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View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2020-04-29 17:14 [p.2266]
Mr. Speaker, in keeping with what my colleague said, before I came to this place I was an auto mechanic. Cars are running in the vein today. My friends always said there was not a wrench big enough to fix Ottawa, but I said I had to give it a try anyway, so here I am.
COVID has upended all of our lives. We have taken to social distancing and significantly changed the way we live our lives. For me, the largest change is not getting to gather on Sundays with my local church congregation. That has probably been the biggest challenge for me. We have all changed our lives significantly due to COVID.
Many people have come to me to ask when we will be returning to some semblance of normal and when we can gather together, particularly for church. These are big questions in my community. These are legitimate questions.
We have a lot of questions about how we got here. We seem to have based our decision-making on a number of models, but that is a fuzzy kind of science. Models are only as good as their inputs. Who creates these models? Where do these models come from? What models are we using? These are valid questions that people are asking me, and I do not have the answers. I do not know what those models are, I do not know who the author of them is and I do not know what the inputs are. It seems to me that over time we should be questioning whether the assumptions we made at the beginning of all this are still holding. Did we use the correct inputs in the models?
Today we are discussing a benefits program for students. That is for sure far down the line, in my opinion. Each and every time we make another move in addressing the COVID crisis, we should go back to see if the basic assumptions we made at the beginning of all this are holding. We always say hindsight is 20/20. Now that we have a bit of hindsight, we can look back to see whether the assumptions we made in January are holding true. Is this disease as contagious as it was? Is it having impacts? I know we are seeing deaths across the country, but are the things we are doing to prevent them working? How do we know they are working? Those questions are being asked of me, and I have not necessarily seen them being answered effectively by the government.
Every day the government makes an announcement on how it is dealing with COVID, but we rarely look back. The government could say it made an assumption on January 3 and was right or made an assumption on January 3 and was wrong and things are actually worse or better. I do not see a great deal of that, and I think right from the onset we should address this. I would like to know what the models are, who the author of these models is and what the assumptions of these models are so that average Canadians, wherever they are in Canada, can say that they make sense.
We are asking Canadians from across the country to put their lives on hold. The restaurant owners in my area have been particularly tied to two-twenty, I would say. They have all been reaching out to me, asking when they can open again and telling me they are going bankrupt as we speak.
The other thing they mention often to me is that the goalposts seem to be moving. They said that over a month ago all they were hearing about was flattening the curve and today we are talking about stopping the spread. Those are both valid things, but they seem to be different. There was a subtle change in language, and there has never been an explanation as to why we changed from flattening the curve to stopping the spread. I agree with both of those things, but there was no explanation as to why we did those things. People are saying to me that we seem to have flattened the curve and are asking when they are going to get to reopen their restaurants again. When will they get to go back to work? That is very significant.
Another major concern that people have is that all of that government intervention, with the $2,000 a month from the CERB and even the proposed benefit for students, is going to change our economy. There are no ands, ifs or buts about it. It is going to change our economy. Does the government have models that it can share with us as to what the expected change to the economy is going to be?
We have seen from other places that when the minimum wage has been increased, for example, rents went up in proportion. Do we know those kinds of things about what we are doing today by handing out $2,000 a month? Where will that money flow through? It will not just stay in a particular person's bank account. He or she will spend it on things like rent and food. What kind of impact will it have on rent and food? There are all these kinds of things. Have we seen those models? We are looking to the government to explain to us some of the impacts of these benefits that are being brought forward.
We mentioned our concern that this system of payments to students may create disincentives to work, and then the NDP said that we were accusing people of being lazy. I would not suggest at all that anybody is suggesting that anyone is being lazy. We were merely saying that people are people, and they will do a cost-benefit analysis. Therefore, if someone can go to work in a local factory and make $1,000 or else stay home and collect $1,200 a month from the government, the person will do a cost-benefit analysis. There is nothing lazy about that. It is just a a cost-benefit analysis, and we do not want to put an incentive into our economy to suggest that people should stay at home.
It was interesting as well that they seem to agree with us on the incentive part of the benefit and that a person should be able to make money while also accruing the student benefit.
We, as Conservatives, are happy to support this measure, although there are many things that need to be improved. We have seen the government listen, particularly on the first round, with regard to the 10% wage subsidy. When we said that it was not going to work, the government came back with a 75% wage subsidy that should work well.
It was also interesting to hear the leader of the NDP question why these systems seem to be so tailored rather than broad. Perhaps I could suggest an answer to that question, because I remember the 2015 election. I suppose I can forgive the hon. member, because I do not think he was here in 2015.
During the 2015 election, the Liberals ran around accusing us of giving cheques to millionaires with our child tax benefit. The first thing they did when they were elected was to change that program so that cheques would not go to millionaires. We had said, however, that if we were to make the benefit taxable, we would collect it back in taxes. If we were to give it indiscriminately at the front end, we would collect it back from wealthy people on the back end. That was our rationale in 2013-2014 when we introduced that benefit. It seemed to be a logical rationale for me then, and I am happy to see that the NDP is catching on to that rationale as well in their debate around the benefit for students.
With that, I am happy to say that we will be supporting this bill, but we look forward to some significant changes to ensure that the disincentives for work can be taken out of it. We would like to see a system of registration so that if students are applying for this benefit, their skill sets would be registered so that hopefully we could match them with a job opening somewhere in the world, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Where I come from, right now many of the farmers have their seeders out. They are putting new shovels on it and getting ready to pull it through the ground to seed this year's crop.
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