Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak on behalf of Canada's Conservatives and the official opposition to respond to the government's Speech from the Throne.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, the .
We heard another Liberal Speech from the Throne. It was another speech full of recycled Liberal promises, with grand gestures and lofty visions, but with no real plan to deal with the pandemic, no real plan to deal with the urgent health care needs of the provinces, no real plan to deal with the lack of jobs and no real plan to deal with Canadian unity issues or western alienation. There was no plan to deal with the economy.
The Liberal Speech from the Throne was full of the same old promises and recycled ideas that we have all been hearing for years and years. Many of these promises have been unfulfilled and they leave countless people behind.
I am talking about people like the single mom from Burlington who has to choose between staying home with her sick kids and picking up another shift at the local Subway to pay the rent. I am talking about the fish harvester down east who is not sure how they are going to afford their next season. I am talking about the producer in Brandon, Manitoba burdened by the carbon tax and worried about a trade war keeping their goods from market. I am talking about the dad in Hinton, Alberta who does not know what he is going to do when the bank's mortgage deferral program comes to an end.
I am talking about the family in Cantley, Quebec that is trying to get their minivan to last through just one more winter, and they cannot afford an electric car. I am talking about the people who drive Ford 150s, like thousands of Canadians. They are tired of being insulted by Liberal elites. I am talking about the family in Yukon that runs a fly-in guide outfitting business. They rely almost entirely on international tourism.
These are the people that Conservatives are standing up for. These are the people who we know have been left behind in this Liberal Speech from the Throne.
Let us just make sure that it is clear: The shut down Parliament. He prorogued Parliament, he shut down committees and he stopped everything dead in its tracks when he was being exposed for his scandal. Why was this? He said he was going to present a Speech from the Throne that would give Canadians a plan. It did none of that. It is clear the only reason the prorogued Parliament was to cover up and distract from his own scandal.
It is also very disturbing that there was no plan to deal with this pandemic. When our spoke with the last week, he asked the Prime Minister to ensure that Canadians had better and faster access to COVID testing options. It is vitally important right now that Canadians have options to get tested for COVID and they get the results back in a timely manner. It is unacceptable that we trust countries such as Japan, Germany and the U.S. with our national security intelligence, but we do not trust their approval of 15-minute saliva tests.
Just last March, the promised that rapid testing for Canadians would be his top priority. Half a year and half a trillion dollars later, Canadian families are still waiting in line for hours and sometimes days for tests, let alone for results. The Prime Minister has failed to deliver. Maybe the wealthy, well-connected friends of the Liberal elite can afford to stay quarantined. Maybe they can afford to wait, but hard-working Canadians cannot afford to take weeks off to quarantine if they come up in a contact-tracing list. They deserve a plan and they deserve to have some hope.
There was no commitment to increase health transfers, which was the provinces' top ask. Instead of giving the provinces the resources they need to fight the pandemic, the Liberals are once again interfering in provincial jurisdiction.
Last week, on behalf of the provinces, Premiers Kenney, Pallister, Ford and Legault were here in Ottawa, presenting a united front and asking the federal government to do the right thing by providing appropriate health care funding to the provinces with no strings attached. Contrary to what the thinks, and who believes Ottawa knows best, it is the provinces that are best placed to deal with issues that fall within provincial jurisdiction.
Last week, to highlight the extent of the health care funding problem, my premier, Manitoba's Premier Pallister, explained it this way. He said that never has there been a higher demand for health care, never have federal contributions to health care been so low and, because of this, never have wait times been so long. This was before the pandemic even started. Now, with the second wave of the pandemic upon us, people are hurting and sometimes even dying because the federal government is not giving the provinces the health care funding they need to look after their people.
Furthermore, the Canadian Medical Association had this to say about the failure of the current Liberal 's Speech from the Throne. It stated:
...today's speech falls short of delivering on the promise of ensuring a resilient health care system and keeping Canadians healthy.
The top issue we are dealing with today is a health crisis, and the Liberals failed to address it in the Speech from the Throne. It is absolutely unacceptable. While I could continue on the issue of health care, I know that my colleague, the hon. member for and our shadow minister for health, will have a lot more to say during this debate and during the days and weeks ahead.
I want to close my remarks today with a very important issue. I understand that for some who are here in the east it may not be top of mind. For those who live in Ontario, Quebec and maybe the Atlantic provinces, I fully understand and I can see why they do not see this as top of mind. I wish the would help to bring it to the forefront. It is the issue of unity in this country and the issue of the western provinces, including the one I come from, feeling alienated by the Prime Minister and the current government. The Prime Minister likes to say that we are stronger when we are united and we are all in this together, yet our country is more divided than ever.
Our made it clear during his first call with the that if the Prime Minister is serious he must make addressing national unity concerns and western alienation a priority. However, there is not a single thing in the throne speech to even acknowledge that there is a problem.
Our government needs to show Canadians that it values and respects all of them and their contributions to this country. This respect starts with an understanding that revenue generated by various resources in each region of the country helps to build roads, hospitals and infrastructure in other parts of the country and not just in the provinces where the resources are found. The lack of respect by the for our natural resource industries is unacceptable because these industries form the backbone of our economy.
In the words of Alberta premier Jason Kenney:
In a 6,783 word throne speech, not one word recognized the crisis facing Canada’s largest industry: the energy sector that supports 800,000 jobs.... Instead, we got a litany of policies that would strangle investment and jeopardize resource jobs when we most need the industry that generates 20 percent of government revenues in Canada.
To highlight the failure of the Liberal government to deal with the issues facing Alberta, Premier Kenney went on to say:
Alberta is disappointed that instead of listening to Canada’s provinces, the federal government doubled down on policies that will kill jobs, make Canada poorer and weaken national unity.
In fact, agriculture, forestry and energy resources were not mentioned once in this speech. This is completely unacceptable given that we found out yesterday that Canada recorded its largest ever drop in natural resources employment in the second quarter.
Under the leadership of the hon. member for , Canadians can rest assured that we will hold the and the Liberal government to account. We will not support this Speech from the Throne, but we will put forward a plan that keeps Canadians safe, protects jobs and gets our country back on track.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent and, very humbly, as the official opposition House leader.
I want to sincerely give thanks for all the support for my colleagues in the official opposition and, obviously, for my leader, the hon. member for , leader of the official opposition and of all Conservatives in Canada from coast to coast. As we know, he and his wife are now fighting COVID-19. He will get back here stronger than ever; I can assure the House of that.
We are gathered here today after the House was prorogued for five weeks. During the summer, committees were working to shed light on the government's serious, unacceptable ethical lapses, but the decided to prorogue the House. Parliamentary committees were all suspended. We could not do our jobs in the House or in committee. We are now back in the House after the throne speech.
A Speech from the Throne is a unique and exceptional opportunity to bring Canadians together, to talk about national unity and the fact that the provinces and the federal government must work together and respect jurisdictions. This is an opportunity for the government to show that it has a clear plan and knows where it is going, all while effectively managing government spending. The throne speech is an opportunity for the government to show that it has a plan. What we saw yesterday was anything but a plan. The government gave a classic Liberal speech and completely ignored these three fundamental elements.
First let us consider the issue of spending. We all realize that in a crisis like the one we are experiencing now, investing is essential. Yes, unfortunately, that creates deficits. We faced that reality in 2008-09. We are not happy about it, but we understand that it has to be done. However, we still need to know where we are heading. What the Prime Minister and his government showed us yesterday, given the speech delivered by the Governor General, is that they do not realize that the money being spent today does not belong to us. Yesterday's speech was all spend, spend, spend, but there was nothing about controlling that spending. That is unacceptable.
Of course we must invest in certain sectors. Yes, we must do something for the workers who have lost their jobs because of the crisis. Yes, we must do something for the businesses that have to close temporarily, and will have to take advantage of a potential economic recovery. We must be there to support them. We still need to know where we are heading, and the government has done everything but control spending. We all remember the economic snapshot provided by the former . We all saw that the deficit was approaching half a trillion dollars and that our debt load had reached over one trillion dollars. The former finance minister never mentioned those two significant figures, and with good reason, because that is not a record to be proud of.
We believe that investments must be made, but there must be a plan. Yesterday's throne speech shows us that the government wants to spend money we do not have and does not know where it is heading. I remind members that money we do not have is a debt that must be paid by our children and grandchildren. The Conservatives are thinking of the younger generation. Yes, the next generation will have to pay for the government's unbridled spending. When we ask for better control of spending, we are thinking first and foremost of young Canadians.
Furthermore, true to Liberal tradition, the government is picking fights with the provinces. No sooner was the Speech from the Throne a wrap than the Premier of Quebec took to social media to express his disapproval on the grounds that the speech sidelined collaboration and scorned jurisdiction. I want to make it perfectly clear that jurisdiction is no mere academic notion meant for the likes of professors and constitutional experts. The government needs to understand and act on its responsibilities while allowing the provinces to take care of theirs. Yesterday, the government said it would invest in health, education, child care and so on, but those are basically provincial responsibilities, not federal ones. What the federal government is responsible for is making sure tests are approved so they can be done as efficiently as possible, but the government is not even meeting its own expectations in that regard. It is minding the business of others instead of taking care of its own.
There is a solution to this, one that the leader of the official opposition proposed two and half weeks ago after meeting with the Premier of Quebec, and that is increasing health transfers to the provinces. That would be a legitimate and important step forward, as indicated by the member for , the leader of the official opposition, our Conservative leader, after meeting with the Premier of Quebec, and we are proud of it. This is classic Conservative: We respect provincial jurisdictions.
As we all know, there are new needs related to health care. The COVID-19 crisis has brought this to light with regard to seniors, among others. We know that transfers do need to be increased, and if there is one area where we need to spend—if we are fortunate enough to win Canadians' trust—we would definitely invest more in health by increasing transfers to the provinces, since health is a provincial jurisdiction. That happens at the provincial level, not the federal level.
Lastly, a Speech from the Throne should emphasize Canadian unity. All of us Canadians need to stand shoulder to shoulder and work together. Whether we are from Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, or wherever, we need to work together. There was absolutely nothing in yesterday's speech that would support and foster a strong, united Canada. There was not a single word about Quebec's aerospace industry, not a single word about natural resources in the west, nothing in the speech to bring Canadians together.
Let me be perfectly clear. Some hear “natural resources” and automatically think of the west, but 50,000 people in Quebec work in the petrochemical industry. That is a lot of people. That is why we believe all provinces must be involved and must work together to make Canada a better place.
The Speech from the Throne is a unique opportunity to underscore that. It is the ideal time for us all to work together for the good of Canadians, and for all Canadians, no matter where they live, to make a tangible contribution to our recovery.
Sadly, the Prime Minister failed to do that. I therefore move, seconded by the member for , that the motion be amended by adding the following:
And regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide a plan to approve and deploy new rapid testing measures to aid the provinces in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic;
Further regret to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide an adequate plan to support the future of Canadian workers and small businesses inclusive of a program for wage subsidization that protects Canadian jobs while effectively promoting the value and dignity of work, along with a more extensive plan for commercial rent assistance and effective small business supply chain protection;
Further regret to inform Your Excellency that your government continues to neglect the unity problems that its policies have created in the Western provinces by undermining the role that resource workers, and resource producing provinces have played in paying for quality public services across the Federation;
Further regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has not acknowledged the need for a new policy regarding Communist China that reflects its responsibility for imposing a new police state-style security law on the over 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, as well as committing a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Uyghur Muslims in the Chinese area of Xinjiang; and
Also further regrets to inform Your Excellency that your government has failed to provide adequate transparency to the House with regard to the relationship between the organization known as the WE Charity, the Prime Minister’s family, the relevant government ministries, and outside organizations involved in the development of the Canada Student Services Grant program.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. opposition members for their comments.
First, I would like to state what I believe to be a fundamental fact in this moment in our country's history: COVID-19 is still very much here. We have not yet beaten this pandemic. We are fighting a battle, and this is a battle we must win.
I know the fight against this disease in the past six months has been difficult for Canadians. For too many people, especially our seniors, the most vulnerable, it has been a matter of life and death. This ordeal is unlike anything that we, as Canadians, have lived through in modern history.
I wish I could stand in this place and say that it is over, that the hard work is behind us, but that is simply not the reality. In the four biggest provinces of Canada the second wave is not just starting, but is already under way. On March 13, when we went into lockdown, there were only 47 new cases of COVID-19. Just yesterday we had well over 1,000 new cases. The fact is this fall could be worse than last spring. That depends on the actions we all take in the coming days and weeks, because we all, collectively, have the power to beat down this second wave. We can and we must. All Canadians need to wear their masks. We need to wash our hands. We need to avoid gatherings, especially indoors, and remember that this is not the time for partying. We need to maintain social distance. We need to download and use the COVID Alert app. Of course, we all need to get our flu shots.
As for us parliamentarians, we have a job to do as well, an important job, which is to ensure that Canadians, and the businesses that employ them so they can feed their families, get the support they need to help them pull through this pandemic. We need to do whatever it takes to support people through this crisis. The reality is that the best way to support our economic recovery is by making sure that we are supporting the health and safety of Canadians right now.
There are folks, including members on the opposite side of the aisle, who think that we should have moved more quickly to help businesses and more slowly to help individual Canadians. That is simply wrong. We know that supporting hard-working Canadian families, our seniors and young people is the best way to make sure that our economy comes roaring back as quickly as possible. It is disappointing that the Conservative Party has chosen to put politics first. It would rather vote to have an election in the midst of a pandemic than to vote to extend badly needed help to Canadians at a time of unprecedented need.
Our sole objective since March has been to help Canadians get through this crisis, to protect their health and their businesses, and to protect workers and their livelihoods.
We know that the pandemic has hit some groups more than others. This includes our seniors, working mothers, racialized Canadians, indigenous peoples and youth. We intend to address these inequalities.
I listened carefully to the statement made by the made yesterday and the interventions by the two hon. MPs who spoke to the Conservative approach today. I think they are faced first with a fundamental challenge. The deputy leader got up and started by saying that we have no plan, and then proceeded to explain how she disagrees with all the different elements of our plan. Again, the Conservatives cannot have it both ways.
We know that the preoccupation of many Canadians, as highlighted by the hon. deputy leader, is with the health and safety of Canadians. That is something we all share, we as elected officials and Canadians. That is why, from the very beginning of this pandemic, we have worked with top scientists, doctors, public health agencies across the country, premiers and municipal governments. We have worked with everyone to focus on keeping Canadians safe and healthy through this challenge. From the very beginning we sat down regularly with the premiers. Indeed, I think we have had close to 20 first ministers meetings just over the past six months to talk about how we need to work together to help Canadians.
I will come back to the contention by the Conservatives that we are somehow in a national unity crisis, just to highlight the reality that Canadians across all orders of government and all regions of the country have never been more united in working together to deliver safely for all Canadians. Indeed, as we look around the world and contrast how we have managed through this pandemic with places where the positioning around a pandemic response has been a source of partisan controversy and discourse, we see the fact that Canadians have come together has been very significant in contributing to our well-being. The reality is that from the beginning of our meetings with those premiers, our position as a federal government has been, how can we help?
We were there to encourage more testing. We were there to give them the tools to do more testing, whether it was money, resources or equipment they needed. From the beginning, we have been encouraging and helping the provinces to expand their testing capacity. Across the country, we are seeing an increase in testing capacity, thanks in part to the $19 billion we gave the provinces for a safe recovery.
Since the pandemic started, we have sent the provinces half a billion dollars in health transfers. To support a just recovery, we then transferred another half a billion for health care systems, since we realize that this is an unprecedented public health crisis.
We are going to continue making decisions based on science and listening to the experts who are doing everything they can to keep Canadians safe. At the same time, we are also taking action to make sure we have the means to boost testing numbers.
That is why, with our international procurements and the incredible innovative work being done here right here by Canadian scientists and researchers, who are creating new alternatives to testing moving forward with new equipment that we can produce right here in Canada, we have significantly stepped up the federal government's ability to support the provinces in their responsibilities around testing. We will continue to do that.
We recognize that big questions around health care are being brought forward by the crisis of this pandemic. That is exactly why we have not only transferred, as I said, a billion dollars to the provinces to help with the immediate, acute supports, on top of the $19 billion we transferred to the provinces through the Safe Restart Agreement, but we have also committed to absolutely sitting down with the provinces this fall to talk about the future of the Canada health transfers, recognizing that our health care systems are changing and that there are new needs. We recognize, for example, that more and more of health care is not going to be delivered in institutional settings but in home settings. That means investing in home care, investing in supports for the delivery of health services, not just to hospitals and institutions, but through a broader range of ways. The federal government will be there to be part of that conversation.
We also recognize that increasingly treatment for diseases is not through surgical intervention or institutionalization, but through increasingly sophisticated medications and pharmaceuticals. Of course, as pharmaceuticals becomes more complex and sophisticated, their costs go up. That is why as a federal government we have already stepped up over the past years to drive down the cost of prescription drug prices, to be there to support the provinces with rare disease, high-cost drug strategies. We will continue to do that as we move toward a national universal pharmacare program, working first with the provinces that want to move quickly on it. Those are also parts of the conversations that we need to have about the future of health care in this country.
Let me be very, very clear that the federal government continues to have an important role to play in ensuring the safety and security of all Canadians. We will be there with the health care system and with supports for social programs, as we have been from the beginning.
As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, which cannot come fast enough for any of us, we know that we have to learn lessons from this pandemic. However, while we are in this pandemic, the federal government will be there every step of the way with a focus on supporting the health of Canadians.
Of course, we recognize the provinces' responsibilities and jurisdictions when it comes to health. They do great work in their jurisdictions.
However, we also recognize that we need to help them when they become overwhelmed or face particularly difficult challenges. That is why, when the Premier of Quebec asked us to send in the army to help in long-term care facilities during this crisis that Quebec could not manage alone, we did not hesitate to help. We are there to help protect our seniors and to support Canadians. That is a promise that we made from the very beginning of this pandemic and we are keeping it.
We are showing that, yes, we are there. We sent the Canadian Armed Forces to help our seniors. We are continuing to help thanks to the Canadian Red Cross, which is still working in Quebec's long-term care facilities to help the province regain control of this tragic situation.
We will help Canadians in partnership with the provinces. Some people are recommending that we should simply send transfer payments and give the provinces blank cheques for their health care systems, but that would not have helped because we needed people on the ground, soldiers and Canadian Red Cross personnel.
This is not just a question of money, although we will certainly continue sending money. We have transferred over $40 billion to the provinces for their health care systems, and we will continue to take action to protect the health of Canadians. However, we will do so as Canadians would expect, in other words, in partnership with the provinces. That is what we will continue to do.
Despite everything, the Conservatives continue to suggest that we have not been there for Canadians.
The Conservatives say that our plan has left everyday Canadians behind. When the pandemic struck, the Conservatives were more concerned with austerity than with helping people, and now they have doubled down on that view. When they say we have not been there to help ordinary help, I can say that almost nine million Canadians who received the Canada emergency wage subsidy would disagree with them. We were there to support Canadians right across the country despite the Conservatives saying that we should not be.
We were there for the millions of workers who managed to keep their jobs or get hired back to their jobs because of the wage subsidy that supported payroll. Those people needed support through this pandemic.
The issue that keeps coming back from the Conservatives is that we are doing too much, we are investing too much in Canadians, we are helping Canadians too much and that it is irresponsible for the future. The reality is, as I said, the best way to recover the economy of the country is to support Canadians through this health crisis. That is what the Conservatives do not understand.
In the short term, while we are living with this pandemic, we will continue to invest in Canadians and support them.
What we are not hearing from the Conservatives in their response to the Speech from the Throne is specifically what spending measures they disagree with. Do they disagree with the extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy, because that is in the Speech from the Throne. We are extending it through to next summer. Do they disagree with the $500 a week that people got through CERB, which we are now going to be continuing to deliver through the EI system and with a benefit that is going to support those Canadians who still cannot access EI? We know that supporting Canadians who need the $500 a week through the continuation of this pandemic is essential, yet the Conservatives do not seem to want us to do that.
Therefore, my question continues to be this. What do the Conservatives actually disagree with? What is it that they do not think we should be doing for Canadians right now? Where do they leave Canadians aside? Where do they say that we have to recover the economy, so we have to stop spending?
If we had not stepped up as a federal government right across the country, in every province and territory, to put money directly in the pockets of people from the beginning of this pandemic, what would Canadians have done? First, they would have had to go further into debt to pay for groceries or to pay their rent. The help we gave was significant, but not only did it prevent them from going deeper into debt, it also prevented many people from having to use food banks and from losing their homes and jobs.
The reality is that there were still far too many people who had to go to food banks. That is why we invested hundreds of millions of dollars in food banks, shelters and supports for the most vulnerable across the country. Every step of the way, we had the backs of Canadians. We are committing now, as we approach this second wave, to continue to have the backs of people, and the Conservatives would rather vote for an election right now rather than support people.
The Conservatives are asking a lot of questions that Canadians are asking, such as what the path is for our deficit and if we will be fiscally responsible. This is where we have to make a very clear distinction between the short-term measures that are there to support Canadians and the long-term recovery plan in a post-pandemic world. The short-term measures we need to support Canadians will be there for them. We will support Canadians through this pandemic in all the ways we need to, because that is the best way to get us to a strong economy on the other side. Again, what the Conservatives do not understand is doing less to support Canadians will actually hurt our economy in the long run. It will lead to a slower recovery and greater deficits.
Absolutely, once we are through this pandemic, it will be extremely important to be fiscally responsible and sustainable. That is where the investments we are proposing in the throne speech on child care, on housing and on pharmacare are not just things that support the social safety net. It actually leads to better growth; more women in the workforce; more families not facing impossible choices when their kids have to stay home; more support for businesses that do not have to pay the same level of prescription drug coverage with a national universal pharmacare program; more people who are not costing us through shelter systems and vulnerabilities, but have their own homes and are able to contribute to our country.
These are not simply social measures. They are economic measures as we move forward and they will be done because the pandemic has shown us the cracks in our society that Canadians need to fill.
The Conservatives often talk to us about our seniors and the need to support them better in these tough times. We have provided an additional $2.5 billion in support to eligible seniors in the form of one-time, tax-free OAS and GIS payments. We are supporting community-based projects aimed at improving seniors' quality of life and reducing their social isolation. To that end, we invested an additional $20 million in the new horizons for seniors program.
The Speech from the Throne lays out the work we will do with the provinces and territories to set national standards for long-term care. We will take action to ensure that seniors are able to stay in their own homes longer. We will work with our colleagues here in Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to hold those who neglect seniors under their care accountable.
The Speech from the Throne also states that we will look at new measures to ensure better pay for personal support workers, who do a difficult but essential job. Our society must better value their diligence, their skills and their hard work. We must keep trying to do better by our seniors. If the Conservatives disagree, they can keep saying so and vote against the throne speech, which offers real help for our seniors. If they disagree with these measures, they can tell seniors themselves. That is what they are saying.
When it comes to job creation, we know that we have a lot of work to do to get the economy back to where it was before the pandemic and create an even stronger economy. In our first five years in office, we created more than a million jobs for Canadians. During the pandemic, our country saw record job losses, as did every country in the world.
The Conservatives keep saying that the CERB and the support we are giving people who have to pay rent and buy groceries are a disincentive to work. The reality is that we are always going to be there to support workers. We know that Canadians want to contribute and work, but there is a job shortage because of the pandemic. Many sectors were hit extremely hard by this pandemic. We will continue to be there to help people who want to work but have no job to go to. The Conservatives claim that if we stop providing support to millions of people, they will find jobs, but that is a totally ridiculous and irresponsible thing to say.
Once again, I am asking the Conservatives to list the specific measures in the throne speech that they disagree with. Since they do not like the Liberal Party and its approach, they ought to suggest something else. However, they have nothing to suggest. They know that our priority from the beginning has been to be there for Canadians. Since they have nothing to suggest, they talk about a national unity crisis. In reality, Canadians have never been so united.
That has been the story of this pandemic: Canadians coming together to work together in all orders of government to deliver for people; to work together in communities; to work together in workplaces; to be there for opposite sides of the country; PPE produced in Ontario, making its way across the country; supports in scientific resources developed in the west, in B.C., sharing their impact across the country; seafood harvested on our coasts, feeding the rest of the world; and energy workers in Alberta, who continue to innovate and look forward to a better world where their kids will continue to have jobs and opportunities.
The members opposite have asked me about Alberta and are highlighting it. Let me tell them how this government has been there for all Canadians and specifically, because they keep asking, for Alberta.
From the very beginning, the Canada emergency response benefit helped thousands upon thousands of Albertans who were already being challenged with a crisis in the oil and gas sector that is global and is particularly acute in Alberta.
We were there with the CERB. We were there with the emergency wage subsidy to keep people on. We made investments in cleaning up orphan wells, which was a provincial area of jurisdiction but that we are happy to support because we need to give people opportunities to do the right thing and to have work through this difficult time.
On top of that, we sat down and delivered part of $19 billion that we transferred to provinces that has helped Albertans and people across the country with that safe restart. Those transfers to keep people safe were worked out and agreed with all premiers, including the premier of Alberta. Just a few weeks ago, when school boards and parents across the country were worried about kids getting back to school, we signed a $2 billion safe restart agreement with the provinces to make sure, among other things, that school boards in Alberta would have some money to make sure that kids get back to school safely.
However, the Conservatives are choosing to create a national unity crisis. All Canadians are challenged by this, with some areas being much harder hit than others: the tourism sector, the oil and gas industry, and certain cultural sectors that are based on performance. There are many sectors that are hurting and we are continuing to look at ways to deliver supports to them right across the country. I know the deputy leader did not mean to mislead the House, so I am hoping she is going to be able to correct herself. She said that the agriculture, the forestry industry and natural resources are not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. That is not true and she can check on page 24 if she really wants to, but we took a lot of time to reassure people and talk about the challenges faced by people across the country.
If we want to talk about agriculture, we know that the capacity of hard-working farmers and fishers across this country to put food on our tables and contribute to important global supply chains by working hard even through a pandemic is incredibly important. Our farmers have been absolute heroes in making that happen. That is why when we look at the things they are worried about with increasing flooding and increasing droughts because of climate change, we realize that the deputy leader's party and former government did really hurt farmers in the Prairies. They killed the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. The PFRA was there to help manage water in the Prairies in a way that is only becoming more important with the impacts of climate change. However, the previous Conservative government killed it. The reality is that we know that managing our water resources, particularly for our farmers in the Prairies, is essential. That is why this throne speech promises to deliver on a Canadian water agency to replace and continue the good work of the PFRA. For that alone, Conservatives on the Prairies should be voting for this throne speech; but no, the Conservatives killed the PFRA so they would not want to highlight that we are actually bringing it back.
We talk about how important our forestry workers are going to be in building good jobs for the future, how important our natural resources industries and miners are going to be in building jobs for the future. We know that we are moving toward a society and a world where more and more high-tech solutions are going to rely on rare minerals, on good-quality and well-extracted products. Look at the fact that Canada's clean aluminum is so important to so many supply chains across the country.
Canada's clean aluminum is produced with minimal greenhouse gas emissions and is prized by industries from around the world that want to be able to say their electronic devices do not contribute to climate change. That is good news for aluminum workers. It is also great for workers in our natural resources sector that we can show that electric car batteries are made with minerals extracted here, in Canada, in a responsible, forward-looking way.
I was very happy to have a chance to speak to people in the mining sectors, and I know what Canada has to offer in terms of both natural resources and natural resource processing. This will help us secure a place in the economy of the future, which will be more prosperous and more sustainable. That is critical. We spoke about this in the throne speech. We will continue to recognize that the best way to restart the economy is to also look at where the economy is going. A low-carbon economy is the way of the future. However, the reality is that we will not be able to reach net zero by 2050 without the full participation and innovation of workers in our energy and natural resources sectors.
There are energy experts in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. These workers are always looking to innovate, plan for a better future and find concrete solutions. We need them to make our economy cleaner, more efficient, and more successful on the global marketplace. This is an integral part of our future, and we will continue to invest in this sector.
The Conservatives want to turn this into a national unity crisis. I am sorry, but that is frankly irresponsible. More than anyone else in the world, Canadians showed that they were there for one another during this pandemic. To try to make this into a political attack is simply irresponsible and ridiculous.
We will continue to be there for Canadians through this pandemic. We will continue to support the families and the workers who need it right across the country. We will continue to do what is necessary to have Canadians' backs, regardless of what the Conservatives might say. We will continue to recognize the cracks in our systems that the pandemic has revealed: the challenges around homelessness, the challenges around women excluded from the workforce, the challenges around access to health care and pharmacare and the challenges around systemic racism that continue to hold back far too many people across the country. That is why, as we move forward in fighting systemic racism, we move forward first and foremost on economic empowerment for Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses.
It is interesting, because I heard a lot of people say that there are so many other things to do. Yes, there are. If one sits down with Black community leaders and talks to Black entrepreneurs, one of the first things they will ask for is better access to capital. That is why we were so glad a few weeks ago to be able to announce that we have worked with Canada's top banks on delivering access to capital to start rebalancing the economic scales and the barriers that exist because of systems that are discriminatory, but there is so much more to do and we talk about that in the throne speech. We need to reform our justice system. We need to improve outcomes for Black communities and young people. These are the things we are going to continue to do not just for Black Canadians but for all racialized Canadians.
On the flip side, that pathway toward reconciliation continues to be more important than ever before. All the commitments this government has made over the years on moving forward on reconciliation that we have been steadily working on and living up to now need to be accelerated. We need to continue to protect indigenous brothers and sisters from the impacts of this pandemic, but we also need to be giving them the tools and the ability to thrive and prosper in their communities right across the country. That is where we are going to be accelerating many measures of reconciliation. That is why we will be bringing forward in the House, before the end of this year, legislation to enact the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, despite the fact that the Conservatives are already set to vote against it.
We know that Canada is an incredible country. It is an incredible country, not because of geography, not because of history as much as because of Canadians themselves: people who are there to support each other, to work hard for each other, to build their success and to make sure that their communities feel success as well, to stand up for each others' rights and opportunities and to build a better future. That is what this pandemic has shown, Canadians stepping up to do what really matters.
It is unfortunate to see the Conservatives choosing to focus on politics at this time when Canadians are pulling together, trying to create divisions instead of recognizing that Canadians are working together. On this side of the House, we will continue to work not just to support Canadians, but with all members of the House to move forward on meaningful, tangible ways to help Canadians now and into the future.
This moment in our history is going to make a big difference, not only for the next few years, but for decades to come.
This is about how we are going to help the most vulnerable people and rebuild a forward-looking economy with opportunities for everyone across the country. This is about how we are going to ensure that the barriers that exist because of systemic racism are reduced and eliminated. The choices we make today as a country are extremely important to the life of our nation.
Our parents and grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, worked very hard. They laid the foundation of our society and the country we live in today. They faced crises and made changes with the future in mind. They created the world as we know it today. That is what they lived through. That is what they accomplished.
There are two things I would add. First of all, we must learn from their example. They successfully created the incredibly prosperous world we enjoyed at the end of the 20th century. We must emulate the way they responded to a crisis by coming together and working hard to build a better future.
As we ponder that, we need to learn from their example and understand what we need to do to make things better. We need to acknowledge that the seniors who built the country we love today are now extremely vulnerable, living in long-term care homes across the country. It is our duty to focus on them and do everything we can to protect them. As a country, we will be there to honour their sacrifices and recognize their vulnerability.
Together, we will overcome this challenge. I know we can work together. I know we can keep our promises to Canadians. I know the future will be better because of the work we are going to do together.
Madam Speaker, so much fuss for so little return. Parliament was shut down a month ago in the midst of a serious pandemic. Now we are probably at the start of the second wave. When Parliament was shut down, the government said there would be a throne speech. We were expecting clear measures, unambiguous ideas and concrete solutions to the current situation.
Furthermore, the delivered an address to the nation. People were calling us, wanting to know what he was going to announce. This was an extraordinary situation. We were on tenterhooks, expecting something big. Unfortunately, the Speech from the Throne is a hodgepodge of ideas that we have heard many times before. It is a rehash of last year's throne speech. These are empty ideas, not solutions. People may say that it is greener. The greenest thing about it is all the old ideas they recycled.
Apart from that, apart from a huge, perhaps historic, intrusion into provincial jurisdictions by the federal government, there is nothing noteworthy. After listening to the Prime Minister's address to the nation, I thought, what a joke. Was that all? He told us to wash our hands, wear a mask and use the COVID Alert app, and said that the government would take on debt instead of Canadians. There was nothing new. It was really a one-man show. What a joke.
I was wondering why he went to all the trouble, and then I realized. We know how magicians make things disappear. They create a diversion. They distract us and then use sleight of hand. That is what this government is trying to do. It is using the throne speech and address to the nation to create a diversion and try to hide something. It pretends it is being serious and taking the bull by the horns.
He wants to make the WE scandal disappear into thin air. This whole charade was designed to get the out of the mess he has been in for the past month over WE Charity. He was up to his neck in this scandal. It was the worst scandal his government had gone through, and there were plenty. Four committees were studying the matter. The Minister of Finance resigned, which is a big deal. The Prime Minister is facing his third probe by the Ethics Commissioner. He is rewriting the Guinness Book of World Records. He is the Wayne Gretzky of ethics violations. All this to hush up the scandal. The government should not expect to get off lightly, because the Bloc Québécois intends to keep the ball rolling. We are going to keep a close eye on what is happening with the WE scandal.
People are asking us what the solution is. It is very simple. This address to the nation and the throne speech should have been about the public health crisis and the health care systems that have been affected by this unprecedented crisis. The solution came from the provincial premiers and the Government of Quebec. It is simple. The solution is to put money into health care. That is all there is to it. That is all the provinces want. They must get help to pay for health care.
The says he has met with them 20 times, but he is not listening to them. He met with them 20 times and every time the ministers told him the same thing, but he is not listening. He could meet with them 100 times, and it would not matter. He is not listening to Canada's health care experts, the people in charge of safeguarding the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.
Earlier, the spoke about blank cheques. He just does not get it. The Canadian Constitution clearly states that health care falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. It says so in black and white. To help the provinces and Quebec provide proper funding for health care, the federal government needs to contribute.
The federal government is saying that it will not give out any blank cheques, but it is not the government's money. The Prime Minister needs to understand that. It is not his money. It is taxpayers' money.
Quebec taxpayers pay taxes and give the federal government a blank cheque. They give the federal government that money, but in return they expect to receive services from the federal government. Quebec taxpayers expect to receive quality health care after paying those taxes. After putting money in its own pockets, this government is meddling in things that are none of its concern, acting like an armchair quarterback and saying that the provinces need to do this or that, when it knows nothing about what needs to be done.
The federal government was supposed to provide 50% of the funding, but that was cut to 33% and then 25%. In the early 2010s, the Conservatives had a great idea. They said that they were going to put a 3% cap on increases to health care transfers. It was their idea.
The 2013 Thomson report was clear. Maintaining health care spending, including in Quebec, requires an annual funding increase of 5.6%. It does not take a PhD in math to understand that when costs increase by 5.6% annually and the federal government only allocates 3% more in its budget, the remaining 2.6% is on the wrong side of the balance sheet. That is obvious.
Last week, the premiers of Quebec and the provinces stated that, based on their calculations, they need an additional $28 billion for health care. Once again, the federal government refused and said it was not going to write a blank cheque.
Ironically, this government tries to interfere in the jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec, but it cannot manage its own affairs properly.
The rail crisis was a federal matter, yet for 20 days, the government stated that it would not do anything and that it was up to the provinces and Quebec to take care of it. It is actually a federal matter. The government needs to do its job. It went out of its way to do nothing. That is unbelievable. I call that compulsive passive resistance.
Then the pandemic began. Since the virus came from overseas, the Prime Minister was advised to close the borders. It was only logical. That was his job. That is what he is there for, among other things, but he said that he would not close the borders. It took the mayor of Montreal going to Dorval and saying that enough is enough. The mayor did what the Prime Minister was supposed to do. The government is not looking after its own affairs.
Foreign workers who arrived here were meant to be put in quarantine, and the federal government was supposed the manage the situation. It failed to do that. It does not take care of its own affairs, but it pretends it is king and says it will manage areas under provincial jurisdiction. It needs to mind its own business. That is what Quebeckers want, for this government to mind its own business.
With regard to hospital staff, nurses are doing an amazing job. They have been performing miracles for years. As a result of increased chronic underfunding by this government, and by the federal government in general, they are being called upon to make more and more miracles happen. They are being left to fend for themselves. Orderlies are having to take on more and more work. Burnout is ever present. Instead of saying that it is going to help them, give them money, support them, give them resources and not let them down, what is the government doing? It is telling them how to do their jobs and refusing to provide more help. That is what the government said in the throne speech. It makes no sense.
The government saw the throne speech as an opportunity to interfere in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, including long-term care facilities, home care, family doctors, virtual health care, mental health resources, pharmacare, training for workers, and child care. These things are none of the federal government's business.
What exactly is the federal government's business? Taxpayers' money. The federal government should take that money and give it back to the government responsible for providing these services to taxpayers, be that in Quebec City or Ottawa. That is precisely how the Canadian federation works. I did not make that up or make the rules. The Liberals are the ones not following the rules.
There is some good news, sort of. It is not entirely good news though. It never is.
Helping seniors is a good thing. For the past year, we have been talking about how seniors are in a precarious financial situation, and the crisis caused by the pandemic has made things even worse. These seniors are isolated and sick, and, sadly, many of them have died. We asked the government to help them, but the government decided to help only those over 75. We do not understand that kind of logic. Do they think nothing happens to people between the ages of 65 and 75? Do they think those people live a charmed life? Why create two classes of seniors?
The government is going to help certain industries that are struggling, including the travel, tourism and culture sectors. That is great. However, the throne speech included nothing for the aerospace industry, even though it accounts for 43,000 direct and indirect jobs in Quebec and is its largest export. This sector was hit hard by the pandemic, and yet the throne speech offers no solutions.
The government has promised to create a million jobs. This is the usual smoke and mirrors from the Liberal Party, which seems to like round numbers. It says it is going to create a million jobs, but we have no idea how.
The Liberal Party has already promised to plant two billion trees. People were impressed and wondered how the government would do that. The government would only reply that it was going to plant those trees, but now, one year later, not one tree has been planted.
The Liberals promised that Canada would reach net zero by 2050. People were impressed. They wondered what the Liberals' secret was and asked them how they were going to do it. The Liberals have no idea. This is a joke. It is all smoke and mirrors.
The government says it will create one million jobs. It may want to start by protecting aerospace jobs that are so important for Quebec. These are good jobs that benefit all of Quebec and its exports. It is not complicated. It is what needs to be done. Again, however, this government pouts and does not want to deal with the economy in a smart way, when all it would take is an aerospace policy. In Canada and Quebec, we are the only country that does not help its aerospace industry in a structured way. In Quebec, we are capable of building a plane from stem to stern. It is a source of pride. We do that in spite of the federal government and the fact that half of our taxes do not come back to us in a smart way.
The government said it would make web giants contribute. That is good news. It is interesting. Yet, the government does not mention tax havens because the Liberals are spineless. I know some Liberal members and I like them. I have not spoken at length with them about it, but I know that they would say that tax havens do not make sense. Why then are the Liberals not taking action? Which friends do they want to protect by standing by while everyone has been urging them to take action on this issue over the years? These tax havens represent billions of dollars in lost taxes.
The government has extended the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The Liberals know that it is a good measure because they used it for six months and made $800,000. They tested the subsidy and found that it worked for them. They thought it was great and decided to keep it in place.
The government is talking about a green recovery. Fine, but since we are on the subject, I would have liked the speech to nix the Trans Mountain expansion. Many economists and academics, even some from western Canada, are saying that this project is not viable, that it will not make money and that investing $12 billion in it is unthinkable. The message was crystal clear, we have heard it over and over, and it became glaringly obvious two weeks ago. The writing was on the wall. There throne speech should have made a definitive statement about it, but it was not even mentioned.
The government's environmental whims are shorter-lived than a balloon at a porcupine party. They come and go. That is a fact.
The government sacrificed the future of farmers and milk quotas, for example, for the sake of more international agreements. The government sacrificed these things for the sake of globalization, and farmers lost billions of dollars. They were promised again and again that they would get compensation and that the money was there. It was there in last year's throne speech. What happened since then? Nothing. What is happening now? Still nothing.
This sends a message to farmers. The government is putting their finances in jeopardy because it cannot negotiate sensible agreements with other countries. As a result, the government cannot and will not help them. Farmers are told that they will get help, but they will not. That is typical of the Government of Canada.
In conclusion, there is very little in the throne speech to satisfy the Bloc Québécois. If the government wants our support for the throne speech, it will have to produce an agreement to increase health transfers by next week. That is what Quebeckers are asking for. That is what Quebec's health care system needs. That is what the Bloc Québécois wants.
I would like to table, seconded by the hon. member for , an amendment to the amendment:
That the amendment be modified by adding, after the fourth paragraph, the following:
“We regret that your government did not respond to the unanimous call from the Premier of Quebec, and provincial and territorial premiers for an unconditional increase to the Canada Health Transfer so it represents 35% of health care costs in Quebec, the provinces and territories;
We also regret that your government is creating two classes of seniors by proposing to increase old age security only for people aged 75 and over;
We regret that your government is violating constitutional jurisdiction by not allowing Quebec and the provinces to opt out, with full compensation, of federal programs in areas under their jurisdiction;”.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague and friend, the hon. member for , who is going to speak to us about issues that affect his community and the people of British Columbia.
I am pleased to rise in the House to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the NDP. Quite frankly, my first reaction, and I believe everyone's first reaction, was to wonder whether this was all worth it. There has been much ado about nothing. The government prorogued and shut down Parliament claiming that we needed to take a new direction, to start fresh with a forward-looking vision.
Yesterday, I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day, like I woke up and was back in October 2019. The Speech from the Throne is a rehashing of the Liberals' platform from last year. It contains some worthwhile measures, some unfortunate ones, and some omissions. However, there is nothing to explain why the government decided to prorogue Parliament. The Speech from the Throne is a carbon copy of the one the government proposed during the last session. The NDP feels this was a missed opportunity.
The government doubled down with the 's speech to the nation. It was ridiculous and comical. I think the Prime Minister did not like that the Governor General got to read his text, so he thought he would go on TV and read it himself, just to be sure he would get his face on the nightly news. I think the Prime Minister actually has plenty of opportunities to speak to Canadians and the media.
We were treated to a pointless throne speech that seemed like reheated leftovers, followed by an address to the nation that was equally pointless and told us nothing new. It simply reminded us to be careful and wear masks. It seems like the Liberals used our parliamentary institution to deliver political talking points, with no real message. Some might point out that this is not the first time the Liberals have done that, and I would agree. We in the NDP were left wanting more.
Parts of the throne speech seem promising. The Liberals say we need to look after families and children, invest in child care, and make sure people can get their prescription drugs. The NDP has a pretty good memory. The Liberals first brought up the idea of public child care and pharmacare back in 1997. The Liberals have been talking about these great social programs for almost 25 years, but they never actually follow through. They always say they could not do it this time but will do it next time. They expect us to believe them every time.
The real test is not the Speech from the Throne, but whether the government will make the right decisions and, ultimately, make investments that will really help Canadians.
We worked with the government over the past few months because we wanted to make sure everyone could eat and pay rent during the crisis. People need access to a basic income so they can power through this health and economic crisis.
At first, the Liberal government's responses were not very encouraging. We said that millions of people were losing their jobs and had no income to support their families. The government's first response was that those people could apply for employment insurance. We reminded the Liberals that 60% of workers do not have access to EI because it is a highly flawed program. Our progressive left-wing party has long been calling for an overhaul of the EI program.
We managed to get the Canada emergency response benefit. At first the Liberals told us that they were not offering it to everyone, but we wanted it to be given to everyone. Anyone who did not need it could pay it back in taxes. Then the Liberals proposed a sum of $1,000 a month. In many places, that was not nearly enough. In places like Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, once the rent is paid, assuming that is enough to cover the rent, there would be nothing left over. The Liberals were reluctant, but we managed to push them to provide $2,000 a month.
Then we realized that self-employed workers, freelancers and contract employees were not covered. If someone has 10 or 12 contracts and loses eight or nine of them because of the crisis, they still have a little income. Initially, all of these people were excluded from the CERB. We negotiated, worked and pushed for measures, and we were able to make sure that people could earn up to $1,000 a month and still access the CERB.
The Liberals forgot about students, who were also excluded. We pointed out that not all students are mollycoddled young people living with their parents. Many of them had to pay rent and put food on the table, but they did not have summer jobs. We therefore called for a student benefit. It took a while. We worked hard and negotiated with the government, and we succeeded. This proves that progressive members who are willing to work constructively are needed. They can get things done for ordinary folks, for self-employed workers and for students.
Earlier, I spoke about sick days. Clearly, my Bloc Québécois colleague has no qualms about brushing this issue aside. In real life, sick days are very important to people, especially during a crisis and a pandemic. We do not want anyone who has symptoms such as a fever or cough to go to work. We made significant progress by putting pressure on the government. Getting sick days for workers was an achievement that was applauded by Quebec and Canadian unions. I believe we took an important step forward.
Of course, there were things missing from the throne speech. We are in the midst of a health crisis because of a virus that has been around for six months and will probably be around for six more. However, the Liberal government is doing nothing about transfer payments for the public health care system. Stephen Harper's Conservatives cut the health transfer escalator. Despite their fine talk, the Liberals have upheld the Conservatives' vision, putting enormous pressure on public health care systems in Quebec and across Canada. During the crisis, we saw that our public health care system needs money and oxygen. It must be able to recruit staff and offer good working conditions and salaries so that they stay on the job. We saw and are still seeing orderlies who do not want to go to work because it is too dangerous. We understand. They are paid a pittance. Some nurses are leaving the profession because the hours are too hard.
Obviously, hospitals are run by Quebec and the provinces, not Ottawa. However, the federal government must cover the costs and make a significant contribution. At present, the federal contribution does not even cover 25% of total health care costs. The NDP and others are telling the federal government that it is missing the boat. Why is the government not announcing that it will transfer more money to public health care systems? Why do we have a so-called public system that is largely privatized?
The NDP is the party of Tommy Douglas and universal health care. People should be able to access care with their health card, not their credit card. Why are there so many private seniors' homes and long-term care homes? Because people want to make money off health care for seniors. Disaster struck the Centre Herron, a private long-term care home in Dorval. Residents were paying between $3,000 and $10,000 a month but were not even getting clean diapers. They were eating spoiled food. They were not being cared for. They were falling down, and nobody was picking them up. That is completely unacceptable to the NDP. We do not want the private sector involved in our health care systems, and certainly not in elder care.
We are going through a public health crisis right now, but let us not forget that we are still in the midst of an environmental and climate crisis. That has not gone away. We are travelling and driving a little less. The economy has slowed down, and our greenhouse gas emissions have dropped, but that will not last. If we do not change our ways and change our production and consumption patterns, we are heading straight for a wall.
I would refer members to a book written by Frédéric Bérard, law professor at the University of Montreal, entitled La Terre est une poubelle en feu, or “the earth is a flaming trash can”. We are seeing this again with the wildfires in California. The book's title is not simple imagery, it is actually quite accurate. If we do not drastically change our way of life, our greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise and we will completely miss our Paris targets. It is becoming increasingly hard to imagine that we will be able to limit global warming to 1.5°C, which is the commitment we made. The Liberals keep contradicting themselves on this. They say all the right things, yet they continue buying pipelines, expanding oil production and boosting subsidies to oil companies. The NDP will oppose that.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour today to speak in reply to the Speech from the Throne, which we know is just a speech that, basically, we have heard before. In 2015, there were similar promises made. In this Speech from the Throne, we really got a litany of broken promises from the Liberal Party on things that actually matter, and that are important to Canadians.
Specifically, through this pandemic we have seen the gaps in the social safety net and people are struggling right now. They are struggling to stay employed, keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table for their families. This is not a time for just words. It is a time for action. This pandemic, as I said, has exposed huge gaps in the social safety net. These are things that New Democrats have been talking about, such as the importance of 10 paid sick days so that people are not going to work while they are sick and infecting their colleagues, but instead are taking care of their own health or are able to stay home to look after their children when their children might show signs of having the virus.
We cannot go backwards. We know that so many things are not working right now for people. This pandemic has exposed that. Our health care system is not covering everybody, and people are losing their jobs and not being able to make ends meet. Even with the CERB, many people are still not able to cover their bills. The CERB is set to expire in nine days and we are being told that many Canadians are expected to take a cut on their CERB payment. These are people who have lost their businesses, which they closed to protect public health. Now the government is looking at penalizing them.
People were excited about the Speech from the Throne. They were expecting transformational change. The government talked about building back better, but it missed so many things, and it is heartbreaking. Let us look at the things the government did not talk about. The opioid crisis was just briefly mentioned. The Liberal government still has not even declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. In August alone in British Columbia, there were 147 lives lost. These are daughters, sons, brothers, sisters and cousins. Families and community members are dying from a tainted drug supply and the government still has not rolled out a plan to save those people's lives.
There was nothing in the throne speech for veterans. Can anyone believe that? These are the people who put their lives on the line to serve and protect Canadians, many of them now suffering from PTSD. Some of them are in the growing backlog of over 50,000 claims that the government has not even opened the envelopes of to start working on. We are seeing a growing number of homeless veterans.
The Royal Canadian Legion command wrote a letter to the government asking for help. It is saying that one in 10 legions across the country is looking at closing its doors permanently. The British Columbia/Yukon command wrote a letter saying it might be four in 10 legions that are closing their doors. They received no mention in the Speech from the Throne. That speech is meant to be about where the government is going, so it is clearly going to leave veterans behind. This is absolutely shameful. It should be responding to veterans. They have not even gotten a letter in response to their requests for help. This is highlighting the importance of the people being left behind.
Students were promised they were going to get help. My daughter, on April 24, watched the news when the said the government needed their help, that it knew the businesses they worked at were closed and their summer jobs were not going to happen, and that it needed them to volunteer. My daughter delivered food at the local food bank with her friends, helping to contribute. Then on June 25, the Prime Minister announced a program to help students that was starting that day. Students felt betrayed and wondered how this could be happening. Then the WE scandal emerged and they did not get any help.
There was nothing in the Speech from the Throne targeting students. There is $900 million still allocated for students and it needs to get out the door to them. If we do the math, there is $450 that could potentially go toward tuition for each student across the country. A lot of students do not know how they are going to get through the school year. There is no help from the government. They have questions. They are our future and it is important that we invest in them.
There was nothing about wild salmon in the throne speech. British Columbia has the largest salmon-bearing river in the world: the Fraser. Last year, there was half of the lowest return in recorded history. This year was half of that. We are losing our wild salmon and there was nothing in the Speech from the Throne to address that. We need help. We need the government to understand the importance of salmon to British Columbians.
While I am on the subject of British Columbia, my colleague from had a question on the order paper to find out how the national housing strategy is rolling out for people. I will tell the House how it is rolling out in British Columbia. We have 0.5% of the national co-investment fund, a $1.46-billion fund, and this is affirmed in a question on the order paper. Members should ask the homeless people right now how that is playing out for them. In our communities, it is real.
There is no mention of indigenous urban housing in the Speech from the Throne. Among indigenous people, 80% live off-reserve. Many of them are homeless, and they are not getting the help they need from the federal government. The Province of B.C. knows that it is not getting funding. This is also supported by the minister there, who has been fighting hard to make sure people have a home in British Columbia. We are building half of the non-market housing in the country right now in our province, and I am very proud of our provincial government for the work it has been doing, but it could be doing a lot more with help from the federal government.
There are so many things that are missing in the Speech from the Throne. There is still no fix for the commercial emergency rent assistance program. They are still relying on landlords. That is why they have only gotten a third of the money out the door. Only 15% of landlords have applied for the program. For the rest of the people who need the help the most, the tenants, the program still has not been fixed for them to apply.
I applaud the government for responding to our request when we asked for the wage subsidy to go from 10% to 75%. We appreciate them working with us. Last week we sent a letter asking the government to extend the wage subsidy. It honoured that. These are very important supports for small and medium-sized businesses across our country, and I urge the government to fix the emergency commercial rent assistance program.
The government says its most important relationship is with Canada's indigenous peoples, yet the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls Calls for Justice document was tabled over a year ago. A constituent in my riding, Chantel Moore, died on the anniversary of that document being tabled, and the government has done nothing to respond to the Calls for Justice. It is still failing to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
When it comes to respecting indigenous rights, we can look to the Nuu-chah-nulth court case where the government spent $19 million on lawyers fighting it. Right now is no different from the Marshall court decision for the Mi'kmaq in 1999. They're frustrated. They just want to go out and earn a moderate living. They just want to feed their families. They want to be on the water, fishing, not in court, and the government does nothing. There is nothing in the Speech from the Throne addressing that. It has not resourced the tables. It sends its negotiators to the table knowingly empty-handed. How is that the way to treat its most important relationship? People are living in terrible conditions, trying to figure out how they are going to feed their families. This is not honourable.
The Liberals talked about planting trees. They have not planted a tree since their last Speech from the Throne. Regarding clean energy, they have not met a single climate target that they set out, not one. They talked about broadband. They promised that before. Regarding pharmacare, people are living in pain. They cannot fill their prescriptions. The Liberals promised this in 1997 under Jean Chrétien in the Red Book, and they are promising it again today. Regarding child care, we learned from our colleagues and friends from Quebec who have delivered a child care plan across their province. Now 70,000 parents have gone back to work and Quebec's GDP has gone up 2%.
It is critical that the Liberals do this now, that we get action and no more talk. It is time. It is urgent, and we need the government to respond. We will be here to continue to drag the Liberals to follow through with their promises in the Speech from the Throne. They can count on the New Democrats to do that. We have done that through this pandemic and we are going to be here every day fighting for everyday Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I wish to advise that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I appreciate the opportunity to address yesterday's throne speech and how it will impact the good people of Charlottetown, who I am so proud to represent.
I would like to begin by recognizing some people who have really shone through the pandemic. It is probably apt to begin with our public service. The public service in Canada has developed and tweaked programs on the fly that have been immensely successful in keeping Canadians safe and attending to their immediate needs. The efforts that have been made and the excellence that has been displayed merits our appreciation.
Closer to home, there are a couple of people who I also want to single out.
Back in the early days of the pandemic, I had the honour to attend a public meeting on a variety of issues. One of the constituents there was an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Greg German. Dr. German informed the people there that Prince Edward Island was ready to face the pandemic, that it was well equipped in terms of personal protective equipment and that there were protocols in place for testing. This has all completely borne out. Dr. German and his team are to be complimented for what we see now, which is a very significant increase in the testing capacity on Prince Edward Island.
Also, our chief public health officer for Prince Edward Island, Dr. Heather Morrison, has absolutely worked tirelessly to keep islanders safe, and the proof is in the pudding. On Prince Edward Island we have had very few cases of COVID. We have had no hospitalizations, no deaths and no community transmission. This is in no small measure due to the tireless efforts of Dr. Morrison. I salute her and all those who have done such a great job in keeping us safe in Prince Edward Island.
Back in the early days of the pandemic, there was outright fear. The pandemic was and is frightening. I would say that in the early days, fear was probably our greatest enemy, but I think it is also fair to say that it was a powerful motivator. It was fear that kept so many people on guard and tuned in to the daily briefings. It was fear that kept us vigilant, but that is no way to live and so we adapted. Personal protective equipment was sourced and shipped. The Canada emergency response benefit was implemented. Wages were subsidized. Money was sent to support the provinces, and the army was called in to assist at-risk seniors within our long-term care system. We adapted and we learned, and as a result, we have largely avoided the nightmare scenarios that we have seen in other countries.
We now know that it is within our ability to fight this thing, and because of that we have far less reason to be afraid. I would humbly submit that as we enter the second wave, complacency is now our biggest threat. Where fear makes people act, complacency makes them indifferent, and during a pandemic, that can be lethal. The truth is that we have been complacent about many things for some time now. It was complacency that chipped away at our social safety net, and it was complacency that created the truly horrifying situations recorded in the armed forces' report on the long-term care homes they were sent to assist.
Complacency leads to austerity. It is a philosophy that tells us we simply cannot do any better and that we should quit while we are behind. I remember the devastating impact that austerity had on Atlantic Canada during the Harper years. Nationally, it brought us not only increased inequality but also anemic growth. In yesterday's throne speech we heard that now is the time for action, not complacency and certainly not austerity.
I want to talk about something that was mentioned in the throne speech that is extremely important for Prince Edward Island and all seasonal economies, and that is the employment insurance system.
Yesterday, we heard the government's pledge to take action to reform the EI program. This is something that will be very well received in Prince Edward Island and is long overdue. I have seen first-hand men and women in the seasonal economy disadvantaged by decisions that in no way reflected the realities on the ground. One in particular that hits very close to home is the October 2014 decision taken by the Harper government to divide Prince Edward Island into two EI zones.
The result of this in a place that is as densely populated and as closely knit in Prince Edward Island is that it pit workers against one another. It pit islanders against one another, but it also did something even worse than that. It incentivized dishonesty. It incentivized people who were in one zone to have their residence listed as being in the other zone for the purpose of survival. This is something that has been rectified on an interim basis by the measures our government has taken with respect to EI. The result of the interim measures that have been taken and that will be in place for the next year is that seasonal workers and those who need the EI system across Prince Edward Island will be treated equally.
The announcement in the throne speech to reform the EI system will hopefully result in that interim measure being made permanent in a meaningful way. I will personally be advocating for public input into the measures that will be coming forward. I believe that the disastrous 2014 changes on Prince Edward Island were brought on completely without input. It is only with the people directly affected that we will achieve the right result. Employment insurance is a 20th century idea in desperate need of 21st century reforms.
We need to be completely cognizant that we are in the recovery phase. We talk about building back better, but quite frankly, that is a conversation for next month or next year. We cannot skip ahead. We have to find our feet before we can start building, but when we do, I believe that the reforms to the EI system and the Canada emergency response benefit have started a very important conversation in this country around universal basic income. I believe that universal basic income should be part of the ongoing conversations. Poverty and inequality are far too prevalent in this country despite our wealth as a nation. We have an alphabet soup of poverty reduction measures: OAS, GIS, employment insurance, Canada emergency response benefit, social assistance, workers' compensation benefit, Canada child benefit and HST rebates. All of these things constitute our social safety net. All of these things have their own rules and their own bureaucracy to make sure they get into the right hands.
There has been much written about the need to have this streamlined. This experiment that has been forced upon us as a result of the pandemic is an indicator of the potential of this idea. I believe Prince Edward Island will be uniquely positioned to serve as a pilot for such an initiative. Again, this is a conversation to be had once we find our feet.
I want to finish by offering a few comments with respect to the real existential threat in this country and that is the threat of climate change. There is plenty of room for debate on how to combat a problem that is so immense that its fallout will be measured in geological time. Here is what the government plans to bring to the table: a working plan to exceed Canada's 2030 climate goal; legislation to give Canada's goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 the weight of law; thousands of jobs retrofitting homes and buildings, which will have the added bonus of cutting energy costs; and investments to reduce the impact of climate change disasters such as floods and wildfires.
I see my time is at an end, Madam Speaker. Thank you very much for affording me an opportunity to offer some insights with respect to the throne speech. I look forward to the questions from my colleagues.