.4 billion earmarked for stimulus spending and the opposition is asking if that is true. Some comments have been made by some people that that may not be the facts exactly of the stimulus spending.
I am going to quote the PBO, who stated:
Parliament's spending watchdog says the federal Liberals' budget overestimates how much of an impact its stimulus measures will have on Canada's economy.
The budget last month outlined what the government said was $101.4 billion in new spending over three years aimed at helping the country climb out of the economic hole caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the budget officer's report on Wednesday estimated that only $69 billion of that spending could be considered stimulus, such as the extension of emergency supports that were outlined prior to the budget.
Yves Giroux said his estimates of stimulus spending would boost economic growth by one per cent next year and create 74,000 jobs, compared with the budget's estimates, respectively, of two per cent and 334,000 jobs.
He went on to say that the higher deficits and debt in the coming years could limit the ability of a government to introduce any new, permanent programs without spending cuts or tax increases.
The crux of the argument today in this House of Commons and in my presentation is that the overestimations by the government have continued to hurt our economy. I do not have any doubt, and I do not think anyone in my constituency of Regina—Lewvan has any doubt, that the Liberals know how to spend money. They have full faith that the Liberals have not met a dollar they do not want to spend on insiders, friends and family. What are they going to deliver for average Canadians? When are they going to deliver jobs for average Canadians?
We just saw a report that, once again, 200,000 Canadians lost their jobs last month. The question is, out of this spending, if the Liberals are saying 334,000 Canadians are going to go back to work, why is the PBO saying it is only going to be 74,000? That is an important question that needs to be answered. Are they saying that Canadians need to trust what they put on paper or what the non-partisan PBO has put on paper? I think I know who Canadians are going to trust more.
There are also comments, from other sectors and from the CFIB, that they would like to see a plan to reopen. When I have talked to small businesses in Saskatchewan, a lot of them do not want to be dependent on government programs or government cheques. They would rather see clients and customers coming in their doors. They would rather have their doors open and be able to earn that money than wait for a government cheque.
What we would also like to see is what is going on in Saskatchewan. I am quite proud of our provincial government and the plan it has rolled out as to how to safely reopen. There is a three-phase plan, where on May 30—
Mr. Speaker, the provincial government under Premier Moe has laid out a very concise plan to reopen its economy in three phases. The first phase starts with having over 70% of 40-year-olds vaccinated. They are actually there already, so phase one is going to reopen on May 30. Three weeks after that, if 70% of people 30 and over are vaccinated, they can go to phase two, where there will be more opportunities and businesses can open and have more clients and customers coming through their doors. If we get 70% of people 18 and over vaccinated, hopefully in mid-July, we can get back to a little of the normal life we all are hoping to get back to this summer, sooner rather than later.
Some of how to safely reopen our economy is missing from the budget, and that is what we look at from an economic development point of view. One thing that I have seen, and once again this is a positive thing for the member for , is that in the Regina area we have had almost a billion dollars' worth of private investment over the last month. That is great news for agriculture and manufacturing. Viterra has said it is going to bring one of the largest canola-crushing plants on earth to Regina. That is fantastic. We just spoke with a person from Cargill. That company is investing in having a canola-crushing plant come to Regina. Federated Co-operatives Limited just bought True North Renewable Fuels, and it is going to be expanding and setting up a renewable diesel refinery in the Regina area.
There is good news on the horizon in Regina, but there has not been much from the federal government side. It has been private business. The Government of Saskatchewan has set up an economic atmosphere of success, and that is what I want to talk about toward the end of my comments. We need to create more opportunities in our major industries. One of the industries that continually gets left behind by the government is the oil and gas sector. Through the economic downturn in 2008, what brought us back faster than any other G7 country were our oil and gas sector, our manufacturing sector and our agriculture sector.
I want to talk about that, being a member of the agriculture standing committee. We just finished work on how to increase processing capacity across the nation, and the government had lost out on a major processing facility from Maple Leaf Foods. Actually, the chair of the agriculture committee, who is a Liberal member, asked a VP from Maple Leaf Foods why the company did not build in Canada instead of building its new processing plant in Indiana. The VP of Maple Leaf Foods said it was because of the uncertainty in regulations and the changing atmosphere of the regulatory system in Canada. He said that it seems like whenever someone is going to be investing big private capital in Canada, the goalposts keep moving.
It was there in black and white in the Hansard, and it is happening on way too many occasions with the current government. It continues to change the goalposts when it comes to regulatory guidelines and what it needs from people when they invest in Canada. It happened to Teck Frontier, and it happened again here with Maple Leaf Foods. What we need to see from the Liberal government is more certainty, and that is why I will be voting against the budget.
Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that this is an important week, National Nursing Week. I want to take this opportunity to thank not only the amazing nurses of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford but those who work across Vancouver Island, the province of B.C. and our great country for the hard work they do every day.
For people who doubt how severe an illness COVID-19 really is, they need only speak to a nurse who works incredibly long hours in an ICU, who helps patients in respiratory distress and who is often the only one there when a patient meets his or her end. I want to acknowledge our amazing nurses and thank them for their service. They do an amazing job on behalf of our communities.
We are at a point now where we have been battered quite hard by COVID-19, and this third wave has certainly been the worst of them all. I know people are exhausted everywhere. Some members before me have referenced the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that we all feel at this moment. We are all looking for some light at the end of this very long and dark tunnel.
However, we are at the stage now where there is a noticeable uptake in vaccinations. We are certainly at a point in British Columbia right now where people in my age group are starting to book their vaccination appointments. In fact, I just booked mine today. I am looking forward to getting that first shot and joining the growing list of my fellow citizens who have received theirs.
Today, we are here to discuss Bill , the government's budget implementation act, which followed its April budget. It proposes several legislative changes to bring those measures into force. However, I do not think that all the measures that were announced in the budget are contained in the bill. I have heard reference that a second implementation act will follow in the fall of this year.
I have been listening to the speeches on Bill today and to some of the concerns about the spending that is going on in this budget and the eye-watering deficit in which we find ourselves. We would not be at this stage if it had not been for the pandemic. We have had to open up the federal taps to help struggling small businesses and individuals weather this storm, and to ensure those small businesses are still in operation when we finally are clear of the pandemic.
However, in all the concerns I have heard about the spending, I have not really heard much discussion from either the Liberals or Conservatives on how we address the revenue shortfall, how we ensure that when we get back on the road of recovery, when we try to get the books back to a balanced status, that we do not unfairly place the burden on working families. We need only look at the example in the 1990s when the Liberal government, with finance minister Paul Martin, had a very large axe, and they swung it everywhere. There were incredible slashes made to health care transfers and housing, and that left a lot of working families in extreme pain.
How do we move forward in a way that saves working families from continuing to bear the brunt of the costs from this pandemic? The answer is simple. It is a wealth tax, which is a simple 1% on fortunes of over $20 million. We have proposed that because we are in a state now where over the last year we have seen Canada's billionaires increase their wealth by an exponential amount.
I am still scratching my head when I hear my Conservative colleagues say that this is not time to impose a tax. Clearly, Canadians of all political persuasion have indicated strong favour for imposing a wealth tax, for ensuring that the wealthy and well-connected are paying their fair share. A 1% tax on fortunes of over $20 million is not targeting our normal constituents. In fact, I do not think I know anyone personally with a fortune of over $20 million. This is a smart economic policy to ensure that the burden does not fall on most of our constituents. It is about finding that way forward.
I would have liked to have seen Bill and, indeed, the budget speech from April 19 contain some specific references to targeting very wealthy individuals, maybe putting in a profiteering tax, similar to what the Canadian government did during World War II, as well as harsher measures to crack down on tax evasion. So much revenue is slipping through the fingers of the CRA right now. People who can afford to pay that money, who have the means to pay the tax, are not paying their fair share and are using existing loopholes to escape notice. It is shameful behaviour and it is morally wrong. It means that the rest of our constituents have to shoulder that unfair burden.
I am also very interested in the part of the budget implementation legislation that deals with child care. I am a very strong believer and supporter of child care. I ran very strongly on this platform in 2015. I remember the Liberals criticizing the NDP plan back then, so it is nice to see they have now adopted it, almost six years later, and that it is finally in the budget.
However, I compare the rationale behind child care versus what the Liberals have said on pharmacare. Under division 34 of of the bill, we see a legislative framework to set up child care, yet when the NDP proposed a legislative framework that was based on the Canada Health Act to bring in a pharmacare system, the Liberals voted against that.
Child care is great, and I really hope this time around it does succeed, but when it comes to pharmacare, we have been waiting since 1997, when the Liberals last promised it. Every month, families right across the country are having to make those difficult decisions when there are unexpected medical costs. It can really break the family budget. Those investments can have a tangible impact on the budgets of working families and help them make it from month to month.
The member for , my great colleague, has introduced a motion in the House of Commons to expand our health care system to include dental care. That is also a key missing element. For the life of me, I cannot understand why health care coverage ends at one's tonsils and does not include strong oral care. We know that poor oral health is a very strong indicator of more serious medical conditions. It is ultimately a class issue. People who have the means and the wealth can afford good dental care. Often people are lucky enough to have good dental coverage through their work. However, a lot of people have lost those benefits in this pandemic. They have had their hours reduced or they have lost their jobs altogether. We need to make those very important and specific investments in health care.
It is great that the budget implementation bill addressed EI sickness benefits, unfortunately raising it only to 26 weeks. The House of Commons has repeatedly indicated support for the full 52 weeks or even 50 weeks, which I have heard in some iterations. This is important because Canada pension plan disability benefits do not often kick in unless someone has a demonstrated illness or injury that will make them incapable of work for over a year. Often people are falling in the gap between what the Liberals are now proposing, the 26 weeks, and a full year, which is 52 weeks. That could have been done quite easily.
The Liberals do enjoy their half-measures, so if 26 weeks is what we will get this time, I will accept, but I want it to be known that it is not good enough. Definite improvements need to be made to that.
I know I am within my last minute, so I will end on a positive note. The budget is certainly a mixed bag, but as the NDP critic for agriculture, it is nice to see some investments coming to that sector, really trying to concentrate on the area of environmental sustainability. Our farmers are on the front lines of climate change, but they also have the tools to be one of our greatest weapons in fighting climate change. In the future, I would love to see more investments come their way, investments that concentrate on the sector's ability to sequester carbon.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech on Bill , I would like to take a moment to extend my sincere condolences to the friends and family of Serge Bouchard. He was Quebec's favourite anthropologist, and a wonderful communicator and speaker. He was an exceptional man. We learned of his death today. I wanted to express my deepest condolences to his family and tell them that we will miss him dearly.
I rise today to talk about the budget. Bill C-30 is a big omnibus bill with lots of measures. Some are better than others. The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-30, and I would now like to look at the positive aspects and then look at what could have been improved. We agree that the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy should be extended to 2026.
There is also the tax deferral on patronage dividends from agricultural co-operatives. I met with Jean-Sébastien Leblanc and Sylvain Brault of the Coop fédérée, which is now called Sollio. They stressed the importance of this measure for co-operatives. We are very pleased that they can take advantage of this measure. It will be good for this great Quebec co-operative.
We will certainly follow rigorously and closely all the measures surrounding tourism, including small and large cultural and special events. They are also major victims of this pandemic and will probably be the last to fully resume their activities.
This brings me to two topics that are really important to me: seniors and sick workers. Starting with seniors, clearly Bill C-30 announced with great fanfare an OAS increase for people aged 75 and over, not right now, not as soon as the bill is passed, but in 2022. Quite frankly, I am not the only one who wonders why only those aged 75 and over, and why in 2022.
FADOQ, which has 550,000 members in Quebec, is the largest seniors' organization in Canada. It wasted no time condemning what is going on. Truthfully and to the point, FADOQ said that the budget's 10% OAS increase for people aged 75 and over creates two classes of seniors: those aged 65 to 74 and those 75 and up. Specifically, the Liberals' proposal is to give seniors 75 and up a raise of $63.80 per month.
For quite some time now, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for an increase of at least $110 per month for all seniors over 65. There is a reason for that. For years, seniors' spending power has been shrinking while costs have been rising. Some seniors were not lucky enough to have a job with a pension or were not able to save much money. Some seniors, more than one might think, have trouble making ends meet.
I worked with seniors my whole professional career. I dedicated my working years to them. I know that, as we speak, there are seniors who cannot afford to buy medication or food. They have a hard time buying services because they are losing their independence. Their independence and their ability to do things depends on an old age security increase.
The president of FADOQ, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, did not mince her words. I met Ms. Tassé-Goodman at the debate on seniors during the last electoral campaign. She is a smart woman.
She said that by increasing old age security exclusively for people age 75 and over, the government was creating two classes of seniors. To avoid this divide, her organization recommended that the 10% increase in old age security be extended to everyone eligible for this benefit, starting at age 65.
The Bloc Québécois advocated for this and asked the government to include it in the budget. We are also calling for it in our platform. We know that Quebec seniors need to increase their spending capacity, because everything costs more.
When seniors realized that the Bloc Québécois understood their situation, as the issue is well documented, some ministers responded immediately through the newspapers. They said that it was not true that the government gave nothing to seniors, that on the contrary, it gave them a lot of money.
However, we know seniors do not have money in their pockets. The government has taken money from a host of programs—three-quarters of which fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces—and given it to seniors. The government is interfering in a whole slew of programs.
A parliamentary secretary even had the nerve to say that the government had given a lot of money to seniors through the new horizons for seniors program. This is definitely a worthwhile and important program for our communities and seniors' clubs that helps seniors, but it does not provide the money they need to pay the rent, utilities and grocery bills every month.
By creating two classes of seniors, the government has really rallied seniors around this cause. This is my third term and I have never received this much correspondence from seniors, who are criticizing this decision. There is an outcry on social media because people do not understand. They are also not satisfied with the answers they are getting.
Organizations such as the Centre d'action bénévole de Beauharnois, the Popote roulante de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, the Club de l'âge d'or de Bellerive and the Club l'âge d'or de Saint-Timothée, which look after seniors and are dedicated to their well-being, all wrote to me asking me to continue speaking out about this situation. This is a major form of discrimination.
We hope that the voices of our seniors will be heard, and that the increase in old age security will be revised so that seniors 65 and over can receive it.
I cannot end my speech without mentioning how disappointed I am and how disappointed all the Émilie Sansfaçons of Quebec and Canada are. The government turned a deaf ear and did not really listen. It amended the Employment Insurance Act by extending the EI sickness benefit from 15 to 26 weeks. It has been documented that 26 weeks are not enough. On average, people need 41 weeks. Why commit this injustice? Why decide that seriously ill people who are fighting for their lives in the hope of returning to work do not deserve to get the support they need?
During a briefing, the government gave a truly awful answer. They said that essentially EI was there for people who are not sick for a long time and it was not in the spirit of the legislation to help those who are, since there is little chance that they will go back to work. If I had been at that briefing, I would have been very angry because none of that is true.
Tomorrow we will debate my bill at second reading and I hope that it will be passed and referred to committee. Then we could document and prove that 26 weeks are not enough and that we need 50. We hope that common sense will prevail and that in committee we will be able to convince government members that we need 50 weeks for workers who are sick.