The House resumed from November 26 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, the point is that the Canada child benefit and child care program are assisting families in a very real and tangible way.
Ten-dollar-a-day child care, and the agenda for putting that into place, is quite significant. It is going to assist families from coast to coast to coast. The majority of territories are now onside. All political stripes have recognized its value.
I use this as an example for two reasons. First, it is going to substantially decrease the cost of child care. It is also going to ensure more people are eligible for, and able to participate in, the workforce. One only needs to look at Quebec and how well it has done in the introduction of its $10-a-day child care program, or in investing in child care, as well as how the program has changed its workforce deployment.
I and members of the Liberal caucus believe that Canadians from coast to coast to coast will benefit by being able to enter the workforce and will see a substantial reduction in child care costs, going into hundreds of dollars every month. That is an example.
Bill would continue to provide the supports Canadians need. I believe we have been there as a government for Canadians from day one. We have demonstrated support for Canada's middle class, those aspiring to be part of it and those who are in high need.
Not that long ago, when we were elected into government, our first pieces of legislation saw tax increases for Canada's wealthiest 1%, support in the form of a tax reduction for Canada's middle class, substantial increases and reform of the Canada child benefit program, and substantial increases to the guaranteed income supplement. All of these programs have increased the disposable income of Canadians.
We understood then, as we did when the pandemic hit, that people needed to have disposable income in order to move our economy forward. To have healthy communities and a stronger economy, people needed the money to pay their mortgages and utility bills, to go out to restaurants and to purchase necessities.
When the pandemic hit and health orders at the local level were shutting down the economy, people had no choice. Two years ago one could drive down some of the busiest streets in Winnipeg and see there was minimal travel. The pandemic took its toll for a number of months, especially going into the second wave.
One can only imagine what would have taken place if the government did not step up and provide programs such as CERB. CERB, as a program, supported over nine million Canadians. That is an incredible percentage of the population. Our population is over 37 million, and nine million Canadians were supported by one program that was created out of nothing.
The civil service and the different stakeholders involved made sure that the program became a reality, and they did an incredible job. There is no doubt that when a program is created quickly, there is going to be some abuse of that program. I suspect that when I hear from my Conservative friends, they will highlight some of those problems today. We are very much aware of them. Are they trying to say that they do not believe we should have brought in the CERB program? Are they trying to say that those nine million Canadians are not honest people?
It is a program that was absolutely essential. It is why I highlighted the importance of disposable income. However, it was more than just people. If we did not provide that kind of support, what would the social cost of that have been? Whether it was mental illness, the loss of employment, suicides or breakups, it would have been significant. We recognized that and we stepped up to the plate.
Today, with Bill , we continue to recognize that. The changes being incorporated into Bill show it is a government that continues to believe that we need to be there for Canadians.
Bill also recognizes the importance of businesses. Pre-pandemic, the government reduced the small business tax. Ministers listened to what small business owners had to say, and tried to assist in whatever way we could. It is one of the reasons we had record employment numbers. Stephen Harper took 10 years to create one million jobs. We did it in four years, and they are full-time jobs.
At the end of the line, we know what it takes to build a healthy economy. We demonstrated that pre-pandemic and we are seeing it today. We are already at pre-pandemic employment levels because, in good part, the Government of Canada worked with other levels of government and Canadians to make sure that we were in a good position to recover.
How were we able to do that? We came forward with programs that really made a difference, such as the wage subsidy program, so individuals could stay employed and businesses could continue to employ people.
The other day, the Bloc made reference to our arts and cultural community, which every member of the Liberal caucus truly cares about. I had the opportunity to talk with the Folk Arts Council of Winnipeg. The members commented about the wage subsidy program. Chances are it would not have survived without it.
The Folk Arts Council provides a wide spectrum of heritage and arts events and performances. It is incredible. It has been around for over 50 years in Manitoba. There are dozens of pavilions every summer that participate. Amazing talent is discovered. So many people are engaged in it. It is a program that has supported arts and culture, our private sector and even non-profits. It was there because there was a need to support small businesses and people.
That is exactly what the wage subsidy program did. I would argue that it saved hundreds of thousands of jobs in all regions of our country.
We also recognized the need to support businesses through things like the rent subsidy program. Imagine those people who had operational businesses getting hit by the pandemic. The did not having consumers coming in or they lost out on contracts. The rent subsidy program allowed thousands of companies throughout Canada the opportunity to receive support from the government, which allowed them to keep their doors open. I would suggest it is one of the reasons why, through the government and the co-operation of many others, we were able to prevent thousands of bankruptcies all over Canada. Small businesses understood they had a government that was prepared to develop the programs that were necessary so they would be able to get themselves through this pandemic, yet the Conservatives were still saying that we were spending too much as a government. The main comment we heard from across the way is that we are wasteful.
Mr. Glen Motz: Yes.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Are they saying they would not have provided the wage subsidy or rent subsidy programs? These are the irresponsible—
Ms. Rachael Thomas: You can't measure success on money spent. It's the difference between making Canadians' lives—you just made lives more—
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I rise today to speak to Bill . Specifically, I want to address the government's position when it comes to the growth and recovery of our small businesses. It is disappointing that this is my first opportunity to rise in five months to debate any legislation on economic recovery because of the shutdown of Parliament.
Despite the stating that the election he called this summer was the most important in decades, he took an extended vacation. It is shameful that the Liberals took two months to recall Parliament. Of course, this should not actually surprise Canadians. We cannot forget that it was the same Liberal government that prorogued Parliament just last year to escape scrutiny for its ethical scandals.
When Parliament is shut down, committees cease to exist and all ongoing work in Parliament stops. When would this legislation even be going to a committee to be studied? We have no information from the government as to when committees will be reconstituted.
Prior to the election, I was sitting on the international trade committee, which was undertaking critical studies on clean-technology exports and getting COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries. Unfortunately, reports and recommendations that were going to be made to the government simply will not happen because the election was called. That is what happens when we have a who puts politics before country.
When the called an unnecessary $600-million power-grab snap election, the Okanagan, where I live, had enhanced health measures and was at the height of its wildfire season, with ash falling from the sky in Kelowna—Lake Country. Simply put, in their typical fashion, the Liberals love to be in government but they loathe governing. It is because of this series of political choices that we are continually asked to rush legislation through to make up for the failures of ministers to manage their portfolios and the House's legislative agenda. We saw this with CUSMA and the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement, and earlier pandemic-relief legislation. Like a bad dream, here we are again.
Deadlines have been missed and we can bet that the Liberals will try their hardest to somehow blame a slowdown of legislation on the Conservatives. However, Canadians are smarter than that. The Liberals can only try to play the same old tricks for so long before everyone gets wise to their tactics. Canadians know that right now it is the job of the Conservatives to hold the Liberals to account.
My Conservative colleagues and I want to ensure that government legislation does not have unintended consequences. We want to ask the tough questions at committees and make solid recommendations to ensure that legislation such as this is right for our constituents and for our country.
We should have been back in the House a month ago. The Conservatives were calling for this back in early October. We wanted to get back to work here. The Liberals wanted to avoid scrutiny. I had thought that this may be because they were taking the time to develop a real plan for Canadian small businesses to recover and grow, a real plan addressing real issues for my constituents, businesses and not for profits in Kelowna—Lake Country. The Conservatives have been writing to ministers and speaking publicly about real measures that will address the challenges facing small businesses across the country.
When budget 2021 was debated, I highlighted how the recovery support programs were not working for many businesses, and this legislation really is much of the same and does not address some of the most important issues facing small businesses, such as labour shortages, inflation, supply chain issues, hindering sales, tax increases and paying off or accessing debt. That is what happens when we have a government that does not listen to people and a government that puts headlines before policy.
Small businesses, especially micro-businesses, in the most devastated sectors are the ones with the least capacity to absorb pandemic-related disruptions and have been the most impacted and need us to focus on these important issues. To make a bad situation worse, businesses that have now started to slowly recover are facing labour shortages, as I mentioned, that could bring their recovery to a screeching halt.
The labour crisis is crippling industries in every sector in every region. According to RBC Economics, one-third of Canadian businesses are grappling with labour shortages and they expect labour shortages to get worse. Small businesses cannot continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic without the federal government focusing on the real challenges they are facing, such as a slow economic recovery, labour shortages, rising costs and debt.
In the September 2021 report from the Business Development Bank of Canada, it states that out of a survey it conducted, 55% of entrepreneurs are struggling to hire workers they need, causing them to delay or refuse new orders; 64% say the ongoing labour shortages limit their growth; and 44% have delayed or are unable to deliver orders to clients. The government's programs simply are not working.
During the course of the pandemic, it has been reported that small businesses have also taken on nearly 170,000 dollars' worth of new debt on average. I have talked to many small business owners who have personally lent their businesses money in order for their business to survive, and this legislation would do nothing to address this potentially devastating economic issue. If the government's support programs were so successful, why are small businesses forced into higher levels of unmanageable debt?
What has become clear is that the government is failing to focus on warning signs. Its members are forgetting that it is the job of government to ensure that it creates an environment where businesses can thrive, not just survive. Reducing regulatory burdens, tackling the supply chain crisis that started before the pandemic, addressing the labour-shortage crisis through various worker visa extensions, getting people who can work back to work and halting all tax increases for businesses are just a handful of ways to focus on economic recovery. Measures like these need to be taken up urgently.
Just this past Friday, a report in The Globe and Mail said job vacancies have soared beyond one million. Statistics Canada says that nearly a fifth of all vacancies are in the hospitality sector. The government, in this debate, is choosing to boast about its recovery numbers, but members should try asking the average restaurant owner, hotel manager, farmer or construction company in my riding how they are seeing our job market. They cannot remember a time when they have needed to recruit so many workers just to keep the lights on.
The government will no doubt want to lay all these shortages at the feet of the global pandemic. However, the chief economist at the Business Development Bank of Canada recently pointed out that, “Even before the pandemic, employers had difficulties in recruiting.”
Without urgent attention to address this crisis, new and existing businesses will not have the ability to grow their reach, meet their orders or even keep existing employees on their payroll. Shortages mean fewer employees or owners trapped working longer hours, which only adds to our ongoing mental health crisis. According to Statistics Canada's most recent survey of business conditions, more than one in four businesses expects their profitability to decline before year's end. If the government does not take action to get people back into the workforce, there will not be the good-paying jobs out there in the private sector for them to go back to.
After almost two years of pandemic-related disruptions, rapidly rising inflation, serious supply chain issues, skyrocketing and automatically increasing taxes, costs and debt, international trade disputes where Canada continually ends up on the losing end and a labour shortage preventing our economic recovery, not to mention trying to maintain mental health, small businesses, the backbone of our local communities, are on the brink of collapse. For these entrepreneurs and organizations, “help wanted” has never rang more true. It is a cry to keep their entrepreneurial spirit alive. Unfortunately, the government has decided to pursue a course that would do nothing to address these underlying issues.
The Conservatives will continue to stand up for small businesses across this country. We will continue to advocate for real action that delivers concrete results. We are putting policies before headlines. I am fighting for small businesses because I have been a small business owner and know what it is like to have everything on the line.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand up in the House of Commons and speak about any issue. Of course, this particular bill, Bill , is an important one that requires a lot more study.
Targeted support sounds really good, especially for the tourism and hospitality sectors, which are some of the hardest-hit sectors in our economy. Of course, I am the member of Parliament for Parry Sound—Muskoka, and many will know that tourism is a pretty significant part of our economy. Like every other member in this House, I do not just come here and hope people hear what they need to hear. I speak to folks in my community to find out what is going on.
When it came to Bill , I felt it was important to find out what those sectors are saying. What is being said in the tourism and hospitality sectors and the hardest-hit sectors? Restaurants Canada is reporting that they are desperate to find people to work. Job vacancies in Canada have surpassed one million now. Employers in high-contact industries, such as restaurants and hotels, have the highest proportion of unfilled positions, at about 14.4%. They are looking for people. They are busy. They have the business, but they cannot get people to work. It begs a question: What is really going on? When I read this I thought that I needed to speak with some folks locally in my area.
There are countless local stories in Parry Sound—Muskoka of small businesses, restaurants and hotels that are open and busy with lots of business. They could be open seven days a week, but they cannot find the staff to do it.
Jamie Blake of Blakes Memories of Muskoka in Seguin township pays well over minimum wage. They are trying to hire a manager right now. It is a really good position that pays well. They just cannot find anybody, so they have to close two days a week. They can only be open five days a week and are missing out on a lot of business.
I spoke with Jeff Watson, who owns a couple of Tim Hortons in Gravenhurst. His stores went from being 24-hour operations to having reduced hours. They have hired an agency to help them find employees but have yet to receive a single application. They cannot get anywhere.
I spoke with Didier Dolivet. He is the general manager of Red Leaves Resort, a very nice resort in Minett and one of the fanciest ones in Muskoka. He said that business is great, domestic travel has gone up and Ontarians have discovered Ontario. It is great. They are travelling locally, and there is lots of business. The problem, of course, is that they cannot get staff.
Traditionally in motels, hotels and resorts, it has been a challenge really for years to find staff to work in the housekeeping department specifically, but Didier reports that housekeeping is just the start of it now. They cannot find people in every single sector of their business. As a result of the lack of staff to fill positions, such as chefs, and leadership and management positions, they are unable to maximize their occupancy because of the shortage of labour. Their inability to fully staff their resort means service levels have declined, and as a result of that, visitor satisfaction is declining. It is actually almost worse for their business right now, so they are really struggling.
The message is clear: Businesses need people to work. Should we be incentivizing people to stay home right now?
It is not just the tourism sector that has this issue. Greg Lubbelinkhof of Cedarland Homes in Parry Sound is trying to build homes to help solve the housing crisis that exists there. Despite offering full training, exceptional wages and great benefits, they cannot find people to do the skilled trades. They are putting work off up to two years. They are turning work down because they just cannot find the people to do the work.
The BDC has reported that 40% of small and medium-sized business are struggling to find employees. Statistics Canada has indicated that job vacancies have increased in every single province. It is certainly worse in British Columbia, Atlantic Canada and Ontario, but every single province is struggling to find people.
How did we get here? I have done a little reading, and I came across a special report on the high cost of living by Philip Cross. He is with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute now. He is an impressive man. If he is listening, I would like to meet him sometime and chat with him because I think I could learn a lot from him.
Philip Cross is a Munk Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Prior to joining it, he spent 36 years at Statistics Canada specializing in macroeconomics. He was appointed the chief economic analyst in 2008 and was responsible for ensuring the quality and coherency of all major economic statistics. He also wrote the “Current economic conditions” section of the Canadian Economic Observer. This guy knows what he is talking about. He is a pretty impressive guy.
What he has illustrated is that overspending by a government during the pandemic actually created significant distortions in the economy, which drove up personal savings, particularly of the wealthier in our society, and made significant distortions in labour market choices. The programs simply were not targeted enough. He writes:
Average net savings for households in the top income quintile nearly doubled, from $12,000 to $21,322, in the second quarter of 2020. Meanwhile, average household savings in the bottom two quintiles rose by $2,000 each. Swollen household incomes and savings had repercussions for housing, labour markets and inflation.
The government's most striking distortion during the pandemic was to provide so much emergency income support that personal disposable incomes actually rose in a recession. Earned income fell sharply, but massive government support more than made up for the difference. The increases in incomes and savings show that much government aid was not needed, especially during the slow shift from the economy-wide stimulus to targeting specific sectors.
People had too much money. People were not working, and they had lots of money. We have heard my colleague say that too much money chasing too few goods means inflation, so now everything is more expensive. Families in Parry Sound—Muskoka are telling me that it is more expensive for them to drive to work, it is more expensive for them to put groceries on the table for their families, it is more expensive for them to heat their homes and many of them simply cannot find a home at all. We need our committees digging deeper into this.
I give the government at lot of credit. It came to the rescue very quickly and reacted to this pandemic, the uncertainty in our economy and in our world. It reacted very quickly, but it was sloppily done, and government members were almost hostile when Conservatives and other members of the opposition made suggestions to improve things and to make things more targeted. As a result, we are in a situation now in which it has overstimulated the economy. The rich have gotten richer, and the poor are getting poorer, and we are making life more difficult.
Targeted supports are important. I am not sure I trust the government to actually target them properly, which is why it is absolutely crucial for the House to get back to work and for committees to get to work and dig deeper into this to make sure we are analyzing these targeted supports. We need to make sure that money is not being wasted and that we are not overstimulating the economy unnecessarily in specific areas.
We have a lot of work to do. I am eager to get going on that work, and Canadians deserve a real plan to make their lives more affordable. Canadians need a real plan to dramatically increase the housing supply all across this country. Canadians need a real plan to responsibly reduce the government's inflation-causing spending. Canadian businesses need people to work and they need us to get to work, so let us get to work at committees.
Madam Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to let members know that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It gives me great pleasure to speak in the House again today and thank the people of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook for re-electing me for a third mandate. My objective is to continue working and advocating on behalf of all citizens in the riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, all of Nova Scotia, and of course all of Canada.
I have to say that on March 13, 2020, I remember leaving the House of Commons, taking a plane back home to Nova Scotia, and thinking Parliament would be shut down for two weeks. That two-week period was extended, as we all know, a lot further than that. Those two weeks were the beginning of a crisis as big as the Great Depression. We had challenges. It started off slowly, but we quickly realized that we were in a very difficult situation and it would take a government that would work with all members of Parliament to make sure we were there to protect all Canadians.
We were faced with three to four million people losing their jobs overnight, things being shut down, the business community being shut down and people being scared. We went through all those stages, but I have to tell members that I was proud to be a member of Parliament during those difficult times. The reason I was proud is that every night for 67 nights in a row, I and many other Liberal MPs, along with cabinet ministers and our , talked about what types of programs were needed. We worked with the public service, took suggestions from the opposition and started building programs that would help all Canadians.
The reason I was proud to do that daily is that I was hearing the fears and the problematic situations that Canadians faced, but every night we talked about how we would help them. I was getting 100 to 150 emails and calls per day from concerned individuals. Some had lost their jobs, some had lost their businesses and some were worried about day care centres being closed. Those were very difficult times.
However, when we are elected and representing people, we are able to contribute to help create programs. I got information from constituents saying that the help was not working for them, was not reaching as far as they needed, or was not helping their business. We then tweaked and improved as we went along. That is true representation of the people: listening to the challenges, finding solutions with them and then helping them through that process. That is why I am so happy to speak to Bill . This is the next step in the transition toward a strong recovery.
I have to say how very hard it was for Canadians who lost family members. To date, some 30,000 Canadians have lost their lives to COVID-19. It was hard for families. It was hard for seniors in long-term care homes. It was very hard for teenagers, who, as we know, really like socializing. It was hard for parents when schools closed during the crisis. It was hard for teachers, who had to change how they taught and significantly augment their ability to deliver instruction in virtual schools, which have been going on for quite some time now.
As I was saying, we lost one million jobs during the pandemic. However, if we look at where things stand today, we have recovered those million jobs. What is more, roughly one million more jobs are available now. This is a testament to the good work our government is doing and to all the MPs who contribute to ensuring a good economic recovery, prosperity and everything that goes along with it.
In Bill we see targeted investments for businesses, individuals, and organizations that faced extra challenges or are still going through an especially tough time.
I am talking about the tourism and hospitality sectors. My son owns a restaurant and it has been very tough for him. We know there are restaurants that closed, then reopened with limits on the number of customers, that are still around. As my colleagues know, hotel operators are also having a tough time. Last week Monday and Tuesday, the Delta hotel had only 6% occupancy. Imagine how tough it must be for these businesses.
We have also seen organizations suffer in the arts, culture and leisure sectors, as well as travel agencies, mostly for the lack of clients due to lockdowns. That is why we are investing more in these sectors.
We are also investing in companies that have not been able to reopen for all sorts of reasons. These companies have specific needs. There are other organizations that may need other investments in the event of further restrictions. We will support those organizations and we will invest in businesses that continue to rehire their staff.
There are many investments in Bill that need to be delivered as quickly as possible, and our government is moving forward on those. I want to focus on the support for workers, because there could be, even tomorrow or next week, closures in certain regions that would see individuals losing their jobs again. They may have COVID and need to stay home, or maybe their children's school will close and they will have to stay home to support their children. There are many challenges of that nature. We need to continue to support those individuals. We will have some investments to support those families and those individuals.
In closing, I want to thank the public service, the people who worked with the government to get these programs established very quickly. It was very important. I want to thank the Speaker of the House. Throughout COVID, we were able to vote online, through our phones, to allow us to continue to do the work that is so crucial.
At the end of the day, the day care investment that our government is moving forward with is essential. As I shared earlier in my speech, one million jobs are available today, and we will be able to get more Canadians working because of the day care centres we will be investing in as we move forward.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House in this 44th Parliament.
Early on in the pandemic, when the provinces first when into lockdown, a constituent reached out to me for help. She could not work because of public health lockdowns and she was worried about how she would take care of her children without an income.
When we introduced CERB and enhanced the Canada child benefit early on, it created a lifeline for her while she waited for her job to come back. At different times over these last 20 months, when cases surged and lockdowns returned, she used CERB and the CRB to keep food on the table and to provide for her kids.
We reconnected this month and I was glad to hear that she was in a much better position than she was in those early months. She had not needed government assistance for some time, but then she said something that stuck with me, “I hope your programs will still be here during the next lockdown.”
Canada is in a good place right now, but we all know that this may not be the last, and we have all seen the news of the omicron variant. Residents in my riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills are working day-to-day knowing that as long as this pandemic continues, as long as there are still those who are unvaccinated, another lockdown is always a possibility.
It is a privilege for me to lend my voice in support of Bill , an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19. This legislation is an important next step in our government's fight against the virus.
Throughout the pandemic we have been nimble. We have adjusted and adapted our support programs to the evolving nature of this once-in-a-lifetime crisis. We always knew that to win the fight against COVID-19 and to protect Canadians through the worst impact of this economic crisis, we needed to adapt our programs to the conditions of the moment. We have done this to ensure that they remain effective in protecting Canadians and in supporting the strong recovery as Canadians pull together to win this fight.
When the COVID-19 crisis struck, our government immediately rolled out a comprehensive range of broad-based effective measures in response to the greatest economic shock that our country had suffered since the Great Depression. We were able to deliver the Canada emergency response benefit and the wage and rent subsidies rapidly, with unprecedented speed for a program of such a size and scale.
As our communities went into lockdown, over eight million Canadians had emergency income support, and hundreds of thousands of businesses received emergency subsidies. These support programs proved to be a lifeline for workers and businesses across the country. They helped pay the rent. They helped keep food on the table. They helped to protect millions of jobs and keep hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses going through the darkest days of the pandemic. For thousands of families in my riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills, that support in the early days of the pandemic meant the difference between eating or paying rent.
However, these emergency measures were always designed to be temporary, to address the broad impact of the mass lockdowns that were necessary at that time.
Today, we are in a very different stage in the fight against COVID-19. Canadians have done their part by respecting public health measures, by getting vaccinated and by contributing to one of the most successful vaccination campaigns across the world.
As a result of their efforts, we are now turning the corner in this fight. Restrictions are now carefully being eased in our communities and at our borders. Many businesses are safely reopening. Jobs are being created and employment is now back to pre-pandemic levels.
Residents in Mississauga—Erin Mills understand that getting to this point required unprecedented government spending, not just in Canada but across the world. For example, the U.S., trillions of dollars were spent to provide supports to Americans during this pandemic. They supported this extraordinary spending during the darkest days of the pandemic because they knew that every dollar spent puts food on their neighbour's table and delivered masks and sanitizers to nursing homes, which saved lives. Every cent protected a family-owned business from closing down and the workers from losing their jobs. They understood that the cost of cutting corners, of nickel-and-diming Canadians in a time of crisis, could be paid with lives. It was the right thing to do. It was the smart thing to do, economically and socially. It allowed us to save lives and prevent the sort of lasting economic damage that could have come from mass business closures and job losses.
Today, Canadians understand that the situation has evolved, and we are in a much better position. Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The economy is rebounding and we have blown past this Liberal government's goal of creating one million jobs. Therefore, the time has now come to adapt our income and business support measures to these improved circumstances, and Bill is precisely about that.
The legislation would effectively pivot us from the very broad-based supports that were appropriate at the height of lockdowns to more targeted measures that would provide help where it would still needed and create jobs and growth, while prudently managing government spending.
At the same time, Bill would move us forward on the understanding that while our recovery is strong, we are not out of the woods yet. Our recovery is uneven. The pandemic continues to affect economic activity, especially in certain sectors of the economy subject to ongoing and still necessary public health restrictions. That is why Bill C-2 contains measures that would snap into action immediately to support workers in the event of a new regional lockdown. This would include a new benefit, the Canada worker lockdown benefit, which would provide $300 a week to workers who are directly impacted by a public health lockdown imposed to curtail the spread of COVID.
This new benefit would be strictly available to workers whose work interruption would be a direct result of a government-imposed public health lockdown. It would be available to workers who are ineligible for employment insurance as well as those who are eligible for EI, as long as they are not paid benefits through the EI program during this same period.
The Canada worker lockdown benefit would be available until May 7, 2022, with retroactive application to October 24, 2021, should there be applicable lockdown situations, and it would be accessible for the entire duration of a government-imposed public health lockdown up until May 7, 2022.
This support, however, will be for those who are doing their part to protect their fellow Canadians and support the fight against COVID. This means that under Bill , individuals whose loss of income or employment is due to their refusal to adhere to a vaccine mandate would not be able to access this benefit.
Bill also contains measures that would extend eligibility to both the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit until May 7, 2022, and it would increase the maximum duration of each benefit by two additional weeks. That means that the caregiving benefit would be increased from 42 to 44 weeks, and the sickness benefit would be increased from 4 weeks to 6 weeks.
As we know, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years of age or a family member who needs supervised care. It has delivered $3.74 billion to 486,910 Canadians.
The Canada recovery sickness benefit provides income supports to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they are sick, or they need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID. It has already delivered over $829 million of much-needed support to 758,670 Canadians.
The extension of these benefits is important, because we still need to protect ourselves, we need to grow and we need to ensure that those businesses that are suffering have the support from our government.
Madam Speaker, I congratulate all of my colleagues for winning their election in this 44th Parliament and making sure that we come here to discuss Canada's issues in Parliament. I am looking forward to that and more debate in the House of Commons.
First, as it is the first time I have risen in the House since the election, I would like to thank the constituents of Calgary Centre for giving me the honour of coming back here to represent their interests in the House of Commons, in the debates that we are going to have here, and make sure that we have better legislation for Canadians going forward. I also want to thank my campaign team and my wife, in particular, who has always been my biggest supporter.
Today, we are talking about Bill and how we can try to make it better. This is about government spending, and it is one of the main things the government does. I also want to talk about inflation, especially monetary inflation, the cost-of-living increases and, of course, asset inflation.
I will start with the fiscal situation and federal government debt.
When I ran for Parliament in 2019, I decided to become a candidate because I thought Canada was overspending. We were spending our children's money, and going deeper into debt to pay for today's programming at the expense of tomorrow's taxpayers. In 2019, Canada's debt was $721 billion. Where is it now? It is $1.234 trillion.
I will note that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
We have $1.234 trillion in debt, which is $500 billion more in debt than we had two years ago. The government has based this on what it wants to continue, a debt-to-GDP ratio of around 53%, which is up from 30% only a few years ago. That is a ridiculous increase, and the government plans to leave it there in its spending plans for the foreseeable future. It is as if arriving at a 53% debt-to-GDP ratio is the goal, and we just keep adding debt so the debt ratio of our country is kept high, and it is very high. This is a government that believes it does not have to make choices about where it spends taxpayers' dollars or borrows funds from future generations.
Interest rates are low, because the debt issued is held by the Bank of Canada. Interestingly, in a technocrat approach to access leverage, a Canadian Crown corporation buys the debt that it issues to the government to pay for its spending. It is a nice balance-sheet trick where the entity that is setting the market rate for issuing government debt actually participates in the market as a buyer to ensure that the debt is bought at that market rate. The end result of this is that the Bank of Canada, a funded subsidiary of the Government of Canada whose debts are guaranteed by the taxpayers of Canada, has grown its balance sheet from $105 billion in 2020 to over $500 billion today. Of course, it has the bonds on its balance sheet guaranteed by the taxpayers of Canada as well, but let us remember that it bought these bonds, some from bond sellers in the open market, at a rate that it set at very low.
I will give a little background to understand this concept. Low interest rates, or “coupons” as they are sometimes called, equate to higher bond prices. The correlation is automatic. When the government is buying bonds from market participants at a low market rate that it set, it is overpaying for the bond. Eventually, rates will reset higher. Higher rates equal lower prices for the bonds on the Bank of Canada's balance sheet. What does that mean? It means that the adjustment to reducing the quantitative easing experiment in which the government is participating is going to be very expensive. We are buying high and we will need to sell lower. How much lower? Well, with an increase of $400 billion on its balance sheet, normalization will require a loss of billions of dollars of value for the Bank of Canada per year until $400 billion of Government of Canada debt has been sold into the market. This quantitative easing, a way for central bankers to keep public spending ratcheting higher, in any iteration, in any country, has never shown a path out. We are experimenting here without any concept of the outcome.
Remember that Canada's debt total is $1.234 trillion. About 40% of that is now held by the Bank of Canada, so we, the people of Canada, have become the de facto only buyer of Canada's debt. We must add those billions in impacted losses onto Canada's fiscal deficits going forward, because they are not included in any of the fiscal plans at this time. These are the plans continuing to have a debt-to-GDP ratio above 50% for the foreseeable future. Even after the recession of 2008-09, that ratio was only 30%.
Canada is on a train to a cliff, and the conductor is not looking ahead. There is no magic money tree.
Canadians will recall the last time in our recent history when government spending grew out of control, which was from the Trudeau government deficits in the 1970s and 1980s.
With rising interest rates, payments on our national debt became the government's largest expense line item. Taxpayers were paying bondholders from around the world excessive amounts of interest. Those tens of billions of dollars per year that taxpayers contributed could not be allocated to programs like improvements in our health care system.
The final outcome of this period was the Chrétien Liberal government cutting federal funding to health care in 1996. At the time, it was Canada's second-largest budget line item after interest payments on debt. Is this foreshadowing?
Canadians still have health care, although the federal government's share has fallen from the conventional 50% to 22%. The rest has been thrust onto the backs of the provinces unilaterally. The provinces' finances have suffered ever since.
Let us think about the Liberal government's promises on spending in provincial government jurisdiction, on borrowed money. What happens to these services when the bill becomes due?
Debt ratio metrics are only relevant when we are comparing to other countries. As far as balance sheets of governments go, the measure is irrelevant. Corporations have debt-to-value ratios because it is a measure of how they can leverage their operations with cheaper tax-assisted financing and therefore earn a higher return for their owners. That notion does not exist for governments, and no government should ever embrace the notion that a country accumulates debt it will never pay back.
It is an excuse to have future generations of Canadians pay for today's expenses, as if our children will not have their own bills to pay with their own taxes. They will be paying for decades for services we delivered today.
Let us remember that a country's debt profile is not just the federal government's debt, we need to include provincial government debt, which has skyrocketed during COVID because of the provinces' needs to increase health care funding during a health crisis. It also includes corporate debt, which has increased remarkably, and household debt.
In total, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio rose by 80% in 2020, by far the largest increase in the world. The closest runner-up in this ratcheting metric was Japan at a 50% increase. The U.S. saw a 45% increase, the U.K. saw a 35% increase, China saw a 30% increase and Australia only saw a 12% increase. Comparably, Canada stands alone in its profligacy.
Monetary inflation leads to asset inflation, which is most exemplified by the housing market. Mortgage debt increased by $100 billion. Canadian households are personally in debt for $2.5 trillion, or $64,000 per capita. Mortgage debt has increased by 22%. Single-family home prices have increased by a similar amount of 23% over the past year.
Canada now stands at the top of the most overvalued housing markets in the world. Whereas in the U.S. the increase in real disposable income slightly exceeds real home prices, in Canada housing prices have increased at a rate almost double the increase in real disposable income.
This is trouble we need to address here at this level so we understand what the future looks like for Canada's finances. We need to examine this bill closely in an actual team Canada approach.
In that respect, I am looking forward to this bill's review at the House of Commons Standing on Finance, where all members of the House of Commons will be able to provide input to ensure the bill meets the needs and expectations of Canadians.
Madam Speaker, as this is my first speech in the 44th Parliament, I beg the House's indulgence to allow me a few minutes to thank some folks. First of all, I want to thank the good people of Edmonton West or, as I call it, “Edmonton West Edmonton Mall”, for sending me to this place for the third time. Each time I have been elected has been as special as the first, so I thank them very much. I am very honoured to be representing them here in Ottawa.
I want to thank my fantastic family for their support, especially my beautiful wife Sasha, who has been putting up with me for 24 years now. I realize some of my colleagues have been putting up with me for six years. If they think that is bad, she has been putting up with me for four times as long, so I want to thank her for that. She has endured nine moves across the country with me from Victoria to Newfoundland, back again, and then back to the Prairies. She helped me raise, mostly on her own, two boys and several dogs.
She has worked two nomination campaigns with me, three elections and multiple elections for other people since I started the political process when I was very young. No one can do what we do in the House without the support of their spouses, and I am certainly an example of that. Sasha, my wife, is no different from all the other spouses who are the real force behind all of us here working. I thank Sasha very much. I love her and she is beautiful. I promised her before there would be a lot more champagne after this election, and I will ensure that happens.
I also want to thank my two sons, Jensen and Parker, who have done campaigns with me since they were in grade one and two. One is now in law school and the other is in the workforce. They door-knocked for me this time, and in 2019 and 2015 as well. I thank them very much.
I want to thank all the volunteers who have helped me out through the campaign. There are too many to mention, but they know who they are. I will point out just one gentleman: Dennis, my financial agent. Dennis has a goal of keeping me out of jail while he does the books for Elections Canada, and so far so good. I thank Dennis.
I also want to thank my constituency staff. We all know we are just the figureheads and the ornaments on the car for the staff who do all the real work in our constituency offices. I want to thank Oula, who has been with me since day one. Before me, she worked with the honourable Laurie Hawn and with Peter Goldring before that. I want to thank Linda, Brandon, Sante, Ory and Surj who have joined me here in Ottawa. They make me look partially good, so I thank them for that.
We are finally back in the House and discussing Bill . There are 14 or 15 people glued to their TVs or to CPAC, wondering if this is Bill what was C-1? What was the biggest thing on the government's agenda before this? Was it addressing the out-of-control inflation? Was it addressing COVID or perhaps a new variant? Was there a C-1 talking about the supply chain crisis, or perhaps talking about Abbotsford and having more resilient infrastructure? Was it about the out-of-control debt that we have, at a trillion dollars? Perhaps it was about reconciliation.
If people thought the government's priority would be one of these things, then they thought wrong because the government's priority in C-1 was to force the House back into a hybrid Parliament. In fact, there are probably more Liberals mailing it in by Zoom than are physically in the building debating today, which is a shame.
The Liberals said they had to do this for safety reasons, yet on Monday of last week when we all got together for the first time back here, it was almost a party on the floor. We had government members giving each other high fives and hugging each other. The and the were close talking, as Seinfeld would call it. There was no social distancing, yet that was safe. However, is it safe for working in person in the House during a debate? It is not so much. It is safe to go to Glasgow and yuk it up with 20,000 people, and sometimes 1,000 people maskless in a reception, but not safe enough to be here serving Canadians in person.
We know that this is not about safety. We know it is about hiding, covering up and a lack of accountability to Canadians. We saw it in the previous Parliament, when we were in the Zoom hybrid setting. We saw it when Wayne Easter famously turned off the power when things were getting hot for the Liberal side in committee.
Madam Speaker, it is linked. Perhaps the member opposite could stop interfering. That gentleman has been here long enough and knows the rules of the House. I beg him to stop interfering and just allow me to give my speech, like an adult.
As I mentioned, this is about blocking accountability. We saw it at the operations committee, where ministers could not log on. Even after a year of having a hybrid Parliament, the ministers could not log on. Bureaucrats, who were there to defend the government or the estimates, were not able to sign in. We had meetings cut short because of the lack of resources. Let us be clear that it has nothing to do with safety. It is about reducing accountability.
I had asked a question on Friday about Bill , and whether the new spending in four parts had gone through the Treasury Board approval process. The members opposite were not sure, but they assured me that they would probably follow the rules. I asked because new spending is required to go through the Treasury Board approval process. In parts of this bill, the Liberals might be able to say that it is a tax issue and therefore it does not have to. They may get away with that, but not all parts of it are. There is some new spending that has to go through the Treasury Board approval process. This is why I am worried. I did not get a straight answer.
If we look back at the previous Parliament and the wage subsidy of $110 billion, famously a lot of it went to very profitable companies. We asked the president of the Treasury Board at the time, who is now the , if the wage subsidy went through the Treasury Board approval process. It was $110 billion.
Does anyone have an answer or a guess? Of course it did not.
What did we end up with? Let us look at some of the people who received some of that $110 billion of taxpayers' money. Rogers cable, a government-protected duopoly that received $26 billion for a buyout of Shaw, received government handouts. Lululemon, which at the time had increased its market capitalization by $9 billion, still got taxpayers' money. Air Canada famously got taxpayers' money through the wage subsidy and used it to help pay executive bonuses. Bell Canada, which I think is the largest of the telecoms, is another protected duopoly in a lot of markets. It received money. Telus is another one worth billions with huge profits. It increased its dividend. I know this because I am a shareholder. It was able to increase dividends at the same time as it received taxpayers' money. Nutrien is another one and, of course, what would a trip to the Liberal trough be without SNC-Lavalin and Irving also receiving money?
That is the issue. Has the new spending in Bill gone through the Treasury Board approval process properly, so that we know the taxpayers' money is getting to the businesses and people who are truly in need?
Bill is a bit of a “forward/backward” budget. The famous Allan Fotheringham, also known as Dr. Foth, used to call our old Progressive Conservative party the forward/backward party. That is similar to Bill . At the same time as we have a labour crisis, we have the government offering incentives for companies to hire, but also incentives for people to stay home. We are subsidizing one and the other.
We see again that the government wants to put more money into the recovery sickness benefit and the caregiver benefit, both of which had billions set aside for them in the economic update. The government underspent by about 90%, so the money was not needed, yet here we are with $500 million and $300 million being put back in. We want to see more oversight. It is not that we do not support Bill , but that we want to see proper oversight and a proper plan.
The other part of the bill talks about helping at-need industries, such as hotels and restaurants. I proudly grew up working in the hotel and restaurant industry, and did so for 35 years. When I talk to hotel and restaurant owners and workers, they are not asking for another handout, please. They want bums in beds. They want bums in seats. They want people travelling again. They want to see a plan. Hotels with mortgages of $50-, $60- or $70 million are not going to last forever on subsidies. Small restaurant owners are not going to last forever with subsidies. We need a plan to get the economy going. We need a plan to get people travelling again.
We need to address the issue of the difficulty of travellers coming into Canada with PCR testing. A three-day visit is not enough.
What we are looking for is not only a plan for the current government to get people working again, but also a plan to address our concerns with respect to its accountability and its oversight of this pandemic.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by advising the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I will start by taking my first opportunity to speak in this House to give heartfelt thanks to the residents of Newmarket and Aurora for placing their trust in me a second time, to my team for its hard work in getting me here, and to my family for its continuous support.
It is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill , a bill that is so important to so many across this country, one that we are all lucky to call home. We are lucky for many reasons, but especially because when times get tough, Canadians step up to help one another. It would not be any different with our government.
When the pandemic first hit, we were quick to roll out a number of broad-based programs to support those who saw their livelihoods completely change. Canadians needed help, and help was delivered. The Canada emergency wage subsidy has helped more than 5.3 million Canadians keep their jobs; the Canada emergency rent subsidy and lockdown support have helped more than 215,000 organizations cover their rent, mortgage and other expenses; the Canada recovery caregiving benefit has provided income support for over 400,000 employed and self-employed Canadians while they had to care for a child or a family member for COVID-related reasons; and the Canada recovery sickness benefit has supported over 700,000 Canadians unable to work because they were sick.
These are just a few examples of the essential support programs provided to Canadians during one of the toughest crises our country has ever faced, supports that kept businesses going through the worst days of the pandemic.
While we are seeing some better days now, there are still some sectors in our economy that need support. This is why we are moving from broad-based economic supports to targeted measures. This is why we introduced Bill .
The comprehensive set of programs our government introduced has evolved as the pandemic has evolved. This has allowed us to continue to provide support to Canadians who need it the most. Right now we are reaching a turning point in the fight against COVID and in our recovery, but the recovery is uneven, and as the pandemic is ongoing, public health measures that are saving lives are also restricting some economic activity. Our focus is to protect and create jobs, so we can make sure that Canada has the strongest possible recovery. With Bill , we would be better able to address the challenges that certain sectors in our economy are still facing.
To support organizations that have been deeply impacted in the tourism industry since the start of the pandemic, we are introducing the tourism and hospitality recovery program. This program would provide wage and rent subsidies up to 75% to eligible businesses with current month and average 12-month revenue decline of 40%. Other businesses that have faced significant losses but do not qualify for this program may receive support through the hardest-hit business recovery program. This is a wage and rent subsidy at the rate of 50% available to eligible businesses with current month and 12-month average revenue loss of at least 50%.
Certain programs do not need a pivot, but rather an extension, so we continue to support those in need. This is why we are proposing to extend the Canada recovery caregiving benefit and the recovery sickness benefit until May 7, 2022, and to increase both by an additional two weeks. These are programs that are working and helping self-employed and employed Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are committed to making adjustments necessary to reflect the new phase of the recovery.
Finally, we recognize the challenges that may arise from the resurgence of this virus. Bill provides support for workers and businesses who may be subject to a public health restriction that is necessary to save lives and stop the spread of the virus.
The local lockdown program would provide support for businesses whose local public health guidelines require them to cease activities, resulting in closures and revenue losses. This is a new, targeted benefit available to businesses at a rate of up to 75%, regardless of the sector they are in and regardless of the losses over the course of the pandemic.
Additionally, to assist those who are unable to work as a result of a lockdown, we are proposing the Canada worker lockdown benefit to provide $300 a week in income support, retroactive from October 24, 2021, until May 7, 2022. This would be accessible for the entire duration of the lockdown and would be available to workers who are ineligible for EI or who are eligible but were not paid benefits through EI for the same period. These measures would guarantee that if a government-imposed lockdown occurs, Canadians can have full confidence that they will be supported through challenging times.
Last week, when the tabled this bill, I reached out to a constituent who owns a hotel. As a local business owner in one of the most impacted sectors of our economy, I wanted to get his thoughts on the bill but also on the economic supports provided by our government throughout the pandemic. When we spoke last week, I was happy to hear that he is currently experiencing a revenue rebound and no longer qualifies for certain programs, and he is happy about that as well. At the same time, he understands that a number of his industry colleagues still do need support, and he is appreciative of the supports and programs that are available to help them bounce back.
He also told me that one of the biggest challenges he is facing right now is finding staff, so I shared with him that in budget 2021 our government introduced the Canada recovery hiring program to help employers hire the workers they need to recover and to grow, with a subsidy of up to 50% of the additional eligible salary or wages. We are both pleased to see that this program will be extended until May 7, 2022, so that businesses in our community and across Canada can continue to receive the help they need to hire back workers, increase their hours and create additional jobs. This provides the certainty that businesses need to rehire and return to growth.
However, while the government programs and the recovery go hand in hand, they are only a part of the solution. We also need Canadians to join us in this fight against COVID-19 by doing what it takes to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe. A few months ago, colleagues opposite speculated that Canada would not receive vaccines until 2030, yet it is still 2021 and we have had the largest vaccination campaign in our country's history and one of the most successful in the world. Thanks to the millions of Canadians who have gotten their first and second doses, businesses across this country are safely reopening, travel is slowly returning, the economy is rebounding, we have surpassed our goal of creating a million new jobs, and our employment rates are back to pre-pandemic levels.
We have come a long way, but we still have some way to go and all of us have a role to play. As a government, that means adapting our income and business support measures to target support to those who continue to need it. In my opinion, as Canadians, it means supporting our local businesses, helping organizations that provide services to those in need, and getting vaccinated to keep our communities safe. I want to take this opportunity to urge those who are eligible and able but have not yet gotten their vaccines to do so as soon as possible and help us put an end to the fight against this virus once and for all.
I remind Canadians that our government has been and will continue to be there for them, to provide help where help is needed.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19. This bill will implement some significant support measures, including measures for the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic and for the workers and small businesses that have really been struggling, for example those in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
There is no denying that COVID‑19 has had devastating consequences for workers and business owners in these sectors. They saw a nearly 50% drop in revenues, down from $104.4 billion in 2019 to $53.4 billion in 2020; in that same period, the number of jobs directly connected to the tourism industry dropped by 41%. Preliminary projections put revenues for summer 2021 at about 50% of the figures for the summer of 2019.
Despite these challenges, owners of tourism-based businesses and their employees have all proved to be tenacious and resilient, ensuring that their services will be available when the crisis is well and truly over. Many of them have said that the assistance from the federal government is the only reason why the workers in the sector are able to continue putting a roof over their heads and food on their tables. However, we know that many stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industry are still struggling. I am talking about hotels, airports, travel agencies, cruise lines, theatres and restaurants, which are vital.
Restaurants make our main streets what they are, and members have heard me say this many times in the House. I have spoken directly with countless impacted restaurant operators, who tell me just how hard the last 20 months have been, how they were the first to close and often the last to reopen and how even now many of them are only partially open.
As parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Small Business in the last mandate, I represented the government on many different working groups, including the Restaurant Revival Working Group, where I worked closely with Restaurants Canada and heard first-hand from independent restaurateurs across our great country. The bill we have before us today responds directly to their plea for continued support from the federal government as we continue to fight COVID-19.
I now want to speak in concrete terms about the support that Bill C-2 will provide hard-hit sectors through two new main components.
First, the tourism and hospitality recovery program will support hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, restaurants and many other businesses by providing them with wage and rent subsidies of up to 75%. Second, the hardest-hit business recovery program will provide subsidies that could cover 50% of the costs of businesses that have faced deep and enduring losses. The government is also proposing to extend the Canada recovery hiring program until May 2022 at a new rate of 50%, with the possibility of extension if needed.
I find it very important to lay out some of the details of what is in the bill we are debating today because it often seems that some members in this place would like to debate something else entirely. For example, on Friday, I believe it was the member for , in his 20-minute speech on Bill , mentioned inflation 33 times. That is about once every 36 seconds. How many times did he mention tourism, hospitality or small businesses? It was zero times, none at all.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Madam Speaker, I would like to be very clear. Inflation is a very real concern and Canadians are feeling its impacts, absolutely. However, as experts have pointed out, inflation is a global phenomenon driven by rising energy prices, a global economic rebound, supply chain constraints and many other factors. Inflation is unfortunately high almost everywhere at the moment. Yes, it is 4.7% here in Canada, but it is 6.2% in the United States, 6.2% in Mexico, 4.4% in the European Union and 4.2% in the United Kingdom. The G20 average is actually well above 5%.
If the Conservatives are saying that our policies to support Canadians and small businesses through COVID-19 are directly linked to the increase in inflation, well let me debunk that argument as well. Let us compare the data on inflation pre-pandemic and now among OECD countries. Between the late 2019 period and today, the inflation rate in these 38 countries increased by an average of 2.4%. The United States, for example, saw a 3.6% increase; Spain, 3.1%; Germany, 2.4%; and New Zealand, 3.5%. In the same time frame, Canada's inflation increased by 2.1%. It is crystal clear from these figures that the choice we have made to support Canadians through the pandemic is not the cause of inflation.
Maybe inflation is not the indicator that we wish to look at. What about the deficit? The member for said, “COVID required that we spend money, but we did not need to have the biggest deficit in the G20.” First, let me begin by saying that it is very good to hear the member now recognized that spending was needed at all, which is a change in tone from calling such spending “big, fat government programs” that his party does not believe in. Much more importantly, the premise of the statement is completely wrong. Canada does not have the largest deficit in the G20. No, Canada's 2020 deficit was smaller than that of the U.S. and that of United Kingdom, and the last time I checked, both of these countries were still very much a part of the G20.
The implication of the statements made by the Conservative member is that this was somehow a waste, that we have nothing to show for the deficit. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The numbers speak for themselves: $90 billion was spent for the CERB and the CRB; $80 billion was spent on the wage subsidy and rent subsidy; another $10 billion was spent in the form of direct payments to seniors and low-income households; and $17 billion was spent to support the provinces and territories through the safe restart agreement. Those four items alone account for three-quarters of the federal deficit. Which one of those programs and what part of that spending would the Conservatives have scrapped? I venture that the answer would be none, and that is why despite the rhetoric that we hear today, the members opposite voted for the wage subsidy, the rent subsidy and the CERB.
The reality is that Canada had the fiscal room to intervene and our Liberal government did exactly that. As the IMF stated last month, “Government budget support measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have saved lives and jobs.” Not only did Canada have among the lowest COVID death rates in the western world, not only did Canada get back to pre-pandemic employment numbers faster than other countries, but Canada still has a AAA credit rating, Canada still has the lowest net debt in the G7 and last year, Canada actually saw its debt interest payments decrease by more than $4 billion. The fact that we spent to support Canadians did not harm our economy. It is to the contrary.
The choice today is very clear. It is not to relitigate the COVID support measures our government put in place, though I am more than happy to do that any day of the week. No, what we are debating today is whether we will continue to supporting our restaurants, our hotels, our travel agents, our parks, our museums and our theatres. All of them are incredibly important and all of them are worth voting for today. I would encourage all members of the House to leave the rhetoric aside and continue to support Canadians through the pandemic.
Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will share my time with my colleague, the hon. member for .
Before I begin my speech, I would like to come back to the answer the colleague from gave me a few minutes ago. I realize that theatres and cultural enterprises will be able to continue to benefit from these programs, but artists and workers are not included in Bill . What is in the works is not a bill, but an assistance program, which is much more complicated to put in place and could be done much more quickly with Bill . I will stop there for the time being, because we hope to have the chance to come back to it.
Since this is my first time rising in the House in this 44th Parliament, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the constituents of Drummond, who have put their trust in me a second time. It makes me feel honoured and proud, and I will prove worthy of that trust.
I also want to thank the volunteers who gave it their all, their time, energy and passion, and spent long hours working on the campaign. I am thinking of two wonderful volunteers in particular: my parents, my mother and father who are 81 years old. They gave of their time and travelled around the riding, and they were very happy to do it. I want to be young like them when I am old.
I want to thank the team in my riding office, who are so essential. I want to sincerely thank them for their support and for the excellent service they provide to the people of Drummond. I am thinking of Andrée-Anne, Marie-Christine, Marika and Jacinte. I am also thinking of my assistant Mélissa, here on the Hill, and of Alexandre, who works with us. They are invaluable, and I care about them a lot.
I will close by thanking my family and friends. I mentioned my parents earlier. My colleagues in the House are all too familiar with the effect that political life can have on a family. My children, Lily-Rose, Tom, Christophe and Alexandrine, are wonderful. I want to thank my wife, Caroline, for being in my life. A wife is completely essential in the life of a politician.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the white ribbon I am wearing this week to express my support for women as part of the campaign to eliminate violence against women and girls, which runs until December 6. This problem concerns us all, and I wear the ribbon with pride. I hope there will come a day when we no longer need to wear this kind of symbol, because such violence is unacceptable.
I also want to say a special hello to Yvette Mathieu Lafond, whom I have already talked about in the House. Last year I celebrated her 100th birthday with her. When I saw her for her 100th birthday, Ms. Mathieu Lafond and I agreed to meet up again for her 101st. We have plans to get together this Friday, and I hope to celebrate her birthday with her for many years to come.
I mentioned my family and my children earlier. My nine-year-old son Tom is very funny. When he was little and something scared him or worried him, he would close his eyes and say that it would magically disappear that way. It was quite cute. Kids do that kind of thing. However, kids are not the only ones; the Liberals are doing the same thing.
Members will recall that is what they did with WE Charity last year. They prorogued Parliament to put an end to debate about the scandal so that it would disappear. They also did it this summer when they called the election. They thought they could get re-elected without anyone ever again talking about their missteps. By trying to win a majority, they were hoping that the opposition parties could no longer put the government's feet to the fire. The Liberals closed their eyes and hoped that it would magically disappear.
Here is the difference between the Liberals and my nine-and-a-half-year-old son. He plays soccer and is sometimes the goalkeeper. He knows that if he closes his eyes when faced with three opponents who have the ball, it might be kicked in his face, so he keeps them open, waits for his opponents and, in an effort to prevent them from scoring a goal, he faces them and stands his ground. We expect the same courage from those in charge of a G7 country.
I have to admit that I let myself be taken in somewhat this summer. When the Liberals called the election, I really believed they were doing it in the hope of wiping the slate clean, coming back quickly and taking charge of the situation. I believed they were going to deal with the urgent matters caused by the pandemic, such as the labour shortage and the recovery of affected sectors such as tourism, aerospace and culture, as quickly as possible.
I thought that we were going into an election campaign and that, when we came back from the election, we would sort it out without any nonsense, but that was not the case. We had been hammering away at these issues throughout the election period.
The election took place on September 20, and we waited until November 22 to return to Parliament. Five months have elapsed since our last sitting day in June. During this time when we looked the other way, did the pandemic and all its problems disappear? The answer is no.
When the election was called, a fourth wave was on its way, and here we are now again with a new variant to worry about. If Parliament had been allowed to work, we would not need to discuss Bill today, because instead we could have developed assistance programs according to need and put in place the expected assistance for artists and self‑employed workers in the cultural sector. We could even have resumed work on Bill after the Senate had finished hacking it to bits.
Everyone here knows how long it takes to pass legislation and get programs up and running. We have to debate in the House and in committee, meet witnesses, conduct studies and so on.
If we had truly put the public interest ahead of political interests, we would have had a normal return to Parliament, we could have done our work as usual and brought programs up to date. We could have also brought in new programs and adapted. Unfortunately, that is not what happened, and we ended up wasting time.
In the meantime, self-employed workers and artists in the cultural sector are saying that they are no longer getting any assistance or money, and they do not know what to do. Based on the 's promises, we would have expected some form of assistance for workers in the cultural sector this fall. That is not what is happening with Bill .
We know that the is currently working on a program to help artists and workers in the cultural sector, who are the hardest hit. That is good, and I promised, along with the Bloc Québécois, to co-operate to ensure this happens quickly. In fact, artists and artisans in the cultural sector have not received any income or assistance for a few weeks now, and they are getting worried.
Without this pointless election and reckless belief that if they close their eyes the problems will disappear, we could have moved forward and there would have been support for everyone.
It really makes me mad. I know that while everyone here continues to receive their paycheque, skilled and essential workers in the cultural sector are looking to reinvent themselves in other industries because they no longer see any way for them to manage. Some of my friends, people with whom I worked and spoke to recently, think they will not even be able to buy a little Christmas gift for their children. Previously, these people were not working small contracts here and there; they had a good, steady income.
I have friends in the world of performing arts who are technicians. They have taken different jobs since the pandemic began and they will never return to the cultural sector. It is a tragedy, because this type of expertise is difficult to replace. It is truly sad to see that we are abandoning a category of workers and especially people who are passionate about their work.
I have a group of friends, including actors and audiovisual technicians, who decided to do something productive during the pandemic, since there was no work. They decided to get together and go shoot a documentary abroad. This was before the fourth wave. They all travelled together to Bangladesh, India and Nepal, hoping to meet ordinary people. They just wanted to chat with them, to learn more about their culture and their reality during the pandemic. They did it at their own expense and did not ask anyone for money or grants. The idea was to put their talent to good use during the crisis. Hopefully, we will get to see the results of their work at some point. The government is failing passionate individuals like these by postponing the help that could be given to them now, through programs that are not yet defined.
I support Bill , because it does include some important assistance and good measures. However, workers in the cultural sector have been overlooked once again, which is really sad.
Madam Speaker, I will stay the course because this is important. There are some good measures in Bill C‑2. Some are measures that the Bloc Québécois itself proposed last spring.
After the worst of the crisis, we need to think about recovery. We need to move on to support measures that are much more targeted and much more tailored to the economic reality and the post-pandemic recovery. We must therefore focus on measures that particularly, but not exclusively, support the tourism, accommodation, food service, events and hospitality industries. I think these are good, well-targeted measures.
In addition, as my colleague from Joliette said, these are predictable measures that will allow businesses to plan ahead until May 2022. There is also the two-week extension of the Canada recovery sickness benefit and caregiving benefits. I think it is good to continue these measures in the current context.
However, some measures that are essential have not yet been considered. They were mentioned repeatedly in today's debate, and my colleague from Drummond spoke eloquently about them. I am referring to measures for the arts and culture sector.
The government will say that it intends to support this sector. The problem is that the majority of people in this sector are self-employed, no matter their line of work. We must think not just of the artists, but of all the workers in the performing arts and live arts. There are many of them.
We know that self-employed workers cannot access the regular EI system. These workers are not in a complete lockdown. However, as I was saying, they are at the end of the road in terms of work. The recovery is difficult, and they may not necessarily be getting work. Furthermore, some skilled workers have decided to switch careers, so we could be facing a labour shortage in future.
These workers still need support. They are not entitled to EI, so until yesterday, they were receiving the Canada recovery benefit. However, there is a void in Bill C‑2, which contains no measures for the many workers in this sector.
There are two kinds of solutions.
The first is a solution that we are still waiting for, since the government still does not appear to have understood that all of the emergency measures were put in place for one reason: Our employment insurance system has faults and is not comprehensive enough to cover the many 21st-century workers who are self-employed or non-standard, the majority of whom are women and young people. A meaningful measure would be to reform the EI system as soon as possible. However, there is no indication in the throne speech or the government's messaging that it plans to do so.
The second solution would be to address the needs of this category of workers by including them in Bill C‑2 and providing an effective assistance measure for them. It is unacceptable for the government to ignore them.
In conclusion, although the situation is urgent, we will insist on sending this bill to committee as quickly as possible, so that the committee has enough time to study it and, potentially, add measures or terms that will more specifically address the objective of the bill.
This feels like an acknowledgement. We had an election that the government claimed was to help us recover from the pandemic. In that case, we need to recover from this pandemic, and we need the minority government to work with the opposition parties on such an important bill to ensure that the pandemic measures are the right ones.
I do not know if the Canadian Federation of Independent Business representatives are right or wrong, but they are already saying the 40% to 50% subsidy rates are disappointing.
That is why it makes sense to ensure we have enough time to study these measures, get the committees up and running again and really give this our all and take a good, hard look at this bill.