Madam Speaker, I am delighted to be here today and to take part in the second session of the 43rd Parliament.
It is extremely important to be able to debate the throne speech, which, I believe, lays the foundation for success for the years ahead.
There is no question that we had to look at the areas faced with this pandemic to know how we could make sure Canadians were protected and safe. That was the most important thing. The second was how we could help them get through this pandemic, which is extremely important. The third was how we could make things better, because the turf underneath our feet has changed because of the pandemic. There are certain things we must look at and change, and others we must ensure we put forward as soon as possible. Then we have to look, as a country, at what the areas are where we can support more people and make Canada even greater, which is essential.
There is no question about protecting Canadians. Nova Scotia has done an outstanding job. Premier McNeil was outstanding in guiding us through the pandemic. At one point, he said, “stay the blazes home”, which went viral. I am sure members have heard that one already.
I also want to thank Dr. Strang, our chief medical officer, who guided our government through this. We were then able to work with Atlantic Canada, and I want to praise all of Atlantic Canada. Today, it is the safest bubble in North America. We have zero cases in three of the four provinces, and I think one active case in the other province, and we are tracking that. Atlantic Canada is the safest place in North America. That is impressive. As far as a bubble, we have done our part, and I hope we can learn from that experience.
How do we protect Canadians? We protect them with PPE. It is extremely important that we have the equipment and tools necessary to help Canadians. That is why our government moved forward quickly and asked businesses to come forward with ideas and to put forward proposals that would help find equipment that would help Canadians, including face masks, gowns and hand sanitizer. We all needed those things in this country because we knew globally it would be a challenge to get that equipment. We had over 1,000 companies come forward and many across this country. A company in my riding called Stanfield's produced over 300,000 gowns.
The next important thing is the vaccine. We have now invested and secured candidates to move forward and we have agreements with six countries. I am hopeful, as all members are, that we will find this vaccine for Canadians within the next six to 12 months, which would be extremely important.
How are Liberals helping Canadians through this pandemic? That is an extremely important question. The CERB is the first program we put out. Almost 9 million Canadians accessed the CERB. That is how important it was for us to come forward and help Canadians as quickly as possible.
We then moved into the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which provided 75% of workers' wages. In my riding, I spoke to the owner of Boondocks and he told me that he had laid off all his workers and then, shortly after we put the program out, he was able to bring them all back. That is why this was such an important program, as was the program to help businesses.
We were quick to support seniors because it is extremely important to do so. We used a top-up through GST. We then increased it by $300 tax-free for those on the OAS, along with an extra $200 tax-free for those on the GIS. I do not know if members know how much money that is, but in Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook it was $7.3 million. To multiply that by 338 MPs is approximately $2.5 billion to support seniors in this country. That is very impressive.
Initially I was doubtful that young people would have summer jobs. We were not sure how things would unfold, but companies stepped up and opened their doors again. The students went to work supporting their communities, the businesses and the organizations.
I spoke to the Lake & Shore Recreation Society in Forest Lake. Its representatives told me if they shut down, they would never have reopened if it had not been for student summer jobs. They were able to offer the summer camp once again, which is a very important program.
Another is our veterans. It is extremely important that we were able to support veterans quickly as well. We approved almost $200 million to move forward on the backlog, which was extremely important so veterans could get services they deserved. On top of that, we included in the veterans disability payment $600 and that cheque should come soon for disabled veterans, which is extremely important.
We have also added a question in the census to identify veterans. It has not been there for 51 years. How will we help veterans if we do not know who they are? That was extremely important. Yesterday, we passed Bill C-4, which allows for $20 million to help veterans through organizations that work closely with them on the ground, and that was extremely important as well.
We are moving forward on early learning and child care. We have been talking about it for years. It is essential. We have to get it so that both spouses who are work know that their kids have child care and early learning. Now with the pandemic, we need to accelerate that much faster.
Here is where building better is extremely important. Not only do we help move forward, but we also create other types of opportunities. Investing in the social sector is crucial. We are creating jobs and also systems that are necessary to move forward. Investment in housing to eliminate chronic homelessness is very important.
My colleague spoke about broadband. It is essential. We have seen the gaps. It became evident very quickly in this pandemic. If people do not have broadband and connectivity, they will not be able to contribute as much they should. If we want people in rural communities, we need to do that ASAP.
We also have to up our game in skilled workers. The throne speech announced the greatest investment ever in skilled workers and training. David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, stated clearly that this was probably the most important thing we could do to support Canadians.
Health care needs universal pharmacare. We have talked about it and we will deliver it. We are moving it forward and we are going to begin negotiation with the provinces. There are a lot of them ready to go and they will be quick to the door to accept that challenge. This will show all Canadians, including the Conservatives, that it is doable.
We have also seen the gap in long-term care. That is why we are bringing forward national standards, which is crucial to ensure that seniors from one coast to the other will have the same services in health care.
The opposition leader gave a very good speech. For a while, I though he was describing the Liberal philosophy, but he never talked about climate change. It is real and he will have to add that to his next speech.
I also want to talk about what we will do for climate change. We will legislate net-zero emissions by 2050. We will exceed our 2030 targets. We will invest in green retrofits for businesses and clean energy funds. We have the Atlantic loop.
I am very proud of a business in my riding, which is a leader in open mapping. It received $361,000 to retrieve and dispose—