Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the most hon. member for Shefford.
We must take time to reflect on the other tragedy being faced by the people of Nova Scotia today. I find it hard to imagine what this senseless trail of violence, played out over some 120 kilometres, is like. This violence, no matter the reason, cannot be justified, and we must focus our minds on understanding how such things could happen and how we can prevent them. Our thoughts and hearts are with the people of Nova Scotia.
We have spent the past few days and hours, and taken up a lot of media time, discussing how we would meet here today, and in many respects, it was a lot of dithering. I sincerely doubt that Canadians and Quebeckers are interested in seeing a bunch of parliamentarians talking to other parliamentarians about parliamentary matters to figure out how to fix them as parliamentarians. Even I am not very interested in that. However, now that we are here, we have a job to do and there are some things we need to address.
Heaven knows that such issues as who will talk the most or the least, who will ask three additional questions on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, or whether the House should sit two and a half days instead of two days do have the appearance of being partisan even if they are not meant to be.
I could have said that I am not really enthusiastic about that and that I do not have much respect for anyone who claims that the Bloc Québécois does not speak on behalf of its constituents. It is almost funny, and I am becoming more familiar with Saskatchewan's sense of humour. People have already expressed their opinions and, at some point, they will have the opportunity to do so again and to choose the person who will best represent them. When that day comes, we will see the impact of this type of rather useless talk.
I have spoken in the media about “tataouinage”. In English Canada, there has been a whole debate about what that word means. The people we represent all know what it means, and perhaps it will be added to dictionaries one day. It means to dilly-dally.
At some point in time we have to move on from this sort of approach. The Conservatives want to negotiate and go on TV. I understand that they need to grow their voter base, but they should not be doing so at the expense of those who are suffering. They are saying that Parliament is an essential service. However, I would like them to name something that is more essential to a lot of people than their health and banks. I imagine that a typical Conservative would think that banks are essential, and I would like them to find one bank that does not offer virtual banking services.
We are capable of working virtually and sitting remotely, knowing that the Standing Orders require us to be physically present to vote. We will live with that requirement. We could have said that we will come only to vote, but every time would have been “ReFeLeMeLe”, another tricky expression to translate, this one from the group Rock et Belles Oreilles meaning do it again. Every time, we would have to address the nature of the negotiations, the need for our vote, the fact that we do not agree or that we will claim to disagree, but vote in favour anyway. I would prefer that we focus on bringing in rules for a virtual Parliament, a transition that is bound to happen sooner or later.
I especially want us to focus on our seniors. I have been asking about this for two weeks now. I do not expect the government to acknowledge that the hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly has made demands and that they all need to be met.
The examples we have seen so far show that it worked fairly well. The government has talked to almost everybody, and there is a general sense of urgency and necessity.
I do not want to be the kind of person who takes credit for everything good, but the Bloc Québécois contributed to the wage subsidy, the addition of fixed costs, the recognition of social economy enterprises, and the changes made for growing businesses.
Sadly, when we ask questions about seniors, we do not hear a peep in response. In a pandemic, there is no group more vulnerable than the elderly, especially in terms of health. When it comes to seniors, the numbers do not just speak for themselves, they positively shriek.
Seniors are also more vulnerable economically. That is why we have put forward a number of demands. These demands are not perfect, but we can talk them over. We can study them, adjust them and lay them out. We can do a lot of things. The only thing we cannot do is nothing. We need to do something for seniors.
Since we are gathered here in the House, I will take this opportunity to strongly emphasize the importance of addressing the issues facing seniors.
Our requests have to do with old age security benefits, the guaranteed income supplement, drug prices and Internet access. This has all been clearly explained, and I am confident that the government has been listening.
Allow me to provide some numbers. All told, the government has freed up $250 billion in cash in the context of this crisis, including roughly $107 billion in direct spending. Increasing old age security benefits by $110 a month for seniors in Canada and Quebec for a three-month period would cost $1 billion. That is 250 times less than what has already been committed for so many people, and seniors are the most vulnerable. How has this not already been done?
The Liberals could have returned our phone call to at least talk about it. The last time we did this, we were given a briefing. In a briefing, someone tells us what has already been decided, and we have no say in the matter. We would like to be more involved when it comes to seniors.
Last week I did a very friendly comparison with the oil and gas industry. I do not think Alberta oil workers should have to suffer more than workers in any other industry. They are employees who are working for a business.
I am okay with the way things were, meaning that employees would have their jobs back. I am not saying that I am not somewhat uneasy, but I am sure that my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie is keeping an eye on the situation.
At first glance, investing in cleaning up orphan wells is not a bad idea. Are we subsidizing businesses that should have shouldered their share of the responsibility? Maybe, but at least it is something.
I worry about what happens down the road. We cannot allow this to become a Trojan horse used to pour money into the oil and gas industry. Are our seniors not just as important as oil and gas? That is a question that springs to mind, but the answer is pretty obvious.
I want to raise two other cases that I would like us to discuss.
Most students are not eligible for the Canada emergency response benefit. There are probably several people among us who studied for quite some time. We will recall that having financial anxiety as a student is no joke.
Those young people are experiencing economic anxiety, but there is nothing specifically for them. I do not want the federal government to intervene in areas under provincial jurisdiction, but I do want to see students in Quebec and elsewhere get back the money their parents paid. A measure could be implemented for that. The Canada emergency response benefit should handle it. I will come back to that.
As I said, knowledge and science will enable us to overcome this crisis. We need to recognize what research has to offer. We also need to provide additional support for research.
I will conclude by paraphrasing Jean Gabin. We think we know everything, but the next day we discover that we do not. Basically, any time we think we know something and think we have found a solution to something, that is not necessarily the case.
The crisis is not over, and I hope we will all work together and, more importantly, in good faith.